There are a lot of really nasty jobs out there: the fellow from the transportation department who has to scrape road kill off the roads; Big guys who maneuver small spaces to clean up sewage spills; and my brother Michael, who spends 50 weeks of every year away from his family while he trains the police force in Afghanistan.
But none of these professions can hold a candle to the granddaddy of nasty jobs: telemarketing.
If I want something, I drive to the store, look at the clearly-marked price, then decide how badly I need it. I shop at places like Trader Joe’s and Costco, where I can ask the clerks where I can find the coconut milk or lima beans, and they won’t try to sell me a Buick. I can retain a feeling of power and superiority because I am in control of my destiny, or at least my own shopping choices. I avoid malls where salespeople leap out from all directions, spraying cologne or convincing me that I am beautiful but I need a makeover. Really… how can I be both?
But if I think the mall peddlers’ tactics are hard-sell, telemarketers make them look like pushovers.
Granted, I know telemarketers are just doing their job and trying to make an honest living. At least some of them may be honest. But just by calling me, I feel like it’s an unwanted invasion, bypassing the front door and sneaking in through the phone lines.
I don’t seek telemarketers out. They seek me. They’re stalkers who know my name and phone number and want to smooth-talk me out of my credit card number. They are incredibly persuasive, and I am putty in their hands.
My husband Tom has no problem dealing with telemarketers. I know he’s on the phone with one when the conversation consists of: “Hello? We’re not interested.” I’m not as tough as he is. I’m a nice, polite person and I don’t want to hurt their feelings, even if they are calling from a warehouse in India but pretending to be down the street.
But I have a secret weapon. It’s called “Caller ID.”
I’d love to kiss the guy (or gal) who invented Caller ID. If I recognize the call, I pick up (except for my particularly chatty friends who are just going to move on to the next person anyway). If the number is a strange area code or literally “818-100-1000 NAME NOT FOUND,” the call goes to the machine, and usually just hangs up.
But telemarketers have gotten wise to the Private Caller ploy, and they stealthfully slink in through that back door. I don’t like to answer Private Callers because they’re already paranoid by discretely protecting their anonymity, and my subliminal judgment of them is not going to convince them to crawl out from their hiding space. Yet it’s a bit of the pot calling the kettle black if I’m hiding from callers who are also hiding. My mother-in-law and one of my 14-year-old daughter’s best friends both are Private Callers, so I play a little game of Russian roulette when I cross my fingers and pick up the phone. About 90% of the time it’s the dreaded telemarketer.
I can already hear the theme from Jaws playing in my head: Da-dum. Da-dum-da-dum.
The ironic thing is, we really do need to buy something and I probably should be talking to one of these phone predators. We have a tarp the size of a football field on top of our house, which means we actually do need a new roof. So when one called recently, I decided to champ it out and hear his pitch.
Telemarketer: “Mrs. Flynn?”
Me: “This is she.” (Two things - “Mrs. Flynn” was my grandmother who resembled Mrs. Santa Claus. “This is she” makes me sound so erudite, it’s hard to resist).
Telemarketer: “We’re working in your neighborhood this week, and we were wondering if you needed any home repairs.”
Me: Uhhh… (Maybe this one will be “the one.”) We actually do need a quote for a new roof.
Telemarketer: “What time will both you and your husband be at home?”
Me: “Huh?” (So much for my erudite act).
Telemarketer: “We need both you and your husband to be there when our contractor comes out.
Me: (What are we – Siamese Twins?) “Why?”
Telemarketer: “It’s our policy.”
Me: (I’m getting a little scared) “Uh…4 o’clock?”
Telemarketer: “And will you be able to commit to buy at that time?”
Me: “Uhhhh….” (Why the heck didn’t I let it go to the machine?) “Uhhhh…”
Telemarketer: “May I speak to Mr. Flynn?”
Since I kept my maiden name, and my husband isn’t one of those whimpy-boys who takes his wife’s name (no offense to the whimpy-boys who do that sort of thing), “Mr. Flynn” leaves my long-dead dad, or my brother Michael Flynn, who as I already mentioned, will be in Afghanistan till Christmas. My answer?
Me: “I’m sorry. We’re not interested.”
At least I said, “I’m sorry.”
I told you I was polite.
Next week, catch my blog: “Running a Silent Auction – the Karmic Payback for Dodging the Telemarketer.”