Attorney Marc Page writes a fine column on these pages once a month, and most recently dealt with how to reduce the number of nuisance telemarketing calls. His suggestions were intelligent, well thought out, and made good common sense. I don’t know Marc personally, but from what I glean from his columns, he is a common-sense lawyer.
I, however, come from a different place when it comes to these calls. I tend to look at life through a different lens than most, I approach most things with an offbeat sense of humor and a slanted view. With this in mind, allow me to offer you a few different suggestions, all of which I have tested with varying degrees of success.
Unless I’m very stressed by a mountain of work or a mountain of life and have no time, I like to play with these people, so that they’ll never think of calling again. Unfortunately, it only works on the “live bodies” who call, not robo calls, but let us proceed.
1. The Home Improvement Calls: These are the ones who are working in the neighborhood and therefore can give you a deal on a new roof, blacktopping your driveway, windows, doors, etc. Whatever they’re selling I tell them brightly, “What a coincidence! Wait till I tell Dad and my brothers ... that’s our family business.” They usually hang right up.
My husband has an equally good retort. He tells them, “The owners are away, and I’m just watching the house for them.” If the caller persists, asking when they will return, I might throw in, “I don’t know. They’re on an extended trip to India, setting up a telemarketing company.”
2. “Your Computer is Not Working Properly, and You’re in Danger of Losing All Your Data!” How do they know, anyway? But the call starts with that 5-10 second pause, two beeps, and then a guy with a foreign accent begins, “Hello, my name is Kyle from Microsoft.” Sure it is. And my name is Fatima, and I’m from New Delhi. Here again, the “family business response” works. I usually tell them my husband is a software engineer, or he owns a computer store.
3. The “Grandma” Scam: One of my faves! I pick up the phone, say “hello,” and then comes that timid little voice, “Grandma, is that you?” “Of course it is, Josh,” I say. Now he thinks he’s in, is probably writing down his name as “Josh,” and he’s ready to tell me his tale of woe. He went to New York to a friend’s wedding, had only a couple of beers, but on the way home hit a car that “came out of nowhere.” The woman driving is nine months pregnant and wasn’t hurt badly, but he’s in jail, and he needs to make bail ... will I help? “Of course, Joshie,” I say. I then try to act all Grandma-like asking if he’s okay, if they’re treating him well, if he’s eating in jail (who would want to?), etc. After I reel him in for a few minutes and he’s told me to go to Target and get $4,000 worth of iTunes cards, I lower the boom, saying a few choice un-Grandma-like words, and tell him to get a real job.
4. The Dubious Charity: These are the folks who have a “legitimate” charity helping children with cancer, veterans, first responders, etc., but if you look it up, you’ll find there are complaints from Attorneys General throughout the USA for keeping 90% of the monies for their most important charity: THEMSELVES! I put them on hold, telling them “I’m going to get my credit card,” then I go off and watch TV or do something else. When I get back to the phone a half hour later, poof! They’re gone.
Keeping a whistle or horn next to the phone works wonders when the caller refuses to stop talking, so does answering them in a foreign language. This final one, however, may be the best, and was sent to me by a good friend. When you get a call from an unknown number, answer it by whispering, “It’s done, but there’s blood everywhere!”
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 17 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-539-7762.