Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Tantalizing Tale of the Telemarketer

In every office in every reception desk, every voice mailbox, at every switchboard...a fierce battle is being waged.

I have seen grown men reduced to screaming incoherent obscenities. I have seen entire departments completely redo the organization of their phone systems to keep the enemies at bay, only to find that all of their efforts have been in vain.

Yes readers, it is true...the telemarketers are upon us.

The telemarketer, also known as the cold caller, solicitor, or the "courtesy caller", is a clever foe, who is difficult to defeat. But there ARE ways, readers! One needs to arm themselves with a few things:
1. A sharp tongue
2.A strong disposition
3. A working knowledge of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.

Heh...yes, Readers, I'm feeling a bit silly today. Seriously, though, the sheer number of cold sales calls I'm getting are starting to reach a new level of ridiculousness.

Not that all sales calls are bad, necessarily. I know, being a former cold caller myself (I did a bit of it while working at the shipping company), that most of the people on the other end of the line would rather NOT be there. I also know that this is still a legitimate way of doing business, even though it has a tendency to annoy people to the point of insanity.

I don't really mind it when I get a cold call that is honest. Telemarketers out there, PLEASE take note: If I ask you if the phone call is a solicitation, and you LIE to me, YOU ARE BREAKING THE LAW AND ARE IN VIOLATION OF THE TCPA. Even if you are not necessarily selling a product, you are still soliciting your business. If you are calling to just "introduce your company" or "offer us a discount on your services", it is still a solicitation.

Yes, readers, I know...businesses are not completely covered under the TCPA. HOWEVER, there are provisions in the updated act that protect businesses from overaggressive and deceptive sales practices. Yes, Telemarketers...if you get snotty with me if I ask you if you are a solicitor and say "I'M NOT SELLING ANYTHING!" YOU ARE COMMITTING FRAUD. So, STOP IT!

Luckily for me, I have been trained reasonably well to recognize when a phone call is a sleazy telemarketer. Usually, the call starts with, "Can I speak to the general manager?" or, "May I speak with your CEO?", or (my personal favorite, I LOVE these ones because I can have a bit of fun at the telemarketers expense), "May I speak with (insert name of our company's founders who have been dead for twenty years).?"

At this point, I ask the key question: "Thank you for calling. Is this a solicitation?"

Now, Readers, If the telemarketer is HONEST with me, (which, they HAVE to be as dictated by the TCPA), then everything is hunky dory. Our firm has a hot line and email address for "prospective vendors," where they can do their pitch, send us a competitive bid, and if we want to do business with them, we give them a call. Bing, Bang, Boom, everybody is happy.

If the telemarketer tries to pull a fast one...they get added to THE LIST.

Readers, a distinction: since our number is a business number, it is technically public information. Therefore, we are not eligible to be put on the national "Do Not Call" registry. (Well, technically we CAN, but if this is violated, we are not able to put a complaint through to the FCC). THE LIST refers to our own list of companies we have requested to not call us.

What's nice about my switchboard software is that it does this automatically for me. When I send a call do THE LIST, two things happen: First, the telemarketer hears a pre-recorded message that says, "Please add our company to your Do Not Call list. Thank you." Second, the number, time of call, and duration of the call are added to a database that keeps track of the people we have asked not to call us.

Occasionally, I get a few turds who call back right after I send them, to say, "BUT I'M NOT SEEEEELLLLIIIINNNNG ANYTHING!!! I JUST WANT TO INTRODUCE MY BUSSSSIIINNNNESSSS!!!!!" Again, you slime ball...YES YOU ARE. You are soliciting your business, even if you are not necessarily selling a product.

Telemarketers...if you call me again after I sent you to that message...WE ARE ABLE TO TRACK YOU DOWN AND SLAP YOU WITH A LAWSUIT. And, I know this for a fact, my company has. Two of our partners recently put the fear of GOD into a couple of large companies that have violated this law.

So, Readers...Arm yourselves! Educate yourselves!!


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