First, let me say that telemarketing is (scams aside) honest, hard, low-paying work that I never would do myself, at least not if I had a choice in the matter.
But there are limits.
While the Obamacare enrollment window was open, I received a fair number of calls from folks that just wanted us to know that they had the perfect health insurance policy for us and would we be interested.
That was understandable.
I’d say, “Sorry, not interested. We just got health insurance coverage from my husband’s job.” And that would be that.
I thought that once the enrollment window closed, the calls would stop.
Most of the subsequent telemarketers were dispatched with a polite, “Please take me off your calling list.” They would say, “Thank you” or “Sorry to bother you” and hang up.
I thought that would be it.
There was one health insurance telemarketer that kept calling back. And calling back. And calling back. Sometimes several times in one day. For a while I turned my phone off, thinking that would discourage them.
One caller persisted. She left voicemail. And when I couldn’t keep my phone turned off any longer, she kept calling back. She had a long spiel before she stopped to take a breath and then ask me if I would be interested in healthcare insurance.
I tried waiting to the end of her pitch, then saying, “Please take me off your calling list.”
It was always the same person (Hi, this is Annie, from blah-blah insurance. Now that the window has closed for the Affordable Care Act, you can still get et endless cetera).
I took to talking at the same time she did, repeating over and over, “Please take me off your calling list. Please take me off your calling list.” Finally, she would get to the point in her spiel when she paused to take a breath and ask a question designed to elicit a response from the callee. I would repeat, “Please take me off your calling list,” and hang up.
I know I could have hung up as soon as I heard, “Hi, this is Annie,” but I wanted to get across the idea that she should simply not call back, ever. Ever, ever. Ever. (My phone is a stupid phone and doesn’t show the phone number of the calling party.)
Silly me had had enough. The next time Annie called, I talked over her spiel again, and at her pause for a response, said firmly but still reasonable politely, “There is a law that requires you to take me off your calling list if I ask you to. Do I have to report you?” and hung up.
I was bluffing. I had no idea who I should report her to. The FCC? Ma Bell? Some telemarketing regulatory agency? The Department of Repetitive Calls Department?
For the next call, we went through our usual routine, except that I said firmly, but crankily, “I will report you to the authorities.” (Still bluffing. I still had no idea to whom to report them,)
Then I reached the end of my proverbial rope. I was through with being polite. The next time Annie called and said her name, I simply screamed into the phone, “AAAAAAAAAHHH!” It woke up my husband, who was sleeping beside me.
I was a little ashamed of myself. Not for waking my husband, but because I don’t approve of blowing an air horn into telemarketers’ ears when they’re just trying to do a job. I’d like to think I was less likely to cause hearing damage than an air horn. But I had been patient and polite long enough.
It stopped the calls. I should have thought of it sooner.