10 Tips for Getting Rid of Telemarketers: Confessions of a Telemarketer

I was a telemarketer. In 1976—when I became a stockbroker at Merrill Lynch—I had never heard the word telemarketing; we called it cold calling.

It did not take long to learn that dialing 50 strangers a day would generate enough business to land me among the top two or three producers in my 46-man, 4-woman office.

Back then it was somewhat rare to receive a solicitation call in the middle of dinner or at any time, certainly compared to these days. In fact, it was not until 1991 that Congress first passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

Lately, even though I am on the Do Not Call Registry, I receive daily solicitation calls.

You might think someone who once cried when a callee yelled at her for soliciting his business would be at least a smidge sympathetic to telemarketers. A smidge sympathetic, maybe, but I am not even a speckle tolerant of being disturbed by unsolicited callers, while working on my forthcoming book withCasey’s head on my lap.

I used to hang up immediately on spam calls. But then I noticed they would call again. So now when I see “UNAVAILABLE” and an 866 number on my Caller ID, I swallow the Cruella Deville that is creeping up my vocal chords.

“Hello,” I say.

“Shpiel, shpiel,” they begin.

“Excuse me, whom are you trying to reach?” I ask as sweetie sweet as I can muster.

“Susan Orland[sic],” they say.

This is when I scroll through my mental file of responses:

  • “She moved away. If I see her, I’ll be happy to give her a message.” (variation: She moved to Poland.)
  • If it’s a Dem group asking for money, I say, “She’s a Republican.”
  • If it’s the GOP, I say, “She’s a Democrat.”
  • Sometimes I say, “She died.”

I have other tactics in my toolkit.

Voicemail message:

Until a friend demanded I remove the hostile message, my voicemail recording said, “(Foreboding tone) If this is a solicitation call, please hang up. (Two-octaves-higher-Zooey-Deschanel-”New Girl” tone) Otherwise, leave a message.”

Seinfeld approach:

“I can’t talk right now. Why don’t you give me your home number and I’ll call you later?”

“I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to do that.”

“I guess you don’t want people calling you at home.”

“No.”

“Well now you know how I feel.” And Jerry hangs up.

(Though one commenter on this YouTube video laments the technique didn’t work. “The guy wanted to give me his home number.”)

Threats:

“You have called a secure military base and I want to know why.” The problem with this approach is that sometimes I don’t recognize the Caller ID and it turns our to be the dentist phoning to confirm an appointment.

A foreign language or a monologue:

In a recent New York Times article, the author referred to friends who pretend they don’t speak English or who go on with monologues about their life stories.

Meanness:

Other tactics I have heard about include shrieking into the phone or putting the call on hold. But I don’t want to be mean; the callers are just trying to make a small wage. My whole goal is to get them to take me off the call list.

Polite request:

If experience had proved that it works to simply ask to be removed from the list, I wouldn’t have written this post.

The peskiest solicitation calls are recorded, and I have not yet figured out a way to rid myself of the virtual telemarketer. Ideas for this and ways of dealing with other solicitation calls encouraged—please comment!

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