The third time’s the charm

Somehow I acquired the information that a vampire or similar undead being could only go into a dwelling place after being invited three times to enter. Some research on the internet this morning has convinced me that the three times is incorrect. That’s a shame, because the story I am about to tell would be much more interesting if it were true. As for being unable to enter without an invitation, that depends entirely on the author or scriptwriter, but it is a very common rule. Given the amount of trouble and damage these beings can accomplish, it’s only fair to limit them in some way. Of course they are accomplished at guile, deceit, and charm to get in the door when they so desire.

Garlic, silver, crosses, and other items are supposed to be effective against the undead. They do not work with telemarketers. Having your telephone number on the official “do not call” list is supposed to keep telemarketers away, but there are exceptions to that rule. Charities and political groups are exempt. Also, if you already have a relationship with a company, its telemarketers can call you to offer new or improved products.

So I was working at home one evening this week when the telephone rang. The caller was from the company that provides our television service. My family does not watch enough live TV (not counting DVDs) to get our money’s worth for that service, but it comes in combination with internet and telephone service. At any rate, this caller wanted to thank us for being good customers and was offering a special deal. A group of new channels would be added to our package at no cost for the next three months and only five dollars a month afterward. She listed the new channels she was offering and simply needed for me to say OK. Since this was a special offer for good customers, she seemed completely convinced that I’d be happy and agree to the offer.

I did not agree. I told her that we wouldn’t bother to watch those additional channels even if we had them, and I did not want to have to try to remember to cancel them after three months to avoid the higher rate. As if she had not heard me, she ran through the entire script a second time, again assuming that I was going to say OK. Again, I thanked her and told her we weren’t interested. At this point she asked what I like to watch on TV. Not mentioning the DVDs, I let her know that mostly I watched sports—especially baseball—and also kept up on local weather and news. Hearing the word “sports” she again tried to sign me up for this special offer, mentioning some sports-related part of the package. I politely declined the third time, and the conversation finally ended.

This is where I wanted to compare the telemarketer to a vampire who must be invited three times before entering the house. Since that is not the case, my analogy falls flat. Clearly, though, this telemarketer had been trained to continue the pitch until the third time she heard a “no.” That is a common sales technique and did surprise me at all.

Two nights later she called again—or, more likely, another telemarketer with the same offer and a similar voice. When she had spoken her spiel the first time, I politely replied that I had turned down that offer just the other day. In a polite voice, I added, “and to save us both time, I say again, no, and a third time, no.” My gambit succeeded: she ended the conversation very quickly and hung up.

It’s not like wearing garlic, but it works. J.

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Rocky’s Bridal Boutique

Earlier this week I commented that I try not to be angry at callers on the telephone. They can call at inconvenient times, such as during meals or when I’m watching TV. Sometimes caller ID works and I know who is calling, so I don’t always answer if I don’t want to talk to them. (“The Red Cross is calling again? Don’t answer the phone—I don’t have time to donate more blood this week.”) Many times, though, caller ID will display just the number. Even though I don’t recognize it, I will take the call, because sometimes it is a family member or friend calling, even though the telephone didn’t recognize the caller.

I was a telemarketer when I was in graduate school—the job helped pay for my classes and textbooks. My job was not high-pressure sales; the company was offering to place magazines in churches for the members to purchase. I talked with a lot of pastors, a lot of church office secretaries, and various other people. Once I made a sale merely because I pronounced the pastor’s name correctly. Very rarely was anyone rude to me, even when my call interrupted more important things.

In 2014 I became more involved in politics. Every time a telemarketer called to conduct a political opinion poll, I was happy to answer all their questions. I took a lot of calls like that in 2014; it seemed like every week someone wanted to know my opinion. It was as if I was on a list of people who were willing to answer questions. Last winter I decided not to talk to polltakers on the telephone. After a few calls, they stopped. No one asked for my opinion in the spring or summer or fall. I’m not surprised the polls failed to predict the outcome of the election—the sampling clearly is skewed by their focus upon people willing to talk to them.

One time, a caller did manage to make me lose my temper, but I recovered. I was working at a church. One day the phone rang at 8:30 in the morning. I answered, but no one spoke to me; after a second or two, the caller hung up the phone. That happened the next day, and the next, and the next. (This was before caller ID was common.) The day it made me angry was when the silent caller made me run from the bathroom to answer the phone. But then I realized that making me angry might be the reason for the calls. (Another possibility is that someone felt compelled to check, to see if I actually was showing up to work.)

I decided that, rather being angry, I would have some fun with the situation. The next morning when the phone rang at 8:30, I answered with “Public Library, Children’s Department,” instead of the name of the church. The next day, I used, “Police Office, Vice Desk.” Every day I tried to use something unique. My favorite line was “Rocky’s Bridal Boutique.” I used that one more than once.

One day when I answered the phone with one of those lines, a voice responded to me. It happened to be a telemarketer calling the church. We both had a good laugh, and then I listened politely to the sales pitch before saying no. Oddly, the silent calls ended at that very time and never returned.

I am generally polite with telemarketers, but sometimes I try to have fun with them. Those men with south Asian accents who want to sell me software to correct imaginary problems with my computer probably think I’m an idiot. As they instruct me to press a certain button on the keyboard, I stall with questions like, “Does it matter which hand I use to push that button? Would it work if I used my nose?” If I’m not in a playful mood, I tell them that I have googled the name of their company, and I know that they are a scam. They haven’t called in a while either.

The telephone can be a useful device, even though most of the time it’s an annoyance. Even when it annoys me, though, I try not to let anger build. Life is too short for that kind of anger, and the people who are calling are just trying to earn a paycheck. Except for the times that the caller is a machine. J.