Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Those annoying telephone calls

Last night we got the usual dinner-time call, obviously someone selling something. I was a little annoyed and so when the person asked for "Mr or Mrs Ryan" I simply said "No!" and hung up. Technically I wasn't lying, there is no Mr Ryan and there is definitely no Mrs Ryan. I didn't wait to hear what they had to say — anyone who knows who we are also coincidentally knows our correct names — so I reasoned it couldn't be any good.

It got me thinking about how people respond to unwanted calls. This is a subject I've taken some interest in over time. All you have to remember is: you are in control. Once these people have interrupted your sitcom or Sunday night dinner, then the gloves are off, and you can play with them like a cat plays with a lame mouse. After all, they're only salespeople and they haven't got any feelings. And the bottom line is, if you take up their time and costs them more telephone calls, it hits them in the hip pocket. If enough people followed these guidelines, then evetually a bean-counter somewhere will realise that the cost of the calls and the salespeople far outweighs the sales they are bringing in, and the whole thing will fall in a heap.

1. The Hang-Up
I must admit this is my usual response. It is immediate, if less than satisfying. Accompanied by The Abuse though, it is a harsh and direct method of getting rid of them.

All you do is simply hang up on them. You don't have to be nice about it, or give them an explanation. I usually just say "No" or "No thanks" and hang up the phone. I must admit to lamenting the fact that I haven't got a phone that can be slammed down in exasperation. I have to meekly push the correct button.

And really this doesn't achieve anything. If the salesperson has had more than an hour's experience on the phone, then they've definitely gotten over the fact that people actually hang up on them. It just frees them for the next call.

2. The Argument
This is my least favourite method of dealing with these pests, probably because I am not a good thinker on my feet. If you get stumped though you might have to fallback on The Hangup. A lot of people try this one though, probably because they are more pious than myself.

In this method you attempt to reason with the person that it is an inappropriate time to call and that they are engaging in a less-than-reputable business. You'll probably get into a little discussion about when a more appropriate time to call is, and it can carry further on into who the person's supervisor is, where they get their call lists from, why is my name on it etc, etc. If you are the argumentative type, this is a good option for you, because you may actually be able to find out some of this information.

And it has an added benefit of keeping the other person talking to you, and not to other potential customers.

3. The Turnaround
This was the favourite of my previous partner, she used it every single time to her own amusement. I think the original idea came off a Seinfeld episode or something like that.

She would immediately tell the person that she was sorry she couldn't take the call right now, but if the salesperson gave her his home number, she would call back later. The salesperson would usually protest that he couldn't have people calling him at home, which would leave him open to an attack such as: "Well you bloody called me at home!!"

It's good for venting the anger, and it fairly clever, but most salespeople deal with it head-on now.

4. The Jealous Party
This was a favourite when I lived with my previous partner. When she took a nuisance call, I could usually tell within a couple of seconds that it wasn't an friend or something important, so I'd yell out, "Honey!! Is that your boyfriend again?? What's going on? I thought it was over." She would stutter out down the line in a frightened voice, "Look, I've really got to go." and hang up abruptly.

This generally didn't achieve anything except providing a source of amusement for both of us, and possibly for the person at the other end of the line. So everyone is happy.

By the way, don't be tempted to ad-lib in lines like, "I'm going to kill you," or anything like that unless you want a visit from the police domestic violence unit.

5. The Time-Waster
This is a particular favourite of mine, and has the added benefit of taking up the seller's time. This results in fewer sales for that person, ie, their bottom-line.

All that you really need to do is to patiently listen, or completely ignore, it is up to you — though if listening you can add a few "uh-huh's" and "yeh's" in during the spiel. Let them go through their whole spiel, try and drag them out as long as possible, if you can keep them going for ten minutes you're really going well. Saying something like, "Oh that sounds great," or asking for further information really helps things along. At the final hurdle, when they ask, "So can I sign you up?" you can emphatically say no.

If pushed, you can even admit that you were just wasting their time. This has the added benefit of getting them angry with you, which is a real source of amusement.

6. The Redirect
This is a favourite of a mate. He hands the phone off to one of his young children to speak to. The kid doesn't mind playing with the phone, and he reckons it's interesting to pick the phone up off the child a couple of minutes later to hear, "Can you give the phone to Daddy?" Hee hee.

7. The Prop
This was popularised by a food commercial. You need something which beeps near the phone. On the commercial they used a microwave oven timer. You just pretend that you are an answering machine and say your bit ("This is Mike. Please leave your message after the burp. BURP!"). They won't hang around.

Always good fun.

8. The Abuse
I have used this one in the streets of North Sydney when (every other day) I am accosted by people trying to get you to give to charities or just simply begging. When accompanied by The Hangup, it gets your point across.

You just swear volubly at the person on the other end of the line. It can be short and sweet ("P*ss off!") or long and inventive ("You cantankerous whore of a dung-beetle spawn, etc."). Eventually if you continue on for long enough, they will hang up without prompting.

I've got a feeling it might actually be illegal to do this, though, so I didn't tell you about it, right?

9. The Bad Connection
This is a great one for playing with them. Pretend you are on a mobile or bad connection or something. Interrupt them mid-spiel and ask them to repeat themselves. Eventually they will tire of this and offer to call back. Here you can use the same technique, which will definitely get rid of them for good, or change it for another. The more times they call, the more it costs them. The longer you speak to them, the more it costs them.

10. The Put-Off
In this you simply say it is a bad time to call, and give them a time when they can call back. Of course you give them a time when you won't be there and the answering machine can pick it up. You run the risk of them calling back the same time the following night (or whenever), but of course you can repeatedly go on putting them off and they will eventually give up.

11. Other
I'm sure there are other suggestions. If you wish to comment to add to this list, go right ahead, I'll keep it updated and eventuially move it over to my site: www.micsgarage.com. But you know me, nothing moves with great speed with me ;-)


Carson Day said...

I've got one for ya, mate. Next time they ring you up, you make sure you have something to sell THEM beforehand. So when they call, you make them listen to YOUR sales pitch first. Fair is fair, A?

Mic said...

Fair is definitely fair. This comment is going straight to the pool room.

I'm sure that the average phone sales person would be happy to hear about opportunities for investing in property in the Apennine Mountains.