I have an ex-directory phone number. I have this for two reasons – one that I had a very unpleasant stalking experience while living in university accommodation that I’d rather not repeat (this is also why I try and maintain some form of Internet anonymity) and the other is that I cannot stand telemarketers and would like to make it as hard as possible for them to get my information. It worked for a couple of years too.
I am generally polite with call centre workers for the most part because I know the kind of work they’re doing is hard and nasty and completely unappreciated; it’s not their fault that they have to follow Virgin Media’s “Cable Modem Diagnosis for Morons” script sheet whenever I call up, and at least the Indian call centre workers are generally polite if useless. (Top tip: if you know what you’re talking about, go to the USENET support.broadband groups, where there are technicians around who know how their network actually works.)
I see no obligation, however, to be polite to telemarketers. Telemarketers are taking up your time. They invade your privacy. They feel entitled to force themselves on you; they’re just the same as spammers, stalkers, script kiddies and fundamentalists. I can appreciate that it is not the call centre operatives who make four-second silent calls to my phone line who are at fault here, that they’re just doing what their bosses and their computer systems tell them to, but I feel no remorse when I tell them that I don’t answer telemarketing calls and put the phone down before they can respond.
All the calls I seem to get right now are survey calls. I’ve had ICM and MORI, one of whom on being told I was ex-directory told me they got my number from a random number generator. Obviously that’s how it started; once out the random generator, it got sold on as a positive lead. I’ve had people who just say “we’re doing market research”, as I just had half an hour ago. I’ve had recorded messages telling me that I’ve won stuff and to dial 0901 SCAMMER. I’ve never asked to be put on a list; I don’t want to be on any telemarketing lists, I cannot stand being interrupted by some scumbag who wants to persuade me to buy New Tory, Let’s Try Harder or whatever it is they’re actually trying to sell me.
If telemarketing was as ethical an industry as those who promote it claim it to be, they would stop making silent calls, stop the use of recorded messages, stop calling people who plainly don’t want to be called, and stop selling number lists. But they won’t do that, even though by not calling people who don’t want to be called will decrease annoyance factor for people like me and increase the number of actual takers of telemarketed products, because they want to annoy me. They sincerely believe that by calling someone a hundred times they might pay up to make them go away. That’s why telemarketing simply cannot be ethical; because no-one really wants to be sold to on demand. It’s exploiting those who simply don’t know how to say no, the elderly in particular.
I thought I’d said no pretty strongly by having an unlisted number, ticking the DON’T SELL MY DETAILS box on the electoral register and being forthright with those who call me. But they simply cannot be reasoned with.
Which is why the fact that the telemarketing industry is allowed to run their own regulator (the DMA) is extremely worrying – no wonder silent calls and recorded messages aren’t dealt with. The do-not-call register – the Telephone Preference Service, or TPS – is run by the DMA, and expires your number off every so often; what’s more, this means that if you register the telescum have your number on a list which might as well marked “IN 12 MONTHS, YOU CAN CALL THIS DUMBASS AS MUCH AS YOU LIKE”. But quite frankly it’s the only option I have left to stop the deluge of marketing calls.
The good news is that as Jon Ronson pointed out in this Guardian article, 100,000 of us are signing up every week, too many to ignore. And this will kill the telemarketing industry. Do it.