Who am I kidding? Our phone hasn’t made a [brrring] sound in decades. However. Have you heard of the Telephone Preference Service? It’s a scheme run in the UK by the Direct Marketing Association on behalf of Ofcom which says, in essence, that if you sign up to its service, businesses can’t make calls to you without your express permission. Companies you deal with can contact you (so it was OK for Unviolated Entertainment to call me as they did recently) but no ‘cold calls’ sounds brilliant, doesn’t it? Surely there’s a catch?
Of course there’s a catch. Or at least a loophole. The TPS only applies to calls originating in the UK. Lots of companies have overseas call centres (which may well by why I had trouble understanding ‘Julian’ when he rang from Unviolated Entertainment) and even those which don’t are starting to use companies based abroad to make the calls for them.
So what to do?
You can hang up. You can be rude. (Some say you shouldn’t be offensive to the person who makes the calls as it’s not their fault they have to make a living this way. Some say you shouldn’t be offensive to the person who makes the calls because they’ll call you back at 3am every day for a month.)
At ASOF Towers we feel the only way companies will stop making these calls is not if enough people ask. Not if we try to change the laws. Not if we keep shouting impotently down the phone. We think they’ll only stop making the calls if they become economically unviable.
ASOF Towers is doing it’s part. You can too.
Firstly (and most easily) never, ever, buy anything from a cold caller. And don’t take part in surveys either. Completing a survey keeps you on the line, improving their chance of making a sale, and your personal survey data has value to the company. Or if you do take part, you might like to consider that were you to, say, give a lot of incorrect answers, the degradation in data quality might have an effect on the company.
Secondly, you must make the call as expensive to them as possible – and time equals money, so make the call as long as possible. Of course, you’re spending your time but I think it’s a good investment and if I’m not busy I’ll usually give it a try. And if I’m giving them my time, I think it’s reasonable to have some fun in return…
It can be difficult until you get used to it, but there are a few simple techniques you can use which are effective and enjoyable. For example the I’ve Got A Bad Line ploy. Ask them to repeat everything. And I mean everything. As many times as you can. My record is seven repeats of the name of the person calling. (It was Ethel, since you ask.)
Or see how many song titles you can work into your response. Or try to start each sentence with successive letters of the alphabet.
Or my current favourite, the Mirror Security Manouvre.
“Hello, Dr. Asof, I’m calling from Blackbeard Finance and I would like to talk to you about life insurance.” (I don’t recognise the company name, so I’m immediately suspicious.)
‘Life Insurance? Do I have a policy with your company?’
“We provide life insurance to people like you all over the world.” (Avoiding direct questions is common among cold callers. Now I’m very suspicious. After a few more questions I’m sure and – it’s showtime!)
‘Just give me a moment and I’ll bring up your account details on the computer. What was the name of the company again?’
“Blackbeard Finance.” (Yes, I did ask them to repeat it. Several times.)
“B.L.A.C.K.B.E.A. – ah yes, here you are. Right. OK, now before I can discuss my account with you, I’ll need to take you through security. Can you tell me the third and fifth characters of your password?”
“The third and fifth characters of your password.”
‘I don’t know any password.’
“It’s probably your mother’s maiden name.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know.”
“It’s a tragedy, but without your password I can’t go any further. I can transfer you to our security help line if you like – they can take some personal details and reset your password.”
‘But we’re not allowed to give out personal details!’
“Never mind. If you write to the contact address on our website, explaining the situation, I’m sure they’ll be able to sort you out and you can call me back then. Thank you for calling! Goodbye.”
Like the sound of the TPS even allowing for its shortcomings? If you live in the UK, you can sign up here.