Wednesday, 31 August 2011

How To Beat A Cold Caller At His Own Game

You've just sat down to a nice hot plateful when the phone rings. You're almost certain it will be a telemarketing call. No matter how many times you register with the Telephone Preference Service, there's always a new company to sneak through the firewall to pester you with unsolicited direct marketing calls.

"Is that Mrs. Smith?"

You were right, the bubbly foreign voice at the other end confirms your fears, but you will neither hang up instantly, nor start swearing. Well, I won't, I don't know about you, of course.

"Speaking", with a question mark in your voice.

"This is John/Robert/Uncle Tom Cobbley an' all", in the thickest Far Eastern accent, to a background of a beehive of murmuring voices. "How are you today, Mrs. Smith? "I still don't swear but now I hang up.

Except the other day I didn't.

The voice was that of a woman, an ordinary English voice. 

After we had established that I am Mrs. Smith and that I'm fine, thank you very much for asking,  she let out a stream of words, presumably a sentence with some meaning; as each word ran into the next at breakneck speed I only understood the odd word here and there. I'm not as young as I was, my brain needs time to get rolling.

"What is it you're selling?"

"I'm-not-selling-anything-we-are-doing-a-survey-on . . . .." She'd lost me, I really had no idea what she was talking about. "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that, could you repeat what you said?"

She did. Still no luck. And again. She must have used exactly the same words so many times in her daily working routine, that there was no way she could slow them down.


"I really am awfully sorry, but. . . "

By now her voice had a slight edge to it. Perhaps her supervisor was close by, perhaps the connection showed up as being unbroken on her monitor; she had to continue.

Finally, I took pity on her.

"Thank you so much for your patience, but I simply cannot understand you. Could you please put this IN WRITING?"

A snort of disgust, "Yachch", and the line went dead.

I really enjoyed that.


  1. An unintentionally perfect response to the call!!

  2. Ha! Very nice. You were simply being sincere ...

  3. I hate telemarketers. I try hard not to be rude, since it really is just somebody doing their job to collect a paycheck, and it's not their fault that their job happens to annoy the crap out of people...

    But sometimes they catch me on the wrong day, or at the wrong time,, cover the kids' ears.

  4. Wonderful! I once answered a call from somebody trying to sell me a new electricity supply: -
    'Can I speak to Mrs Jones?'
    'How are ya Mrs Jones?'
    Before he could continue I proceeded to tell him about every ailment I could think of. He went prattling on for about 10 minutes of the perks, plusses and advantages of being connected to this new service and then asked me if he could take my details.

  5. I received one today. No sooner were the words 'this is so-and-so with home security service' out of his mouth when I interrupted with 'I'm supposed to be on the no call list and I'm NOT interested.' then I hung up.

    I agree with Jeff that the poor shmucks are just doing their job and I try not to be rude or curse but neither do I waste my time (or minutes) being friendly.

  6. Oh and they don't even ask for Ms Abbot. It's all on a first name basis.

  7. It's best to hang up and let them get on to the next person on their probably very long list. But, I do believe, "Could you please put this in writing," is a fine response, too. Short-circuited her, I'm guessing. I bet she hates her job. Poor thing.

  8. Hello:
    As we receive these calls both in the UK and in Hungary we believe this pest of the telephone lines to be universal and viral. But how clever to ask for it in writing, perhaps coupled with a request to 'put it in the post' might add even further confusion. Certainly, it would guarantee its non-delivery in Budapest!!!

  9. oh, I so enjoyed that, too!

  10. Well Friko. I guess I had better quit calling. All I was trying to do was invite you out for fish and chips you sexy wench you!

  11. Oh, Friko! This is so amusing! Thank you for giving me a good giggle before I settle down to sleep for the night!

  12. I agree with Ellen Abbott. Telemarketers call here (we ARE on the do-not-call list) and ask, "Is this Kay?" so I immediately say, "May I ask who is calling?" That doesn't get rid of them, however. I like your response. I also like one my friend Judith used once, "Young man, you are forcing me to be rude." If I didn't have a high, squeaky voice like a chipmunk, I'd try that.
    — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  13. Oh I so enjoyed reading that! How utterly satisfying!

  14. Putting it in writing...a very good response.

    The other day I got a call from a young-sounding male voice wishing me "Happy Birthday, Grandma."

    We did exchange a few sentences, I do hope that if he has a grandmother celebrating her birthday, he eventually discovered how to reach her.

    More business-obvious calls I treat with a simple hang up, denying myself the opportunity to have non-existent carpet cleaned, to enjoy bargain-priced cruise ship travel, and various financial enticements.


  15. I don't get them any more since I have a cell phone and no landline. It's amazing, I had forgotten about their annoying calls until you brought this up. Another reason to be happy not to be connected all the time any more...

  16. I'm lazy and prefer to keep it simple in that I simply don't pick up the phone if I don't recognize the caller.

  17. haha that is awesome...somehow they got my cell number...i need to start doing this...

  18. Oh, brilliant. I must remember that one, it's bound to come in handy! Isn't it aggravating how those cold callers sneak through no matter what?

  19. I'm late today getting to the blogs I read and it's almost time for bed. But, oh how wonderful, to discover at this late hour your posting and to laugh out loud when you told the person you wanted the spiel in writing.

    That was the perfect end to your telephone conversation and also the perfect end to my day.


  20. And I thoroughly enjoyed THIS!

  21. Excellent have more patience than I though...I would have hung up from the start.

  22. That was good. They are soooo annoying. I really dislike phones. I often turn off both cell and land phone for a day. It gives me such a feeling of freedom.

  23. Next time I have to remember the "young man, you're forcing me to be rude" - I love that!!! However, I often hang up before they start speaking - there is always this little delay when you pick up the phone and say hello that tells me that this call is a telemarketing call. I'm so tired of them. We still get them even though we are on the do-not-call list.

  24. Perfect response, Friko. I feel sorry for the individual who has to call, but I really dislike the whole idea of telemarketing. Yet it must yield some profit or they would stop doing it.

  25. Wandered over to say i got your message :-).

  26. Herself once answered the phone to a cold caller and spent half an hour trying to persuade the poor soul to get a qualification and find a better job.

    I just put the phone down

  27. :) funny... next time I shall use the same line, 'could you send it to me in writing.' Well, everybody has to make a living... and these kids are only trying to do something.

  28. I say that I never buy anything from a cold caller and I don't sign up to things over the phone unless I've seen the terms and conditions in writing. If they offer to email, I've got a Hotmail account I use for advertising stuff to come to - but they usually don't.

    I nearly hung up a couple of weeks ago when I got the usual foreign voice asking for me, mispronouncing my name - but it turned out to be my bank, so it was as well I didn't!

  29. As soon as they say "We are doing s survey . . " I reply
    "Surveying, are you? Just hold the line while I go and get my theodolite."

  30. Yes the old "Pardon, sorry what was that?" usually works for me too!
    Once I did complete a survey - about entertainment ... I don't own a TV and only listen to radio 4. After I failed to answer the question "Who is your favourite DJ?" they also gave up.

  31. I enjoyed it too ;)
    My other dread is Junk Email from Dating Sites and online Colleges!

    This is a very nice blog.

  32. I put my numbers on the DONOTCALL list here in the States, and so far so good with commercial calls. Unfortunately, we have a big election next year, and the politicians are already at it. The friendly "English" voices can still be in India. They have our accents down to a tee. Have you noticed they are always doning a survey and never "selling" anything?

  33. Well done! My daughter-in-law always says she's going to find her husband (who's not at home at the time) and leaves the phone line open. My husband engages cold callers in a question and answer session which ties them in knots, since they can't then follow the script. I just say - when I can get a word in - that I'm not interested, thank you, and put th phone down. I HATE it when a complete stranger asks how I am or if I'm having a good day . . .

  34. My dad used to ask if he could have their home number to get back to him. He was very busy at present... ~Mary

  35. "Look, we're dealing with her funeral today so I can't chat, just send the flowers to the funeral home on Main Street. Thanks."

    This satisfies me on so many levels I can't begin to tell you.


  36. Another terrific anecdote from Friko's
    world. When I get those calls I usually
    say, "For Christ's sake, the family that lived
    here was murdered last week; gruesome
    event. This is detective sergeant Bellows.
    Would you give me your full name and
    reason for calling please." I get the click

    Thinking of you the other day, and of
    Benno. Some friends are having their
    second child, and they have two dogs;
    both black labs. They need to get rid
    of one, a 3 year old spade female named
    Jade. We haven't had a pooch for several
    years, so we are considering rescuing it.
    We will meet her this weekend.

  37. That's a good one, Friko! I can't bear to be rude to people doing their job, no matter how annoying it is - so this will go into my repertoire.

  38. My father acts exactly as Glenn does!! As for me, if it's a survey, I take it. I LOVE SURVEYS. Unless I am about to eat dinner...

  39. Ha, ha, ha! I love it. I'll use it next time.

    Funny story: my dad, whose first language is Spanish, came once to visit my brother in college. A telemarketer called. My dad picked up the phone and had a long conversation with him to "practice his English." My dad asked the telemarketer all kinds of questions for like 30 minutes (he claims the man had "a good English" and he couldn't waste the opportunity). But when it came time to enroll my dad in whatever service the guy was selling, my dad told him: "This is my son's house and I can't make any decisions. Goodbye."

  40. I have that all the time here in Belgium too ! especially at lunch time. I found a solution which really works well, when asked are you Mrs. X I just answer no, Madame is out, I am only the maid. As a maid, nobody askes me if I need wine, leather sofas etc.

  41. you are a hoot, Friko. Its hard to know how to react to these callers. I try to listen and politely say no thank you - it is their food-on-the-table-money after all. But sometimes it is soooooo hard. they aren't all so nice. terrible job to have.
    good job. :-D

  42. The sheer number of comments says it all. IWhen I am dealing with telemarketers I play the silly old person card. It works every time.

  43. Ha! That's a goodie. I'll have to try this the next time someone sneaks in under the caller i.d. radar.

  44. Perfect! I'll have to remember that one. Thanks.

  45. Wonderful! If I have time to waste (and dinner's not getting cold,) I just answer every question by saying "I like cheese."

  46. You made me laugh!! Terrific!!!

  47. I am happy I found your blog today and am your newest follower. Please stop by my blog and say hi, if you are inspired to do so; I am way over here across the pond in California.

  48. A pictorial history of an ancient church and a tale of telemarketers ... your first two stories are so worth reading, as well, can't wait to read the rest. I love short fiction, and your writing is superb. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance ...


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