How to Handle Telemarketers
By Michael Owen

If you're like most people, and most people are, you resent telemarketers calling you at home trying to sell you something.
And it probably irritates you that they seem invariably to call at dinnertime. I used to wonder why they would do that, knowing they were only irritating people who would then be less likely to buy what they're selling.

A friend of mine who once worked as a telemarketer explained it to me.
"When do you expect us to call?" he said. "At 2 in the afternoon, when nobody's home?"
That would be nice. But I guess it wouldn't be too profitable.
Anyway, since they seem to be a fact of life these days, I thought I'd make the best of it and try to have a little fun with them.

At first, I would just let them go through their entire spiel, then say,
"I'm sorry, I'm hard of hearing. Would you repeat that?" I'd do that several times until they finally caught on and hung up. One of them got really irritated after repeating his pitch three times and snapped, "You're just wasting my time."
"I guess that makes us even," I said.
But that got old after a while. Besides, it took too long.

And in addition to that, my telemarketer friend told me that a lot of the folks who do this for a living couldn’t do anything else. So I felt kind of bad for wasting their time.

(OK, I didn't feel REAL bad, but I stopped doing it.)

So that's how I stumbled upon a new hobby. It's fun, entertaining, and it's an exercise in thinking quickly. Here's what you do. Whenever a telemarketer calls, try to come up, on the spot, with a spiel of your own that will disarm the caller and, if possible, maybe even entertain him or her a bit.

The following are genuine examples. (And, as Dave Barry says, I swear I am not making these up.)

The phone rings.
"Hello, is this Michael Owen?"
Yes.
"Hello, Mr. Owen, my name is Brenda and I'm with MCI. How are you today?"
Fine, and you?
"I'm fine, Mr. Owen. Does anyone in your home make long-distance telephone calls?"
No.
"No one?"
Nope.
"Well, do you receive a lot of collect calls?"
No.
"Not many?"
Nope. None.
"You don't make ANY long distance calls or receive ANY collect calls?"
No, ma’am. You see, I belong to the Seventh-Day B'nai Antioch church, and my religion strictly forbids me from using the telephone at all.
(pause)
"Uh, Mr. Owen, you're using the phone right now."
(pause)
OH MY GOD! SEE WHAT YOU'VE DONE! OH MY GOD!
Click.

You get the idea?

"Hello, this is Christi with Rollin' Hills photography studio. Would you be interested in a free family portrait?"
No, thank you.
"Not even for free?"
No, ma'am. You see, my brother is a staff photographer for National Geographic, and he does all our portraits for us for free.
"Really? That's nice."
Yes ma’am, it is. Of course, we have to take off all our clothes and squat naked around a campfire for him to do it -- so you can imagine what our Christmas cards look like -- but hey, they're free.
Click.

"Hello, is this Mike Owen?"|
Yep.
"Mr. Owen, I am authorized to offer you a week's stay at a fabulous resort if you and your fami..."
Not interested thank you.
"Mr. Owen, it's free, if you and your..."
'Scuse me, sir, but you see, my Uncle Horatio Hilton owns all the Hilton Hotels in the United States.
(I swear to God he then said:)
"So ... uh, I guess you get a discount, huh?"
Yeah.
Click.

"Hello, is this Mr. Owen?"
Yo.
"How would you like to make big bucks in your spare time?"
No thanks, I'm rich as hell.
Click.

You get the idea.

Now, before all you telephone sales folks get bent out of shape and write me nasty letters (or put me on some special "call him 10 times a day" list) I want you to know I have a great deal of respect for sales people in general. Much of the stuff I buy, I buy from sales people. Some of my best friends are sales people. I would be proud for my daughter to marry a sales person. (Then HE could pay to fix her car.)

In fact, I had an entertaining experience with a salesperson the other day; it just wasn't on the phone. A young lad was selling those chocolate bars that schools use to raise funds. He asked if I'd like to buy one and I said sure, why not, pulled out a buck and handed it to him.
"What's the money for?" I asked.
He looked at me like I was a fool and said, "For the candy bar."
I guess I deserved that.

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