The magic is gone.
The phone rang and I answered. Some woman started talking too fast, her preamble unintelligible. I suspected a sales call. I returned her greeting, trying to sound pleasant, but perhaps sounding guarded when I asked, “Who is this?”
“Leper Travel Services.”
(Note: This wasn’t the actual name, but it was a travel company.)
I try to be polite when rejecting charities that call my house, but for outright sales calls, not so much. I went right to the magic spell, invoking the the “do not call” list. The list hasn’t stopped all sales calls, but referring to it has been helpful in quickly ending them with little argument.
She countered that we’d used Leper Travel Services before. I didn’t think so, but was up for the game. “When did we use you?” I asked.
“I don’t care,” she said. I suddenly realized I had been missing clues about her growing state of agitation. I think my initial defensive stance had provoked her.
I smiled widely and even laughed out loud, because often I enjoy saying no to these people. I said, “Wow, your sales pitch really sucks.”
And then she gave me what for. She said this wasn’t her sales pitch. “This is how I deal with rude customers who think they’re ‘all that’ because they’re on some national list, and you probably haven’t renewed it anyway, so your name isn’t even on it anymore, and I’m not doing anything illegal.”
I was looking forward to my turn, but she hung up abruptly. Now that’s rude. I wanted to have more fun with the call.
But what a jerk, right? I have so little consideration for how hard it is for these people. The “do not call” list has probably made their life hell. And maybe I have fallen off the list. It seems I’m getting more sales calls lately. By my negligence, I made that poor woman call me with her unwelcome solicitation and have to endure my insolence.
And you know what? I really did think I was all that.
Perhaps the “do not call” magic is gone, anyway. With all of the mega-corporations and affiliate arrangements, we probably have some sort of previous business relationship with all of these telemarketers.
The magic has never worked for charities, of course. I do try to be pleasant when they call. They’re still an annoying intrusion, but many of them are for good causes, and I have a heart, even if it’s three sizes too small.
But it’s not a winnable challenge. If you greet them pleasantly, they sense weakness. They tell you how nice it is to hear a friendly voice. (And I’m sure it is, with any kind of job calling and bothering people at home.) When you try for a mild but firm, “no,” they won’t accept it. Whether it’s sales or a charity, they’ll move to the part of their script that says, “I understand, times are hard, but…”
“No,” I say again. And I don’t want to do it, but often I’ll concede a “sorry” to a charity. I shouldn’t have to be sorry, though. They’re calling me. I don’t want to be called.
“I’m sorry, it’s a good cause, but no.”
Not even $5?
Now that I think about it, I much prefer the calls from Leper Travel Services. And maybe I should have ended this post sooner. Turning down charities isn’t as funny, although you can read articles about their administrative overhead to bolster your immunity to their telephone pleas.
A couple of weeks later, Leper Travel Services called again. It was a different woman this time. I naively thought for a moment they were calling to apologize for the rudeness of the first caller, but no, it was a “fresh” sales pitch. I related my story to her and she graciously offered to add me to their “do not call” list. A list which is starting to feel more like a placebo than anything.