Thursday, 2 August 2012

A Rant for a Thursday: Telemarketing

It's time to check whether I actually am on Ontario's "no call" list that's theoretically supposed to keep most telemarketing firms from calling me. I've also started wondering about whether some other people that need to be on that list actually are.

My Stance on Telemarketing

I can see on my phone who's calling, and I don't answer calls that look like they're from telemarketers. I figure that if it's a call legitimately directed to me, they can leave a message. But sometimes I slip and grabbed the phone without looking at the number, or I answer because I get tired of seeing the same number over and over and over again. I hang up on automated pitches right away. If I get a live person, I listen to the initial pitch. Then I politely tell them "No thank you" (unless it's a charity to which I'd like to donate), and I hang up.

Unless they've been really aggressive, or are calling me about something about which I've already gotten multiple phone calls, I try not to be rude. This is only a person trying to make a living. I always knew I'd be terrible at telemarketing, so I've never applied for those jobs, but there have been times when I've needed a job badly enough to consider it. I've got nothing against people reading a script and getting paid for it.

My Stance on the Current Climate of Telemarketing

I *do* have something against how aggressive those scripts have gotten. Even many charities hire telemarketing firms to solicit donations because they are, of course, very effective. When I get a call from a telemarketing firm on behalf of a charitable agency, frequently I can identify what sales technique is being used on me and sometimes I still end up giving a small amount of money that I didn't intend to at the beginning of the call.

If I can cave to that kind of pressure, others easily can as well. When I'm short on money and I really can't afford to give, I don't. But not everyone can recognize that a telemarketer isn't going to ask, "And can you afford this?" before suggesting an amount that they'd "love to see you give". Too many of the people I've supported in the past assume that all people are looking out for their best interest. And, bless them, they're easily confused. They're targets.

Small Blessings

Mind you, I don't imagine that many of them have the access that I do to a credit card, that the money will "disappear" before they hang up the phone, and they may change their mind about a cheque by donation by the time the mailing materials arrive. I know that I often talked with people about how they shouldn't give money to anyone just because they asked for it. I suggested that they talk any request like that over with someone they trusted before making a decision.

And it's not my business anyway if someone I supported want to respond to a telemarketing call by donating money, except for my concerns that current telemarketing techniques make it very difficult for anyone to say "no" to donating...and anyone on the Ontario Disability Income Support Program by definition has an extremely limited income.

What to Do About Aggressive Telemarketing

I don't know what the solution is. When I first noticed charities starting to get really aggressive with their telemarketing, I actually spoke with an employee at an agency about my concerns that people who didn't understand to what they were agreeing or didn't have the confidence to stand their ground with a "No" or a hang-up were particularly vulnerable. It was from this discussion that I learned that telemarketing firms are doing more and more work for charities.

If you're supporting someone with an intellectual disability that you believe may be vulnerable to this sort of aggressive marketing (seniors, for a variety of reasons, may also be vulnerable), investigate whether there's a "no call" list in your area and what it covers. Other suggestions to deal with telemarketing:

  • Encourage them to get a phone that shows the number of who's calling and to adopt a rule of "I don't answer calls from numbers that I don't recognize."

  • Encourage them to get an answering machine to pick up any legitimate calls that they don't pick up.

  • Encourage them to say "No" to any requests for money that they get over the phone. Explain that if they'd like to donate money to a cause or purchase something, there are other ways to do it; they haven't lost their chance.

  • Include in the "Saying No" discussion that if someone won't stop asking for money when they say "No", they should hang up immediately.

Credit Where It's Due

All that being said...

Once, after explaining to what seemed like the umpteenth telemarketing employee that week that I didn't have a job and couldn't afford to give that year (and getting ready to repeat the speech before he suggested that I just reduce the amount that I generally give), I got this response:

"Sorry to hear that, ma'am. We'll catch you next time around. Good luck."

I wish I could remember which charity he was calling for...

Oh, and please don't tell me I'm a sucker...I know it already. ;-)

How do you deal with telemarketers?


  1. atomicgeography.com2 August 2012 at 09:35

    I always tell them to take me off their call list.
    I donate to the charities I know and care about through their website ie I find them. Professional telemarketers can take an amazing cut of the proceeds. It can increase the revenue to the charity because of the sheer volume, but it is not efficient from the donor's perspective.

  2. I don't ever give money over the phone. Full stop. I f I were interested in that charity I'd already be donating. Frankly, having been a victim of identity theft already I don't give my information out to anyone over the phone. Unless I called them.

    And after having one charity for leukemia try to bully me with 'But surely you want to help kids with cancer. You don't want it on your conscience that they died and you didn't try to help...' I'm not particularly sympathetic to their causes anymore. Because that tactic was SO wrong. I'm civil in saying 'no, thank you.' until they cross the line and keep pushing, at which point it's no holds barred.

    I've also asked repeatedly to be put on the 'No Call List'. I'm skeptical as to whether it works or not.