Dear People Who Answer Their Phones:
My name is Teresa Jusino, and I’m a freelance writer. In order to supplement my income, I often take part-time jobs to make ends meet. In my working life, several of those jobs have involved me calling people for various reasons. Sometimes, I’ve called people to try and sell them a product. Other times, I’ve called people to make sure they register to vote. Once I had a job calling stockholders in a company to register their proxy votes for an upcoming shareholders meeting. At the moment, I’ve taken on a job doing phone banking for a political candidate in the upcoming CA primary. This involves me calling voters to make sure they’re aware of this person’s candidacy, some basic info about their campaign, and giving them the candidate’s website so that they can do their own research before the upcoming June election.
Yet no matter what the reason for my calls over the years, the response is always the same. Which is strange, considering that I’ve had very different reasons for calling. This response is usually fueled by ignorance, so I wanted to take a moment to debunk some of the more popular arguments against having a phone conversation with me.
1) “I don’t take calls from solicitors!” or “I’m on a Do Not Call List!”
That’s all very well and good, except that very often, I’m not a solicitor. You see, in order to be a solicitor, I have to be calling to sell you something (or a lawyer in the UK). If I’m calling you for political reasons, or to ask for your answers to a survey, or any other reason that requires either me getting information from you, or vice versa, then I’m not a solicitor. What’s more, your position on the National Do Not Call List doesn’t apply to me. Because if you’re a voter, and I’m calling you to impart political information, your phone number is part of your voter information and is public record.
So maybe before you yell at me for calling you, or hang up on me, perhaps you should listen to why I’m calling you. Very often, in the time you take to yell at me and tell me why I shouldn’t be calling you, I could’ve already told you everything I needed to, and the conversation could’ve been long over. Believe me, I have a job to do and other people to get to. I’m not looking to talk to you all night. “Charming” though you may be.
2) “It does your cause no good to bother me at dinner time!”
This is probably my FAVORITE response, because it makes the least sense. Of COURSE we’re calling around dinner time. Why? Because if we called any earlier, you wouldn’t be home from work yet. And if we called later, you’d yell at us for calling you so close to bedtime. Also, every family is different, and I’m not made of magic. THERE IS NO WAY FOR ME TO KNOW WHEN YOU SPECIFICALLY ARE SITTING DOWN TO HAVE DINNER!
Here’s a thought. If dinnertime is so SACRED to you, how about NOT ANSWERING THE PHONE DURING DINNER?
“But, what if it’s an emergency?” you ask. Well, how about joining the 21st century and GETTING A CELL PHONE IN ADDITION TO (or instead of) YOUR LAND LINE. If it’s an emergency, but you don’t want to talk to people during dinner, people can do this magical thing called “texting you” so that you can receive a message immediately with minimal interruption.
“But I don’t want cell phones at the dinner table!” Well, NOW you’re just being an asshole. Either don’t take calls at all, take texts and don’t answer the phone, or answer the phone and don’t be a dick to the person on the other end just because they didn’t know that it was Steak Night and you were just sitting down to get into it with a fucking T-bone! Those are your options, and none of them have to involve being a douchebag.
Oh, and by the way, IT’S MY DINNERTIME TOO! Except that I’m spending MY dinnertime eating in between phone calls and getting hung up on by asshats like you.
3) “I’m not interested.”
OK, remember when I said that #2 made the least sense? Scratch that. This one does. Very often, I’ll just say where I’m calling from, and someone will say “I’m not interested.” You have no idea why I’m calling. I could be calling to sell you something, or to give you information you need. You have no idea until you let me tell you! So when you say “I’m not interested,” it just makes you sound like an idiot, because I’m left asking Interested in what? Life? The telephone as an invention? People? The World? I have the utmost respect for people who, once they’ve listened to what I have to say, kindly say things like “I’m not interested in buying that right now.” Or, “I’m not really into politics, so I’m gonna hang up now.” FINE. WONDERFUL. I can totally dig it. Hell, you can even throw in a “Please remove me from your list,” and I can take you off our specific call list (which is totally different from the National Do Not Call List).
Here’s the deal. By hanging up on us and being rude, you’re only opening yourself up to the very thing you apparently hate getting. Phone calls. I can’t mark vague responses like “I’m not interested” on my call sheet, because I was calling to ask specific questions or give specific information. If I can’t do my job, that means I have to mark it as such, which means that someone ELSE will get my call sheets and call you. Ad nauseum.
4) “Why don’t you just send me information?”
What? So you can ignore our emails and brochures too? Because that’s most likely what will happen. If you’re THAT affronted by people wanting to tell you things – if it bothers you that much, so much so that you can’t be nice about it – maybe the problem isn’t them. Maybe it’s you. Maybe you should participate in the world a little more so that you’re not so blindsided by talking to people. I know its easier to live life in a little bubble where you never have to have contact with anyone – but that makes the world a much harsher place when you decide you DO want to take part, but have zero social skills. We’re calling you, rather than emailing you, because we want to hear directly from you in a timely fashion. Take two minutes out of the 24-hours you get every day to have a fucking conversation. It won’t kill you.
Wanna both stop us from calling you AND get brownie points for being a decent human being?
– Listen to the sales pitch/information schpiel.
– When asked, clearly say that you’re not interested in the service/candidate/product/in participating at this time.
– If by “at this time” you really mean “Ever,” then be honest! Politely ask to be removed from their list and not to be called again.
This way, you won’t get called again by this company (others might – remember each company/candidate/etc is different!) ever again, and you wouldn’t have been a huge tool.
Look, I get it. Everyone has a bad day. Hell, sometimes my fellow partners-in-calling are having a bad day and will let someone have it on the phone for no reason. But generally, we’re on the receiving end of a lot of crap when we’d rather be having dinner in the comfort of our own homes. Just like you.
So, think before you pick up the phone. And if you choose to do so, don’t be an asshole about it.
Full-time freelance writer / Sometime telemarketer