The Worst Telemarketer … Ever

During the summer between my junior and senior years of college, I worked as a telemarketer. I sold publications intended to improve some aspect of business, mainly sales and marketing, with a little bit of news about environmental needs thrown in. While I wouldn’t want to make a career out of it, I learned some very valuable lessons that summer which I still carry with me.

One of those lessons is that I am generally sympathetic to the telemarketers who call me, even if I’m not in the market for whatever it is they’re selling. What I’m about to relate is anything but sympathetic, and I recognize that.

An important rule for all telemarketers is that if a lead gives you the same objection twice, then you pretty much know you’re not going to make the sale, so you should terminate the call politely and move on to your next lead. This telemarketer did not do that.

I didn’t catch either this guy’s name or the name of the company he worked for. I can tell you that the caller ID said “Service Message” and the phone number from which he was calling, was 402-982-0481. Considering this man’s Indian accent, I sincerely doubt he was actually calling from Nebraska.

The call started out poorly. He said he was calling from a home security firm and was looking for “Mr. James.” I told him honestly, there is no “Mr. James” in my house. He didn’t need to know that James is my first, not my last name.

I know that my phone number used to belong to someone else — I know his name but little else about him, other than he hadn’t used this number in so long that the phone company recycled it. That said, I still get calls for him and I’ve had this number for nearly seven years. Unfortunately, since his last name wasn’t James either, I couldn’t quite show my hand on that little nugget of information.

So the guy apologetically said that he was given a wrong name but that he still needed to talk to me. His first real mistake was not asking me my name. All he knew was that I’m not “Mr. James.”

I speak from experience that the worst kind of sales call out there is done by telemarketers who are selling you a home security system. They couch it as though they were conducting some kind of a survey and then they’ll say that they’ll enter your name into some kind of drawing and if your name is drawn, then you’ll be entitled to a free home security system. I’ve gotten those calls before and made it clear that, because I’m in the middle of a five year contract with my home security system, I am quite literally not in the market for the product they’re selling, and that such an offer is a waste of their resources and my time.

So when my caller said he was asking about home security and that it was just a survey, I told him that I just took a survey like this about six months ago (which is true), and that I didn’t want to take the survey again and that I didn’t want a callback in a few weeks offering me a system I don’t want, don’t need, and couldn’t take even if I did.

My caller told me that I apparently hadn’t answered the last two questions of the survey and that he just needed to ask me those two questions.

By now I was starting to get angry, but I stuck on the phone with him. As a former telemarketer myself, I recognized what he was doing and effectively cutting to the chase. His first question was the number of smoke alarms in my house.

I told him it was three before he even had the chance to run through his multiple choices.

The next question he asked, was: what are my biggest home safety concerns for me and my family? I started to raise my voice and say it’s calls like these and then the later offers of a free home security system from companies like you.

He didn’t listen to what I said and asked the question again, and I repeated my answer. Somewhere in there, I made a comment about how I hope someone who does quality review of his calls gets to listen to the recording of my call, since he didn’t listen to any of my objections and kept going on with everything as though I cared what he had to say. I had to repeat at least three times that the biggest security issue I care about was not getting calls like those anymore.

Finally he thanked me for my time and went on to say that my number would be entered into a drawing and if I was picked, I’d be getting a call to set up a free GE-brand home security system.

Well, that’s where I went ballistic. I told him that I didn’t want him to enter my name into the drawing, for the reasons I had elaborated on numerous times throughout the call, and that I didn’t want a callback if my name is drawn. I was yelling into the phone at this time.

(Note that this assumes that a drawing actually takes place. I suspect that all people who get the first call, will get the second a few weeks later, but I don’t know that for a fact…)

All he would say in response was that I’d only get the call if my name was picked. I decided not to ask him how he’d know my name since I never gave it to him and all I ever said is it’s not “Mr. James”. I knew he meant that it’d go by my number.

As I was getting angrier and angrier, I actually stepped out of my house so that my kids wouldn’t hear the profanity I knew I’d be about to start using. I had to tell him at least three or four times more that I didn’t want to get a call, even if my name was drawn, and he eventually “got it.”

I suppose I should mention that my caller didn’t exactly maintain a calm demeanor while on the phone with me. When the fact that I didn’t want a new security system finally sank in, despite the fact that I’d been saying it for easily five or ten minutes by that point, he begrudgingly agreed not to call me for any reason.

He ended the call by saying something that effectively was trying to make me feel as though I’d had an argument with an old friend, as though it was some kind of loss that I wouldn’t be hearing from him.

That call is a classic example of how not to do a sales call. It’s unfortunate that I don’t have a recording of that call.

If I get a call in a few weeks telling me I won a free home security system, I’m going to be furious. Time will tell….

Oh, and before you ask why I didn’t just hang up on him, well, you can blame my parents for that one. I can’t hang up on anyone.

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9 responses to “The Worst Telemarketer … Ever

  1. It’s amazing how enraging it is when someone calls your house- invades your personal space- and then is completely over the top rude and pushy. Just the fact that they talk over you like they can’t hear you is mindblowingly rude. It’s shockingly aggressive, as far as I’m concerned, and it makes me froth!

    I’m convinced some manager is around listening to them and they will get in trouble if they deviate from the script. I’ve actually found myself shouting “Why wont you listen to me?” and “Stop! Just stop talking! Listen to what I am saying!”

    -and I have a hard time hanging up on people too. For me, it just feels so rude and not like me. It’s very uncomfortable.

  2. I always figure that the politest
    thing I can do for a telemarketer (Who – it goes without saying – I
    will not be buying from.) is to hang up on them immediately. After
    all, most of them are paid at least some commission, or are at
    least judged on how many sales they make. So, since they won’t be
    selling to you, the best thing you can do for them is to give them
    a chance to sell to someone else.

    • Darkmind- what you say here is wise and makes sense. But it also runs smack into my obsession with communication and my slightly wound up disposition.

      You are a better man than me. Well… Obviously. But metaphorically as well!

      • I tend to think a ‘*click, dialtone*’ fairly effectively communicates what I intended to communicate to a telemarketer. 😉

  3. Having been on both sides of the phone, I agree with
    Darkmind. I give a telemarketer two calm and rational chances to
    hang up amicably. Should that not occur, I cut them off and say,
    “Look, you’re getting no business from me, so I’m going to hang up
    so you can move on.” After I hang up I usually steam for a bit, but
    console myself that I did my part for improving economic
    efficiency.

  4. I’m the other extreme. I actually like to talk to the telemarketers, especially if I can get a chance to give them a little bit of on-the-job training. One time I had a guy on the phone for 45 minutes trying to sell me a subscription to the New York Times. There was no question that I was in control of the conversation the entire time.

    Pissed off my then-fiancee, as she wanted to leave for work (she worked nights at the time).

  5. When I’m not being abused by a telemarketer I tend to be a talker as well, but ivwill tell them up front that I am not interested. I haven’t ever been the one calling people to sell them things but I have done customer service over the phone and really enjoyed it. When I get a sociable and professional person call, I am really nice. I’ve even apologize for not giving them my money.

  6. We have a recurring conversation in our small group: How does it impact overall U.S./India relations when we see India as full of incompetent service providers and India sees America as just a bunch of irate, rude customers? It can’t be healthy…

    • I would hope that our respective governments don’t pay close enough attention to any specific customer-service transactions resulting from either side contacting the other, and instead focus on the bigger picture of business relationships between the two countries.

      I would have reacted the same way to someone with a more “American” accent.

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