Today was no different, but ‘sleeping in’ was not an option. Jarred awake about an hour before I usually rise, the telephone started ringing at promptly at 7:54 a.m.
When I answered someone said, “Hi – Jae? This is Chris.”
The voice addressing me by my first name was not familiar and my fuzzy brain struggled to register the acquaintance. I searched my memory bank for a friend named Chris and came up empty.
“Hi, Chris,” I said, trying to sound happy to hear from him and avoid insult until I figured it out.
“How are you doin’ today?” Chris asked cheerfully.
“Well, not so good.” I replied honestly since he’d just waked me from a sound sleep. My friends did call to check up on me occasionally though. Could Chris be a voice I didn’t recognize in my sleep induced stupor?
“But the weather report says it’s supposed to warm up later, so things are looking up.” I continued, trying to sound positive.
“How’re you doing, Chris?” Still wondering who Chris could be, I felt I should at least reciprocate with common courtesy.
“I’m doing great!” He said, a little over the top this time. “You know, you sound younger every time I talk to you.” He paused for effect as I replied I didn’t know if I believed there was any truth there.
But before I finished my sentence he cut in and rushed on. “Hey, you know those light bulbs you got last time? I can get you a TEN YEAR supply all at once now, isn’t that good news!?”
Light bulbs? I was silent for a moment. I searched my memory bank again for a friend named Chris and something to do with light bulbs.
Light bulbs, light bulbs? Then it hit me. Oh, THOSE light bulbs.
“I’d like to help you out, but as I told you recently when you guys called, I can’t.” I could hear Chris breathing impatiently on the other end of the line.
“How about just the basic pack. That’s not much and you could still help out that way. I know you want to help out, right?” Chris countered.
I was annoyed at the attempt to ingratiate himself while guilt-tripping me. I’d venture to say that none of his paycheck went toward the light bulbs he was trying to sell me.
“I truly cannot afford that kind of money for light bulbs now.” I said again, trying to make my position clearer. Sure, the over-priced bulbs were for a good cause, but hey, I’m a starving writer on a budget.
Chris had done his homework. He knew I was already sympathetic as a previous customer in more solvent times.
I started to elaborate on my current situation when Chris interrupted me.
“Look, how about you get the light bulbs this time, then I’ll take your name off our list, ok?” He was starting to sound desperate, like a timer was ticking.
Take my name off the list? It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Oh, Chris was good.
“Well, maybe just the small pack…” I began, hoping we could end the conversation and still part ‘friends’ at some point.
Suddenly, mid-sentence, he cut in again. “Great! I’ll transfer you to our accounting department and they’ll take care of you.” The word “thanks” echoed in my ear and I heard the click as he transferred me. At least I think it was ‘thanks’ I heard.
I felt insulted. But worse, I felt ashamed that I only bought the small pack. Like I’d just let down a friend.
Then I felt angry. No one likes intimidation. I reviewed the last ten minutes of my life that I would never get back – Chris was much better at this game than I.
I had succumbed, and I felt cheated. Most Telemarketers ring off with at least a “ have a nice day”. I guess in current times the rush to make a buck eliminates the protocol of manners. Call me old fashioned.
In defense of Chris, he is not the first Telemarketer to end our conversation abruptly. Some have been downright indignant when I haven’t jumped at the chance to purchase their product, and didn’t hesitate to tell me so.
I ask, is this the new breed of salespeople? And do they not realize that their future requests will fall on deaf ears with this kind of customer service? The ‘good cause’ they’re promoting will NOT be foremost in my mind. Rudeness, insincerity and being duped might. Chris’s organization is not alone.
Everyone from Christian film makers to the Police Department have jumped on the Telemarketer Band Wagon. While often representing valued services their methods of fundraising are offensive. The most irritating calls seem to come from political campaigns or survey offices. Apparently they consider themselves exempt from any restrictions.
Am I alone in this opinion?
The word ‘Telemarketer’ has become synonymous with ‘pariah’ as people are rallying to just hang up. Maybe if enough people refuse their call the tactics will become obsolete. We can hope.
Registering on the National DO NOT CALL List available to consumers (call 1-888-382-1222 or register online at http://www.donotcall.gov) for both my cell and home phone has reduced the number of Telemarketer calls I receive.
It’s too late to return to sleep, so I will be cantankerous (ok, more cantankerous) today.
I do not have Caller ID, so I’ll spend the day wondering if real friends are calling when the phone rings. I’ll waste time re-evaluating my budget to determine if I am being selfish, only to confirm that light bulbs are a luxury.
How do I get on these call lists anyway? Telemarketers come and go, but lists are forever.
Is it even possible for Chris to permanently remove me from his list?
I hate it when friends lie to me.
—Jae Awkins, Author