Window on the West
by Mary Rupert
The phone rings. “Hello, this is your captain speaking …” plays for the umpteenth time.
Our phone recorder fills up with these sales calls. As so many other people, we often don’t even answer the land-based telephone line any more, unless we see a number we recognize from caller ID.
It never fails that I am in the middle of something that I think is important when the phone will ring and I will stop to see who it is. But it’s usually just another security sales call, “Did you know your home could be the target of a break-in?” or a sales pitch for medical insurance when we don’t need any. “The Obama administration has determined ….”
Automated phone dialers call us during political campaigns with prerecorded messages that go straight to my recorder, too. At one point, I thought we had signed up for the no-call list, but apparently we did not, I am told by someone else at home.
The phone rings again. I look at the caller ID, and it’s one of my universities’ foundations calling. They’re allowed to call for donations. I know right away that they want a donation, because that’s all they have ever called for in the past. I want to tell them, sorry, I can’t give you any money this year because I don’t have enough right now, but instead, I decide to just let the phone ring and not answer it. When I don’t have the money, you don’t get the money. They will just have to wait until some other time for that tiny donation. Sorry, alma mater.
It’s not that I am totally against sales phone calls. I myself make some non-sales calls by telephone for information, sometimes to people I have not met before. Those are different, I reason. I am seeking information, not money. Research and polls are exempt from no-call rules. But I can see how a small business would be hard-pressed to do without sales calls by phone, as start-up businesses sometimes do not have the money to send letters or postcards to potential clients. Businesses are allowed to make sales calls to their own existing clients. Of course, I have always thought a print ad in a newspaper would be more effective, less likely to disturb the potential customer.
The first time my cell phone received one of those prerecorded sales calls, I was very upset. One reason for being upset was the cell phone was always a good way to miss out on sales calls. The other reason, though, was the billing of the cell phone was set up per phone call minutes (not currently my plan), and could result in me paying for a call I did not want. Roto-dialers, I have heard, are not allowed to call cell phones.
I was not surprised that the Kansas attorney general last week said the top complaint of 2013 was violations of the No-Call Act. He reported filing 17 enforcement actions in 2013, and there is a bill in the Legislature to prohibit sales calls to cell phones.
One Kansas City, Kan., resident recently told me she, like almost everyone else, doesn’t like the sales calls. She is on the no-call list and still gets them. Now she even gets them on her office phone. She’s punched in a number to be put on the caller’s no-call list, but they just call her again anyway.
This time, the phone is ringing again. Wait a minute, the recorder is saying someone is going to give me $2,000 of free groceries? All I have to do is sign up for the plan? But I don’t answer the call. Too bad, I’m past the point of believing it.
Mary Rupert, editor, screens her calls in Kansas City, Kan. To reach Mary, email email@example.com, and leave a message.