John Walker's Electronic House

The Cold Call To End All Cold Calls

by on Nov.12, 2010, under The Rest

Wow, just had the weirdest cold call in a long time. I get a lot of these, normally one or two a day. There’s various ways of dealing with them, depending upon my mood and how busy I am. Often the telltale pause before they’ll speak is enough for me to hang up, and generally start screaming in frustration that I was interrupted in mid-flow for no reason. But when I’m feeling more patient I like to have a little chat.

This morning I received one from someone from “the government” (presumably an outsourced department located somewhere in India) offering me the chance to consolidate all my debt into one loan. I appealed to him, asking him why he would try to scam people. He became very defensive, and then went straight back to trying to sell me his offer. Those are the ones that make me sad.

Then there’s the technique my friend Stu uses, which is to interrupt them apologetically, and say, “Sorry, can you hang on, there’s someone at the door,” and then put the phone receiver down somewhere and get on with my day. They’ll wait an amazing time.

Or sometimes, along with my housemate Craig, we like to see how silly we can make it. When asked our annual income we’ll tell them, “40p” and insist it’s true. Or when asked about our debts offer numbers like £5 million. On one superb occasion, Craig managed to get the caller to tell him all the private information he’d been trying to pry from Craig – his age, car make, annual income.

I always try to remain polite, because blimey it must be a crappy job. But at the same time, they’re cold calling me to attempt to scam me (I spent a good fifteen minutes with someone who was trying to trick me into installing malware on my PC, which was one of my favourites), so it doesn’t seem unfair to have a little fun.

But just now was the strangest, just because of the pure gall of it. I’d planned to keep going with it as long as I could, because I was so entertained by the irony of the whole thing. But then he gave me a feedline that could not be resisted. A feedline that when you read it doesn’t even make sense for him to have said, as if he were scripted by a lazy comedy writer. Oh, and they always ask for Mr Smith, and I never, ever say that I am him, and they always go right ahead and talk to me as if I were.

Him: Hello, can I speak to Mr Smith please?

Me: Who’s calling?

Him: Hello Mr Smith, I’m calling from Do Not Call…

Me: [laugh]

Him: I’m sorry sir?

Me: Did you say “Do Not Call”?

Him: Yes, Do Not Call. I’m calling today to help you to stop receiving cold calls, nuisance calls, marketing calls that you receive to your line.

Me: You mean like this one?

Him: Yes.

Me: You’re going to help stop me getting this call?

Him: How do you stop this call?

Me: I stop it like this. [click]


10 Comments for this entry

  • mister k

    I just got that title.

  • Mrs Trellis

    Peace, perfect peace. Apart from the timeshare scam calls that seem to get through the net for some reason.

  • Alex Bakke

    TPS hasn’t worked for me; my family still gets around 3 cold calls a week.

    The best one I received was ‘Would you like a free car for only £450?’.

  • Turrican

    That TPS has certainly had an effect on our calls but only with scrupulous companies I suppose. Means the calls you actually get are all the more likely to be dodgy.

    Since you mentioned it, a word on those evil c**ts who are ringing up everyone in the country systematically and offering to fix their computer by installing malware / remote control software. Amusing when they ring people who are in IT like me who can string them along a while and generally waste their time, but all comedy goes out the window when they ring my parents (who were expecting a call from Dell) and proceed to get their software on the PC and then try to bill them afterwards for their ‘help’.

    My mother was reduced to tears when I explained what was going on and I tell you this, if ‘Brad Smith’ or whatever false name the guy in India was using wants to ring my number I will quite happily teach him proper English, albeit every swear word ever invented.

  • John Walker

    We have been on TPS for years. It makes no difference whatsoever.

  • KBKarma

    My brother used to do that as well.

    Someone once (cold-called? Never heard that term before) cold-called us. He answered. Started speaking to the guy. Said he had to go to the toilet. Put the phone down and went back to his room to read. Came back forty five minutes later. And hung up the phone.

    We get very few cold-calls. Partly because everyone here has lives outside of the house. Partly because my room and my brother’s room are pretty much sound-proof, and I can never reach the handset in time before it cuts off. Partly because whenever anyone who isn’t my mom picks up, we tell them we’re not interested, thank you, goodbye.

    And partly because, if my mom picks up, she spends forty minutes talking to the person like they’re an old friend, finding out about them, laughing and talking, and, once she hangs up, the person on the other end suddenly realises they’ve spent forty minutes on one call and not sold anything.

  • Lewis Denby

    Perhaps my favourite call receives such plaudits for the sheer persistence alone.

    There are only so many times you can explain politely and calmly that you’re not interested, only to have the caller completely ignore you and carry on as if you’ve said nothing at all, before you eventually get tired and hang up the phone.

    When you do this, you perhaps don’t expect the caller to /ring back/, say “Hmm, we seemed to get cut off there,” then carry on again. And repeat the process. “No, I’m not interested thank you.” “Okay, but let me just tell you about–” Click, once more.

    At which point you /definitely/ don’t expect the caller to ring back again and, this time, get incredibly upset with you for “being rude”. And when you ask to speak to the manager, claim that he is the manager. And when you ask for a name he refuses to give you it.

    Well, actually, perhaps you do expect that last bit.

  • Jambe

    I haven’t had a landline in five years, and in that span I’ve had three telemarketers call my cell phone.


  • Mrs Trellis

    I find you have to keep re-doing TPS every 6 months or so for it to be effective, if that’s any help.

  • Alex

    I just got the first cold-call on my cell-phone ever. It wasn’t as crazy as a guy offering to stop cold calls, but it was still pretty weird. Instead of an actual human, it was a text-to-speech voice telling me I’d won 100000 Air Miles for a card I don’t have.