Feb 282013

Hall Harper looks at the phenomenon of unwanted telephone calls and offers some suggestions on how to deal with them.

I suspect there are few, if any, of us who have never had an unwanted telephone call – and I’m not talking here about ones from great uncle Charlie asking if you could see your way clear to lend him a couple of bob, unwanted as these may be.

No, I’m talking about the ones from a range of organisations who want to sell you insurance, double glazing, a new kitchen or, the current favourite, the opportunity to handle your PPI claim.

In fairness, I’m willing to accept that these come from victims of the current economic situation who have been unable to find employment other than sitting in a call centre somewhere for a pittance. 

So while I am extremely unlikely to even consider buying whatever it is they’re trying to sell I will, I hope, let them down fairly politely with a “sorry, but I’m afraid I’m not interested.”

The ones, however, that really do get to me are the scam calls – the ones from (usually) a foreign lady or gentleman who tell you that they’re ‘phoning from Windows and have had it drawn to their attention by their technical department that your computer is currently at risk.  The scenario, I understand, which is supposed to unfold is that they offer to sort the problem for you for a small charge which can be paid by advising the caller of your credit or debit card details.

Needless to say, there is no technical department, nor is there a problem with your computer.  There is, however, a problem when you provide your bank details and the folk calling you swick you out of your hard earned spondulicks.

There are, I’ve found, a number of ways to deal with these calls depending upon your mood and the time you have available.  So if you’re totally stretched for time or are just not in the mood to indulge in any sort of communication, the simplest thing to do is hang up at the point you realise it’s a scam call.

The next step up is when you’re short of time but want, at the very least, to score a minor victory by having the last word.  Again the way to achieve this is quite simple.  You simply take a well known Anglo-Saxon expletive and use it in a two word phrase ending with ‘off’ before hanging up.

The point is to see how long it takes the caller to terminate the conversation

If, however, you have a bit of time on your hands and want a bit of fun (and remember you’re not paying for the call, they are) there are a few jolly japes available, the point of which is to see how long it takes for the unwanted caller to hang up on you.

The first is the one unashamedly stolen from a television ad which is when you sweetly ask the caller to, “please hang on a moment,” lay the receiver down and go and make yourself a coffee, do the crossword, go and do the shopping if you want – they’ll give up sooner or later.  (I did this one time and kept quietly listening in from time to time to see how long they hung on.  Surprisingly it was over ten minutes.)

Then there’s the ‘one word method.’  This comprises of steeling yourself, however chatty or insistent the caller becomes, to limit yourself to only one word.  The obvious one is “yes” although I suspect a real expert at the game could come up with something a bit more adventurous.

The point is to see how long it takes the caller to terminate the conversation which, if the only response they’re getting is “yes” actually takes less time than you might imagine.

But my all time favourite is the ‘bad line method’ which, as the name I believe suggests, requires you to pretend that there is a fault on the line which renders you unable to make out what the caller is saying.  This is easily done by firstly advising the caller that, as it’s a bad line, you didn’t make out what they said and inviting them to repeat what they’ve said and, once they’ve done this twice, you then ask them to spell it.

A recent call I had went something like this:

Caller:      Good morning, my name is Daniel.  I’m calling from Windows and we have identified a problem with your computer.

Me:           I’m sorry but it’s a very bad line.  What did you say your name was?

Caller:      Daniel.

Me:           I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.  Can you repeat please?

Caller:      Daniel.

Me:           I’m sorry, I still didn’t get it.  Can you spell it please?

Caller:      D-A-N-I-E-L

Me:           Daniel?

Caller:      Yes, Daniel.

Me:           And the name of your company?

Caller:      Windows.

Me:           Sorry but it’s a REALLY bad line.  Could you spell that please?

Caller:      W-I-N-D-O-W-S.

Me:           Windows?

Caller:      Yes – Windows!

Me:           Ah, I see.  So you’re selling double glazing.

Caller:      No, it’s about your computer.

Me:           But you said you were calling about windows.  What have windows got to do with computers?

Caller:      No, I’m calling because we’ve identified that you’ve got a problem with your computer.

Me:           Sorry but it really is a very bad line.  Can you repeat that please?

Caller:      We-have-identified-that-you-have-a-problem-with-your-computer!

Me:           My computer?

Caller:      Yes, your computer.

Me:           But I don’t have a computer.

Caller hangs up.


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