Why I Love Cold Callers

I know it’s a cold call, designed to sell me some product or cause, even before the caller speaks.

Indeed, more often than not the caller doesn’t speak at all.

The equipment in telephone boiler rooms dials multiple phone numbers simultaneously. The software connects with the first one that answers, hanging up on the others. The strategy enables soliciters to complete more calls in less time, and thereby also to disrupt, disturb, irk, and annoy an ever larger number of telephone subscribers.

Getting on the don’t-call list seems to be impossible. My numerous requests have proven futile.

working the phones

I read an article recently where people described various ways they respond to cold calls, the purpose being to keep the caller on the line as long as possible. They’re wasting my time? I’ll waste theirs. It’s the least they can do, prankster responders assert, to discourage an enterprise that grows worse daily. Rare’s the morning I do not receive a half dozen such solicitations. And that’s just the morning.

My own method for toying with these callers is to adopt a phony, generic Eastern European accent, not unlike the late Andy Kaufman’s character “foreign man,” which was the model for his legendary Latke on the TV series Taxi.

“Oh, yes, beddy good,” I’ll say to someone selling subscriptions to the Chicago Tribune. “I am need to having cleaned carpet. Is big stain from rash by Labrador Retriever. The credit card too much charges, do you for to have better percentage ratings?”

To my credit, however, I have no illusions about why I do this. It is not part of any noble campaign to stand against the army of time-wasting intruders.

I do it because I am a writer, and there’s no circumstance I won’t exploit to avoid facing the pages staring back at me from my screen.

Am I shamed to game the interrupters?

I am. As a screenwriter I’ve learned two things: 1) consider the status of the observer and 2) imbue all characters, even the bad guys, with redeeming, sympathetic characteristics.

Who makes these cold calls? Prosperous, fulfilled souls whose career goal was to sit in a cubicle at a call center and provide angry strangers the opportunity to curse them out and hang up on them? These wretched souls are all working on commission; there’s no guarantee they’ll earn a nickel.

What can such a caller be except a desperado, someone who has had terrible luck finding work?

Chuck her (or him) a break. Just hang up. It’s not rude. There’s nothing in it for them to squander not only your time but also their own where they’re making no sale.

Once, I had a so sincere a chat with a cold caller that he told me he was quitting the racket immediately upon completion of the call.

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