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Jean-Paul Sartre once said, “Hell is other people”. Pretty prescient of him considering he said it some time before the invention of that truly hellish of human practices: cold calling.
Admittedly, phoning up innocent householders to sell them products or services they neither need nor ever dreamed of wanting is just an extension of the age-old market-trader practice of calling out to passing pedestrians to sell them their wares. But at least those pedestrians weren’t naked and dripping having rushed out of the shower to answer an anonymous call.
Obviously, the first rule to get rid of the callers from legitimate businesses is to sign up to TPS (the Telephone Preference Service). However, there are many other callers who blithely avoid detection, usually because they are calling from a wilder part of the world like Zimbabwe, Kuala Lumpur or Swindon.
This modern imposition demands a modern defence. On MoneyMagpie, we have taken on the role of consumer champion to give our readers tools to fight back against the encroaching phone furies. Happily, our readers have also donated some of theirs.
For example, one of my favourite techniques is to say “Hold on, please…” put down the phone and go and do the washing up. After a while they realise what’s happening, get bored and hang up.
Other lovely techniques which I have yet to try is to pretend to be a cat and start miaowing then coughing up fur balls. Or, say excitedly “yes I’d love to hear about your product! But let me tell you first about the holy joy of Krishna consciousness….”
Our readers have been even more creative in their approach to cold calling irritants. For example ‘Dennis’ (doesn’t give us his surname) says, “I tell them that I am a burglar and that the householders are on holiday and that I have just stolen their TV and was about to steal the telephone when it rang….”
Susan Wilson is a woman to be reckoned with. “When they tell me I’ve won something, I am really friendly with them. I’ll tell them all about how it’s been a dreadful month – the cat died, my husband left me, I can’t pay the mortgage, the bailiffs are coming to take the furniture away, my latest medical tests show the disease is back, etc etc. You can go on as long as you are able. Tell them that your prayers have been answered and it’s lovely to get some good luck for a change and strangely enough they tend to put the phone down on you!”
Equally hardcore, David Hinder takes a businesslike approach. “For those annoying people who ask for ‘just five minutes’ of my time,” he says, “my standard reply is: ‘By all means, I charge £15.00 for each half-hour or part thereof. Can you please let me have your credit card number?’. If they incredulously ask me do I REALLY charge for my time, I tell them that of course I do. After all, they are being paid for their time aren’t they?”
But Artycart makes this existential point which gives pause for thought: “We get these calls regularly. He always calls back, even when we tell him we are not interested. What does he really want?”
And indeed yes, what does he really want? I feel we’re back to Sartre here.
Are these calls actually to sell us PPI or is there a deep and existential void that makes them reach out for contact, with double glazing as a double bluff? Is this the Samaritans in reverse?
Maybe they just need a hug.
Or maybe we should just gently replace the receiver and withdraw to a quiet place.