I get a lot of calls at work that really shouldn’t be directed to me. One third of my calls are from people trying to sell me toner, printing supplies, etc. I usually hang up on half of them before I hear a voice because there’s always that little bit of silence that gives them away. And then if they ask to speak to “Leela” Abersold instead of Lila – they’re toast.
When I was younger and I answered the phone, I could usually tell it was a sales call too. They would ask to speak to my dad and I reluctantly told Dad the phone was for him. When my look gave me away Dad would look at me, knowing how hard this was for me, but demand that I tell them he wasn’t home (fully aware his voice was loud enough for them to hear) or sometimes he would say, “Tell them your Daddy's in prison.”
I got better at just yelling, “Dad! It’s for you!” when it was a sales call and I clenched my teeth as I quietly hung up the phone, knowing very well what he does in these situations. I would stand there for a minute, frozen; listening carefully for any hint of a conversation. When I didn’t hear anything, I would tiptoe over to his study, peek in and see him grading papers, with the phone receiver placed on his desk. He would turn to look at me, expressionless, and then he would pick up the receiver, check up on the telemarketer and then set it back down on the desk and return to his work.
“Dad!” I would say.
“What?” He replied angrily.
“Why don’t you just talk to them?”
“I don’t want to.”
“They’re just doing their job.”
“They should get a better job.”
I hated it. I felt so bad for them that I would just start taking the calls myself and kindly let them know that we weren’t interested in what they were selling.
The older I get, the more impatient I get with telemarketers. I don’t know how I still get these calls at work. I’m on that “do not call” registry which I’m beginning to wonder about. I recently stopped transferring salesmen to Lila when they ask for her. I stopped after handing over a fundraiser for MS and then hearing her yell “No way!” at the person on the other line and then hang up. I thought that was a little harsh for a good cause.
Just now I got a call from someone asking for Lila. I asked who was calling (knowing she had no interest in speaking to them). He answered really quickly – perhaps hoping I wouldn’t understand him – and then not care enough to have him repeat it. But I did have him repeat it. Twice. He asked to speak to my manager. I asked him if he wanted to speak to my manager or if he wanted to speak to someone who can actually answer his questions. He got impatient with me and said,
“Who orders the company’s printing supplies?”
“Oh, we’re not a company. We’re a state agency.” (Our usual response to sales calls)
“You’re not a company?”
“No, we’re not allowed to order the supplies we want. Someone who works in a big building decides that for us.”
“Can you give me the number of the person who orders the supplies?”
“I’m afraid I can’t.”
“You don’t know who that is?”
“Not off the top of my head.”
“You don’t have their number?”
“No, I’m sorry.”
“Well,” in a condescending voice, “I’ll call back and maybe you’ll have the number then.”
I felt like I was being sent to my room and not allowed to come out until I figured out what I did wrong. I doubt he'll be calling back.
One night, my old roommate Ilene thought she had a really good strategy.
Telemarketer: “Could I speak to Ilene __________?”
Ilene: “She doesn’t live here, may I take a message?”
I laughed through the night.