“I’m dreaming of a telemarketer-free Christmas…”

We’ve all been there.  Sitting, harmlessly, in the comforts of our own home…not bothering anyone…not causing harm…when suddenly, it happens.

The telephone rings.  You, unassumingly, run to pick it up, thinking it might Oprah, calling to tell you you’ve won a car, a trip to Australia, and a fuzzy bath robe.  You naturally check your caller ID, and your whole night suddenly descends into the depths of an abyss you cannot escape from.  Yes, that’s right.  From out of the blackness of night comes a demon far scarier than anything you could possibly imagine.  A harbinger of sheer terror that allows no escape:  a telemarketer.

I knew the moment I looked at my caller ID that this telemarketer was like no other.  My Droid displayed a New York City area code, which, to me, is an automatic warning sign.  I knew who it was, cringed to think of the conversation that would ensue, yet forced myself to answer the call instead of bluntly ignoring the caller, an action I am accustomed to performing.

“Hello!  My name is Janice and I’m calling on behalf of the New York Philharmonic…”

During the two years I spent in New York City, I attended a total of two concerts sponsored by the New York Phil.  Somehow, this meager action led them to believe that I’m a.) wealthy, b.) philanthropic, and c.) NOT plunged into grad school debt.  I receive at least 4 calls a year from the Philharmonic, and my previous phone encounters with them have NOT resulted in any plaques labeled with my name, nor commemorative seats blazened with my likeness to glorify my donation.  I’m not a stingy person, but I just don’t have $50/month to give to an organization which is 7 hours removed from my current city of residence.

I tell you this truly:  I was very tempted to end the phone call right there.  I was on my way to church, it was raining/sleeting/nearly snowing outside, and a simple click of my red button would have ceased all pleas from Janice…who, I rather prefer to think looks like this…makes the conversation more tolerable…


Instead, I knew what I had to do.  I knew my RAC for the day would require me to NOT hang up on Janice, remember my manners, and act as politely as possible.  Oh, the agony…

Janice:  Hi, Ms. Bethany (insert real name here)!  I’m Janice, calling from the New York Philharmonic.  How are you this evening?

Me:  I’m fine, how are you? (note:  thumb burning to hit the red END button on my phone)

Janice:  I’m great, actually!  I see from our records that you last attended a concert at the NY Phil in May of 2009.  Could you possibly tell me what influenced you to attend that concert?

Me:  I went because of the singers that were appearing on the concert. (note:  thinking this is the end of the conversation…) 

Janice:  Thank you so much for telling me that.  The NY Phil has a wonderful season coming up this year…but, I do have some good news and bad news for you tonight (to me, this meant that the good news was the fact that I didn’t hang up on her, the bad news would be the inevitable cry for funds directly taken from my wallet).

Me:  Oh?  (subtext:  what the F$#& do I care?)

Janice:  The good news is that we’re currently halfway through our pledge drive for the season…the bad news is that we are currently under our goal by $50,000.

Me(I didn’t have to say anything…she kept talking, the frantic little money-borrowing chipmunk that she was…)

Janice:  I’m calling to see if you’ll be able to commit to a pledge tonight…any type of gift would be greatly appreciated, especially during the holiday season.

Me:  Janice, I hate to cut you off, but I need to interject that I actually don’t live in NYC anymore….(I’m actually about 7 hours away)

Janice:  That’s quite all right!  Even from afar, you can still support our programs.  Can we count on you for a $20/month pledge?

Me:  You know, Janice, I really would need to see something in writing if you’d like to mail me something (typically would never have offered this either…but I was feeling amicable, so I decided to let her mail me something which would cost her $2.00 and wouldn’t cost me anything)

Janice:  I can certainly do that…shall I write you down for a pledge, then?

Me:  You know, I still really need to see something on paper before committing to anything (that fact hadn’t changed in 15 seconds).

Janice:  I would love to mail you something, and just to verify, do you think you’ll be able to become a pledge donor with us?

Obviously, Janice wasn’t getting it.  After about 5 more minutes of trying to get her to just write down my damn address, I finally told her that I was running late for church (true story…I wasn’t using God to save me from Satan’s Herald) and would be glad to entertain any PAPER mailing she’d be able to send me.  To make a long story short, poor Janice was so baffled by my blocked attempts at philanthropy that she became flustered and completely forgot to take down my current address.  Shame…

For a moment after the dulcet tones of Janice died away, I remembered that yes, telemarketers are people, too.  They’re just doing their job, and perhaps I should be more polite to them in the future.  However…I’ll leave this scenario as a parting gift to you, my readers.  You tell me if this would be a more appropriate way to handle telemarketers:

Janice’s Cousin, Judy:  Hello there!  Is this So-and-So?

So-and-So:  Why, yes!  It is!

Judy:  I’m here to talk to you about donating to my cause!  Do you have a few minutes?

So-and-So:  Yes!  Can you hang on one minute?

This, my dear friends, is the point where you, ol’ So-and-So, places the phone gently down on the counter, does NOT hang up, and walks away from the phone…do NOT return in 5, 10, or 15 minutes.  Rather, wait until that pesky telemarketer decides that you’ve either lost your connection or died.  They will then proceed to hang up the phone and cross you off their list.  It’s magic!

RAC #7Politely staying on the phone with a telemarketer

Results:  The NY Phil continues to spend money on mailings which end up in Betty Homemaker’s mailbox in NYC; Janice can verify she made human contact and get that promotion from her boss; silly chuckles uttered by me


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mindy on November 14, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Listen, these people are simply doing the job they were hired to do. From 9am-9pm, seven days a week, people who attend concerts do actually donate money over the phone to telemarkerters who call them – on average, about 30 donations per day/$28,000.

    If you’re not going to be one of them, kindly help the caller make that determination by telling them you don’t have any money to give (although you have money to buy tickets) and politely thank them for the call. And, yes, they would have accepted a nominal gift – which would have been more constructive on your part that spewing verbal garbage online in the hopes someone will think you’re clever…


  2. Hi Mindy (a rep from the NYP Fundraisers),

    Thank you for your comment. I guess I should have understood where the telemarketer was coming from, and been more appreciative of the job that they do. Now, after your communication, it is clear that the phone call I received was made for one purpose and one purpose alone: money.

    It is encouraging to know that had I just said “I don’t want to give you money,” the telemarketer would have hung up right away. I could have not wasted her time, because hey, in the end, a successful phone call would have resulted in a donation, right?

    Nay…instead, I decided to actually hear her out. I’ll be honest, Mindy..I was very close to being a rude customer who just hung up. But these are people making a living…they HAVE to call, they have a script (albeit mechanical). They get hung up on all the time. So, instead of rudely cutting her off, I let her finish…I let her do the job you encourage her to do.

    And you know what, Mindy? That telemarketer, all comedy aside, was actually very pleasant and polite. I remember vividly the concert she asked me about…one of my favorite experiences I’ve ever had in NYC…and she seemed to care if I enjoyed it or not. She left me with a great taste of the New York Phil in my mouth.

    I cannot say the same for you.

    Happy holidays.


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