Herald Journal Columns
May 1, 2006, Herald Journal

A simple plan


A simple plan has occurred to me, which, if implemented, could eliminate two annoying business practices, and improve our quality of life.

The first unpleasant business practice is telemarketing.

I haven’t answered my home phone for years, because the majority of the calls that come through on this instrument are the telephone equivalent of junk mail.

In any calendar week, I may get about a dozen offers to refinance my home, five or six limited-time offers for satellite television services, an offer to consolidate my debt into one low payment, and a variety of miscellaneous offers that vary according to the season.

I don’t bother to answer my phone, because I find it more convenient to delete all of these important messages at one time.

One can, of course, sign up for various do-not-call lists, and I understand that these can be somewhat effective. So far, I have not bothered to sign up. I simply delete the unwanted messages when I get home.

I am sure that the people who are employed by these telemarketing companies are fine people.

We just have a difference in philosophy. I pay for residential phone service for my own communication needs, not to give these people an avenue to promote their seedy little products or questionable schemes.

If, for example, I wish to purchase new windows or satellite television service, I will do some research and seek out a reputable company that sells the required product or service. I will not wait around for some random phone freak to call me.

Come to think of it, many times it isn’t even a person making the call. Telemarketing companies have figured out that computers can dial faster than people can, thus enabling them to annoy a larger segment of the population in a shorter period of time.

I was discussing telemarketing this week with a friend who complained that he had crawled out from under a truck he was working on three times that evening to answer the phone, and every time, it was a telemarketing call.

He expressed a certain dissatisfaction with this situation.

I have heard many others express similar colorful, but unprintable, opinions about telemarketing.

The second annoying business practice that springs to mind is the implementation of those automated phone trees that are cunningly designed to prevent customers from speaking to a live person or getting answers to any questions they might have.

It brings me no joy to spend a quarter of an hour on the phone without achieving any result, apart from having catchy elevator music running through my head for the rest of the day.

There was a time when one could usually sidestep these automated systems by dialing “0,” which would connect one to a live body. Many companies have caught on to this, and have eliminated this option.

It occurred to me that perhaps these companies are not really trying to annoy all of their current and prospective customers and drive away their business.

Perhaps, they really have tried to hire competent customer service people, but have not been able to find any help, because all of the able-bodied phone workers are already working for the telemarketing companies.

A simple solution occurred to me.

If we can get all of the people who are working in telemarketing to stop annoying America, quit their jobs, and go to work in the customer service departments of companies that want and need their services, we all will win.

None of us will have to put up with any more annoying telemarketing calls.

The former telemarketers will have greater job satisfaction and less stress, working in constructive, legitimate customer service departments, and providing information to people who actually want it.

Consumers will be able to get information they need when they need it. They will be able to call companies and get a live person rather than an automated phone tree, and they will be free to do so, because their phone lines will not be jammed with annoying telemarketing calls.

The companies who are able to employ the liberated telemarketers will probably see an increase in their business, because customers will be able to get service, rather than frustration and elevator music.

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