Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Telesalespeople: I wish they didn’t pretend they were your friend

I related to Nicole Mason’s post about the accident she witnessed and her attempts to phone it in; and her comment that one does not expect, when phoning the emergency services, to hear, ‘Hello, how you?’ popped into my head yesterday when I had truck with a telesalesperson.

The phonecall went something like this:

Me (businesslike; the number came up as ‘private’, and I hate answering these calls but I always do in case they’re a client): Hello, Muriel speaking.

She (perkily): Hi, how are you?

Me (immediately irritated): Who is this?

She (still perky): It’s Thembi. How are you?

Me (smoke beginning to trickle out my ears): Thembi? Thembi who? Do I know you?

She (slightly less perky): I’ve got great news for you.

Me (smoke billowing around my head): WHO ARE YOU? Where are you phoning from?

She (small voice, very fast): From1lifeinsuranceandI’vegotgreatnewsforyou.

Me (grabbing fire extinguisher): You haven’t! I know you haven’t! If you’re phoning from a life insurance company, all you want to do is sell me something I probably don’t want and definitely can’t afford! Goodbye! (flinging phone in general direction of swimming pool)

Now, I know telesalespeople are a fact of life, like dying or forgetting to put out your wheelie-bin on garbage-collection days, but do they have any idea how much they ratchet up the irritation level by pretending to be one of your close friends? (Never mind the blatant lie that what they’re going to tell you is entirely to your benefit.) I’d be so much less inclined to slam down the phone on them if they responded, when I answered their unsolicited and unwelcome phonecalls, with, ‘Hello, I’m Thembi Mnguni from 1life insurance and I’d like to tell you about our latest short-term insurance product, if you can spare the time.’ If that were the case, I’d probably say, ‘Hi Thembi. I’m sorry, but I’m not in the market for short-term insurance. You have nice day, now. Goodbye.’ And then disconnect the call in a manner that endangers neither the phone’s health nor mine, and doesn’t injure the ear or the dignity of the telesalesperson.

A few years ago I got just this kind of phonecall from a telesalesperson when I was on a deadline and feeling even more stressed than usual. When I answered the ‘private number’ call, the person said, ‘Hi, how are you?’ (the telesalesperson password) and, additionally secure in the knowledge that the person’s voice rang absolutely no bells and therefore was probably unknown to me (and so was very likely going to try to sell me something I probably didn’t want and definitely couldn’t afford), I distractedly said, ‘No, thanks,’ disconnected the call, and returned to my keyboard.

When he called back immediately, I assumed I’d made a mistake and that I did, in fact, know him, so I gave him the time to ask me how I was (‘fine’) and waited to hear what he had to say. It was this: ‘Aren’t you going to ask me how I am?’

I kid you not.

Who are you?’ I asked.

He gave me his name and said, ‘It was very rude of you to put down the phone on me.’

‘Where are you calling from?’ I asked.

It was a cellphone company. A cellphone company! He wanted to sell me something I probably didn’t want and definitely couldn’t afford!

‘Are you completely fucking mad??’ I yelled, and put down the phone.

And – I am not making this up – he immediately called me again. Obviously, I rejected the call. And the next one.

In a weird way, I was quite admiring of this – a kind of ‘telesalesperson strikes back’. I may even have been tempted to enter into a short debate about the rudeness of a person slamming down the phone on someone who’s only going to waste their valuable time trying to sell them something they probably don’t want and definitely can’t afford vis-à-vis the rudeness of someone who phones you out of the blue and then, under the pretence of being your friend and giving you ‘great news’ (or its equivalent – a ‘free’ cellphone, say), tries to flog you something you probably don’t want and definitely can’t afford.

But I was on deadline so I didn’t.

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Anonymous said...

I've never cared much for telemarketers, but I do find their timing is always the worst: I'm either in a meeting or a library or some other public place that requires quietude. I remember the time I had to stop a telemarketer (after allowing her to ramble on for several minutes) that I'd rather not take out life-insurance as it would be morbid for an 18 year old to do so.

Anonymous said...

I have a couple of lines for telemarketers. For life insurance policies, I ask them if I'd be insured if I died while I was pregnant (I wouldn't be) and then go on to rant about how sexist that is. For cellphone companies, I tell them I own a R180 Nokia I got at Pep Stores and like that it has a black and white screen. For the rest, when they give me the "This call may recorded for quality purposes" I ask them if I am allowed to say rude words like shit and they should find out if it would be a problem. Then I tell them thanks for the call, but I don't need this shit in my life!