The “Do Not Call” registry has been a wonderful advancement in phone etiquette. I remember signing up the first week it became available and it resulted in a noticeable reduction in annoying sales calls. However, the calls did not reduce to zero because of a loophole that allows companies to call existing customers. This seems like a reasonable exception. For example, my bank should be able to call me if there is a problem or reasonable question to ask about my account. But recently my bank has been calling me everyday, both at home and at work, to sell me insurance. It appears that as long as I don’t buy the insurance, my bank will call to keep asking. Saying no to the offer does not end the daily calls.
The calls are a minor nuisance at work because I have caller ID. I don’t answer the phone when the bank’s number appears and a voice mail is never left. At home I do not have caller ID and it’s more of a problem. I have found an effective response to quickly end the call. When I pick up the phone and hear the short pause followed by a hesitant mispronunciation of my name in the question: “Is Joseph Ganem there?” I reply: “May I take a message.” The result is a rushed: “No, this is just a courtesy call from his bank,” followed by a quick hang-up. My wife has followed me on this and asks to take a message for me first before calling me to the phone. I need to teach my children next to ask to take a message before admitting that I’m home and interrupting me to take the phone call.
Someday, when I have the time, I would like to engage the salesperson in a conversation about the answer “no.” Is it possible to say “no” and have that answer stop the calls for a period of time longer than 24 hours? Of course, I’m aware that the salesperson doesn’t know and doesn’t care about the answer to that question. But it could lead to some interesting musings about the meaning of the word no. Because “no” does not mean “never,” does that allow the solicitor to repeat the same question with a given frequency hoping for a different response? If that is case, what is a reasonable repetition frequency? Every hour? Every day? Every week? Every month? Every year? What if I did say never? Would that make a difference or are yes and no the only allowed responses?
Does the computer dialing the phone have a repetition frequency programmed, or does it just keep cycling through the same list of numbers over and over again? I would like to know if anyone at the bank has thought or not thought about these issues and what the rational is for annoying their customers.
Joseph Ganem is a physicist and author of The Two Headed Quarter: How to See Through Deceptive Numbers and Save Money on Everything You Buy