JULY 19, 2006

How to get taken off their lists

       Whatever happened to the question, “Would you like to sign up for our mailing list?” Now, whether we want it or not, we’re overloaded with junk mail and phone calls and emails, so much that many of us don’t want to go to the mailbox or pick up the phone.
       For a week I was house-sitting for my parents and took phone messages and got the mail. In that time I answered at least three calls per day from telemarketers. In fact, one company that my parents deal with, called twice in 10 minutes even after they were told my father wouldn’t be around for another week. On both occasions I offered to take a message and was told they were calling to tell my dad about a “special offer”.
       That’s always the case, isn’t it? There’s some huge deal or promotion that we can’t live without. But no matter how many times we say, “No, not interested,” we’re still bombarded with even more information that will hook us and make us sign up for the offer.
       Years ago I remember hearing the phrase, “No means no." It was in grade school and we were being taught about rape.  But no matter what the situation the saying should hold true. Somewhere along the line, “no” turned into ammo for the telemarketer to kick up the sales pitch and try to win us over.
       While at my parents’ place I decided to have some fun with the callers by playing along. One time I was asked if the person could speak with the female of the house. I commented that only men lived there but some of them dressed like girls.  “Does that count?” I asked. The operator repeated the request and I continued to describe living with drag queens and asked if he wanted to speak with one. He quickly ended the call.
       And as morbid as it sounds, telling the telemarketer that the person has died is the ultimate step in getting removed from the list.  Because if the telemarketer does his or her job correctly they will make a note in the file and the phone number will be removed from the calling list as the person is permanently unreachable. 
       So I fixed my phone problem, what about junk mail? That’s taken a bit of work. When I get my credit card bills there’s a one-page bill that is stacked with brochures and other advertising material. A quick call to the banks and those inserts soon stopped. Instead of just going from mailbox to trash can, open up the mail, look for a number to call and politely tell them to get out of your face. You’d be surprised, but it works.
       My philosophy of turning the tables on these people and being the one to mess with them has worked both for privacy and for sheer entertainment. Hey, they didn’t sign up for being harassed… and neither did I! But they took a job in doing it.  Instead of getting mad, I guess I’m getting even and having some fun with it.
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