Red Kidney Beans and Junk Phone Calls

How many hits did I get when I looked up robocall?  Over 20 million! (And incidentally, it took .55 seconds to get the results)  Did you know you can buy a robo call plan to call all your frenemies or potential customers or whomever for as little as two cents a call?  This could cost me over a dollar if I called all my friends daily for four days in a row.  Just kidding, it would be over two dollars.

The robocall companies apparently are doing just a little more than calling their ten best friends.  One article (WSJ, FTC: Judge Orders Halt To Robocalls Selling Deceptive Warranties, May 15, 2009) reported on a little telemarketing company making 1.8 million dials per day and that he had done more than $40 million worth of dialing for extended warranty companies, including one billion dials on behalf of his largest client.

We still get junk phone calls. Can you believe they know where to call us?!!! Often we detect it is a robo call.  This despite how smooth they are and darned quick on their “feet”.  You can just barely make out the very slightly mechanized pace or lack of real inflection.  It’s just too even to be human, so sometimes we’re onto them. (Great, now they’ll fix that and we won’t know anymore!)

They’re selling dental insurance, Medicare Gap, extended warranty for our 2006 truck, gutters, satellite TV receivers, you name it.

We’ve started asking the robo caller questions like “Do you have red kidney beans?”, or “What’s the market doing today?”. You can almost hear the gears whirring and clanking as they process the unexpected responses.  They double back, ask their question again as if they had not heard our irreverent query. Okay, we’ll try it again. They hang up. Need new algorithms.

It’s a lot more fun than acting angry or just hanging up.  Besides, as my mom chided me, everyone has to work for a living and those guys are just doing their job. And won’t this provide programmers even more work as they develop and implement algorithms to address these smart alecks?

There are probably more constructive solutions you may consider.  Two include getting and keeping track of details from the caller, if possible; and contacting the Do Not Call Registry.  The former is a nice article written by a former telemarketing person who has been on both sides now.  The latter is a good thing to check, although it seems just a little fruitless at this point.  Why fruitless?

The telemarketers are sort of like the bad guys who aren’t supposed to have guns.  You know what I mean.  In the USA convicted felons are prohibited by law from owning or carrying guns.  Let’s see, this proscription resulted from them breaking a law, right?  And they’re going to pay attention to this added bother?  Don’t think so — I remember the first time, decades ago, I saw the bumper sticker, “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

Okay, this does apply to some telemarketers – not all by any means, but some who operate outside the law.  If they do things the law doesn’t allow, they might profit wildly unless and until they are “caught.”  How does $40 million of calls sound, against a calculated risk of being caught, prosecuted, sentenced, and going back at it with new smarts?

Sounds like we might switch to ham radio for all our calls.  I never get a call on the radio offering dental insurance, Medicare Gap, extended warranty for our 2006 truck, gutters, or satellite TV receivers. And if the phone call is from a telemarketer, I might spin it out a bit, take some of their precious time too. It slows them down (they might not get down the list to your number then) and I might find some reportable information to report to the regulators.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
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6 responses to “Red Kidney Beans and Junk Phone Calls

  1. Get Blocker 4.95 for Android. It allows both blacklisting and whitelisting but also allows partial pattern based. So for instance if you want to blot out all 800 just punch in 800 and select “Starts with” and anything starting with 800 will be blocked.

  2. When I got home phone for my job AT&T was nice enough to sell the number and all my information to 2,987,655 companies who in turn sold it. I was ticked, I had opted out of everything. So I called AT&T and they said they could take my name off the list but it would take up to 60 days for the calls to stop and I would need to call back in 90 days to opt out again-ARE YOU SERIOUS! So a lot of times the home phone is not plugged in, but when it is, and it rings I answer it in German. Usually I don’t get a whole phrase out before I hear the click! Only once did the computer go Spanish on me. I do this trick to panhandlers as well, if they come up to me on the street trying to sell or beg I start to pretend to be a foreign tourist; that’s my favorite! Just remember a few key words such as polica, Polizei, etc and if they won’t leave you alone punch their lights out or start yelling “polica!”

  3. Get on the National No Call list. You can do it online. You may still get calls from surveys, non-profits, and political campaigns but all other calls are off limits. Tell them that you are on the no call list and they usually take you off their lists pretty quickly. Of course, you may actually have to talk to someone to do it but it’s worth in in the long run.

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