Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Please be assured that I'm not trying to sell you anything

Friday evening, for the third time in two days, I received a call from the Bother You While You're At Home Research Group. For the third time in two days, I summarily hung up on them as soon as they identified themselves. For the first time in two days, I did what any self-respecting geek would do and looked them up on the Internet.

I found their website on the second try (spelling apparently counts), and looked around for some sort of opt-out method. Since none could be found, I went to their "Contact Us" page. The first thing I noticed was that the first e-mail address on there is for the president of the company. Impressive.

So I sent the guy a message. I informed him that I had gotten three calls in two days. I told him that I would never, ever speak to some corporate entity who called me uninvited during my precious leisure time. I asked him, if it was at all possible, to remove my phone number from any and all future calls, suggesting that to do so would save us both time and save him money. Since they already have it anyway, I included my phone number to expedite things.

Imagine my surprise when, within minutes, I got an email message back from him (from his Blackberry, it said) saying that my number would be removed. Impressive. I sent him a "many, many thanks" message.

It was then that I realized something for the very first time. All these polls you read about, all these "scientific" surveys, are only giving you the opinions of people who have nothing better to do with their time than to talk to pollsters.

So 37% of the incredibly lonely people in this country will probably vote in the next election.

62% of all agoraphobics are happy with the way this election turned out.

76% of all nursing home residents are extremely concerned about the economy.

50% of all people with multiple personalities are against the war in Iraq, and 50% aren't. Maybe.

Folks, if you're talking to these people, this is the impression you're making. You've either deluded yourself into thinking that they really care about what you have to say, or that you'd talk to Chia Pets if they didn't keep shriveling up and dying on you.

If your life is so empty that you're willing to take the time to talk to a total stranger about your opinions on things, join a meetup group.

Get a dog. A dog will listen to your opinions for hours, be completely fascinated by you, and will agree with everything you say.

Stand on a street corner and state your opinions out loud for the world to hear. We see this sort of thing all the time in Washington. Anybody who wants to hear what you have to say can stop and listen to you.

But please don't engage pollsters or telemarketers on any level at all. If you do, they're just going to call more people because there's a sliver of hope that it might be effective in some way.

Finally, if all else fails, if worse comes to worse, if you absolutely must spout your opinions no matter how idiotic they may be, write a blog.


charlotteharris said...

Good point, those polls are probably not getting a very good sample. Think of all the people who don't even have land lines anymore.
I have heard this is what went wrong with predicting the Dewey vs. Truman election. The polls had picked Dewey to win, forgetting that the pollsters were reaching primarily the wealthier households and getting a skewed sample.

Gilahi said...

CH - You know, my wife does online surveys from time to time, but she only does those where she gets something out of it (points toward something she wants, the occasional cash payout, etc.). So I guess there are people that like to participate in surveys, people who can be induced to participate in surveys, and people who don't do surveys. No matter how you slice it, there's a large subset of the population that you're not getting.

Mike said...

I've been getting more than my share of these calls also. My twist is to come right back at them with this. Hey, you're getting paid, I want some money out of this too. Send me $100 and I'll talk to you about your survey. I get, I'm sorry sir but we don't pay to do our surveys. Well I'm not taking the survey unless I get paid. End of phone call.

Gilahi said...

Mike - I once made a phone solicitor swear when I showed him the math that proved that the deal he was offering me was, after the "special offer" month, a much worse deal than I already had with Sprint. It took about 15 minutes of his valuable time, but when he realized that after 3 months I'd break even and after that I'd be losing money, he actually cursed and hung up. It was one of my finest moments.

fiona said...

I've found that this works.
ME - I'm actually cooking dinner right now but if you give me your home number I'd be delighted to call you back.
TM - click.
Works every time and I am SO polite it's nauseating! LOL

LiLu said...

I flipped out on someone who called my cell phone once. My CELL phone?? Really?

If I'm at work and bored, I'll definitely take time out to fuck with a telemarketer, though.

Gilahi said...

fiona - For years I just told them that I was going through a divorce (which I was). Every single one of them knew exactly what I was talking about, wished me well, and signed off.

LiLu - Once they get a number, they don't care if you're home or not. I guess you could just tell them that you're not reading out a credit card number while traveling on public transportation.

Katherine said...

I recommend treating them like they are a Phone Sex Operator. Give it about a minute and they'll hang up on YOU!

Kate said...

I used to tell them that my fiance had just died and I lost my job. That shut them up.

Too bad it was true!


Narm said...

Shit - are you saying I'm supposed to have opinions on my blog now? So many rules...

Gilahi said...

Katherine - What a great idea! Next time I get a cold call, I'll start out by asking them what they're wearing and if they can describe themselves to me.

Kate - I'll just bet it did. Sorry to hear you went through that, but I suspect that if I just burst into tears when they call it will be a brief conversation.

Narm - No worries, Narm. We have different expectations for "special" people.

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