The house phone rings. Now delete as applicable:
You’re in the middle of:
- painting the ceiling
- having sex
- a nap
- changing the baby’s nappy,
- a crisis
- having a row with someone
- taking an important call on your mobile phone
- a really interesting television programme… no scrub that, let’s keep this within the realms of probability
And you’re currently located:
- in bed
- up a ladder
- in the garden
- on the wrong side of your front door
Or… you’re getting on in years and you are:
- finding it hard to get in and out of your chair
- unsteady on your feet
- having difficulty getting your breath
You make your way to the phone. And it’s a nuisance call. Someone selling PPI claims handling, solar panels, double glazing…. fill in the blanks as appropriate. And in most cases it’s recorded, because after all, time is much too valuable to waste… unless it’s your time of course.
Oh yes, you can register your number on the TPS, Telephone Preference Service, which makes it unlawful for someone to contact you on that number in order to sell something.
And when you mention this, (assuming of course that you can actually reach a live person at the other end) the caller will smugly advise you that ‘we’re not selling’ we’re:
- advising you
- publicising a government initiative
- compiling market research
If you had the time and the patience to get through the proffered spiel, inevitably you’d find that by the time you were just about losing the will to live, the name of a product/organisation would come up. Most of us however don’t get that far; we’ve slammed the phone down and the inconvenience has already been suffered.
Several times recently, when we’ve been away from home for a few weeks, we’ve rung home to pick up messages on the answering machine. And to our intense irritation, we either have to plough our way through a litany of such recorded telephone calls (while our call charges build up) or we find that the answering machine is completely full and the very messages we’ve been hoping to find, haven’t been taken.
The only alternative is for us to ring home (from abroad, with the associated costs) every couple of days so that we can delete these unwanted messages to make space for vital calls from hospitals, garages, or people with whom we have on-going business dealings.
The latest batch of nuisance calls that blocked our answerphone related to solar panels. Seven fairly lengthy recorded messages, all identical, had filled up the phone memory in our absence. Each ended with the words “if you’re interested in receiving further information, press 2 to speak to an adviser.”
So, last week, still smarting after having missed a number of important messages whilst away, I was really in the mood for a repeat call from this same organisation. When it came, I listened to the recorded spiel, and then at the end pressed 2.
“An adviser will contact you shortly,” chirped the recorded voice.
And the following day, one did.
“Are you Mrs Tate?” a young man enquired.
“No,” I said, giving my name. Tate was the name of the former telephone subscriber to this number so this caller was obviously working from a five year old list.
“Well, whatever, (oh sorry, make that wo’evah) I’m calling in response to your interest in solar panelling.”
“I’m from ‘****** Energy Care Centre’ he said, “and I’m here to tell you about a government initiative relating to solar panels.”
“Could I have that name again, please?” I said, reaching for a pencil. I was hoping to get contact details so I could process a complaint.
He faltered slightly, but repeated it and rushed on before I could get further details.
“Have you noticed those funny little panels on the top of houses recently?” he said, a tad nervously now.
“Indeed I have,” I responded. (I’m not particularly fond of being patronised, so there may have been less than the required level of fascination in my tones. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, they may have been bordering on the positively glacial.)
“Well, I’ll just tell you a bit about them, and then we can work out whether you’re eligible and …” he plodded on gamely. Then, his voice became wobbly before it faded away to a few seconds silence, and the line went dead.
Damn, I need to modify my approach if I’m to get sufficient information to bring a complaint.
Yesterday morning the phone rang again.
“Ah,” said a different voice. “I’m ringing in response to your interest in installing solar panelling.”
“Oh yes?” Warmer, definitely.
“I’m just going to take a few details from you and then we can work out whether you’re eligible for the new government initiative and then we can arrange for someone to come round to carry out a survey…”
“Could I have the name of your organisation?” I interrupted.
“Er… it’s the Renewable Energy Initiative,” he said. Different name this time.
“And the telephone number?”
“Well I’m calling you, so you don’t need a telephone number.”
Red mist descended, and all intentions of leading him gently up the garden path flew out the window.
“I do need a telephone number,” I said, “because I’d like to speak to your superior, or to whoever I need to speak to stop these incessant phone calls. I’m listed on the Telephone Preference Schedule and I’m fed up with your organisation calling every other day.”
“Well you pressed 2 for more information,” he said rudely.
“Yes, and the information I want is your address, telephone number and the name of your superior.”
“I’ll pass on your request,” he said abruptly and hung up on me.
I’m waiting, son. Any day now you or someone else from your organisation is going to call me again with this rigmarole, and hopefully I’ll get better at this.
You can tell me you’re only advising me of a government initiative, or you can tell me you’re conducting market research or publicising a service.
You can tell me any damn thing you like, but I’m going to keep on wasting your time until I either get the name of someone to complain to, or you decide to take this telephone number off your list.
Because if it’s not a scam, and if it’s not a way to get round the protection offered to consumers by the TPS, then there’s no reason at all why you can’t give me these details.
See, I’m a perfectly reasonable person.
Now go on, make my day.