A great many people in Canada are being harassed by telemarketers representing an air duct cleaning service. We’ve been getting multiple calls every week over the course of months. Being on Canada’s Do-Not-Call List has no effect. Reporting them to the CRTC has no effect. Yelling at them has no effect. These calls are so persistent that they should be considered criminal harassment.
The air-duct-cleaning calls are so bad that I have equipped the family with individual smart phones and am in the process of giving up my home phone completely, just to stop the harassment.
Today, though, I was fatigued after writing three thousand words on my November novel, when I got yet another call. I had long considered playing a vicious little game on them – playing along with them and seeing how long I could keep them on the phone. Going as far as possible without giving them a valid credit card number. When it got to that point, I would go away to “get my credit card” and leave the phone off the hook.
The logic was simple. The man on the other end was paid a certain amount for each call. Probably a small amount for a hang-up, a larger amount if he gave his whole pitch, and a commission if he made a sale. By keeping him on the line for a long time and not letting him complete the sale, I would deprive him of considerable income. Even dangling him along for ten minutes would deprive him of the income from a hundred or more hang-up calls to other households.
Today, having time on my hands, I did play that game. Using my best strategy, how long did I dangle him on the hook? Want to guess? Five minutes? Ten minutes? Half an hour? An hour? Go ahead, make a guess. Got a number? You’re almost certainly wrong.
Let me tell you exactly what happened.
He called and, twice, I had to ask “Hello” and wait before a man – a young man in India, judging from his pitch and thick accent – replied and identified himself as representing air duct cleaning. Great. I’d hooked the right fish.
Why did I have to do that much work to get to actually talk to him? Because he uses an autodialer that calls ahead and he had to catch up to it. He wouldn’t care if I hung up before he got to me because he’d still be paid for a hang-up and that would take none of his time at all.
Once we were actually speaking, he started his pitch. After only a couple of sentences, he stopped and said, “Are you there?”
I assured him that I was listening.
He got flustered. He started speaking in halting sentences.
I gave him a reassuring “Okay” to encourage him to keep going.
He got more flustered.
I realized that he didn’t have an actual pitch. He didn’t know what to say.
He said, “Just a minute,” tried to say something else, then said, “Just a minute,” again.
Then he hung up on me. I was ready to listen to his whole pitch and then some. I wanted to ask him questions about the service. What about natural gas furnaces? What about air conditioning? And so forth. But he hung up.
He had no pitch.
He was only prepared to handle hang-up calls.
How long did I keep him on the phone? Sixty seconds. Exactly one minute. I bet you didn’t guess a number that low by at least an order of magnitude.
No victory at all for me, but incredibly informative.
What amazing conclusion did I draw from this experiment?
I concluded that the air-duct-cleaning telemarketers are not scamming customers. They have probably never had an actual, paying customer. Never.
They are scamming the air-duct-cleaning company that is paying them to do their telemarketing. The telemarketing company is getting paid for massive numbers of hang-up calls and has no intention of actually selling the product. They don’t know how to sell the product. They probably don’t even know what the product is. The young lad who’s getting paid a pittance to harass Canadians may have never even lived in a building with air ducts.
This is why they harass the same people mercilessly, week after week, month after month. If someone quickly and reliably slams the phone on the hook, they note the number and program the autodialler to keep calling that number back. Why? Because that person generates the maximum revenue for them. They’re going to milk the air-duct-cleaning company dry for all those hang-ups.
It’s not much comfort to know that the company that is paying these jerks to harass us is being ripped off, but at least it’s something.
And if they call me again? I’m definitely going to try for a new personal best. Maybe I’ll be able to keep him on the phone for two minutes next time. But more likely, he’s already programmed his autodialler to never call me again because I didn’t hang up nearly fast enough.
Sadly, I’ll never know because I’m already committed to get rid of that phone number at the end of the next billing cycle.
But if you play the game, please comment on this post with your personal best. I bet you can’t keep the air-duct-cleaning representative on the phone for much longer than I did.