The Trauma of Telemarketing

Ring-ring-ring-ring. Raise your hand if you've ever run out of the shower to answer the phone and been greeted by a sales script for useless junk. Ever had your meals or naps disturbed by these annoying calls? (Telemurderers may legally phone between the hours of 8a.m. and 9p.m.) Once a source of personal joy and useful communication, my telephone is now a pain-in-the-neck and lower.In 1990, more than 30,000 telemarketing companies employed 18 million Americans. Income generated from telemarketing amounts to 400 billion dollars yearly. Estimates say that 10 percent of these calls ($40 billion) are scams, and that the primary targets of these scam calls are senior citizens.What can we do to fight this devourer of privacy?With Web access, there's loads of useful information. Try Antitelemarketer Sources (http://www.antitelemarketer.com); or Junkbusters (http://www.junkbusters.com); or Private Citizen, Inc. (http://privatecitizen.com). Private Citizen, Inc. is an organization -- phonable at 1-800-CUT-JUNK -- costing $20 to join. They'll send your "do not call me" information to 1,500 of the major telemarketing companies.To handle these calls yourself:* Never buy anything from a telemarketer. Your name will be passed on to many more.* Ask the telemarketing caller to give you his name, company name, phone number. Request to be placed on their "do not call" list. Request a copy of their policies. The laws have many loopholes, but if they refuse to give you this information, or call you again, then you can sue. Members of Private Citizens, Inc. have sued telemarketers, to date, for more than $171,000.* Send a postcard (with your name, address, phone number) to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). Request to register with the "Phone Preference Service". Write that you do not want to receive sales/telemarketing calls. Send the postcard to: DMA/Phone Preference Service/P.O. Box 9014/Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014.If you want to move beyond serenity into the realm of revenge, the websites listed above offer examples of dialogues that torture telemarketing callers. Tempting? Of course. But years ago -- may the memory perish in flames! -- I joined the telemarketing workforce -- then quit after three ignominious hours. Forget the route of revenge: Telemarketers are people, too. The great rule of human relations is: "Be firm about the problematic behavior, and be gentle to the person."We must have laws to protect our privacy. Until then, be firm, be kind, and cheerfully endure.

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