Lately, I've been flooded with telemarketing calls. Many are robocalls that feature a man's authoritative voice shouting at me: "THE FBI WARNS..." or "DON'T HANG UP!" I find these calls almost as annoying as the smarmy real guy who doesn't know me from Adam but who has been schooled to overuse my name in hopes I am one of those people who responds to chumminess. To me, both approaches are like fingernails scratching on a blackboard.
Many of the calls are from charities, colleges or politicians trying to raise money but most are from home improvement companies, and I think I know why. A year ago I had my house painted. I interviewed several individuals and companies and finally chose one. At the beginning, the contractor showed promise but like so many of my other painting sagas, this one ended in disaster. I finally had to pull a Donald Trump and tell him, "You're fired." The commencement of the calls was too coincidental. That's why I suspect the guy sold my name to a telemarketing company.
During the first wave of Can-I-paint-your-house? calls, I was sympathetic. These are hard times for many small businesses, so I was polite, telling the guy on the line that my house was newly painted and wishing him luck. I also asked him to remove my name from his list. However, when I started to get multiple calls per day, every day, I lost my cheery disposition.
I'm not saying all painting contractors spend too much time inhaling fumes, just the one I hired. Okay, and maybe a few others.
A previous painter claimed he was a Hollywood producer who only took my painting gig while he was between films. He'd come to the house at ten, cover a wall with primer and knock off at three. Then he would head to my liquor cabinet and pour himself a Scotch...or three.
Another painter was making progress on the job until he walked into my living room and spotted a carved, wood head of Saint Antonio mounted on the wall. The guy genuflected, made the sign of the cross and fled the house muttering scriptures, leaving behind all of his brushes, drop cloths and tools of the trade. He never came back.
I'll cut the Saint Antonio guy some slack. With all these junk calls, I feel as if I've been visited by a Biblical plague. Locusts come to mind. I've filed complaints at the www.donotcall.gov website but there are so many bogus numbers to collect I've given up. Luckily, I'm wise to the telemarketers' robo-game. If nobody answers within three seconds, I hang up.
Even the DoNotCall.gov people are not immune to robocall scams. This message is on their website:
"Scammers have been making phone calls claiming to represent the National Do Not Call Registry. The calls claim to provide an opportunity to sign up for the Registry. These calls are not coming from the Registry or the Federal Trade Commission, and you should not respond to these calls. To add your number to the Registry you can call 888-382-1222 from the phone you wish to register, or go click on "Register a Phone Number" in the left column of this page."Here's an interesting Huffington Post article on how to stop annoying telemarketing calls.
And I swear to you, as I'm writing this post, my phone is ringing.
"DO NOT HANG UP!"