Monday, December 08, 2008

Hello I’m A Recorded Message

We’ve all received these calls.

They usually ring at the weekend, mostly at meal times or when you are feeling stressed (how do they know?), trying to juggle preparing a meal for the kids, finalizing household paperwork and doing the hoovering – and I have never yet stayed on the line long enough to hear what they are actually offering me or what I have supposedly “won”.

Even before you hear the voice you can tell that it’s a recorded message. I’m not sure what it is – a slight buzz of white noise, a breeze of tinny static, the complete absence of real 3D background atmosphere... and then that first formal “hello” pierces the unreal silence. Devoid of all emotion – no warmth, no enthusiasm – all the personality of a 1980’s chess computer.

You just know that the poor sap paid to record the message was forced to do so in a darkened room. Cut off from all human contact, not even a copy of Heat magazine to keep him company and remind him that he was part of the human race, he forgot that he was flesh and blood, that he had a heart. And he was forced to say the words over and over again until he was word perfect. Over and over again until the words lost their meaning and became abstract sounds. A series of yowls and glottal stops. Dark noise.

Which is why I find such calls not just annoying but also deeply insulting.

They can’t even be bothered to pay for a real human being to talk to me – to interact with me. To sit there politely while I tell them to eff off because I don’t want to change my mobile phone or buy some central heating or even install new conservatory windows into my home. Instead they let a faceless, soulless computer that has vampirically absorbed a man’s voice do the talking.

Now I don’t as a rule make a habit out of talking to machines. Well. That’s not strictly true. I do sometimes talk to my computer and very occasionally I’m even polite but, given a choice, if I have to talk to someone or something I wouldn’t choose a machine that is incapable of registering a vocal response.

You see, you can’t even tell these recorded messages to sod off with any degree of satisfaction because the machine is so beyond caring it won’t even shrug, it won’t flush brightly with embarrassment – it won’t feel hurt or ashamed at having to do such a crappy, utterly pointless job – a job that can only provoke loathing and hatred in its target recipients.

All you can do is put the phone down. You don’t even slam it. There’s no point. There’s no one there to feel the heat of your anger. You’re denied that one essential outlet.

How dare they!

At least have the decency to face the music! At least have the courage to take the verbal assault that has been aroused.

I know, I know. There are lists you can join, opt-out databases that will remove your phone number from any possibility of junk / spam infiltration but it’s a fag and why the hell should I?

One last thing: what kind of business man even thinks that cold calling people with a recorded message is going to be a successful marketing campaign anyway? I don’t know of one person that listens for longer than 3 seconds. There’s always that fear in the back of your mind that the call is a scam and you are being charged £150 a second just to listen to some nasally goon bluster his way through a shoddy, independent radio station sales script.

They cannot possibly make a single sale or a single penny.

What is the point?

If such a business man is out there reading this then the old adage definitely holds true:

Don’t call me. I’ll call you...

“Hello. This is a recorded message. You are most definitely being charged for this call.“


Anonymous said...

ah yes, these make me cross too. I get them for a few days and then they go away for a few weeks. I did register my number to be removed from their lists but I still get overseas ones (which is probably most of them!). I tend to avoid answering them but of course a lot of people use Skype these days so just avoiding those calls which say "international" (Skype shows up as that too) has led to me missing people I might actually want to speak to.

When it used to be Real People making these type of calls, I always use to put one of the children on to drive the cold caller potty. But there's no point with a robot is there.

Oooh I feel all cross just thinking of these calls.

Actually I am in one of those moods today where you could give me any topic at all and I would rant with enthusiasm about it!!

Steve said...

Glad to have supplied you with a cathartic post, Gina. They do seem to come in spates, don't they? What really annoys me is that they keep claling you until you finally pick up the call! Bullying tactics in my book. My phone is for my benefit and convenience not for faceless business men selling dodgy policies. I daresay most of them do originate overseas s you say though - I'd like to think that the UK marketplace is better policed than most.

Anonymous said...

Rather brilliantly written diatribe. You missed spam, which is obviously far less offensive.

Apparently the success rate for the largely Nigerian scam emails is about 0.01%. Well... is going to bring some succour!

The Sagittarian said...

Thankfully its been ages since we got a robot call, we seem to be bombarded with sales pitch calls from someone in downtown Limpopo tho' asking if I am Mrs >>>>, at which point I just know that its a call I don't want cos anyone who knows me will know NOT to call me Mrs anything! I just say no, I'll get her for you and leave the receiver by the phone and go about what I was doing before they rang. They cna pay for that themselves. Maybe I'll add "Merry Christmas" as well to the nexyt one...hehehe


I am proud to announce that on Saturday I picked up the phone to be informed that I had won a holiday to Florida!
My reply?
'Bog off'and an instant hang up.

Steve said...

Thank you Dan - especially for the scambaiting web site. What a wonderful idea... he he he!

Amanda - another good way to deal with robot callers... but my paranoia would have me thinking that I was paying for the call and hence racking up a mortgage ruining phone bill!

Ally - a superlative response. To the point, expressive and evidently effective!

Matthew Rudd said...

You should purchase a telephone which displays the incoming number. these scammers are usually 'international' or 'withheld' and as a consequence, never get answered round mine.

Brother Tobias said...

Why don't I get these calls? Have they heard about our dire finances? Isn't my overdraft good enough for them? Has the Jehova's Witness I once argued with for so long that they claimed another engagement and begged to be allowed to go put the word out? It's all very well feeling sore about them Steve, but at least you're worth ringing. Think how it feels for those of us out in the cold.

Steve said...

Rather stupidly Matthew we already own such a phone but don't always register the number (or lack of) before we answer - doh!

Brother T, I can refer you if you like? I might get a commission!

Ladybird World Mother said...

Ok, here's the thing... when phone goes and it is one of these messages, pretend to everyone in room with you that you are talking to friend. Say Hi!! brightly... then start to look cross,then start swearing REALLY LOUDLY. Watch your family/friends' reactions. Its marvellous. I now love these calls. A Lot of Fun to be had.

Daisy said...

steve...that is one of the reasons i had my home phone taken out and just got a cell for all use...i cant stand those...however the other day i got one on my cell and i did join a list!!!!!!!!!!!!

Steve said...

Hi Daisy, I get them on my mobile phone too - calls and texts! They're nothing if not dogged in their approach but I always disconnect and delete as soon as I realize the orginator. They are the pains in the butt of the modern world.

Steve said...

Ladybird World Mother - that sounds a lot of fun and I've always fancied a bit of acting: I could have a real Eastender's moment!

Rol said...

I get the same two or three recorded messages left on my answering machine EVERY WEEK. It does my head in, because when I arrive home I think, "ooh, look, a message - maybe I have a friend..." But it always ends in disappointment. (Plus, they're always offering me some kind of debt assistance...)

Also, I hate those sales calls where you get 5 seconds while the computer connects you to an operator... although at least that gives you time to hang up.

The worst of it is, I HAVE signed up for that BT list which is supposed to STOP you getting cold calls.

Also, I'm sure I read somewhere that recorded cold call messages were actually illegal.

Still, you might THINK no-one would respond to this sort of thing, but apparently if only 1% do, it's still cost effective. And there's a lot of gullible people out there.

Steve said...

Hi Rol, you're the second person to comment on here who's in an opt-out list but who still gets these calls. Is there really no escape? Looks like revenge might be the only answer then - scam them back as has been suggested above. I may give it a go next time I receive a call about changing my mobile phone provider.