As the economy continues to sink through the cold waters like a mob-informant in cement capris, companies struggle to extort every last dollar from the American public. Mostly it comes down to getting the message out, tantalizing the consumers with promises of low prices, huge savings, and free trips to Guam — Hafa Adai!, if we could just have your credit card number. In particular telemarketers attracted by the stench of financial ruin, buzz and swarm about the modern phone-owner like flies on carrion. Indeed the medieval theories of spontaneous generation has not faded, merely ascended to the commercial stage. Not reproducing, telemarketers merely emerge from the nation’s fiscal muck and mire, budding false promises on that second mortgage or insurance advice on auto repair.
In the past we’ve done well to just ignore them. Hearing the familiar click of recorded voices, I hang onto the line for while . . . feigning interest while flipping grilled cheese on my griddle, allowing their phone bills to climb a few extra cents. When the line dies, I imagine another has bitten the dust. One less name on their lists, one less call to make each day, one less interruption while I write. Recently though, desperation has begot ingenuity. No longer do I hear a recorded message, some robotic mountebank on their silicone soapbox, promising happiness through liquid tonics and interest-free loans. No, the caller asks for me by name, first name no less, and then once convinced I am listening, begins to feed me the sales pitch on insurance, mortgage, or the latest cable plan. In some cases, they sound like old friends . . . masking their ploys with a friendly greeting and a familiarity reserved for second-cousins, college roommates, and your local bartender:
“Hey Murph, how ya doin’? Do you want to earn an extra fifty dollars each month? Of course you do, man. Who wouldn’t right? Then consider BucketList Life, bud, for all your life insurance needs. If you do, we’ll invite you to that party Saturday night. All the cool kids are coming . . . and that hot chick. I can set you up, dude. Just switch to BucketList Life: hot girls and cool premiums . . . ”
An effective gambit for all but Shannon’s best friend, Charley, who encountered one persistent salesman last Saturday:
“Hello, Murphey residence,” Charley answered, picking up the phone.
“Yes, this is Felisha, is Mr. Murph home?”
“Uh, yeah,” Charley stammers. “Who may I ask is speaking?”
“Yeah, this is Felisha.”
“Um ok, yes,” he says slowly, naturally confused by the total lack of introduction. “Uh . . . and who do you work for?”
“Just tell Mr. Mike that this is Felisha. I have to talk to him.” Note the use of my Dad’s first name. Cheeky.
Charley looks at me. I ask who they work for, and Charley just shrugs. In the background Mom screams to let me take the phone but Charley seems to be having fun . . . Still, he seems quite lost as to why the caller refuses to give a last name, a company, or descriptive adjective explaining the purpose of the call.
“Yes, um. Who do you work for again?”
“I’m Felisha. Just tell him Felisha is on the phone.”
“Ok, yeah. Well the thing is he’s upstairs at the moment so could I take a message or . . .” Charley here attempts to blackmail the caller into revealing her intent by threatening a lengthy wait while he hikes upstairs. Our caller, Felisha, is not to be swayed.
“You don’t have a phone upstairs?”
“Uhhhh . . . no.” This is partially true. Our portables by nature do not work ten feet from their station. Some manage to work well on the second floor but we never recall which; thus we play several awkward games of testing several phones on the stairwells before delivering the waiting voices of sisters, friends, and fire marshals to the parents. Nonetheless, Felisha remains steadfast in her task.
“Well how about a cell phone?”
“Um, yeah, well we have them, but since you called on the home phone, you wouldn’t be able to talk to him. You need to call on the cell phone. Even if I give him a cell phone — which he doesn’t have — that won’t work either, you see?”
“Well can I call him on his cell phone . . ?”
“I guess . . .” Charley shrugs. Knock yourself out lady.
“What’s the number?”
“Um, I forgot . . .” Never give telemarketers another person’s cell phone number, unless they really really deserve it.
“Can you just tell him that Felisha is on the phone?
Charley goes upstairs and walks around asking what he should do. He visits Dad who tells him that he has no idea who Felisha is; take a message he says. Charely walks back downstairs.
“Hi Felisha, can I take a message?”
Click. End of conversation. Telemarketer: 0/ Charley:1