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Column

Penkava: There’s a bee on my arm, but keep talking

Telemarketers. I betcha that’s exactly what you were thinking about when you read the title of this column.

But for those of you who cannot connect the dots between a bee on my arm and telemarketers, just hang in there and keep on reading. I promise you, you’ll eventually see the clear correlation.

First of all, let’s not feel sorry for telemarketers. They are like pirates on the open communication sea, pillaging our time and our privacy. They belay the National Do Not Call Registry. They deep six the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and are ready to blow the man down with ID manipulation and robots and will give no quarter to a polite “No thank you.”

So, please, no sentimentality for a paid bilge rat whose code of conduct is “Every Man for Himself.”

Just how do they do it? How do they get on board?

Telemarketing companies have computers that are constantly dialing thousands of numbers. These are called “predictive dialers.” When it thinks that a human has answered its call, it signals an agent to step in.

This takes a few seconds, and that’s why you stand there saying “Hello” a few times. That gives the predictive dialer a chance to determine that it has found a real person. Then there’s a slight pause before the telemarketer weighs anchor on you.

At this point, you have two options: 1) Hang up, or 2) Seek pirate’s revenge. Since you already know how to hang up, let me share with you the revenge part.

There’s a landlubber named Roger Anderson who has figured out a way to rock the telemarketer’s boat. He founded the Jolly Roger Telephone Co. and offers a service to shiver the timbers of the telemarketing industry.

Roger has created a robot program that identifies telemarketing calls and answers them for you. But it gets better. His robot will actually talk with the telemarketer and have them thinking that they are talking to an actual person. The conversation can linger several minutes as, ironically, you are now wasting the telemarketer’s time.

Roger’s automated recording consists of a series of polite and creative responses that are triggered by the silent pause when the telemarketer asks a question or waits for a comment.

It sounds something like this …

“Hello … hello?” (Pausing for telemarketer to respond.)

“Hi, my name is Frank, how are you today?”

“Uh-huh.”

“So you’re doing OK today?”

“Right.”

“Good. Are you happy with your credit card rate?”

“Sure.”

“Sir, would you like to lower your credit card rate?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Great, which card do you want to lower?”

“Oh no, hang on. … There’s a bee on my arm … but keep talking. ... I’m gonna stay quiet because this bee’s freaking me out. … Go ahead.”

(Telemarketer continues his script, robot answers with a series of “Right,” “Sure” and “Uh-huh” responses.)

“Sir, what do you think of this offer?”

“OK … it’s still on my arm … crawling around, but it’s not upset yet … but I’m afraid to touch it, so you keep talking … I’m just gonna stay quiet.” 

(Telemarketer continues.)

“OK, it’s gone … um … so the bee is gone … and … um … I’m sorry … I wasn’t really listening to you during the bee thing. Actually I was just concentrating on the bee. Could you start over? What were you saying during the bee?”

(Telemarketer sighs and begins again, followed by the “Uh-huhs,” etc.)

This can go on and on for several minutes. The telemarketer is talking to a robot and doesn’t realize it, and thus, my buckaroo, you’ve got Blackbeard sailing around in circles.

Arrrrr!

• Michael Penkava taught a bunch of kids and wrote a bunch of stuff. Check out Roger’s website at www.jollyrogertelco.com to see how to out-pirate a pirate. Penkava can be reached at mikepenkava@comcast.net.

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