I don’t know why we still have a landline at home because I absolutely hate answering the phone.
We keep it out of habit mostly, which isn’t a very good reason to continue a service that basically gives people I’d never want to talk to far too great an ability to disrupt our viewing of “House Hunters International” with their insipid, guilt-trip-laden requests.
For many years, I would just ignore the ringing and let the answering machine pick up.
Then, we bundled our phone and Internet a couple years ago and got caller ID for the first time, which while astonishingly bad at pronouncing names does just well enough to distinguish between family whose call I may or may not want to take and the hack whose unwelcome pitch I absolutely don’t.
This required a little training for the young ’uns, especially Mr. Big Sixth-Grader, who periodically will pick up even as the mechanical voice announces “cable TV.”
Whatever you do, kid, don’t answer the calls from the cable company! If I teach you nothing else, let this be a lifelong lesson.
It also required some coaching for Mrs. Joetopia, who, despite my repeated exhortations, often answered “charity” telemarketing calls and dispatched them in the most expedient way she could figure, which was by pledging some amount of her last paycheck.
Over and over I would beg her, please stop giving money to these out-of-town police association, veterans group and disease-of-the-month fundraisers, because only a tiny fraction of the money gets to the actual cause while the vast majority lines the pockets of the call-center companies who just bothered you at dinner time.
I even went so far as to stick a handy chart on the fridge listing the 100 worst charities so she could identify them by name when they called.
And I asked her to respond to any of these intruders with one simple question: What percentage of our donation actually goes to bona fide amputee firefighters’ cat rescue efforts and not to the company hired to raise money on behalf of the Benevolent Amputee Firefighters’ Cat Rescue Fund?
A few weeks ago, she got the opportunity again and posed that query right off the bat. The answer she got back? Dial tone. Ha.
In the realm of unwanted telephone intrusions, however, those kinds of calls are the best-case scenario. Worst-case are the calls from vile people clearly trying to separate you from your hard-earned dollars in some way.
Last week, the Sheriff’s Office sent another one of its warnings on this topic after receiving a flurry of calls from San Luis Obispo County residents who’d been hassled by someone claiming to represent the IRS and saying they owed money.
We actually had a period of time recently where we’d return home to find messages from some ominous-sounding caller threatening just this kind of IRS action, an occasion that always left me gleeful at being able to hit delete with impunity but also mildly bummed, because I would really love to rip these sleazebags a new one live.
Just to re-emphasize the sheriff’s warning, the feds will never ring and badger you for your unpaid taxes over the phone, so ignore any such calls with the utmost confidence.
Speaking of scams, none of this telemarketing vigilance will likely help me get back the money we invested in a greatly exaggerated Arizona-based “vacation club” sold via bait-and-switch tactics through a supposedly reputable hotel company headed up by a Mr. Chavez, who we were told was the “second-richest man in Mexico,” but that is a whole ’nother story.
If you’re planning a trip to the Mayan Palace, avoid the wolves in the lobby at all costs.
Suffice it to say, I’m a much tougher target over the phone than after five hours of psychological timeshare sales warfare.