Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Yes, You Have The Right Number -- No, You Have The Wrong Person

I recall changing my phone number only half a dozen times in my life. Yet only in the last decade or so has that number been subjected to what I call "phone spam:" those automatic recorded calls that occupy space on my answering machine because I'm not going to pick up to listen to them. Thank goodness for Caller ID. If I don't know the number on the display, the call goes to the machine, and the other end hears this:

"You have reached [redacted]. For quality assurance purposes, this call may be monitored before it is answered. Otherwise, please leave your name and number after the beep."

That "quality assurance" bit usually dissuades a lot of sales calls. But it's those robo-calls that irk me. The "Do Not Call" list does nothing to stop campaign calls. I'll let you guess who put that exception in. Next campaign season, I'm thinking of changing the message:

"You have reached [redacted]. For quality assurance purposes, all political campaigns that automatically call this number with voice spam will be disqualified from my vote, with all potential votes going automatically to the Libertarian party, which doesn't waste people's time..."

My favorites are the bill collectors. They're not looking for me; they're looking for somebody else who had my phone number five, ten, or maybe fifteen years ago. These people also have a love for the magic machine, as I find out when I play back one of their messages:

"This calls is for [redacted]. If you are not [redacted], please hang up now." (Which can't happen if a machine is talking to a machine.) "This is an attempt to collect a debt. Please call as soon as possible to speak with a customer service representative at..." (After this, the machine usually clicks off -- mine, not theirs.)

I let companies like this call maybe ten or twenty times before they finally figure they're not going to get the person, or their money.

Once in a while, I get a live debt collector on the line. I once ended up in a conversation with one who was trying to stick me with somebody else's bill.

"Don't you think you should settle this account?"

"I'm sorry, I don't have an account with you."

"Is your Social Security number [redacted]?"

"No, that's not my number. You're two digits off."

He looked it up again.

"Oh, sorry."

"Why didn't you double check the name and the number before you called?"

"Uh, well, these things happen."

And they happen to me. One lady called, looking for a certain other lady with a lingering debt.

"Is [redacted] here?"

"No, she doesn't live at this number. She hasn't lived here for at least five years."

"And you don't know her?"

"No, I don't."

"And she doesn't live with you?"


A few seconds of silence cross the wires.

"Are you sure you don't know her?"

It took all of my stamina to avoid launching into a Judge Judy impression, in which I would have bellowed into the receiver: "Madam, WHAT DID I JUST SAY? REPEAT TO ME WHAT I JUST SAID!" She would've wished she'd gotten the machine.

To be fair, the errant bill collectors who leave messages usually get the point after I call them back and correct them. That makes me wonder if the right person could lie through their teeth and achieve the same result with one call-back. In that case, they'd probably send Rocko to pay a house call. In that case, I'd be searching for my front incisors by the time he figures it out.

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