Su Lum: Telemarketers |

Su Lum: Telemarketers

One of the best laws ever passed was that telemarketers can’t phone you if you’re on the No Call list.

I thought they’d find a way around it, but it is actually working. The blissful silence is like the feeling of peace when the jack hammer that has been drilling night and day next door moves on to other projects.

We are not completely out of the woods. There are plenty of lawsuits in progress claiming restriction of trade and freedom of speech, but so far they have been shot down. The telemarketers’ strongest argument is that surveys and political messages are allowed and the best way to nip that defense is to forbid them as well. No Call should mean NO calls.

When the election comes around we’re going to be sorry about the political calls loophole, since the latest trend is for state and national candidates to call and leave a 10-minute infomercial on your answering machine, eating up all the tape so you can’t receive personal messages (including those of the opposition).

Apparently the best of the telemarketers have moved into the survey field because these guys won’t take no for an answer. “I’m not selling anything,” the caller reassures you, “we just want a few minutes of your time to get your opinion on automobiles … doorknobs … movies …”

“How many minutes constitute ‘a few?'” you ask. “This survey will take about 15 minutes.” “FifTEEN?” And you know that 10 of the 15 minutes will be questions about your education, age, income, pets, spending habits and number of fillings in your teeth.

A few months ago I got a call from one of those radio station ratings outfits that want to send you a weeklong, daily hour-by-hour log in which you’re supposed to write down every radio station you listen to.

“OH no,” I said. “I did that about a year ago and you guys were a complete pain in the ass, hounding me every other day.” The caller was a young man named Adam from Texas and he was good, but not good enough. I told him I only listened to KAJX in Aspen and that I was not (sta-STOMP) going to fill in the notebook. “Let me send it to you anyway.” “NO!”

The next night I got a call from Sarah with the same spiel. “I already told Adam NO,” I said. Yes, she knew that. “So you’re double-teaming me now?” Was she the boss? Co-worker? Lover?

I pictured a complex commission structure wherein Adam and Sarah benefited if I allowed them to send the booklet and more if I filled it out and returned it. Being in sales, I could identify with that, so I gave in and said, “OK, send it, but I won’t fill it out.”

Then I went on a weeklong cruise and came back to find the booklet in the mail and a half dozen messages from the mother survey office reminding me to fill it out. I put zeros in all the boxes of the booklet and sent it back but that is positively the Last Time. I mean it, Adam and Sarah.

As for the rest of the out-of-work telemarketers, they seem to have found their niche in the SPAM trade. My phone has stopped ringing but now I get 75-80 spam messages a day peddling drugs, porn, bodily enhancements and low mortgage rates.

Spam is the modern equivalent of venereal disease. Open the attachments and your computer might catch syphilis or the clap in the form of a virus that will worm its way into your hard drive and cause possibly fatal complications.

Don’t answer. Don’t open.

[Su Lum is a longtime local who vants to be left alone. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times]