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VOL. 37 | NO. 50 | Friday, December 13, 2013

A new script for avoiding unwanted phone calls

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Last week, I thanked all who had weighed in on the issue of stopping unwanted calls from marketers. One contributor (“Tanya”) sent me what was represented as something that had helped “cut down on phone calls to me.”

The attachment’s dated language rang a bell. This was not something Tanya herself wrote. It was not of recent vintage. It also was not the work of Andy Rooney, although more than 10 years ago, it was circulated in an email that represented it as such.

Urban legend sites have analyzed this item since as early as 2003 and determined it to be a joke, from stem to stern. My guess is that it’s much older than even 10 years, but who has time to track down urban legends anymore?

I’m not opposed to jokes. Thus, I will summarize it. Suffice it to say its length is disproportionate to its cleverness.

Tip 1: “Three Words That Work!” encourages recipients of marketing calls to say, “Hold on, please,” and then not return to the phone. The idea being that marketers will remove from their lists the numbers of folks who won’t talk to them.

Tip 2: When you answer and no one speaks on the other end, press the pound-sign button repeatedly. “This confuses the machine that dialed the call [sic] and it kicks your number out of their system.”

Tip 3: Junk snail mail. Send what you receive to advertisers, in their own prepaid envelopes. Mixing it up is OK: “Send an ad for your local chimney cleaner to American Express. Send a pizza coupon to Citibank.” This will cost “them” money and “they” will see the errors of their ways.

The tip sheet concludes: “If enough people follow these tips, it will work – I have been doing this for years, and I get very little junk mail anymore.”

We don’t know the originator’s ID, but the idea that consumers can stem the tide of unwanted ads sent through the mail is – well, let’s just say it speaks for itself.

I did, in fact, re-register all phone numbers associated with my wife and me at the Federal Trade Commission’s online Do Not Call Registry. Check it out at www.donotcall.gov.

At this site, there’s a link that facilitates the submission of a complaint, but only after the number has been registered for over 31 days.

Notably, the complaint-filing link reminds us that charities, political organizations, and telephone surveyors are not barred from calling.

In musing about all that I’ve received, I’ve developed a spiel that I am planning to use on the next caller who purports to be in the group not covered by the do-not-call thing:

“Please remove my name and contact information from your records. And please give me your name, and the name and contact information for your organization, so that I can follow up tomorrow to make sure this has been done.”

We’ll see how that goes. I’ll keep you posted.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.