Give anonymous cold-callers a taste of their own medicine
FOR years, most of us have been plagued by unsolicited, and usually unwanted, incoming telephone calls.
It began with double glazing and conservatory companies touting for business then kitchen and bathroom suppliers became popular, before mobile phone companies jumped on the bandwagon.
Another industry that regularly gets up peoples' noses is the energy sector.
How many times do you sit down for your evening meal, when the phone goes and it's an energy company seeking to get you to switch supplier?
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The questions they ask you make you feel guilty for not having a copy of your latest energy bills and bank statement in your pocket.
I wouldn't mind, but they probably all offer about the same rates anyway, so it often becomes a customer merry-go-round.
Once or twice, I have mentioned this to the caller, suggesting that they all should get "proper jobs" and leave customers where they are, allowing them to decide when to switch, if they feel the need, and not to be cajoled into it.
Perhaps understandably, this suggestion does not always go down well, as to take it up would involve searching the job market – not easy these days.
There are other ways to handle unwanted callers, one of which was suggested in a national newspaper two or three years ago. It is to keep the caller talking until they get fed up – give them a bit of their own medicine, if you like.
The philosophy behind this was to ensure that they pay more for the airtime used in calling you.
However, it is possible for this way of discouraging nuisance calls to backfire, and Mrs M and I almost scored a fairly spectacular own goal a couple of years ago using this method.
Mrs M took the call on this occasion, from the sub-continent. It was about mobile phones. I quickly sussed out what it was about and reminded her to keep the caller talking – What's the weather like? Where you are? How long have you worked there? Which football team do you support? And so on.
The caller's name was "Martin" (obviously not his real name, but easier for an English person to remember) and after a while the conversation came to an end.
Then a couple of days later, Martin phoned back, not too bothered about selling his wares, more to continue the chit-chat with Mrs M.
It occurred again a few days after that, when Martin suggested Mrs M should arrange a flight, and he would meet her at the airport.
Our simple way of playing cat and mouse with a nuisance call could have reached into another dimension entirely.
I spoke to Martin the next time he called and tried to explain what had gone on, and told him not to be too disappointed that he hadn't actually "pulled".
I recounted the story to my work colleagues, and for weeks after I kept getting asked if Martin had been in touch again.
Over the years, I have received regular calls from people wanting me to invest in land, wine, gold or various other commodities that are going to give me spectacular financial returns.
As the saying goes, "if something looks too good to be true, then it usually is".
That has always been my motto, but I feel desperately sorry when I hear of people – usually old and vulnerable folk – being duped out of their savings by unscrupulous scam calls.
These deceitful callers should be locked up.
After surviving a tsunami of automated PPI calls, the most recent spate of unsolicited calls we receive at home, now request us to assist with a survey.
Our standard response is to agree to do the survey – as soon as we have received a cheque for £50.
This is met with some astonishment, or the caller just hanging up.
I know this will all sound a bit childish, but at least we feel that we are in control of proceedings, rather than being at the mercy of some anonymous time-waster.