March 14, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Telemarketing Pays

When I moved back to San Diego last summer, I thought I scored a great phone number. The last four digits were 5566, making it catchy and memorable. Unfortunately, I soon learned that telemarketers and fax machines had memorized it already, thanks to whomever used the phone number before me. The phone would often ring (repeatedly) in the middle of the night, the beeping of a fax machine greeting me when I picked up. More irritating, I got a heavy volume of telemarketing calls most evenings.

Finally losing my patience, I combed the Internet in search of telemarketing defenses, and came across a wealth of information on the Junkbusters Web site. Though new legislation later this year will institute a national "Do-Not-Call" database, there are already some laws on the books that protect us from unwanted telemarketing calls. If telemarketers violate these laws, they are liable for $500 or more.

The first defense is to interrupt the telemarketer as soon as he or she starts talking, and ask/demand that they place you on their "Do-Not-Call" list. If you simply hang up on them, they have every right to keep calling you. If you take just a moment to make that request, they cannot call you back without violating the law. Eventually, the number of calls will dwindle as you get placed on more and more "Do-Not-Call" lists. Additionally, you can request a written copy of their "Do-Not-Call" policy, which they are required to send. Again, failure to do so is a violation of law.

Armed with this information, I began turning the tables on telemarketers when they called. I would immediately stop them and ask for their name, their company's name, the name of the business they were calling on behalf of, their phone number and mailing address (all of which they are required by law to provide). I also requested placement on their "Do-Not-Call" list and asked for a copy of their "Do-Not-Call" policy. By keeping a log of all of these calls, I was ready to nail them if they didn't comply with the law. And all it took was a few minutes per call, the same time I would lose if I actually listened to their sales pitch.

Sure enough, some of them failed to send me the "Do-Not-Call" policy, so I utilized my newfound legal writing skills and drafted a demand letter, informing them that they had violated the law and owed me $500. Craftily wording the letter as an offer to settle for a lesser amount, I hoped that they might just pay me off rather than risk me taking them to small claims court (a waste of time and energy that I wouldn't bother undertaking). I sent out the letters via certified mail, fully expecting to be ignored.

Imagine my surprise and delight yesterday, when I found a check for $150 in my mailbox! Not only did I feel like I won the lottery, I also felt a sense of victory. I had struck back against the Evil Telemarketing Horde! Now I hope they keep calling....

If you want a copy of my demand letter to use in your own battle against telemarketers, just ask.


Development note: I've noticed that this site doesn't look like it should in Netscape Navigator. Rather than waste time jury-rigging it to look right in a soon-to-be-obsolete browser, I'll just add the cliché "This site best viewed with Internet Explorer."
Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year, I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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3/13: Free, For Now
3/12: Chicken Little Gets Respect
3/11: Axis of Evil
3/10: Writing Kept Me From Writing
3/9: King Arthur
3/8: The Women are Smarter
3/7: Salt on Old Wounds
3/6: 3/3/03, 3:33 p.m.
3/5: Beer Day
3/4: Pulling the Trigger
3/3: Make 'Em Laugh
3/2: Whither Iraq?
3/1: Strickland Cellars
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