Telemarketers and Other Frustrations

by Michael Cooney

Since the discipline of marketing includes everything companies do to catch your interest, gain your trust, and persuade you to buy, it dawned on me that I could comment on a variety of seemingly unrelated topics and they would still constitute a discussion of “marketing.” I think you’ll find these of interest. And perhaps amusing.

An important reminder…

for you and me both. I often get recorded calls in my voice mail originating from cell phones. Cell phones are great when you reach your intended target. But when you reach an answering device, there’s no one on the other end to let you know when you’re call is breaking up. I got a call a few months back where the caller described his business, and left the number. However, the last two digits didn’t come through. I was able to look under his type of business in the yellow pages and because I had most of the number, I was able to call him back. He became a client.

A few days ago I got another call on voice mail. The caller said he was looking for someone to handle his direct mail operation. Great—right up my alley. But as he started to leave his number, his call completely broke up and I didn’t get a single digit. So now someone out there must think I’m rude, and that bothers me. If you’re the one who called, I’m truly sorry you haven’t heard from me. I welcome your call back.

So, if you make a cell phone call and get an answering device, please don’t assume your party received your message. As the caller, you can’t always tell when you’re breaking up.

Telemarketing calls are driving me nuts!

A few years ago I subscribed to an investment newsletter. Their marketing staff asked for my phone number “in case there was any problem with the subscription.” AND I -- Mr. Marketing Guy -- FELL FOR IT! What a mistake. They sold my name and number all over the known universe. Ever since, I’ve been called every day by telemarketers confident that this high roller will certainly invest in their offerings for oil wells, natural gas production, rare coins, silver bars, futures, commodities, REITs, vending machines, medical clinics, movie productions, and, well, anything else you can think of. If I had a dollar for every investment call I’ve received, I could buy my own oil well!

If “they” are bugging you too, relief is on the way. Next January the state attorney general’s office will establish a state-run “DO-NOT-CALL” list. Once your number(s) are on the list, telemarketers can be fined if they call you, and you can also haul them into small claims court. The fee per phone number is one dollar for three years. Charities and local businesses can still telemarket to you. But this should help with the “boiler room” operations. Visit

Some telemarketing firms are honest and do a good job serving their clients. Too many, however, range from being deceptive to downright fraudulent. For that reason, I have concluded that this is needed. It is, though, a voluntary opt-in program, so telemarketers are still free to call those who are willing to permit it.

Until January comes around, here’s something to help with those unwanted calls. It’s by Pat D’Amico from the 9-22-95 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

So they call you at dinner
with what they would sell.
I have a plan
that is working quite well.
I say, “I am busy,
and all that I lack,
is your number at home
so I can call back.”

What does that mean?

Having scripted successful infomercials, I watch new ones with interest. One that caught my attention recently was for a nutritional product. The claims were impressive, so I got up close to my TV so I could read the tiny print showing their web address. Once at the site, I found the information to be rather vague. But they did have a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section, so I clicked on that with high hopes.

Alas, even the information there was vague and general. The Q&A I remembered most was “Is XXX made from natural substances?” Answer: “Yes, XXX is made from all natural substances.” What a revelation! The first thing that came to my mind was “Hey! Lead is natural too, but you don’t wanna eat that!”

If your site has an FAQ section, please remember that visitors expect you to offer thorough, precise, detailed information there. Don’t disappoint them!