This Is How You Handle Telephone Solicitations - Live Like a Mensch
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Live Like a Mensch

This Is How You Handle Telephone Solicitations


Photo courtesy of FiveOne51


Last week I received a phone call from Ohio State University, from whose hallowed halls I received my Master's degree.

The call arrived just after dinner, which is generally "toddler screaming and water being sloshed all over the bathroom" time in our house. (Bathtime, for the non-parents out there). I mention this because I feel you should realize that this entire conversation was conducted with a steady level of ear-splitting toddler rage echoing in the background.

The young lady introduced herself as a current sophomore at OSU and started by asking me a few questions. (I do wish that they would just get down to the nitty gritty, since those individuals who are willing to donate are probably not going to be offended by a lack of small talk, while those who don't want to donate are simply not going to be swayed by the addition of said small talk.)

Sophomore solicitor: "So, tell me, why did you choose OSU for your graduate program?"

Me, with finger in my other ear in an attempt to hear the well-modulated and polite tones of my caller over the shrieks of a child who wants that applesauce in his hair, darn it: "Because it was down the street."

Sophomore: "Uh..." [laughing and clearly uncomfortable]

Toddler in background: "AAARRRRGGHH!"

Sophomore, recovering: "So what did you like best about your graduate program."

Me: "My classmates."

Sophomore, relieved, because I had started making sense again: "Will you tell me how your graduate experience differed from your undergraduate experience."

Me: "Well, I partied less." [This is, in fact, not exactly true. I've always been something of a studious goody two shoes, even in my debauched days, when I would knock off my studying as early as 10 pm so I could have a wild and crazy night of watching X-Files reruns and making salacious comments about Mulder. I was a wild woman!]

Sophomore: "Oh, so your graduate program was more rigorous." [She made this a statement rather than a question]

Me: "Not even remotely. I was just a real grownup by the time I went to grad school."

Sophomore: [Nervous laughter].

At this point, the toddler's volume increased dramatically because J had brought him into the living room to dry him off [a somewhat pointless gesture because, like a cat, LO is capable of having a bath wherein the parent bathing him becomes soaked while not a molecule of water touches his skin] and to place him in pajamas.

Sophomore: "I'd like to tell you why I am calling..." I'm not sure what the rest of the solicitation was because I could not hear much other than LO's rage at this point. But I knew she was asking for money for OSU.

Me: "Let me stop you right there. I have to tell you: I love my undergraduate institution in a way that is not entirely healthy, and they don't get any money from me. So you're definitely not going to see a penny from me. Sorry."

Sophomore: [Just imagine the sound of the adults in the Charlie Brown universe. That's all I heard because J was then handing LO off to me for the next stage of unsuccessfully putting the child to bed, so I have no idea what her next pitch was.]

Me, shouting a little over the sound of LO: "I'd probably better go. We're in the midst of torturing my son here and I can't hear you. Thanks for the call and best of luck with your studies!"


I have a sneaking suspicion that OSU won't be calling me next year.




Amazon Card Giveaway Update:

Have you entered my giveaway yet?   I will be giving away an Amazon gift card to one lucky reader who comments on this post by noon on August 31.  (It's my son's birthday, and you get a gift!)  The randomly chosen winner will receive a gift card--and the denomination will depend on the number of miles I run between now and 8/31!  I will load $0.50 per mile on the gift card.  My goal is to run 80 miles and give away a $40 gift card. Here are my numbers thus far:

Miles Run Yesterday: 5!! (I discovered that because I had told the greater internet how far I intended to run that I felt bound to run that far. So, in the interest of keeping me to my promises, I'm adding a "Planned mileage for today" section on days I run in the afternoon.)

Planned Mileage for Today: 5

Total Mileage for Giveaway: 16

Gift Card Amount: $8.00

Goal: 64 more miles!

Mileage for the year: 240

Please, enter to win!



LBurgess said:

The way I handle them is to lay the phone down, walk away and allow them to talk to air. I don't have the time for conversations with all my friends much less with telemarketers. I used to slam the phone on the table but now figure it will raise my BP less if I just walk away.

August 18, 2012 1:27 PM

Bruce Bishop said:

Why would you answer the phone at all unless you know who is calling and it is someone who you would like to speak to at that moment?

Thanks to CallerID, I have the answer to those questions before I answer the phone.  

My old strategy for handling unwanted calls was to state, firmly: "I'm sorry.  We do not accept unsolicited calls.  Thank you for calling." Click!  There was even a little gadget that you could install on your telephone that would deliver that message at the touch of a button if you were too timid to say those words yourself.

Ten years ago it dawned on me -- the telephone is an appliance which I pay for, for my benefit.  If strangers are using my phone for their benefit then I am doing something wrong.  What if your toaster popped up, at random intervals, with two hot slices of toast.  Would you feel obligated to explain to the toaster why you weren't in the mood for a sandwich; or that you were late for a meeting; or that you were on a diet?  Of course not.  But we take the time to explain into the telephone, to some random stranger -- who has been trained to prolong the conversation -- why now is not a good time and never would be a better time.

If you have guilt issues over this approach, just imagine that you were taking out the trash and you didn't hear the phone ring.  If it's important, they will leave a message.  If it's someone you want to talk to, you can call them right back.  I do that at least once a day.  No one will know that you weren't taking out the trash when you didn't answer.  The professional solicitors will be ten numbers down the list, hoping that someone, anyone, will answer.  I have done telephone soliciting.  Very few people answer the phone any more.   However, if you leave a message, and  they are interested, they will call you back.

August 19, 2012 7:36 AM

frugal_fun said:

LOL - People and sales people in particular, (the student had morphed into that) get very uncomfortable when you are brutally honest about your situation. "I went to the best program I could find within an easy commute" is not what an alumni association wants to hear.

Also, I've gotten to the point where I consider my tuition way back when my "donation". It was one thing when there were no student loans and professors actually wore patched jackets for a reason. Colleges have done nothing but add admin staff and beautiful buildings in the student loan era. There's more than enough to go around if it was spent correctly.

August 19, 2012 9:55 AM

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