Telephone and email ettiquette, revisited

One morning last week, Terry and I returned home from the gym to discover the light on the answerphone flashing. Amongst the usual work-related messages that had been left (for Terry, obviously, not for me. Because I don’t actually “do” phone calls.) was a message from a Mystery Woman. “Please call me back,” said the Mystery Woman, in heavily accented English, before giving her number and then hanging up. It was actually quite thrilling, to be honest, like the start of an adventure novel which sees our intrepid, titian haired heroine travel the world, battling against the clock to solve the Mystery of the Mysterious Caller. Oh no, wait… I’m confusing myself with Nancy Drew again. Sorry. Where was I?

So, the Mystery Woman left her number.  And that was it. No salutation, no indication of who she was, or what she was calling about – nothing to even tell us which one of us she was trying to reach. I mean, it could have been Rubin for all we knew. He gets a lot of calls like that: some of his friends have no manners AT ALL, really.

Well, Terry and I thought about this for about two seconds (and I Twittered about it, obviously), and decided that, nah, if it was THAT important to her, she’d surely call back. And she did. And do you know who our Mystery Caller was?

She was a telemarketer.

Yes, she wanted US to call HER, so she could try and talk us into buying something we didn’t want or need. Seriously, how cheeky is that? Very cheeky, I’d say. It’s bad enough that they call us all day long (Yes, we signed up to the Telephone Preference Service, but it doesn’t apply to business numbers, which ours is, and it also doesn’t stop people calling you from foreign call centres.) but  expecting us to call them back? Seriously?

I thought this was a one off. But then yesterday night, an email flooded in. The subject line said “Can you call XXXXX?” (Company name removed to protect the very guilty) The body of the email contained… well, nothing, actually, other than the email signature of the person who sent it, which included the person’s phone number.

Well, of course I COULD phone that company. But the thing is, I didn’t want to. Not with my new knowledge of the way certain telemarketers have apparently started to operate, anyway, and actually, not before then either, to be honest, because I think it’s just horribly rude for a complete stranger to demand that you call them without saying why. No?

Instead, I emailed the person back to ask why they wanted to speak to me. This one turned out NOT to be a telemarketer. He was, however, a journalist who wanted my help (in the form of some quotes) for an article he was writing, and he went about asking for this help in just about the rudest way possible – and I say this as a former journalist myself. My rule of thumb when dealing with people like this is that if they can’t be bothered to be even reasonably polite when they’re asking for my help I can’t be bothered to help them. So I stopped replying to his emails, and when I got home from the gym this morning, I discovered that he had tried to call me no less than nine times. NINE. TIMES. Because, as we all know, if someone is out when you call them, phoning back repeatedly, at three minute intervals, is the best way to make them magically re-appear. Only not really, obviously.

The lesson in all of this? It pays to be polite. Also, if we didn’t have to have a phone for business reasons, I’d throw ours out of the window.  Twice.


23 Comments

  • Kathleen says:

    I feel bad for telemarketers and how crappy their jobs must be, but I hate answering their calls. I registered for the Do Not Call registry here in the U.S. and I still get phone calls. And so I never answer my home phone ever.

    If telemarketers start calling my cell phone, I will be mad.

    • Amber says:

      Yes, we're with the residential one here, and it cuts down the calls a little, but some of them still get through. I must admit to screening most calls after business hours, though – if I don't recognise the number, I'm probably not going to answer it.

  • Sarah says:

    Hey, I've been lurking for a while.

    Have you tried the corporate telephone preference service? It helped my work when we were getting lots of telemarketing calls.

    I'll go back to lurking now.

    • Amber says:

      Hi Sarah! Don't go back to lurking, I *heart* new people :)

      Not sure if we're with that one or not (Terry deals with these things because I'm useless), will check it out. I think the problem with these schemes, though, is that they don't seem to apply to foreign call centres (or at least, the foreign call centres don't THINK they apply to them) so they continue calling you regardless. Or expecting you to call them as the case may be :)

  • Siany says:

    I used to work in sales so I'm more understanding towards telemarketers than most people I know. But there's just no excuse for rudeness. None. At all. I don't leave voicemail messages because I'm rubbish at them ("Hi, er… it's about er that thing er …it's Sian") but when I do, I'm polite! There's just no need to be rude or badger people. Ever.

    Manners are disappearing. Makes me sad.

    <abbr>Siany´s last blog post..Cocktail Hour: Margarita</abbr>

    • Amber says:

      Yeah, I used to work in a call centre (although it was in-bound calls rather than out-bound ones, mercifully), so I have some understanding of how crappy it is to do that job, but I think expecting people to phone them to be marketed to is pushing it a bit!

  • Mhairi says:

    we are having the same problem at the minute. However we are being marketed from people thinking we are a business. A local business has listed our home phone number as their business number. Even when I explain that they have the wrong number and the reason that it is the wrong number they just keep calling back. I had 4 calls within 10 minutes from the same company looking for the manager – I had to eventually ask to speak to their manager as it wasn't sinking in that the phone number they had listed was wrong.

    <abbr>Mhairi´s last blog post..Wedding Update</abbr>

    • Amber says:

      Aargh, that's so annoying! We once had a similar problem, in that somone put our phone number onto someone else's Next Directory Account. And that person didn't pay their bill, so we started getting all these phonecalls from Next, who were chasing the payment. They were really quite rude about it, even when I finally got through to a supervisor to explain what was happing (I actually complained about her in the end), and it took about half a dozen phoe-calls from me to get the number removed – every time they said they'd removed it, then they'd call again and be all, "ooh, it doesn't seem to have been removed, how strange!"

  • I have a home phone for the internet. That’s the only reason. So I never answer it, unless someone I know starts talking on the machine and I have to pick. Well, sometimes I don’t because I don’t want to talk to them.

    Kristabella´s last blog post..Also This Weekend, I Called The Police

    • Amber says:

      Oh, I wish we could do that! Ours is a business line, so we're forced to answer it during business hours at least, but as soon as the clock hits 5pm, I absolutely refuse to answer it (unless I know who's phoning, obviously).

  • veta says:

    Hi Amber,
    I’ve been lurking for a while as well…a few days ago my boyfriend casually asked me what I was looking at online and it happened to be your blog, and not only did it start a long discussion about gingerism (doesn’t really occur in America, at least not in the region he and I grew up in, so we were both amazed, after some quick googling, at the ridiculous extremes it can reach in the UK) but it also made me realize how much I actually know about you from reading this blog for so long (it’s really kind of scary, since I don’t actually know you), so I thought I should stop lurking and say hi. I do love your blog and writing style and your fashion sense as well (you UTTERLY BLASPHEMOUS 80s fashion hater *rolls eyes*) :)
    p.s. I love all the photos of your walks, it makes me so jealous that we don’t have stunning scenery like that in Chicago, so I think it’d be worth the blisters.

    • Amber says:

      Hello! Thanks for the comment, I love it when people de-lurk :) We're planning some more walks for this summer, if the weather remains nice, of course (always a big "if" here). I will clearly need to buy some kind of "sensible" footwear for this purpose, though – a thought that send shivers down my spine!

  • fahdbaig says:

    oh dear seems your phone is pest infested!!!

    This reminded me of a phone i got just this morning, which I get once a while, from who's who's professionals saying im selected as their Chief Technology Officer of UK :D really!!!

    long time ago when I was younger and adventurous :$ They mailed and I responded and then they called, and said be on our directory of distinguished individuals and blah blah and regretfully I fell :$ and every now and then I get their call with an american accent…

    but I enjoy it all now esp having them to speak 100 words when 10 can do and then saying give us $1000 for being lifetime member and bring it right down to literally $99 :p using there fav line "if there is budget-ary (luv their accent :D) concern let me give you a better package…."

    This time it went one step further, when I said I'll pass, after 10th time she slashed the cost :p, and said I'm pretty low on money and won't do it THUD…… she closed on me :D

    its not my fault she took ten minutes to say a minute's thing ;)

    anyhow thats the world of scam and cold calling…

    and oh yeah rudeness deserves nothing but cold shoulder IMHO….

    • Amber says:

      Haha, it definitely is "pest infested"!

      I get something like your Who's Who things too, although it's by email, and it's always telling me I've been nomimated into the "Princeton Premier", which appears to be a Who's Who of business or something. Or it would be if it wasn't a complete scam, obviously…

      • fahdbaig says:

        <blockquote cite="comment-4663">

        Amber:

        Haha, it definitely is “pest infested”!

        I get something like your Who’s Who things too, although it’s by email, and it’s always telling me I’ve been nomimated into the “Princeton Premier”, which appears to be a Who’s Who of business or something. Or it would be if it wasn’t a complete scam, obviously…

        Dont ever reply to that mail else they will call :D (which is actually fun now :p and next time they are going to call i'm gonna close on them for sure ;) )

  • Louise says:

    I'm currently still chuckling at the visual image of an email flooding in!

    <abbr>Louise´s last blog post..Hard worker</abbr>

  • Cheska says:

    I feel your pain, seriously.

    Except its not just a telemarketer but the membership consultant from the gym :(

    I went for one lousey consultation at Les Mills and now she calls me every day without fail.

    I dont think she quite understands that shes asking me for more than i earn in a month.

    Unfortunatly im too polite to say $#@! off.

    Who ever invented telephones is not my favourite person at the moment.

    • Amber says:

      Ah, yes, when will they understand that if you don't have the money, no amount of persuading on their part will make the money magically appear?

  • Sandy says:

    Another de-lurker! (Thought I'd join in)

    My phone rang once and I answered by saying "hello?" and the reply I got was "I'm sorry, that is the incorrect answer" and then the phone went dead. I think it was an automated voice but still…..how can it say "hello" is wrong?!!

    I've noticed recently that selling phone calls seem to ring once, then ring again 3 minutes later (I 1471 so know it's the same number) because, like you say, I'm obviously in really……….Ummm…which I am……but that's besides the point.

    • Amber says:

      Ooh, I'm loving all of the de-lurkig this week! Hi Sandy!

      That has to be the most bizarre phonecall ever. Hilarious, mind you – but still totally bizarre! (I'm sometimes totally in as well, by the way. Sometimes you just don't want to answer!)

  • Rock Hyrax says:

    Amber, you'd better check your itemised phone bill. In my past experience (when I the type of job where people would try to sell me stuff), telemarketers would *never* agree to be called back because they knew you never would, and so wouldn't leave messages to call them. I have heard though of scams where a message is left to call some number back and it's a premium rate line. If so, you might be able to report them…

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