Date: Fri, Mar 10, 2000 5:09 PM
Subject: Telemarketing Review-Comment. FTC File No. P994414
Telemarketing could be effective, and accepted, if callers were not verbally abusive, did not argue when the listener said "No, I am not interested," and did not lie. Following are three recent cases in point:
#1. December 16, 1999, I received a "telemarketing" call that unfolded, nearly verbatim:
"I'd like to speak to the person who handles your US West account."
"I'm sorry, you have a wrong number. Please take this number off your list."
"NO, I'M NOT GONNA DO THAT YOU STINKIN' HOLE BITCH!"
I immediately called the Vice President and COO of US West, gave the secretary the above information, and the specific time of the call. I was told she doubted it was one of their employees, or a telemarketing firm they had hired, but that she would report the incident to their marketing group. I got a follow-up call from US West, apologizing for the incident, telling me none of their employees, or representatives, had placed a call to my number that day, suggested I contact my telephone service provider, and write to the Direct Marketing Association to have my name removed from all telemarketing lists.
#2. Thursday, January 27, 2000, I got a call that ended in a conversation very close to the following:
"I'd like to speak to your accounts payable clerk about your US West account."
"We don't have an accounts payable clerk, what's the nature of your call?"
"Well, your account's past due and I need to talk to somebody about it."
"I don't owe US West any money. To whom am I speaking?"
"THERESA MONET, BILLING OPERATOR #4001!"
I don't have any idea if I have the correct spelling, but she did NOT identify herself until I asked, then she became hostile. After giving me her name she said, in a somewhat argumentative tone of voice . . .
"Then what you're trying to explain to me is you don't have an account with US West . . . "
"I am telling you that, yes."
"Well, then somebody's using your lines to make calls from The Johnson Group at 1200 35th Street. Thank you and have a nice day." She quickly hung up.
I emailed US West . . . "McLeod is my carrier, but do you have an outstanding bill in my name? If so, I have never received any written notice from US West. If you do have an outstanding bill in my name, the employee or employees that have tried to collect, could benefit from more customer service training. If it was a slamming call, how do I find out, and how do I get it corrected? . . . If the call was not from you, or one of your outside vendors on your behalf, I guess the scamming continues. Please let me know whether or not Theresa Monet was calling on your behalf. The number that she called was 222-9310."
Of course, the answer was that I did not have an outstanding bill with US West.
#3. March 9, 2000, I received a call from a man who identified himself as being with the "United States Service Administration," before starting into his overly friendly . . .
"Hi, how are you today?"
I replied, "I don't know who the United States Service Administration is . . ."
"We have programs for small businesses like yours that may be of interest to you, that is, if you are still a small business. Right now we have a new healthcare plan that I'd like to tell you about if you think you have an interest. Do you have an interest?"
"No, I just redid my healthcare plan, and I would like you to take my name of your list."
"Your name comes from an SBA listing, are you telling me you are no longer a small business?"
"PLEASE, take my NAME OFF of your list!" I hung up and called the Des Moines, Iowa SBA director and asked if she knew of a United States Service Administration, and if they would have received my name from the SBA.She replied "No," on both counts, thanked me for the heads up so she could notify the rest of the agency, was disturbed that someone was wording the call to make it sound as if he were connected with the SBA, told me that the only way someone would have my name would be from an SBA loan, and that they do not even make meeting or workshop lists available to other organizations. I do not have an SBA loan.
Ironically, the most rude, argumentative, and obnoxious telemarketing calls I have had are for telephone "services," and have been from, or about, AT&T and US West products and services.
The Iowa Utility Commission tells me they have no jurisdiction over telemarketing calls. US West, who owns most of the lines and equipment in the metro Des Moines area, cannot help track down the calls because my service is through McLeod, a reseller who is their largest competitor and largest customer. "Catch 22" for the consumer. McLeod customer service representatives told me there is no way to trace these calls.
It is incredible to me that our telephone, power, and cable TV companies, Post Office, and Department of Motor Vehicles can sell personal and contact information about us, without our permission, for services required, just to live our daily lives. An interesting commercial angle is that the telephone company sells this information, then sells us another product or service to screen out nuisance calls from the very people to whom they sell the information. What a scam on the American public! It's no wonder large corporations and individuals no longer answer their phones.
Sharon Coleman Johnson