‘All day long I hear my telephone ring’

Published 5:47 am Tuesday, July 7, 2009

By Staff
Hal Tarleton
The three-day holiday weekend is over, and it was back to work Monday for all the folks who have jobs. For me (and millions of others), it’s back to the job listings and applications.
Being home throughout the day these past few months has taught me some things, including how often our telephone rings with solicitation calls. I’d say four or five times a day is average, with two or more calls coming from the same numbers. Although our number is on the “Do Not Call” registry, our home phone rings several times each day with calls from toll-free numbers, “unknown caller” or other unidentifiable parties. My wife and I gave in and added caller ID to our phone contract a few years ago for the sole reason of avoiding these solicitation calls. It was obvious that the Do Not Call registry was not doing the job. That federal registry has a number of loopholes in it. It allows calls from businesses who claim a business relationship with the customer. That might be no more than a bank account or a credit card, allowing the company to offer to “upgrade” your service or ask if there are other services you’d like to add. Charities are also exempted, so we get calls from university foundations, nonprofits and similar groups looking for donations. Also exempted are surveys and polls, so I’ve twice in recent days refused to participate in surveys when I innocently answered a call from a number I didn’t recognize.
I don’t see a quick or simple resolution to this situation. Congress got a lot of pressure from people who were sick of having their evening meals interrupted by telephone solicitations (this happened just as phone service was deregulated and all the companies were soliciting new business). But it’s unlikely that Congress would ban political polling (they live off that stuff) or charitable agencies’ requests for money to do their work.
One can only hope that these phone solicitations might die a natural death as more and more households eliminate land lines (and their listed phone numbers) and more consumers follow my strategy of refusing to answer calls from unknown numbers. If business and charitable solicitations and telephone polling fail to produce effective results, our home phones will ring less often. But these ways of reaching out to customers won’t just disappear. Businesses, politicians and nonprofits will find other ways of connecting with customers.
Last week, my wife received an unsolicited text message on her phone. The new frontier?
*The title of this editorial is from a Supremes song from the 1960s, “Back in my Arms Again.”