by Janis Patterson
Warning – I’m angry.
I’ll be upfront about this – I hate sales/solicitation calls and think that they should all be banned, even political and charitable ones – everything except debt collection. I also think that any robo call – anywhere, any time, any kind – should be illegal.
But now I’m mad. I was sitting at my desk today, typing away, and the phone rings. That’s unusual in itself, because our phone seldom rings during the day. I answered, only to hear the chirpy voice of a robo call. I immediately disconnected, then thinking that since I had been interrupted anyway, I might as well make a necessary call to my husband. I hit the ‘call’ button, but before I began to dial, I heard that same chirpy robo voice – and it was starting from the exact place I had disconnected.
Wanting to be sure of this, I listened carefully and then disconnected again. I waited a few moments, then clicked the talk button again… and the pitch started up at exactly the same spot where I had clicked off. This happened two more times. Only when the spiel was over was I allowed to use my telephone again. Neither was this a single-time fluke – I have had two more robo calls since that first one and they behaved exactly the same way.
It’s bad enough for these advertisers to use the telephone line for which I pay and then interrupt whatever I happen to be doing to tout their products/services whether I am interested in them or not, but how DARE they block my line and keep it from my use! Putting my rights as the line holder aside, what if I had to call 911? They could have been putting me or someone else in danger. No one should have that right.
Live calls, robo calls, charitable solicitations, political calls - they all should be illegal. No exceptions.
The Do-Not-Call lists were a great idea, but they are sublimely ineffectual. If they are not just plain ignored, they are useless in the one-number-after-another automation of the robo calls. I have reported all of these advertisers (pests!) to what was basically a great big yawn.
Such calls are also basically stupid. I mean, who is going to buy something just because an anonymous recorded voice or even some chirpy live person tells them to? I certainly wouldn’t. (For years I have had nothing to do with any company/service/whatever that bothers me on my telephone in my home.) If I need something, I go look for it, find the best quality, research the best price and then decide if I want to purchase. A recorded voice telling me I should buy something when they have no knowledge if I want or even need it insults my intelligence. For example, the last pest call was for carpet cleaning. We don’t have any carpet at all in our house – only hardwood. They don’t care. It’s just scattershot marketing calling one number after another, with the hope that sooner or later they will stumble across someone stupid enough to buy whatever it is they are pushing.
I do have a fantasy that someone somewhere will invent an electronic device that when clicked will instantly deactivate the robo machine, preferably for several days at least. I’d say destroy it, but that would be most definitely illegal - pity.
On the other hand, even as angry as I am, my writer’s mind has kicked into high gear. What if my character did have to call 911, but could not because of one of those d****d robo calls? What if he died because of it, but the investigation was skewed because no one can tell why he didn’t call for help? So many people have their internet and telephone and cable and even security alarm tied together; what if the robo call is a Trojan horse that limits the channels they can get on their TV, reprograms their security system or invades and pillages their computer? What if the robo call is a ‘click’ that turns a secretly programmed person (who probably doesn’t know he’s been compromised a la The Manchurian Candidate) into an unwitting assassin? The possibilities are endless.
Now if I could just make it happen to the people behind those calls…