Thursday, September 13, 2012

Automated Messages

I've ranted about this before, probably several times, but it still annoys me. And, indeed, the annoyance has justed reached a new level, so I'm going to rant about it again.

Telesales calls are an annoyance. Somewhat more annoying is the fact that BT recently put us on their Privacy Guard service, which claimed to cut out 90% of such calls, and it's made absolutely no difference. Even more annoying are those telesales calls that are an automated message, generally offering to chase up your payment protection claim. (And, seriously, why do they feel the need to call us with the same automated message every single day, and often multiple times in the day?) It has become a daily routine, on getting home, to check the messages on the answering machine and, almost invariably, to immediately delete them all within a second of hearing that automated message.

Actually, it has reached the point where I have strongly considered just getting rid of our home phone entirely. We'd still have the phone line, for internet purposes, but no actual phone unit attached to it (legally, we'd need to keep one for emergency use, but it doesn't need to be kept attached - and even that's purely a technicality these days). We'd then inform anyone and everyone we care to hear from of our mobile phone numbers, and advise them not to call the landline...

But it's never quite got to that point, mostly because there genuinely are cases where people might want/need to call us at home. Besides, the truth is that I don't quite find telesales calls annoying enough to take this step... and anyway, as a matter of principle, I refuse to be bullied into getting rid of my phone.

Not that it would help anyway. (And here's the bit where the annoyance grows...) Because like everyone else, I now get periodic telesales text messages from various companies. Generally, this includes a "text STOP to..." rider to end the messages, but that's a lie too - you've just confirmed your number, so they proceed to move you from their 'fishing' database to their 'real' databases, which are just mobile enough to dodge around the laws about nuisance calls/texts. Basically, you just have to grit your teeth, delete the messages, and bear it.

But this morning, for the first time, I received an automated telesales call to my mobile phone. Bastards!

(Actually, I think the thing that pisses me off most about this is not quite the companies that make the calls, the automated calls themselves, or anything like that. It's that some other company, presumably one that I have done business with in the past, have taken my details, including my phone number, and proceeded to sell these on to the telesales companies. In return for my giving them my business, they have proceeded to enable others to make my life that little bit worse - permanently.)

In fact, this is the point at which I think such calls should simply be made illegal, on a wholesale manner. Not better regulated, not placed on a strict opt-out basis (as opposed to today's crap not-quite-opt-out option), and not reduced. They need to simply be made illegal.

Why? It's the combination of it being a call, and being to mobile phones.

See, email spam is a nuisance, but it comes in, the computer goes "bing", the reminder icon appears... and that's it. It then sits there until you're ready to deal with it, whereupon you delete it. Yes, it's annoying, but it's an annoyance you deal with in your own time.

Text spam is likewise a nuisance, but again it comes in, the phone plays its alert and starts to flash, but again you can deal with it in your own time.

But a ringing phone isn't like that. A ringing phone must be answered. It's not something for you to deal with in your own time, it interrupts whatever you're doing and forces you to operate on their schedule. (And, of course, most companies deliberately choose to call when it's least convenient for you, because that gives the best chance that you'll actually be in.)

Even so, offensive as that it it didn't drive me to that position, although for purely selfish reasons - I don't receive these calls in large volume, and most often deal with them on the answering machine... where the same considerations as for emails and texts apply.

But once they graduate to mobile telephones, that no longer applies. Now, they can call me anytime, anywhere. And, unlike with the landline, I take my mobile phone everywhere with me - I basically never leave it behind. Indeed, the only times it is switched off is when I'm in church, the cinema, at the doctor/dentist, or on a plane.

Leaving the mobile behind isn't really a viable solution. Not answering it is likewise generally not a viable solution, because as noted above, a ringing phone demands to be answered. And although hanging up on an automated message is a matter of seconds, breaking my concentration and breaking my train of thought isn't a simply matter of picking up where I left off - a few seconds of telephone call can mean as much as 15 minutes lost as I get back "in the zone". (And that's not hyperbole, or even exaggeration.)

So that's it. Once I'm appointed ruler of the universe next week, my second* act will be to outlaw these telesales calls, first to mobile phones, then automated messages, and then altogether. With the strongest of penalties for those companies who use such tactics, those companies who subcontract with extra-national companies for this purpose (thus dodging around UK law on the matter), and those companies who sell on customers' details for this purpose (and especially to any extra-national body).

* My first act will be to eliminate the position of ruler of the universe. That's too much power for any one person to have.


Chris said...

Really it would be better to change the order in which you issue your two decrees. Otherwise, why would anyone listen to you?

Kezzie said...

I agree, well said- total pests! So hideously annoying! And I might add, the charity-callers who you already give a donation to who phone to try and make you give 10 pounds more a month or whatever, and when you say you can't or whatever, they then go through about 10 lower amounts than that- I have already said I am about to go out and they say it wont take long and then they witter on for 20 minutes whilst I nervously looking at the clock. Finally last week, I said firmly, "I'm happy with what I am giving," and the person, having already done 3 speeches said, "Can I just suggest one more thing," and I said, "No, you may not, I am now late!"

Steph/ven said...

Ah, yes, the phone-charity-muggers. These days, as soon as I've said "no" and they start in their second speech, I cut them off, explain I've heard it all before, and tell them to save themselves the time. Seems to work.

My Grandfather has been known to take the approach of telling them that if they go on, then instead of increasing his donation he'll actually cancel it, and instead give to a charity that doesn't pester him. Which also works - the only issue is that the people who phone you aren't actually from the charity in question - they're from a fund-raising group that have been subcontracted by the charity to do that job.

Though having said that, I don't know if that's better or worse - the charity have used money that has been donated to them to hire someone to annoy their donors...?