Conversations with cold callers

I feel sorry for people who have the job of cold calling people to try and sell something.  It must be a cruddy job and I imagine there to be very little satisfaction in it.  Despite my sympathy for them, I don’t like answering the telephone to cold callers.  Who does?  I think everyone has their own strategy for dealing with it.  My housemate tends to keep them talking and will push the conversation to the most ridiculous places to see how long they put up with it.  While I admire his front for doing this, it feels just a shade too cruel to me.  They are people just trying to do their job after all.

I have found that sharing a house with someone who isn’t my partner frequently gives me an excellent opportunity to really confuse cold callers and I can get them off the phone within 5 minutes without being rude and without feeling really mean.

So when I answered the phone this morning this is how the conversation went (for the sake of clarity, let’s assume my housemate is called Rob Smith.  He isn’t, but it’s easier with a name):

Caller: “Hello, is that Mrs Smith?”

Me: “No.”

Caller: “You’re not Mrs Smith?”

Me: “No. I’m absolutely not.”


Caller: “Are you a relative?”

Me: (slightly sultry) “No.”

Caller “I was calling to talk to Mr Robert Smith … (tails off)

Me: No, I’m definitely not Robert.

(awkward silence)

Caller: “Oh well thank you.  Good bye.”

Every time I try this it has a similar effect and it is always the caller that terminates the call, not me.  There are a few thing I like about this.  Firstly they start the conversation, obviously, and its the caller’s assumptions or lack of certainly about how to proceed that persuades them they should just leave me alone.  Secondly, in my working life I generally work really hard to supply information or prompt the people I work with to make sure conversation flows productively and we all get a good outcome.  This facilitating communication aspect is a huge part of my job and it surfaces in many different contexts (e.g. day to day chat, supervision of my junior colleagues, facilitating meetings, dealing with students).  It is nice in my personal life to sometimes exercise the choice to leave taking responsibility for this.  Thirdly, it demonstrates the power of saying the word no.  A confidently said “No” with no justification and no excuses can work wonders in some uncomfortable situations as it gives the other person very little to argue with you about.

Does finding great amusement in doing this make me a bad person?



5 thoughts on “Conversations with cold callers

  1. No it doesn’t.
    Though you’re probably not improving someone’s day!
    I used to do that as a job for about six months, not sales calls thankfully. Awful.

    1. Hi Matt,

      Thanks for taking the time to post a comment. Glad to hear you don’t think I am a bad person, but I agree it probably doesn’t improve anyone’s day. I have never done the job, but I can’t imagine many things I would like to do less. I am eternally grateful I have not yet found myself in a position to have to do that kind of a job or work in a call centre or anything like that. I worked as a cashier in Woolworths for a while and I struggled even with offering stamps/mobile phone top ups/batteries to each customer with every purchase as it felt to me like an unwanted intrusion. Not much fun.

  2. I agree with all of the above…when we talk about actual ‘people’ doing their jobs. It is not their fault and they are making a living, so you can just politely and honestly say: “I’m sorry but I am not interested in your product/service/not now please” and hang up.

    However, for those who can’t stand a cold-caller and feel the need for some cruelty, here are some conversational tips:

    a) Situation one.

    ‘human’ cold caller: “Hello. Is that Mr. Kitchin?”

    me/you: “Que? No le entiendo” (Spanish for: What? I don’t understand you. Other languages allowed depending on the region)

    ‘human’ cold caller: too…too…too (hang up noise)

    b) Situation two.

    ‘machine’ cold caller. “Hello. This is an important anouncement!”

    me/you: too…too…too…

    1. Hi Juan!

      Thanks for reading, I like your suggestion for dealing with human cold callers. Would it be very, very wrong to say my favourite Spanish phrase rather than what you suggest above? My favourite Spanish phrase being “Machina del orto!” (translates roughly as “machine of arse” for anyone else reading these comments, Juan taught me this phrase a couple of months ago and I love it!)

      I have also gone and had a look at your blog – you’ve written an epic post which I really want to read. I need to sit down with a chunk of time to do so, but I promise I will soon.

      1. yeah…i realize is a bit too long! next issues will be shorter I promise! It is ‘maquina’, machina might be italian…I think.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s