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Top Phone Tips


One of the minor annoyances I didn’t expect during my time out of work is telephone related. My land line phone number is ex-directory, meaning it’s not listed in the phonebook. I only ever hand out my mobile number because when people call me their best chance of catching me is on that phone (I move around a lot). In fact the only people who know my land line number are people like the utility companies that you have to hand it out to (and of course our phone service provider). Oh, and my girlfriend’s friends and family. So when the land line rings I know for a fact that it’s 99% most likely to not be for me. So when it rings during the day I just know it’s not for me.

To my dismay I discovered that sales people phone and try to sell you medical insurance, get you to change your gas and electricity suppliers, sell you house insurance and a whole host of other things I’m not even vaguely interested in. I didn’t know this. It started when one of these guys from some call centre in India (I could tell it was in India because I’d read reports of how the people can’t understand you and vice-versa, and this was exactly the case). He wanted to send me a quote to change my utility suppliers. Naturally I couldn’t care less if it would save me some miniscule amount each year so I told him I wasn’t interested. He continued to press while I just told him that he was wasting his time. He just wouldn’t give up, he must have said “what’s holding you back Mr. Conners?” about 7 times. Finally he gave up and slammed the phone down – no manners! (If it had been on my mobile phone I could have terminated the call myself but you can’t do that on a land line – caller’s privilege).

Anyway, I’m a bit paranoid over the phone and am keen to neither be scammed nor tricked into buying something I don’t want. So here are my top tips to avoid getting caught out:

  1. Never give out your address to someone who calls you that you don’t know.
    As far as I’m concerned, if they’ve phoned me they should know who I am. Plus, if you give away personal information like this it wouldn’t be hard for someone to steal your identity and apply for credit cards, etc.
  2. Never give out your credit card or bank details to someone who calls you that you don’t know.
    See point 1. I don’t care if you believe they’re genuine or not – don’t tell them, they could be anyone!
  3. Don’t agree to anything.
    These people know that the best time to get someone is when they’re not prepared for it, hence why cold-calling catches you off-guard and makes you agree without due consideration. And they’ll press you.
  4. Don’t give specific reasons for why you’re not interested.
    They hate that. They’re ready to counter most reasons you can give but if you just say you’re not interested and don’t give them a reason, then they find themselves a bit stuck.
  5. Be polite but firm – don’t waver.
    Any hesitation or weakness from you and they’ll pounce on it. Keep your game face on (or is that game voice?).
  6. Remember, they’re only human.
    So there’s no need to be horrible to them. They’re just doing a job.
  7. Don’t feel guilty, you’re not going to make them bankrupt.
    Just console yourself by remembering that some other person will be sucked in and they’ll make their commission even if they don’t with you. Hey, a sucker is born every day.
  8. If all else fails, lie.
    If you really can’t get rid of them, just come up with a convincing and amusing lie and run with it. Maybe you can say “I’m sorry, the line’s breaking up, I can’t hear you” and hang up. Or you can put on a deep German accent and start talking rubbish. When they ask you what’s going on you can pretend it’s a cross line and get them to hang up. Or you could just say there’s someone at the door and that you have to go right now. Alternatively you can simply repeat everything they say to you back to them. It’s a bit immature and it’ll drive them nuts – but they’ll hang up pretty quick (remember, calls may be recorded for training purposes).

You know maybe I should just stop answering the phone. I know it’s not for me. If it’s important they’ll leave a message. And if they’re a sales[wo]man they won’t leave one and I’ll know I did the right thing.

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

23 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Top tip…….

    Call centres use software to dial a number of telephone numbers at the same time (due to the high rate of unanswered calls). When you pick up the phone, the software has to disconnect the other calls and connect the operator to you. Because of this, there is normally a short pause between you saying ‘hello’ and the operator starting to speak to you. If you ever pick up the phone and don’t get an immediate response, just hang up. On the very rare occasions that you’ve actually cut off a friend’s call, they’ll just assume there’s some technical problem and will try again.

    Life’s too short to waste time justifying to random strangers why you don’t want to buy patio doors (especially when you live in a first floor flat!?!). Call me rude – but it works for me !


  2. Jon, thanks. I’ll get registered on that right away!

    And Sam, I was wondering about the silent delays when answering the call, I’ll remember that. Thanks. Of course, if they were actually selling something useful that I wanted it would be a different story…


  3. In the U.S., the government just started a “Do Not Call” list. I used to get at least 6 sales calls a day. Now, they have completely stopped. I was usually rude because they always seemed to call during dinner.


  4. Another consequence of the “mass-dialing” technique: if you never pick up the phone before at least 6 rings, some other sucker will end up taking the call!


  5. I try very hard to catch their name – they usually announce it at the start of the call. I’ve found if you hit them with, “Joe, thanks for calling, but I’m not interested,” it seems to shut them down better than anything else. I guess using their name forces them to think of you as human rather than just the next person on their list.


  6. If it had been on my mobile phone I could have terminated the call myself but you can’t do that on a land line – caller’s privilege.

    Sorry, I don’t understand – why can’t you just put the phone down? What I sometimes do is deny that I’m who they’re after and say that I’ll just go and get them. Then I’ll leave the handset of the hook and go and do something else for a few minutes. They’re usually gone after that! 😉


  7. “…leave the handset off the hook” is what I meant to write.

    Damn it John, when are you going to add comment editing facilities to this system?


  8. Most of these call centres leave no number when you do 1471. BT do a service called anonymous call reject, this automatically rejects all calls that have the number withheld. It costs about £3 a month. Get it put onto your service list and watch the cold calls disappear…


  9. John: if you put the phone down on a landline and they don’t hang up, then you pick it up again, they’ll still be there. If you hang up on a mobile call then it ends there for both people. Try it the next time you call someone on a landline, just leave the phone off the hook – they won’t be able to call out again…

    And I’ll add comment editing when you send me a spec!


  10. Comment editing is something that Natalie has been talking about for a while. The thing is that it’s a tad tricky without user registration…go for it JC.


  11. I usually say “Sorry – I’m the babysitter!” and then launch into the details of how I’m having a torrid love affair with the “man of the house”. With graphic information.

    Yeah, I should start charging two bucks a minute or something, because they stay on the line a LOT longer than I would expect.

    Next time, just go, “OOOoooh, Namir, you have a sexy voice! Are your abs as strong as your accent?” They’ll take you off the list immediately.

    That’s tip #9, to you from me. Works a charm.


  12. John, okay I see what you mean now. I must admit that they usually hang up after I’ve terminated the call – after all, tying up my line doesn’t earn them commission.

    P.S. I don’t really want comment editing. And what’s a spec…? 😉


  13. Natalie: I’ve got a really convincing gay voice I use to answer the phone some times (with “hello, how may I direct your call?”) that would do perfectly for tip #9.

    Andy: It could be done with cookies. I’ll have a think about it.

    And John: I read about specs on some guy’s website. Not exactly sure what they are but I’m pretty certain you’re supposed to write them on the back of a packet of cigarettes…


  14. When a user posts a comment, store the comment ID (I assume your comments have IDs) in the session. Then in ShowComments.php, check each comment against this id & add an ‘edit comment’ link if they’re equal. Trivial! I can’t remember how to get hold of the session in PHP, but it must be pretty easy.

    Yep, I’m sad.


  15. Cheers jon, sounds sensible. Still not sure if it’s a good idea or not. I can edit the comments right now but I have to stop myself from editing everybody’s posts to say “John, I love you”… 😉


  16. Just flirt with them – whatever the sex – they get put off pretty quickly when you ask themm what they are wearing….


  17. session_register()

    That said, it doesn’t appear too robust – I’m using it at the moment and it occasionally loses track of whether the session is registered or not. Either that, or I have a bug. 🙁


  18. The caller’s privilege must be specific to the UK phone system. Here in Austria the connection is terminated if one of the two parties hangs up. No matter which one.


  19. If it had been on my mobile phone I could have terminated the call myself but you can’t do that on a land line – caller’s privilege.

    Why Not? What is callers privilege???? Is that a UK thing? Most callers in the States get about 5 second to speak…the time that the receiver has to identify that they are annoying callers, then the line gets dropped!

    I have the same thing with my land phone though, so I just disconnected it, and only use my cell phone.


  20. Caller’s privilege: If someone in the UK calls you on your landline and you put the phone down, then they don’t get disconnected until they hang up. So if they keep their phone off the hook and you pick up again, they’ll still be there. Rather annoying really…


  21. My wife ran up a $1000+ phone bill by calling my UK landline from the US and then falling asleep. It is messed up.


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