Telemarketing is the sales practice of cold-calling people to try to sell things. This is an almost universally irritating practice (see the angst captured in How to torture a telemarketer for instance - oh, the zeitgeist cries out in pain!) - since telemarketers usually call in the evening at private residences, and take advantage of the normal politeness telephone etiquette demands - it's rude to hang up, so many people stay on the line, a captive audience. Telephone solicitation is also a hotbed of fraud - it's easy to represent yourself as anything you want on the phone. It's probably a good idea to check with the Better Business Bureau before buying /anything/ over the phone, unless it's a reputable company and you called them - not they called you. Thousands of people get burned every year by telephone fraud.

If you are irritated by telemarketers, the best solution is probably not to harass the caller - the poor grunts who work at call centres are poorly paid and generally have no power. What is more effective is politely asking to be removed from their call list - in more jurisdictions, they are legally required to do so - and then hanging up. If they call again, report them to the appropriate authority.

I've been through several attitude adjustments concerning telemarketers. When I was in management with a sales organization, I would often try to hire the better telemarketers (if they were local) to come work for me in a more personal type of sales career. At the same time, I'd even offer tips to the less-than-effective telemarketers in order to help them hone their skills. I guess you could say I was young and idealistic during that phase.

I then entered the phase of toying with them. You can read a lot about that on here, as mentioned above. My favorite thing was to use different "voices," and go round and round with them, acting as if I didn't understand what their call was all about. My best ones were the older black man, the angry Yankee, and the Croatian immigrant. I could have my daughter in stitches when she'd sense the beginning of a long session with a telemarketer. Sometimes I'd even tell her to pick up another phone and listen to both sides of the conversation.

I outgrew that phase as well. Now I'm just rude and either begin cursing or, if I'm not alone in the room, I just hang up loudly. Here is why I lost my patience with trying to help or toy with them:

There are thousands of us out here who use the phone to do business with our clients. We have to call those folks at odd hours in order to get them on the phone. They know who we are when we call, but you can tell, year by year, how their patience with these phone calls is wearing thin. Every time a telemarketer calls one of my clients and pisses him or her off, it makes my job that much harder.

Telemarketing is often confused with market research because crooked telemarketers may use market research techniques to mask their evil schemes. This is very unfair to market research, which is a legitimate tool used by the company you work for.

Consider the following example:

  • Telemarketer calls up a medium- to large-sized business.
  • The telemarketer, posing an a market researcher conducts a bogus survey, almost entirely made up of red herring questions.
  • Hidden amongst the detritus are questions to determine specifics about office supplies (for example, the model numbers of the laser printer, photocopier, etc.)
  • Fast forward a couple months. The telemarketer calls back and says something like this: "This is The Office Supply Centreā„¢ calling. Your supply of toner is ready and we need to confirm the address."
  • The target business (later called the "plaintiff") receives a huge supply of toner, delivered by a legitimate courier. A busy receptionist or shipping/receiving personnel, who are often forced to adopt a don't know/don't care attitude towards such things, sign for the delivery. The package now belongs to the signing party.
  • Fast forward a week or two. A bill arrives. It's big. Really big.
Beware this technique; it's quite common. It may even slip by some companies unnoticed. (I personally have no idea how much any given quantity of laser printer toner costs. Do you?) There is usually no recourse for the targeted company, as the "Office Supply Company" has played by the rules, albeit questionably; no outright fraud has been committed.

This actually (almost) happened to a company I once worked for. The courier was a kind-hearted soul who was familiar with these tactics and the company perpetrating it. Upon entering the office, he explained to the receptionist what was going on and advised her not to sign for the package. The ironic part: I was working for a market research company at the time.

I am a telemarketer. "Why?" you ask. The reasons are several. Firstly, I am in dire need of money. Secondly, of the 120 resumes I dropped off, only telemarketing places called me back. It's not that I have no experience of that I am a dunce, I have yet to even get a B at university, but resumes dropped off at stores is a very poor way of getting a job. I am leaving town in about a week, so there is no point in investing lots of effort in finding a decent job. Especially since any decent employer doesn't deserve to have their new employee quit after a week on the job.

Now, working for a few days as a telemarketer, I have learned a few things that all the telemarketing haters ought to know. As has been rightly pointed out previously, it is an awful job - the very lowest legitimate profession. Chances are, the callers don't even make minimum wage unless they sell a certain amount. For instance, there will be 'cause' for me to be fired if, in any hour after my eighth day, I earn less than $40 in each hour. That means they can toss me out the door for one unlucky hour. I get no job benefits and no job security. I suffer abuse from people who I call and from supervisors who expect me to lie like my coworkers do. They do this in order to keep the jobs that they need. I have the benefit of not needing money badly enough to be worried about keeping this job. If that were not the case, I would have to pull out all the stops to sell as much of whatever we happen to be selling on a particular day as possible.

There's a real conundrum involved with telemarketing. Most of what I 'sell' are donations to charities. It is an entirely legitimate thing, I've checked it out, but the sad fact remains that the charity only ends up getting about 35% of the donation once a 10% fee is subtracted by the telemarketing firm, in addition to administrative charges: my measly salary included. The rate of staff turnover is incredibly high, since the job security is nil and almost any other job is better, so even the good callers are constantly dragged down by those who, like me, have only a few days experience. Puny bonuses await those who really excel at the art of telemarketing. The conundrum, of course, is whether you should abuse telemarketers or not. Malice directed at the actual person calling is probably misplaced. Relatively few employed people are in a worse position than your average telemarketer. Imagine if your boss could fire you if you messed up in the next hour.

I'd advise you to be nice to telemarketers, or as nice as you can muster. Don't actually give to charities over the phone, though, as they get only a tiny fraction of what you donate. I suppose it's better than not donating at all, and direct marketers do make it easy to donate, but actually giving your money or, even better, your time and ability to a charitable organization. The real question is whether you want to help out the poor sap who is sitting in their cubicle.

The workday of a telemarketer is something like this: your dumb terminal connects to the huge, evil dialing computer that tries to weed out answering machines and busy signals so that most of the things you say "Hello" to are people. Then, you either read some pre-written pitch or wing it, depending on your skill, mood, and level of frustration. All day, you do the same thing over and over but, if you want to keep your job, you need to make it sound like it is still interesting to you on call number 500. It helps to be telemarketing for charity. People are much less abusive to you and you can feel as if you are making a contribution that is at least partly positive. Telemarketers for profit must have it even worse.

In the end, I am deeply ambivalent about telemarketing. Hanging up on the callers and abusing them might cost someone who really needs the money their job. At the same time, there are plenty of scams and such to be wary of. Never give money over the phone. No legitimate telemarketing firm will require you to. Read up on the laws regarding telemarketing in your jurisdiction. Finally, remember that the person who has called you (or, rather, the person connected to the computer that has called you) is a human being who deserves a certain level of respect and courtesy. To treat them as such serves as a measure of your own empathy and moral worth.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.