Thursday, 18 November 2010

Amazingly, not one call interrupted the writing of this post.

I spend a lot of time in my flat, flanked by possibly the two most irritating phones imaginable. So far today I've had five cold calls, and that's not particularly unusual. No-one who has any actual reason to contact myself or my flatmate needs to use the landline for this so the only reason I haven't unplugged the damn things is because I am becoming fascinated by one simple question: just how stupid can it get?

A little background: there used to be two Mr. Taylors at this address. One has moved out and the other has levelled-up to Dr.Taylor. Either one of them could be person that the cold callers have on their list of victims, but I've never yet managed to find out which, let alone pass on any information (or the phone) to them. Here's why:

*bzzzzzzzrrrrr PEEP PEEP PEEEzzzzzzzzzzbrrrrrEEEEPP bzzzrrrEEEEEEzzzzzzzzzzrrrP*
Me: Hello?
Caller: Is that Mrs. Taylor?
Me: No, there is no Mrs. Taylor at this address.

...and you asking that has already told me all I need to know about this call: 1. You aren't genuinely interested in talking to the person on your list because you didn't ask if they were available. 2. You are unaware of who actually lives here and therefore you're not important enough to have been informed of these changes. 3. You're an idiot. Just because a female voice has answered, does NOT mean that I am the wife of the person on your little list.

After this it can go a number of ways. One caller today, blessed with staggering levels of both persistence and incompetence, has hung up all three times, apparently unable to deal with the non-presence of a person they'd just invented. One last week decided to play a guessing game, attempting to establish whether I am any relation to Mr.Taylor ("No, I just happen to live here." *long pause* *click*). A couple have launched straight into their sales pitch regardless, and have been interrupted with the question "As I'm not the person you're looking for, isn't this now a waste of time for both of us?". So far, only one caller has scraped together the intelligence to say, "Well, this could be of interest to you anyway".

Sometimes I take pity on them and decide to throw them a life-belt, just in case this particular numpty is the single route by which one of the Mr.Taylors, current or recently upgraded, may receive an important message. Stranger things have happened.

Me: There is a Dr.Taylor here. Would you like to leave a message for him?
Caller: Er... / Ummm / *long pause*
Me: Look, if you haven't got a message for him, there would seem to be no point to this call.
Caller: *click*

Very rarely indeed, one will get their heads around the fact that perhaps the person on their list would be worth getting hold of in preference to his fictional wife / the dogmatic cow who's answered the phone, and so they ask when would be a convenient time to phone back. At this point I go into secretary mode and my flatmate is elevated to the status of a VIP, whose time is incredibly precious (isn't everyone's?). I tell them (again) that I'm happy to take a message and that Dr.Taylor will call them back, within a time-frame convenient to him, if he deems the matter to be worthy of his attention. (Ok, I leave out the last bit). Not one caller has ever taken me up on this offer.

So what of Mr This-could-be-of-interest-to-you-anyway, so far the only one of our starters not to fall flat on his face at that initial made-up-person-is-non-existent hurdle? Well he was from British Gas, had the urgent matter of cavity wall insulation to get off his chest, and was getting almost as irritated as me at the way the conversation was going:

Me: I'm afraid you've interrupted me while I'm working. Is this important?
Caller: Well actually it's very important. It's about the type of insulation in your home, which could be affecting your heating bills.
Me: I'm not the home-owner so I have no idea what kind we have and can't do any...
Caller: So who is the home owner?
Me: There's really no earthly reason why I should give you that information.
Caller: Now look here...
Me: *click*

This might all sound like a petty rant at people who are just doing their job, and an unpleasant and thankless one at that, but companies - some of which I have to pay money to - are wasting that money on getting people to waste my time. It's not difficult; successful telephoning is something I mastered before I hit secondary school, let alone started working for more than pocket-money. There's someone you need to communicate with, you ask for that person, you leave a message if they're not there. IT'S THAT BLOODY SIMPLE.

And these are the companies who actually have the correct combination of name and number. Last year I was treated to a whole series of answerphone messages from a company representative giving very important information about a rescheduled delivery. She declined to mention her name, the name of the company, or any contact details at all, and so never found out that I was not Mrs. Wainstrop (or possibly Winscott, or Windtop... if you happen to be reading this, sorry about your new and probably now waterlogged settee). A previous flatmate of mine once received a call on her mobile about four-bedroomed properties in a county a few hundred miles away. On explaining that this was a wrong number, she was asked if she knew the couple the call was intended for. After learning that that's not how mobile numbers are assigned, the agent then asked - with admirable opportunism - if my flatmate was thinking of moving house at all.

A swing and a miss.

No comments:

Post a Comment