On Thursday, I was fighting a virus and trying to get some much needed sleep.  Thursday morning,  my sleep was disrupted three times by the phone.  The first call was from my dentist’s office, which had not received the message I had left the previous night, informing them that I needed to cancel my appointment.  I was OK with this disruption, as it was a legitimate call.  

The other two disruptions were from telemarketers, and I was not OK with those disruptions.

The first call was from some company promising to lower my credit card interest rate.  I have repeatedly asked these scammers not to call back and told them they are in violation of the “Do Not Call” list.  However, their business must be very profitable and allow them to easily pay the FCC fines, as they continue to call back.  How do I know that they are not affiliated with one of my credit cards?  One time in the past, I asked which bank they were affiliated with.  After evasive answers (“We represent Mastercard and Visa”) they were unable to name a specific issuing bank. 

The next call was from congressman Steve King of Iowa’s 5th congressional district.  Steve’s robocall wanted me to participate in a survey.  I didn’t stay on the line to determine what the survey was actually about.  I have a pretty good guess, though, and if I am correct, it is an issue on which I do not agree with Steve.

The more disturbing aspect of the call, however, is that fact that I am not in Steve’s district.  I am not even close to being in Steve’s district.  I am really not sure why he would waste his resources calling me.  I’m curious how Steve’s constituents would react if they knew that he was using the resources of their district to make annoying telemarketing calls to voters whom he does not represent, instead of focusing those resources on something that could help his district?  I’d bet that some of them would accurately deem this to be wasteful government spending.

Friday featured a lovely call from a lady who seemed quite clueless about the “Do not call” list.  She said that I wasn’t on their list, but that she would add us.  When I clarified that the DNC list was a list maintained by the federal government, she proceeded to treat ME like the idiot, asking what part of her comment I didn’t understand.  My further attempts to educate her were cut off when she hung up.  Seriously, we don’t actually have telemarketers who are unaware of the DNC list, do we?  Not surprisingly, no information was available via call ID.

What can we do about telemarketing calls?  First, I would eliminate the computerized “robocalls”.  Either pay to have someone staff the phone lines (creating jobs) or don’t bother making the call.

Second, force politicians to abide by the “Do Not Call” list, or create some other way to allow voters to opt out of these calls.  Political calls are the worst sort of telemarketing calls; why should they be exempt?

Note that some states have taken positive steps toward these two goals.  More states must follow.

Finally, I am in favor of charging telemarketers a fee for each unsolicited call they make (even those that are not forbidden by the “Do Not Call” list).  This fee would be credited to the account of the phone number that is called.  This would be a nice way to compensate people for the annoyance of the call.  If telemarketers feel that this would make their business unprofitable, then perhaps they could spend some effort targeting their audience more affectively, rather than using a “shotgun” approach.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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