I got a phone call last night. Here is the gist:

Me: Hello?

TVG: Can I speak to Melonie?

Me: Who? [wanting to verify that I heard them correctly]

TVG: Melonie.

Me: Oh, you mean MeloDy. Is this a telemarketer?

TVG: No, I’m not a telemarketer. I’m with TV Guide.

Me: We’ll resubscribe when we feel like it.

TVG: Can you put her on the line?

Me: We will resubscribe when we get around to it.

TVG [in a demanding tone]: Just put her on the line.

Me [in an agitated tone]: No. You’re not going to tell me what to do.

TVG: OK, I’ll just call right back.

Me: If you do that, you’ll be in trouble.

TVG: Trouble? What kind of trouble?

Me: Yes. I’ll file a complaint with the state Attorney General’s office.

TVG: What sort of complaint?

Me: Harassment by means of repeated phone calls.

TVG [laughing]: How do you even know who I am?

Me: You already told me you were with TV Guide, moron.

[I hang up]

I’ll admit, the moron comment was unprofessional

However, let’s break this down the other side of the conversation.

1) Make an effort to get the customer’s name right.

2) This was the second call we have received in the last few weeks regarding our TV Guide subscription. It expires in August. When we got the first call, we told them not to call back – that we would just renew manually when it got close to renewal time. Yes, we understand that there may be a price increase in the future. We’ll take that risk.

3) Don’t demand to speak to someone in my household. You do not have the right to speak to them. If you’re a law enforcement professional, I will listen to your demands. If not, I’m going to decide who can or can’t talk to. That’s just the way it is – the person who answers the phone is a gatekeeper. (Note: I did know, for a fact, that my wife didn’t want to take this call. If this was the sort of call she would want to take, I would have given it to her, of course.)

4) Don’t lie about being a telemarketer. You’re trying to sell (market) a subscription renewal on a telephone. Tele + market = telemarket.

5) If you don’t think the FCC or AG’s office can track you down specifically, you’re wrong. Call logs (external as well as your employer’s internal logs) can be used to determine exactly which telemarketer made a specific call. Keep that in mind the next time you feel like getting nasty with a customer.

6) Oh, hey, guess what? In the course of this call, you managed to put a really bad taste in our mouth about TV Guide. Honestly, the product has gone downhill recently, anyway. The listings have gotten very generic (“NFL Game” instead of listing the teams, for example) and the new larger format of the magazine has been a change for the worse. The onscreen guide on our TV (free with our digital cable subscritpion) is considerably more accurate than TV Guide anyway. We plan to let our TV guide subscription lapse when it expires. My wife has been a subscriber for 10 years or more.

Golden rule of telemarketing: don’t annoy your existing customers.

[UPDATE]
This gets even better (worse)
They called again tonight.  When my wife said that we had asked them not to call again, the telemarketer’s response was “waa, waa, waa” (the sound of fake crying).

My wife was not rude and didn’t provoke this, so it was very bizarre and unprofessional.  How do these people keep their jobs?

I wrote up a nice 300 word summary of the problem and submitted it through TV Guide’s “contact us” function.  I suggested that they retrieve the call logs for calls made to our number and listen to them (if they record the calls).  I also suggested that firing these people might enhance the customer experience.

The chance of us renewing our subscription dropped from about 3% to 0.01%.

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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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