We got a whole load of cold calls when we lived in Turkey. We would just put the phone to the side and let them babble on in light-speed Turkish. They would soon get bored and hang up. As soon as we landed in Norwich, I registered our new phone numbers with the Telephone Preference Service, a nifty little operation that lets Joe Public opt out of unsolicited marketing calls. It works well and most reputable companies comply but there’s a bit of a weak link: it doesn’t stop those organisations we do deal with calling willy-nilly and usually at the most inconvenient times. Cue British Gas who have the uncanny knack of cold calling just when we’re a kissin’ and a cuddlin’, and cue my response:
“No, my equipment doesn’t need a service, thank you, how many more times? Look, shove this message into your computer, young man: don’t coitus interruptus me again.”
Then there was Richard Branson’s mob over at Virgin Mobile. Minding my own business and fingering the Pinot Grigio at our local Tesco’s, I got a call from the Indian Subcontinent. A disagreeable man called ‘Martin’ was absolutely determined to talk to me about my tariff (i.e. increasing it), despite my protestations to the contrary. When the penny finally dropped that I wasn’t interested, my emotional phone stalker seemed to take it personally:
“But why don’t you want to talk to me?”
I’m afraid I was forced to use a ripe word or two to get rid of moody ‘Martin.’
Charities are no better these days. Last December, I made the mistake of donating a fiver by text to UNICEF. It was Christmas and it was for Syria, so why wouldn’t I? I received a thank you text in return and a promise to let me know all about their good work. I wish I’d replied telling them not to bother. Weeks later, and after several missed calls from an unknown number, I eventually answered the phone to a woman with a Julie Andrews accent and a Mary Poppins demeanour to match. She was rather put out that I didn’t want to listen to her well-rehearsed patter that, no doubt, would end with a request for my bank details. I stopped her in mid-pitch and, with as much officiousness as I could muster:
“I’m sorry, Mary, or whatever your name is, Cold calling damages UNICEF’s reputation and undermines its fund-raising activities. Take my number off your list and do not call me again. Do you understand?”
And what did she say?
“So you don’t want to hear all about UNICEF’s good work, then?”
That’s it. Not a penny more from me. It’s bad enough that I can’t go about my lawful business without being harassed by an Exocet student outside Tesco’s armed with a pushy smile, easy charm and a clipboard-full of standing order forms. Honestly!