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Feature Stories

Home Center Calling

From Issue: Volume XXII - Number 14
7/11/2014


By Steve Propes

For me, nuisance phone calls began with alternate phone carrier MCI, which for some reason called incessantly, night and day in the 1980s. Then came the do not call list, which apparently had teeth. For years, these nuisance calls actually ceased and when one came in, it was treated like a federal case. However, the do not call list protections seem to have vanished.

Rachel and her cronies from cardholder services and rug cleaning offers started ringing me up last year with no regard for the do not call list, which had become a flyswatter against a cockroach.

I’ve tried various methods with these automatons, the callers, not the cockroaches. My first experience under the new rules was the automated rug cleaning pitch. It was clear that hanging up was not enough, so I hit the button that put on a live person to arrange for the service, for which I gave an obviously fake address in a high crime area, hoping they’d actually show up.

After a few times doing this, an angry male voice came on the line, accusing me of “harassing them” by lining up these fake visits.

Live calls from the home center have recently replaced the recorded Rachel. That’s where the fun began. I’d stop the rep’s pitch and ask for an address and phone number. Sometimes they hang up, sometimes they give me a fake address or phone and sometimes they give me what sounds like a real address, generally in Van Nuys.

I’d be polite, thank them, tell them it’s not likely a person from Long Beach would be visiting the Valley as businesses like theirs are much closer to me. However, the calls kept piling on, so I decided to begin “harassing” them once again.

Some claim to be local to Long Beach. Recently, one claimed to do business in 90808. “What’s your address?” I demanded, pointing out I’d not do business with someone I can’t find. “I’m not sure, it’s my father’s business.” I persist, he responds, “It’s on Beach Street,” he tells me, which would place it on the CSULB lower campus. As the sage of our time, Judge Judy has observed, “If you lie to me once, how can I ever trust anything else you tell me?” Wild guess; it might be best not to entrust remodeling funds to a proven liar
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Sometimes I listened for key words I can repeat back and create a fake scenario about who they might be or why they are calling. The most fun I had was when a caller said something that sounded like parole, so I asked him why was my parole officer calling, keeping up the routine until I grew tired of the bit, the whole time, the caller kept insisting, “I’m not your parole officer.”

The one gambit I find most effective is when they ask for me by name. “Hold on,” I say, “I’ll get him.” Then I give it about a minute and a half. If they’re still there, generally they have given up, I say, “He’s coming right now.” Then I call for him to get the phone. “Wait a second,” I say. “He’s here.” Then I come back on the line and usually it’s a dial tone.

Home Center calls begin with a pitch like this. “Hi, this is Ray. I spoke with your wife (he or she always knows her full name) about home improvement a year ago and she suggested I call back in a year.” They are counting on the odds you or your wife won’t remember everyone she or you spoke with during the past year.

Then comes then clincher. “I remember she was very nice to me.” That part is the key, the theory being I’m not likely to hang up or be mean to a person who has called you or your family member very nice. “So I thought I’d call back to find out if you’re still interested.” Truth be told, it’s more like “I thought I’d call back to see if you fall for this fakery.”

Another caller claimed, “We’re working with the city to increase the value of your home.”

“What city?” I inquired. “Ahh,” pause. “Long Beach.”

A one-off caller asked for my wife, claiming to have “proprietary information” for her. When asked what kind, he went of on a diatribe on how I shouldn’t ask for her proprietary information.

Recently, males, with speech patterns associated with India claimed to be from Microsoft. telling me my computer had a virus, but hanging up when I asked if he knew my ISP.

Microsoft, the home center or the energy center haven’t called in several weeks. They may have given up on me or maybe they’ve moved on to other markets. There might be a lull, but I trust they will be back.

steve@longbeachcomnber.com