Friday, 10 February 2012

Targeted

No, nothing sinister here - at least I don't think so. I'm talking about phone calls from call centres, and emails from commercial firms.

The phone calls first. They generally come around midday, and I get two or three every week. Always on my landline number, never on the mobile phone. I don't often answer them. Certainly, if I'm on the loo or in the shower I let the phone ring. And when I dial '1471' to find out who it was, I'll know it was a sales or marketing call, because 'the caller has withheld their number'. A dead giveaway.

Even if free to answer, I still tend to let the phone ring. Experience tells me that it's simply not worth the bother of picking the phone up. It'll be someone trying to find out about me, paving the way for a follow-up call from someone else. You know, one of those soft and easy 'market research' calls designed to make you divulge an awful lot of personal information, so that not long afterwards there will be a harder, more focussed follow-up call, now they know what they might be able to sell you.

Inevitably I will answer some of these calls by accident. I will certainly pick up the phone if I'm actually expecting a call. It happened yesterday - a typical example. A friend was with me for lunch, and I wouldn't normally have bothered to answer, but I thought it just might be my personal Gender Recognition Panel admin contact (my application has arrived safely, and I've had a written acknowledgement). Well, it wasn't. I heard a few seconds of call centre noise, then the person phoning me asked if he could speak with 'Mr D---'.

As usual nowadays, I was astonished. If he meant my father, dead almost three years now, then what kind of ancient list was he working from? And if he meant the old me, non-existent for over two years, it was almost as puzzling. I said that 'Mr D---' no longer lived here, and could he delete him from the call list, please? An immediate agreement to do so. But I know that I will get more calls asking to speak with 'Mr D---', if not from that call centre, then from another.

A couple of days before, I'd had a very similar call, not specifically asking for anyone in particular, only asking me to confim up front that I was the householder. I knew what would come next, and I played the game for a few more seconds. Yes, I was the householder. Sure enough, the caller then launched into a spiel. The words 'market research' were avoided. Instead it was 'I'd like to have three minutes of your time - it'll be to your advantage.' No thanks, and I put the phone down on him. What a waste of my time and his. But then it must be a proven approach, so that (say) one call in fifty hooks someone in and leads to a sale.

What sort of person? Who in their right mind would discuss their personal life, or their buying needs, with an unseen stranger at the end of a phone line, who hasn't properly explained who they are and what their business is? The idiotic? The lonely? The confused? Or perhaps simply anyone who lacks the verbal assertiveness to say 'Sorry, I've had enough of this, and I'm ending the call.' Click. Goodbye. End of unwanted intrusion.

Turning to another form of targeting, I've had three emails in the last week or so, all inviting me to set up a link.

The first was from the 'moderator' of the 'gonifo group' on Yahoogroups.com. The message was that I'd been made a member: it needed only a 'yes' click on a link to complete the setup. Well, it was a terse 'no' to that. A quick look on Yahoo told me that the group's area of interest was 'v53jnu743xvaq'. I couldn't make anything of that, and didn't feel inclined to be curious. I suspected something nefarious.

The second was from Simone at tvChix. I'd been selected for their TopList of people offering services and advice to their members. Again, no thanks. I'd briefly been a member of tvChix myself. I'd discovered it was primarily a dating site for transvestites and crossdressers of all kinds. It included many male tranny-fanciers. It wasn't really the right website for properly transsexual people - the sort compelled to live the life in all its aspects, good or bad, rather than just dress up for gratification and pleasure. It was not like Rose's or The Angels, and I didn't now want to be associated with it. Nor did I offer any services. And however informative my blog might be, it wasn't relevant to the the main aims of tvChix. I was midly surprised that Simone had thought me worth contacting. She took my polite refusal very nicely.

The third email was from Eden Carlsen-Rouselle of ProdigalSon Ventures Inc. I think Eden must be a girl. Anyway, she said how much she liked my blog, and could I agree to a link between it and her company, which offered superior-quality goods (breast forms were specifcally mentioned) to the transgender and crossdressing communities. Another polite 'no' and another equally nice reaction to that. But, hang on, how could my blog possibly be taken as a hot spot for crossdressers and TVs likely to be interested in this company's products? I felt mild annoyance that Eden didn't perceive what kind of person I was. Not good business.

You can see that I tend to be impatient with phone calls, but much more polite with emails, at least if the approach is reasonable. But in either case, I dislike being targeted, whatever the flattery employed. And whether it's a phone call or an email, I would like to see a law banning all unsolicited approaches from commercial companies. Across the board, with no exceptions. And I don't care if this throws anyone out of work. Freedom from unwanted contact is much more important.

4 comments:

  1. Rule of thumb is 'If I didn't ask for your services then I don't want them'. I used to simply replace the receiver when getting unsolicited calls but since those days I have used the unwanted call blocking facility offered by the phone company. The few calls that might now get through are those generated by computers which when answered then put you in touch with a person. They are easy to spot because of the small time delay in switching over to the person and then the tell-tale background noise of a call centre. They are nothing short of being a pest. Our numbers are most probably on many data banks which are never updated. I get spam mail just as everyone does but most of it is already directed to the spam folders ready for erasing. I never open any of them. They can be very dangerous especially if a link is clicked potentially opening a virus. I do have security which scans everything but I'd rather bin it before it gets that far. Any other unsolicited mail, and there are lots of them, either get deleted or placed in spam first and then deleted. I only open mail when I know who the sender is and almost never open forwarded mail. Using the phone and the Internet is perfectly safe if we just use our common sense but it can be annoying when we get unsolicited contacts. On Wordpress there is a spam software program which segregates spam, ham, missed spam, false positives and what they dubb as yummie pie! Basically it sorts each out and lists them if anyone is interested in such statistics but essentially it stops any unwanted messages from reaching my posts and places possible genuine ones in a comments queue. Only comments from previous readers who comment are automatically let through but of course even they will be subject to authorisation or removal if I consider them justified to be. I don't know how my Blogger site does it but if I know Google they will have a similar arrangement. At the end of the day I suppose we just have to put up with the rubbish and bin it when we get it.

    Shirley Anne xxx

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  2. We have 'call recognition' on our phones and quickly realised that the vast majority of unsolicited sales calls are International. So when we see 'INT' we just let the phone ring till the answering machine picks it up; if they really want us, they'll leave a message.

    One thing that has surprised me is the extent to which charities sell your details to other charities. Early last year I made a donation in my fem name to Breadline Africa. Within a few weeks I was getting two or three letters a week from other charities, begging for money. The culprit (Breadline Africa) was easily identified as only they had my name, but the business of selling details now multiplies as each charity in turn passes my details to another one. And the combined total that they've so far netted from Mrs Angela Kay? £0.00!

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  3. Our householder is never available...

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  4. One of my sons answers the phone in a wacky asian sounding language if he knows it's a solicitor, and they quickly hang up and take his number off of their list. It's really funny to watch him do this.

    Another way to antagonize the caller is to answer the call and then lay the receiver down and walk away from it for a while. Let the caller waste their time trying to talk to you when you're not even on the other end.

    Just be sure that whoever is calling is not one of those scams where you get billed something like $2500.00 just for answering the phone, because some of the phone companies won't take the charge off of your bill, even though they know it's a scam.

    Hugs,

    Cynthia XX

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Lucy Melford