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August 19, 2003

The Joy of Phone

The phone rang before I got up again this morning. Okay, I admit I tend to keep weird hours, I enjoy occasional insomnia and terrible reading habits, but what's annoying isn't the mere issue that it rings, it's that I get up, groggy, answer it and one of two things happens: I get a dial tone, or it's someone trying to sell me something or beg charity. The times range from 7:30am to 11am for the last week. Anyone with any sense (aside from my Dad, who's out of the country for a year so sticks to email) knows better than to call be before noon.

All this prefaces the fact that I am on the local "do not call" list, and now also on the federal list. The latter is not yet active, but the former certainly is. I know, it doesn't rule out charity calls and certain others types of unsolicited calls, but still, explain this, why am I now getting more calls than I was a month ago?

Another interesting datapoint came with this morning's call. It seemed my insomnia had barely dozed off when the phone rang. I don't keep a phone in the bedroom, so I dragged myself out of bed, rammed two doors, tripped over a chair leg, and grabbed the phone before the fourth ring. I stated my name and waited for the dial tone. No such luck. A male voice with a South Asian accent replied, mispronouncing my name despite the fact I'd just told him how to pronounce it. He stated his organization's name. I'd never heard of it so it wasn't a call I was expecting or wanting. I hung up and went back to bed. Of course, my insomnia was now wide awake. Standing in the shower I thought about all this.

I can hear some thinking, "just hanging up like that is rude!" Sure, and calling me out of the blue, waking me from a hard earned sleep, then mispronouncing my name isn't? One good turn deserves another. Hanging up was the kindest act he was going to get from me. He really didn't want me to say more.

Once upon a time, before we lived in a world aswim with communications media, cold calling residences made sense. Now it doesn't. I don't want calls at home from anyone but my friends and family. Businesses trying to sell me something, charities trying to solicit my paltry funds, or lawyers trying to get me to join their latest class action law suit (for which I end up paying) can all use email or snail mail. If they call me at home unsolicited, I will never do business with them. Ever. That won't stop them from calling, but if a significant percentage of people would do the same, calling us at home would quickly become unprofitable. They would gain a small percentage of success from the few people that actually end up buying, or giving, but would lose more from those of us who said 'no mas.' Our lost business from today until we rest (phoneless) in the grave would overwhelm the bit they got.

Rants aside, the datapoint was that accent. I monitor happenings in the area of medical privacy. A recent trend is to move certain recordkeeping functions offshore to where labor is cheaper. This mostly means moving it to India since there is a large and cheap workforce there that speaks English. This has implications on HIPAA and medical privacy as those people are not bound by our medical privacy laws. Picture this: National Enquirer opens a branch in Delhi to wine and dine clerks in medical transcription businesses for juicy tidbits on the stars.

How all that will sort out is aside from the matter. What the accent made me wonder, however, was if the phone sales business would likewise move offshore. Communications prices are dropping. It might pay to set up a fiber trunk from India to the US just to handle traffic for phone solicitations. They wouldn't be bound by U.S. laws. Of course, the accents would be a dead give away. (A lot of customer service call handling is already outsourced in this way.)

That is a thought to ruin my sleep.

I have the solution ready, however. I'll just unplug my phone until I need it. Friends and family can email me for phone appointments and I'll plug it back in for those. Or I'll just stick to my cell phone, though how long those will be free of annoying calls remains to be seen. There has to be a massive lobby trying to change it even as I type.

Posted by dan at August 19, 2003 10:17 PM
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