Phone pranks for fun and profit
I have something about the Annual Act of American Extortion, otherwise known as taxes, on the way. As any real writer will tell you—and this amateur can confirm it—when one sits down and starts typing, what comes out is sometimes not congruent with the thoughts one had going in.
After recuperating from a minor back injury sufficiently to sit in front of HAL-9000 for more than five minutes, the first thing on my mind was:
It has long been contended that I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I certainly don’t contest this assertion; if I had lived up to the potential of those childhood I.Q. tests, I’d have more money than Bill Gates. I wouldn’t be divorced in my 50s, rolling around in a wheelchair in an isolated shack atop a scorpion-infested hill in “Deliverance” country. Alas, my best thinking got me where I am today, so the revelation that landed on me recently came as no real surprise. What was mildly amazing was the length of time it took for me to figure out the right question to ask.
I have mentioned, in a long-past essay, the Hindu telemarketers who have plagued me for the past 2½ years. I have nothing against Hindus; for all I know, these people with Indian accents are Sikhs, or Moslems, or Christians. I find it somewhat bizarre that telemarketers from four different online drug companies seem to exclusively employ people of Indian extraction, but we’ll write that off to the dreaded outsourcing that is part of our modern, global economy.
In January of this year, I finally signed up on the National Do Not Call Registry [NDNCR]. I had tried every other ploy with the drug telemarketers: I was polite; I was sarcastic; I asked to speak to supervisors; I gave them Mrs. Trot’s telephone number; I asked the ex-wife to please tell her online drug dealers that my telephone number is no longer her telephone number. I started being cordial with the telemarketers, gradually wheedling the names of their companies, and some contact numbers, out of them. Now, when someone with an Indian accent calls and asks to speak to Mrs. Trot, I politely ask them “Is this ‘JMD Pharmacy’ from Jacksonville? Is it ‘RX Pharmacy’ from New York? Or is this the ‘U.S. Online Pharmacy’ who won’t tell me where you are located?” (These are their actual company names, for what it’s worth. I should be so lucky that they’d sue me for speaking poorly of them here. I’d love to get these folks into a courtroom!)
Once they have identified themselves, I thank the caller for providing me with the correct name to put on my next complaint to the Federal Trade Commission for their egregious violation of the Do Not Call Registry. I then go online, and fill out the complaint form at the NDNCR website. Since this program is administered by the same species of bureaucratic vermin who run FEMA and the Transportation Safety Administration, I do not expect much in the way of affirmative response to my complaints. However, as my lawyer friends would say, it’s perfecting the record for future reference.
One would expect that over a period of time, I might begin receiving fewer annoyance calls. Instead, the volume has actually doubled since January, escalating at times to as many as five calls per day. After one of these particularly frustrating days, when I had finished filling out my fifth complaint in 24 hours, I perused the NDNCR website carefully, looking for links where I might file further complaints. I re-read the FAQs and the regulations governing the Do Not Call Registry. That was when I had my epiphany.
Buried in the bureaucratic jargon is an advisement that the NDNCR does not apply to companies with whom I have done business in the past. I have never, do not now, or will I ever in the future do business with an online drugstore. In my angrier moments, I have screamed at their telemarketers that I’d rather die from cancer than trust my prescription needs to people who are too incompetent to get a telephone number right. As far as I know, before we were divorced, Mrs. Trot placed exactly one order with one online pharmacy, as a kind of trial balloon to see if it was efficient and cost-effective. Why, then, am I receiving constant calls from four different companies?
The next time one of these annoying calls came in, I politely asked if Mrs. Trot had given them this telephone number. “Why certainly!” came the reply. “That’s why we’re exempt from the regulations of this National Do Not Call Registry that you keep mentioning.”
I repeated this little Q&A with the other three companies, and got essentially the same reply. I had jokingly hit on the correct answer, in an offhand comment to a friend, before I knew to ask the question. I had sarcastically remarked that the increasing volume of calls suggests that Mrs. Trot is deliberately giving my unlisted, do-not-call-registered number to a plethora of online drugstores.
I was only kidding when I said it. The ex-Mrs. Trot is apparently not kidding.
I don’t consider changing my phone number to be a viable option. I’ve had it for a good number of years, and the hassle of trying to notify everyone who has it now would be incredible. As scrupulous as I might be, I’m sure someone would be forgotten, and left without a way of contacting me. Besides, like other little thoughtless acts of terrorism disguised as pranks, I shouldn’t have to change any aspect of my life to accommodate the whims of those committing such acts. I wrote at length on this in a March 1st post titled “Little Acts of Mindless Terror”.
I won’t speak ill of Mrs. Trot here, or anywhere else. I will point out that she is of Sicilian ancestry, and only one generation removed from the old country. Her parents were the first of both their families to be born in America, and her maternal grandmother never learned a word of English after immigrating here. Some stereotypes have a definite basis in fact, and when it comes to Sicilians and vendetta, those hackneyed archetypes are true. It’s a small shot that’s being taken, and certainly not a lethal one, but it echoes over the years since we went our separate ways. As I said at the beginning, I am not particularly surprised that she would do something like this. I am somewhat taken aback that it took me this long to figure it out.
I married Mrs. Trot twice, and we are now twice divorced. Shortly after the second divorce, our younger daughter and her new boyfriend paid me a visit. The young man was discreet enough to go examine my apple trees, giving me some private time with my kidlet. In the course of my asking after her mom, and her asking if there was any message I might need passed along to her, I said this, verbatim:
“I don’t want to get you all caught up in the middle this. It’s between your ma and me…I don’t know if you’ll understand what I’m going to tell you. I still love your mother. I just don’t like her very much any more.”
It made sense to her. I just wish I could understand it.