The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Yes, that might seem oxymoronic to all you telemarketing haters (that's like 99.999% of you, isn't it?). But there are degrees, such as the experience I had today.

I checked my answering machine at the end of my workday today. I had but one message. It was a recorded telemarketing pitch from my phone company, Verizon. The purpose of the call? To inform me of their great DSL service, and why I should order that service from them and start living the good life.

Sounds great! Except. Except that I have already switched over to Verizon DSL, and started using it less than a week ago. So the call was not only as obtrusive as any telemarketing call would be, it's also the equivalent of preaching to the choir.

Now, the timing of this call was interesting. As I said, I had just ordered DSL from Verizon only days ago. I can't say for sure that I've never gotten any telemarketing calls from the phone company before, but if I have, it hasn't been for a long while. So why should they call now?

The answer is that, by making contact with the company for a specific service like this, my phone number was tagged at some point as a likely prospect for buying other products/services. I'm sure it's all automated, from start to finish. That explains why the software system decided to call up an existing customer to pitch a service he has already ponied up for.

This, in a nutshell, is why I, and I'll bet most people, have such disdain for all the telemarketing, spam and direct mail junk we get. For all the claims of how targeted their pitches are, and how much number-splicing and analysis they do before launching their sell jobs, it's ridiculously obvious how slipshod these companies are when they send this crap out. The fact is, it's a shotgun approach, no matter what. That's why women get tons of spam that tries to sell them Viagra and penis-implant procedures; that's why 25-year-old single men get arts-and-crafts catalogues aimed for grandmothers in the mail; that's why 70-year-old retirees get phone calls that try to sell them subscriptions to Vibe. They are constantly trying to sell us things we don't want and never will want, and it's done with such obvious stupidity that we feel insulted to have our time wasted with such poorly-executed approaches. Until that changes--and I doubt it will under current conditions--the whole direct marketing game will be a sewer.