How to Deal With Telemarketers

A typical telemarketing office.


Call center: Where the telemarketers call from.
What the telemarketer is.
Campaign: When a company hires a telemarketing firm, that is called a campaign. 
Client: That's you. It doesn't matter that you have never bought anything from them or ever will: you're a client.
Cold call: calling someone who has never bought the product or service the telemarketer is selling.
Courtesy call: what telemarketers call the calls they make. That's hardly a courtesy!
Disconnect: When a client hangs up.  That trick doesn't work (see article below).
Disposition: Basically a record of how the call went.  The non word dispositioned refers to the act of making a disposition.  Referred to in the past tense, it's dispositioning.
DNC: the do not call list. Telemarketing firms don't mind this list at all, because the main message of the list is there are some legitimate telemarketers out there.  Companies have to keep their own do not call list of people who have told them straightforward not to call again.
Endcap: this is from supermarket slang. Supervisors sit at the end of each cubicle row, just like there are merchandise displays at the ends of all rows. And so the term endcap came about.

Lead: What you are. Any number that is still left on the list is a lead.
Phone room: where the calls are made from.
Pitch: what you tell the client to try to get him to buy.
Recycle: Basically using the same list over again, after having culled out  all of the nos.
Script: What you see on your screen when you make a call. Frequently the scripts have bad grammar.  You are encouraged to follow the script, and to ignore it, all at the same time.

Teammate: A telemarketer.
Telemarketer: This can refer to either the company or the
caller. It's a nice ma
de up word; certainly more friendly than bottom feeder..

Strategies that do not work

Hanging up on a telemarketer is not effective. They'll list it as a call back or a disconnect, and you will hear from them again. Lots of nos is bad. Lots of call backs do not hurt.

Doing other fun things, like shouting into the phone, pretending not to speak English, or other clowning around doesn't work.  You'll just be put on the call back list, to hear from them again.

Getting on the do not call list works on a limited scale.  But telemarketers have found ways around it.

Letting all unidentified calls go to voicemail is one strategy.  But what you will get in return ia a lot of blank voice mails, as well as a lot of recordedrobocalls.  It's your call: you'll be trading one annoyance for another.  Phones that always go to voice mail will eventually, get taken off the list, but that takes a long time.

Main article

I was a telemarketer for many years, from the 1980s , when we'd pull pages out of a phone book and manually call each number, to the age of headsets and the internet.  I know a few things about how the (ahem) industry works. I could also have titled this article “X reasons not to buy from telemarketers,” and it would apply as well.

The below also applies to email spammers. If a spammer contacts you, just hit the delete key on your computer. Don't buy from spammers, and don't even read what they send you.

First off, telemarketers are scum. This might seem obvious, given the way they act. But what I mean is that telemarketers themselves are at the near bottom of society.

I should hasten to add that the same can be said of bill collectors, though they are a couple of steps below telemarketers on the social scale.

So, keep this in mind: you're better than the telemarketers that call you. You haven't screwed up your life. You're doing them a favor by not buying from them: maybe they will eventually go out and find a real job.

Walking into a typical phone room would be a grim experience.  You'd see a few people, a few old people, but mostly rather unattractive middle aged people.  There would be some good looking people, but they would all have that hard look that comes from living a bad life.   The place would be in disrepair.  More often than not, it would be in a storefront.

How most telemarketers come to their jobs: they've looked for work, and compiled a list of all the jobs they're qualified to do. And the very last job, that of a telemarketer, is on the bottom of the list, All the other jobs have been applied for. It's either that or life is going to get a whole lot worse. They sigh, and apply.

If you have a decent speaking voice, and know how to read and comprehend things you're qualified to be a telemarketer. Someone with a good job history who has stayed out of trouble would never even consider being a telemarketer.

There are a lot of telemarketers who are either current or past drug abusers. There are a lot of ex cons. People with bad credit are also common.

Telemarketing is the way it is because people are they way they are. Think of it as an evolutionary adaptation: the reason we have money at all is because we have all developed sales resistance.

Secondly, there is a reason telemarketers act the way they do: that's what their bosses expect from them. “Oh, this one guy would not take no for an answer. So I hung up on him” That is a common story I hear.

If a telemarketer said “OK, thank you,” and hung up after the first no, they'd be fired. When I was in the job, the standard was three nos. When you got your three nos, then you could end the call.  And no, the client can't say "no" three times in succession.  The pitch has to be made three times, before the call ends.

The telemarketing attitude towards people is that they are a sort of personal ATM machine. People exist only to give telemarketers money.

The dea of just putting people on the “no” list is seen as wasting leads. So telemarketers fudge things a bit when reporting the disposition of a call.  So if you say no twice and hang up, that is put on the call back list.  Lots of nos: bad.  Lots of call backs: good.

Telemarketing ad campaigns last a certain amount of time, and then end.  So if you keep getting calls asking you to get the framistat on your house's roto couple repaired, the calls will eventually stop.  Don't think it was anything you did.  "I yelled at the guy and he stopped calling!" is a typical story I hear. 

It could very well be that a new campaign starts for another product or service in that same office, and the calls will begin again.

Telemarketing is bottom of the barrel all the way through. They are a way of marketing that any reputable company would not even consider. So, automatically, you know if a telemarketer is calling, then it's a shady deal. Write the company's name down, and remember not to purchase anything from them.

Think about it: the companies using telemarketers have to be shady, because they're willing to risk getting people angry just to make a sale.

One thing that is amusing is that after the person agreed, that would be dispositioned as a yes, and we would then move onto the next call.  What happened next was not our concern: the person could have called the company and cancelled the sale.  It didn't matter.  Jut as long as you got a yes, and they didn't say something like "I'll cancel it anyway," you have a sale.  This is another reason for companies not to use telemarketing.

I should say something here about the do not call list. It's a wonderful idea, and could have put telemarketers out of business. Just put yourself on the do not call list, which all telemarketers have, and the phone will stop ringing.

You can always tell how long someone has been a telemarketer: if they talk in a monotone, and are obviously reading from a script, they are a newbie.  When I was a newbie, I called up one client and he said to me "I was a telemarketer for many years.  Some people got it and some people don't.  You ain't got it," and he hung up.  I dispositioned his call as a call back, and moved on.  As you can imagine, there is a lot of rotation in telemarketing.

If the telemarketer is really friendly, and treats the call as  a conversation, they have probably been doing that for several years.

But telemarketers spent some money, and got changes made in the law. There are numerous exception to the list. The following list is of entities who are exempt:

bill collectors
survey companies
companies which you have done business with, or contacted

Personally, I think that bill collectors are just telemarketers who can use extortion to get a sale (“send us the money, or we''ll take you to court”). Collection agencies use the scum that telemarketing companies won't hire.

Putting yourself on the do not call list would help. But telemarketers have found ways around it. In the beginning, for instance, they would just rewrite the call's script to start with a survey, and then go onto the real meat of the script; the sales pitch.

If a telemarketing company is working on a campaign that is not covered by the do not call, that list is a goldmine. They see the list of people who have low sales resistance.  That's right: the do not call list can be used as a call list for telemarketers.

For charities, there are more effective ways than telemarketing to get money, such as commercials, display ads and so on. Telemarketing is cheap, so they climb aboard. If a charity calls you, do not donate to them, period.

Likewise, with survey companies: there are numerous ways to get people to answer surveys, such as offering them incentives, or mailing surveys out.

As for politicians, that's a bit dicier. They often have phone banks of volunteers that call. Always ask if it's the campaign office that's calling, or a telemarketing agency. If you get a robocall from a politician, chances are it's a telemarketer doing the call.

For companies that you have done business with, this is an easy one. Call them up. Tell them they have lost your business because they use telemarketers.

The thing is, telemarketing works. There are enough people that just give up and buy what the telemarketer is selling. (“He keeps at it. I'll just get myself of the hook by saying yes.”) That's right: telemarketing gets sales because the caller intimidates the client.

If we all just said no, telemarketing would dry up and die. And we all know that. But what do people do? They answer the phone, and enough of them give in to keep the practice going.

Now, keep in mind that you are not hearing from the company itself when telemarketers call: you're hearing from someone who works at a telemarketing firm. If you have any complaints about that company, there is nothing the minimum wage scumbag on the other end can do about it, except laugh at you when talking in the break room.

It's kind of funny: politicians hear from their constituents, demanding something be done about telemarketing. If politicians had any courage, they could legislate telemarketing out of existence. Instead, they let the lobbyists wine and dine them, and any bills that come up get quickly watered down.

For instance, I think the do not call list would be more effective if it just had 5 words: Do Not Call, Period. But a good idea was gutted.

So, do not buy from telemarketers, since that only gives the industry more money to influence politicians. Heck, you're being patriotic every time you tell them no.

I think your hair would curl if you even went into a telemarketing company's break room. In one corner, you would have two people talking about state vs. federal. Some intelligent talk about economics? Nope. They're talking about the differences between state and federal prisons, and their experiences with them.

The usual break room talk is about how they made the people they called uncomfortable. The stories they like telling the best are getting someone into a corner, and leaving them with no choice but to say yes.

Folks, you do not have to listen to these people. They have been told to take over the conversation. So you're not even actually having a conversation with them. You won't hurt their feeling if you say no; they'll forget about you instantly, as they call the next person.

And, for that matter if you say yes, they will forget about you just as quickly as they move to the next client on their list.

Always say no, without exception.

Sometimes telemarketers get calls that ask for a specific person.  Let's say that Mary, a new mother, signed up for Free baby portrait from  Now, the free portrait does exist: you get it after you buy a set of prints.  The caller asks for Mary.  John, her husband, answers.  You give the pitch anyway.  John says "She wouldn't be interested," and hangs up. That would go onto the call back list, since we never spoke to Mary.  If John had taken the time to put Mary on the phone and she said no after three pitches,  then we would disposition it as a no and move on.

As to the subject of robocalls: they often have an option that you can press a number and get off of their list. Don't bother: that just confirms that your number is valid. The upshot of that is that you will get even more calls.

The best way to deal with robocalls is to report them to the DNC list. But be sure to write down the company using them, and be sure not to buy from that company. And if you wish, send same company an email telling them why you're not considering their service.

Telemarketing companies run several campaigns at once, so in one day you might have two or three telemarketers calling you, all working in the same office, but for different companies. So if you tell one not to call you again, that only applies to calls for that one company. You can still get calls from that same telemarketer for different companies.

What happens if you buy from a telemarketer: they compose a sucker list (my term, not theirs). Some companies make money selling their sucker lists to other telemarketers. As a result, you will get even more telemarketer calls.

So, say no, if for no other reason than to lower the number of calls you get.

Telemarketing is bottom of the barrel employment: you get a paycheck and nothing else. A lot of telemarketers have to get Medicaid and food stamps because their pay is so low.

Telemarketers have to follow some rules: no calling before 8 AM, or after 9 PM

No use of foul language

they have to quickly identify what company they are calling for

I'm sure the telemarketers would like people to think that all of their callers work from their home, dial each call on a regular phone, and do their jobs out of sheer enthusiasm for the one company they're calling for.

In truth, just about all telemarketing companies use computers. Each caller sits in their own cubicle, with a computer designed so that they can't get on the internet. The main computer makes the calls, and the telemarketer clicks their mouse at the end of the call, to fill out a disposition on the computer, and then the computer calls another number.

Between calls, callers are usually playing whatever games are on their machines. Myself, I played spider solitaire constantly.  Regular solitaire was no longer challenging (I wonder what telemarketers do now?  Windows 10 does not have any of those games built in).

The computer dials the number, and if someone answers the pitch is started. When a client says yes, their information is entered into the compute, or with some calls, their call is forwarded to another employee who takes the information.

It's a typical office setting, only the callI are treated like products in a factory.

Telemarketers, like bill collectors, like to present themselves as essential parts of the economy, making millions. Why, eliminating either “business” would cost the economy, both in lost jobs and money not changing hands (the idea of people hanging onto their money and only spending it when they felt like it is apparently an evil thing).

Think about it. Asking what you'd replace telemarketers/bill collectors with is like getting a cancerous tumor removed, and then having someone ask you what you're going to replace that tumor with.

What would happen if bill collectors, or telemarketers were legislated out of existence?

Shady businesses would find other ways to market their dubious products or services, or they would go out of business. No loss there.

The people that work as telemarketers would have to look for somewhere else to work. They already have great experience in taking sh*t from people, so any sales career would suit them.  No loss there.

Those “lost” millions of dollars would go to legitimate businesses. So no loss there.

Telemarketers sometimes use either robocalls, or people outside of the USA. It's your patriotic duty say no.  All robocalls should br reported to the DNC.

Think about it: these people are not bringing jobs to the community. It's your duty to your fellow Americans to say no to those people.

Telemarketers have their calls recorded and monitored. So they have to follow the rules.

So, for instance, if a telemarketer starts to cuss you out, the dismissal is usually immediate. Such a person doesn't belong in the telemarketing field anyway. I am not suggesting provoking them, because most of the time you will get a very nice, rehearsed response.

If one swears at you, you might say something like “That is unprofessional behavior, and could cost you your job.” Or, even better, “I'd like to speak to your supervisor.”

The very act of getting a supervisor to talk to a customer is a bad thing from a telemarketer's standpoint. Supervisors like to sit at the end of the row, gossip with other supervisors, eat candy, read trashy magazines, or really doing anything other than work.

So having to get a supervisor too often means potential trouble. If the person complains about something legitimate, and there is a recording of that call, then things get interesting.

in summary, never buy from a telemarketer. Never buy from anyone that uses telemarketers: charities, politicians, or companies you bought from.

If you don't like telemarketing calls, then don't bother with those “answer this survey and win a free $100 HugeMart gift card.” The survey is phony, and all that happens is that, on your way to getting that gift card, you click on a lot of stuff, stuff that gives telemarketers permission to call you. No one has ever gotten those sought after gift cards, and no one ever will.

I made the mistake in doing this, and within mere minutes I was getting sales calls from across the USA.

Don't fill out cards for Free___  (usually it's a sea cruise or a gym membership) that you might see in your local store. Again, that's just a way for telemarketers to get around DNC. You asked about their business, so therefore you have a business relationship with the telemarketer.  And, by golly, there are sure a lot of businesses involved in that promotion!

Likewise, ads for free samples are just ways for telemarketers to get more leads. In the 1970s and before, businesses gave away free samples. They soon realized it was bad business, because the people who asked for the samples were just moochers, and almost never became clients.

Again, no one has ever gotten a free sample, unless you count email spam, calls from insurance companies, medical supply companies, and so on as “free samples.”

Telemarketers have embraced technology. When caller ID first came out, it was hailed as a way to keep telemarketers at bay. All you had to do was either block that number, or write it down and not answer it.

So, stage two came when telemarketers got multiple numbers. So what if you blocked them? They'll be back with another number.

And, as of now, telemarketers have embraced a new technology: call spoofing. Basically their calling computers send clients phony numbers, which has a further bonus: people can't report those phony numbers to the DNC.

It just show you how dishonest telemarketing is: a legit business would not want to contact someone who is unwilling to do business with them. A legitimate business does not have to go to people: people go to them.

Here is a simple rule: if you get a call and don't recognize the number, let it go to voice mail. If they don't leave a message, chances are they're a telemarketer.

Read this if nothing else

Take the following paragraph to heart.  Act on it.  If you remember nothing else from this article, remember the following .

If a telemarketer calls you, immediately interrupt them. Raise your voice and say “Put me on your do not call list,” and then hang up. Legitimate (ahem) telemarketers have to follow this rule You might want to go further and ask what telemarketing company they are working for. Then, again, tell them the same thing, making sure you mention that that the company can't call.

This, of course, applies to regular telemarketers: boiler room operations do not have to follow those rules.

This has got to stop. People are afraid to answer their own phones. And maybe if enough people read this article, things can get a little better.

Personal experiences, arranged randomly

I remember one fellow telemarketer I worked with. Let's call him Bud.

Do you remember the film “The Lion King?” They talked about the circle of life. Bud had his own circle of life: he would get out of prison, come back to the job, get a woman pregnant (most of his paychecks went to child support), eventually get drunk and do something that got him arrested, go to prison, get out, go back to the job, get a woman pregnant, get drunk and do something stupid, get sent to prison... This happened twice when I worked there, and numerous times before I was hired.

In my own office of my main job, towards the end there were a few people in a big office.  There was a second phone room, which was used to house old computer equipment.  The boss was giving up and moving back to his hometown.  There was talk of moving the place to a smaller building.  That was when I was let go.

All of this came about because our main client, ShittyCorps, had decided to stop a campaign with us.  But, good came about it: days later the boss at ShittyCorps said that he made a lot of money for the company by eliminating 1000 jobs.  The program w were running was successful  But those 1000 jobs cost money, so out we went.

On another job, sale s were so bad that we were told to stay on the line until the client hung up.

That company sold newspaper subscriptions nationwide. If newspapers are so desperate for business that they would use telemarketers, then they deserve to die.

That same company had an office in Illinois. They decided to close that office, without telling their employees.  So one day, people showed up for their shifts, only to find out they didn't have jobs. Nice bunch of folks there, and very typical of telemarketing companies.

I got a call from one of the people who worked in one of their offices that had not been closed.  He made his pitch.  "Is this from the Pissed -Off Group?"  "Yes," he said.  "They closed their Alton Illinois office, and didn't tell any of their employees.  Nice bunch of folks you're working for." and hung up.  I violated my own rule about not tslking back to callers.  But it sure felt good.

It's my one hope that the guy looked the story up, and then resigned from his job.  They never did call back,.

One of my telemarketing jobs consisted of selling stuff for a charity. The guy who ran the company decided to use the charity's money to pay bills, buy himself lots of fine an fancy stuff, and so on.

A local newspaper found out about that. We had to find a way to sell, even with that awful truth. Sure, the guy used the money meant to go to kids with spinal cord injuries. But it was still a good cause. Uh huh.  I left that job when I found another telemarketing job.

The upshot of it is that the charity shut down, and the head guy went onto the roof of the building we worked in with a pistol, and shot his brains out.

With each new ad campaign, we would eventually find out all the dirt about the companies that we called for.  People would vent, telling us horror stories about how _____ company screwed them, and how they would never buy from that company again.  We'd make our required three pitches, disposition them as nos, and have something to talk about in the break room.

rI emember being horrified when I called up someone, and they said that that person was their husband, and he had been dead for years. My boss said “Don't feel guilty about it. She lists her husband's name in the phone book, because she wants to get more phone calls. It was her own fault.” Yes, standard rules of decency get thrown out the window.

I remember long ago, a client had managed to get a caller to start cussing.  The supervisor didn't even leave his station.  "Hang up!" he said.  The caller was fired immediately, had his cubicle stuff put in a box, and was escorted out of the building.

When I was a telemarketer, I saw the job as like being in a one act play. I, the noble telemarketer, was full of fire and enthusiasm for company X. The client I called, on the other hand, had another role: that of saying no. Through a brilliant interaction, like you might see in a Shakespearean play, the client is won over. The curtains fall, the audience cheers, and then the curtains come up again immediately, and the play is begin again.

I do wonder how my fellow telemarketers saw themselves.

I did one job as a call at home telemarketer. I asked people to donate junk to a central source, that would then sell that to thrift stores.

I got a lot of yeses, but when I called back the night before the pick ups were to come to confirm the donations, they would all suddenly start to become forgetful.

I calculated how much I was making by the number of hours I worked. I was making a cool 25 cents an hour. I abandoned that job immediately.

At one of my first telemarketing jobs, the bosses had rented an upstairs apartment.  This was before smoking was banned in businesses.  As you walked up the steps, you would see this fog of cigarette smoke hanging above you. Almost all telemarketers smoke, which is why they now get 5 minute cigarette breaks each hour.

The job was selling tickets for a charity country music event, with stars that no one ever heard of, back then or now.

In the apartment were some tables with standard dial phones on them.  We would be given a sheet of paper torn from a phone book, and some 3x5 cards.    We would list sales on the cards, and turn them in.  We would get a quarter each time we made a sale.

One time one new employee thought she could break the system.  She was getting all sorts of sales.  But she didn't know that each person was called back after the cards were turned in.  Lo and behold, she had a lot of bad sales.  She tried to grab her new cards, but the manager was too quick.  She got fired that day.

And then there was the turd in the tub.  Since this was an apartment, it had a shower in it.  One day, a turd was found in the bathtub.  This, of course, got the entire office gossiping.  They never figured out who who put it in there, but my guess is a couple of slackers.

I saw the slackers outside of work.  One was a tall kid in his 20a, and the other was his companion, who was a midget.  I had long hair and a moustache at the time.  They sized me up.

"Do you partake of the evil weed?"  "No."  "Neither do we."  Uh huh.

There was a door in the bathroom of the apartment.  You could leave the apartment through that.  On the dorr was a sign wih the words "If you go through this door, you will be fired."

20sguy and Midget didn't like working there.  It was beneath them.  They couldn't fathom the idea that people get paid to work, because work isn't fun.  So they walked out that door, and left the job.

The job ended, very few tickets were sold, and the event was held.  I had been given tickets, but I didn't bother going.

Some of my favorite calls: I was selling newspaper subscriptions for a newspaper that is now long gone.  "May I speak to the man or the woman of the house?" My required pitch.  "We're lesbians!" they said before hanging up.

On another, I made my pitch, and the reply was "Call me again, and I'll kill you."  My telemarketer's instinct came in.  "Thank you!" I replied, and ended the call.

I remember getting a voicemail every time one number got called.  "This is McFee, by the sea..." it started.  I really wanted to talk to the guy, because he sounded like an interesting person, but was never able to get a hold of him.

On another call in San Diego, I noticed an unusual name (no, the guy was never home, so I didn't get to talk to him).  The name was the same name of one of the alien races the Enterprise had come across in the original Star Trek.  Writers need to come up with names for their characters, and the phone book is as good a place as any.  I'm almost certain the writer of that episode spotted that name in the phone book, and used it. 

And finally, the call that has been burned into my head, and which will never leave: I called up someone, gave my pitch, and the reply was "God ain't white!"

Over the years, I have presumed that this was a reference to an "All in the Family" episode where George Jefferson argued with Archie Bunker, finally telling him "God is black!"  But I'll never really know.