You Have One New Message

Ottawa XPress – Shotgun – March 17, 2005

I was checking my messages the other day, and I had one new message. It was from the Motorsports Centre in Gatineau saying we have to talk about a broken part on my Ski-Doo. What a relief!
Hey wait … I don’t have a Ski-Doo.

Do you ever get voicemail messages like that? What do you do? Do you call back to let them know that they left their message at the wrong number and now some poor Jean-Guy will be without his recreational vehicle? I usually play Good Samaritan and call them back to tell them they’ve made a dialing error. But now that I’ve got my own column, why not multi-task and kill two birds with one stone? So, Mr. St-Amour, if you’re somewhere out there reading this, call Chris about the Ski-Doo.

When you have one of those Identify-a-Caller functions on your telephone and don’t recognize the name or digits, then it’s likely that a wrong number person is calling. Or worse-telemarketers. Because telemarketing calls usually have a long-distance ring, the number often shows up as “Unknown name, unknown number.” And there begins the dilemma: to pick up or not to pick up. The phone could be ringing with news from a long-lost friend overseas, or just the credit card centre looking to suck in another victim.

It frustrates me to all hell to be jolted awake or pulled away prematurely from la toilette by a long-distance ring knowing it could be a sales call but running to answer it anyway. When I hear the ring, I always fear it’s bad news about my grandmother in Toronto. She’s showing signs of Alzheimer’s and is quite frail at 92 years old. Of course, like Grandma – who is going deaf and doesn’t respond immediately when you say “hello” as you pick up the receiver-with telemarketers there’s often a lag between your greeting and any sign of life on the other end.

Ordinarily, this gap signals a telemarketing call, thanks to their automatic dial technology and voice-activated call set-up. When I hear the silence, it’s my cue to hang up because a computer somewhere out there now knows that someone in Ottawa has picked up and is now telling a sales agent it’s time to sell. But I’m often wrong, and end up hanging up on Gran when I don’t glance at the caller-ID box first.

Come to think of it, telemarketers have a lot in common with Gran. They just don’t hear you, no matter how many times you tell a salesperson “NO,” you’re not interested in buying tickets to this thing, or “NO,” you don’t want a subscription to that newspaper. I’ve heard the easiest solution is to actually interact with the person and request that your name be taken off the list. Easy enough.

Still, I get a bit pissed that telemarketers will call my home not knowing simple things like if there even is a Mr. Hill when they ask to speak to him. This would be quite depressing if one existed but had just left me for another woman. If that were true, I wouldn’t be shy to tell them so, and give them his phone number, too. I used to say, “Mr. Hill got hit by a truck.” I guess I was the only one in my house who thought that was pretty funny.

But telemarketers or people who call your place accidentally aren’t all evil. Bell Canada, for example, does a good job of reminding me it’s time to switch from dial-up to high-speed Internet. When their call interrupts me as I’m enjoying my Coronation Street on TV, knowing they’re persistent, I make no bones about telling them to call me back, and they do!

All in all, if you’re a lonely sod, getting calls from even the wrong people can make your day – or column.

– Sylvie Hill