Michele Bender photo

Michele Mikesic Bender

They’re baaack!

Merchandisers have unleashed telemarketers on the public again.

We enjoyed a brief respite. So far in 2019, I’ve been pestered only twice.

No. 2 occurred last Tuesday. My cellphone crooned “Moonlighting,” my ringtone. (Love that song! Remember David and Maddy?)

“I’m Ashley,” an eager young lady announced. “I represent All-Catastrophe Auto Insurance.”

“Ashley!” I exclaimed. “I’m so happy for you. Jobs are so scarce. I bet you made Mom proud. Thank you for sharing.”

I clicked off.

Days later, Facebook friends complained angrily.

“I had six calls yesterday,” typed a gal pal.

“Darned annoying!” posted a gentleman.

The ‘80s spawned sales people who hounded homeowners over improvements. Survey-takers relentlessly quizzed us about magazines and breakfast cereals.

Until recently, I believed the phone frenzy died down. I signed up for the National Do-Not-Call Registry a while back and thought it worked.

Telemarketing probably tops the list of most frustrating, irritating, thankless jobs on Earth. I strive to inject humor and color into the drab world of dial tones.

An ‘80s caller insisted he had just a few questions about my magazine preferences.

“That sounds fascinating,” I responded. “Sure, I’ll participate, but I need a minute. I hear the coroner and his assistant coming down the steps, and I really should go hold the front door open. Be right back.”

I set the phone down, walked to the living room and tuned in “Judge Judy.”

Some Facebookers revealed revenge tactics.

“I blow a loud whistle!” one confessed.

“I answer, ‘Police department. What is your emergency?’ ” laughed another.

I consulted “Cortana,” my computer muse and information source. She’s Siri’s cousin. (I always wonder why those gals have such mystic names. Certainly an Ethel, Stella, Mabel, or Thelma could do an adequate job.)

Cortana told me that a British comedian, Tom Mabe, performs a stand-up comedy routine dissing telemarketers. One of his videos portrays a scenario very much like mine. 

When the unwanted caller asks for Mr. Jones, Mabe growls, “Who are you? This is Detective Smith. I’m at a murder scene. How do you know Mr. Jones, the victim?” He continues, mercilessly interrogating the salesman. Type “Tom Mabe” in your search engines.

My research provided some insight from two former salesfolk-turned-whistleblowers (“ringtone tattlers”). All calls are taped. Reputable companies instruct employees to end the solicitation if the customer says no three times.

There’s a shut-down sentence, as well: “Please put me on your company’s do-not-call list.” When the marketer asks “Why?” – and he will – say, “I want you to put me on your do-not-call list.”

“Your recorded protest gives you leverage if they ignore you,” explained an RTT. “The National Registry helps, but you’re still fair game for politicians and fundraisers.”

New technology to circumvent “robocalls” is emerging. Electronics giants are designing “robo-blocker” apps for popular phones. Owners of Androids, smart phones and iPhones can even the playing field. Alas, my Fossil Fliptop celebrated its eighth birthday. But my SmartMouth is only 70!

One ’80s morning, I dealt with four calls in a row while attempting to Easy-Off my oven. Appliance sanitizing bites. When the phone rang a fifth time, I snapped.

“Listen,” I snarled, omitting hello, “I don’t need aluminum siding or replacement windows. I’m delighted with my long-distance carrier, and I have all the credit I’ll need for the rest of my un-naturally blond life. Now, what do you want?”

When she stopped laughing, my doctor’s receptionist replied, “Hi, Michele. I’m calling to remind you about your appointment Wednesday.”

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and regular community columnist for The Tribune-Democrat.​ She can be reached at MsGeezerette@aol.com.