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Thoughts For Thursday: Who Invented Robot Phone-Dialers? I Want To Smack Whoever It Is

January 13, 2011 · 38 comments

in Life, Thoughts For Thursday

This past Saturday, I was relaxing a little bit when the phone rang and startled me.  I ran to get the phone because I figured it must be important; most people do not call me at 8:00 a.m. on the weekend.  I picked up the phone, and there was dead silence.  (I didn’t check caller id first because I didn’t want the phone to keep ringing and wake up the kiddos.)  The silence lasted a few seconds and I finally did check the called ID.  It was ‘My Health Plan’.  I then hung up immediately as I didn’t want to sit and wait for a human voice to finally come on the phone and butcher my last name.  (Which is only 5 letters and incredibly easy to pronounce.)

Four days later, My Health Plan called again.  I answered the phone and waited and waited for someone to get on the phone so I could tell them to never call me again.  I waited two minutes, and nobody came on the phone, so I hung up.  Two minutes later, the phone rang again, and it was still My Health Plan.  I just hit ‘end’ and moved on.

It is bad enough that robots call my house early in the morning and during dinner.  However, you would think that a human would push the robot out of the way at some point and actually handle the business of whatever the call was about.

I wonder, is it really saving companies money employing robot phone dialers instead of using real people that are able to pick up the phone and make a phone call?  Maybe I am irrational, but that long pause that happens when I answer the phone drives me crazy. Maybe I make the wrong assumption that a phone conversation is a personal thing, and that I am angry that I am just a number on a long list of calls that a robot needs to make.  I have even told these places to not call me again, and they still do.  (I am not talking about companies that would be on the ‘do not call ‘ list.  It is people/companies somehow affiliated with us in a distant manner that love to call when they suspect you we are home.)

I do feel bad for the people that do take the call after the robot connects you, it must be a horrible job.  However, I don’t want to be bothered weekend mornings, or really any time now that I think about it.  I don’t need any special offers from my credit card, I don’t need to participate in some health survey, and I don’t need to extend any magazine subscriptions.    If you do need to offer me something that is great and exciting, then please have a real, breathing person call me.  Oh, and please make sure that person can properly read and pronounce a last name as long as 5 letters.

Do these calls frustrate you?  Have you ever successfully got them all to stop calling?

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

First Gen American January 13, 2011 at 6:38 am

That’s grounds right there against having a home phone. We just don’t answer if we don’t know the number. We turn our ringers off upstairs.

Even when I do pick up if there is more than a 1 second pause, I immediately hang up. I think the robodialers will backfire because call hit rate is going to go way down because people are onto them.


Kris January 13, 2011 at 8:08 am

First Gen — I still like my land line because I use it for work. However, it is rare I actually get a personal call on my home phone anymore. But the cost isn’t too high, so I don’t mind paying it for the benefit I get. If only I could get some gadget that would know when robots are calling me and not allow the phone to ring at all. Maybe I will get to work on inventing that.


retirebyforty January 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I agree with First Gen. We only have cell phone now and the number of junk calls are way down, but still not 0!


Kris January 13, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Isn’t it surprising how companies manage to get a hold of cell phone numbers? Either the callers are good guessers or they buy phone numbers from somewhere.


Moneycone January 13, 2011 at 6:41 am

I hate it when charities do this! Why don’t they get it – if they call me despite me telling them not to spam or call, I’m not going to donate a single cent again!

But then maybe it works or else why would they be doing this!


Kris January 13, 2011 at 8:09 am

Moneycone – I have all the same questions. However, if something is inexpensive and even remotely successful, companies seem unlikely to cut it. Customer service does not matter to many people anymore.

I really hate the calls from charities asking me to send envelopes to all my friends asking for donations. I will donate money myself, but I refuse to beg my friends for money for a cause I am not actively involved in.


101 Centavos January 13, 2011 at 7:08 am

Back when I had more free time and not as many projects, I might have taken the time to mess with the caller a little, like giving survey takers all the wrong answers. These days, I just hang up or wait for the human caller and ask to be taken off their list. Maybe they have more than one list.


Kris January 13, 2011 at 8:11 am

101 – My sister in law did a great thing once. Someone was calling for my brother and she said ‘oh hold on just a second’ and she just set the phone down and hung it up 20 minutes later (he wasn’t even home).

I tend to hang up, but this one that I did try to talk to and never came on the line had been calling me constantly for awhile, and I wanted it to stop. I am sure they will be calling me any minute now, as it is a new day!


The Biz of Life January 13, 2011 at 7:45 am

I think it was Al Gore who invented Robocallers right after he invented the internet. That guy is amazing! You never know where his genius will turn up next.

The main calls we get are from charities, anywhere from 8am to 10pm, 7 days a week. When I say hello, and hear that pause then the click of someone being connected I often hang up.


Kris January 13, 2011 at 8:13 am

Biz- those clicks just angers me. Especially if they are going to ask for money from me, at least have the courtesy to treat me like a human.

The RoboCaller has to be around a bit longer before Al can take credit. It also has to be successful, which I am not sure this will be. Besides, I thought he was busy engineering the Chevy Volt…


Money Reasons January 13, 2011 at 10:31 am

Very funny.

Actually when Al Gore said he invented the internet, that cost him my vote. I was on the fence initially, but that statement he made knocked me over to the other side!!!


Nicole January 13, 2011 at 8:43 am

We got rid of the landline and that eliminated most robocalls…

It’s especially annoying because with a human you can say, “Do not call this number again” and they are legally obligated to take you off the list. Can’t do that with a robocall.


Kris January 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm

It sounds like eliminating the landline is key to me getting to eat dinner or sleep.

I wonder how long until cell phones become the target.


Jason@LiveRealNow January 13, 2011 at 9:33 am

If I pick up the phone and nobody responds when I say “Hello”, I hang up. The unfortunate person with slow reflexes can call back.

I’m also on the federal and state Do Not Call lists, so robo calls are minimized.

Side note: At a previous job, I ran the auto-dialer. 🙂


Kris January 13, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Jason I would love to read a post from you about what it was like to have a job involving robodialers.

I am on the do not call lists but my health care provider doesn’t seem to care. The list must not apply to them.


Jason@LiveRealNow January 13, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Is it actually your health care provider or some random company named “Health Care Provider”?

My job with the dialer wasn’t telemarketing, it was collections. Whether that makes it better or worse is probably debatable, but it was interesting work.


Kris January 13, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Jason, it is definitely our health provider because they are always trying to push these ‘asthma care plans’ on us. I am sure they are doing it to reduce their cost of covering all the asthma in our family more so than genuine concern for our lives.

I could not imagine working collections. I am glad you aren’t in that job anymore.


Jackie January 13, 2011 at 10:09 am

I hate those things too, mostly because you can’t get rid of them, but also because of the long pauses. I guess they’re teaching me to enunciate better though, since I must say “Hello” loudly and clearly in hopes of getting a real person on the line.


Kris January 13, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Oh my gosh you are so right. My voice is so loud and bitter by the time I do get to talk to a human that I am surprised they don’t hang up on me.


Money Reasons January 13, 2011 at 10:29 am

I’ve actually trained myself to hang up before I get to a human voice if there is too long of a pause (and the funny hissing sound associated with the robot dialers).

I hate those devices too. I bet there would be a long line of folks that would love to smack that person who invented it. I know I’d be in the line/queue. 🙂


Kris January 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Maybe I will invent a smack queue. That just made me think of that great scene in Airplane! when people were in line to smack that hysterical woman.


DGR January 13, 2011 at 11:37 am

Most Robocallers are calling you to see when you pick up the phone, and find out what would be a good time to call you back to talk with a live person, I read somewhere, and I do this all the time, when you get a call from one, that one second after you know it’s a robocaller, start pressing the # key as fast as you can for 30 seconds and hang up, the robocaller thinks it got a bad number and kicks your number out. I know I don’t very many for calls anymore,and the time that a live person does get through, my 17 year old daughter beats them down so bad, I know there never going to call back.


Kris January 13, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Oh my gosh I had no idea about the pound key solution. I am going to try it when My Health Plan calls tomorrow.

Or would it be more effective if you sent your 17 year old over?

Thanks so much for the tip!


Linda January 13, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I got rid of my land line years ago when I got an IP phone. I just dumped the IP phone last month and now use on my mobile phone and Google Voice for personal calls. For work I use the mobile and Microsoft’s Communicator soft phone from my work laptop. (I’m really lucky and my company pays for my mobile phone; I break out an personal charges, but most of the bill is paid by them.)

On the IP phone, I did used to get some robocalls, but I would just hang up as soon as I detected the pause. Or I just wouldn’t answer if I thought to check caller ID first.

Occasionally I get caught by my bank or credit card company calling me to sell me a service which is more annoying since I can’t stop them from calling. They always want to sell me “identity theft protection.” I’ve learned not to engage with the caller. If they ask me a leading question I just say “I decline to answer.”

Oddly, I got a random survey call on my mobile phone a couple days ago. It was clearly being conducted by a legal firm trying to get info on whether it was worthwhile bringing a matter to trial. That 15 minute survey was quite interesting to me and I didn’t mind spending time on it at all.


Kris January 13, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Yeah, you just never know which calls will be worthwhile or not. I got caught on the phone for a survey that was supposed to be three minutes and it turned into twenty and I just told them I had to go. They obviously know they have to trick you to get you to stay on the phone.

I would be thrilled if work paid for our landline but that will never happen.


Crystal @ BFS January 13, 2011 at 12:47 pm

When we moved right outside Houston city limits, it was going to cost $40 a month for a useful landline, so we dropped it. No more junk calls either, lol. Hidden benefits of being cheap. 🙂

I was always annoyed by them even though I was a telemarketer for my university. Please, if you ever do get a real person on the phone, say the magic words “Please remove me from your databank completely. I do not want to be called again.” When I was calling, that was the only way we were allowed to get you off the call list completely. 🙁


Kris January 13, 2011 at 4:22 pm

I have asked people not to call me but I still get calls.

Do you miss your home phone at all? I really don’t like just using my cell phone because the reception is never as good and it is uncomfortable.


Crystal @ BFS January 14, 2011 at 9:57 am

We don’t miss the landline at all, but our reception almost everywhere is perfect (100% at home), so that’s probably why.


Suba @ Wealth Informatics January 13, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I don’t have a land line but I still get a lot of these calls 🙁 Hilton calls me a lot, so does Marriott. At least hilton I stay with them frequently, but I don’t know how Marriott got my number. I have even threatened to report. Nothing has worked so far. And I also get a whole lot of sweepstakes phone calls. I NEVER give my phone number in random websites, no idea how I get them. The only time I have liked these calls is when I get a call from my credit card company, the automated call alerts me of fraud warning and I call back immediately to get a real person. That works. Argh…


Kris January 13, 2011 at 4:20 pm

I hate when a solicitor calls my cell phone, that number should be off limits!

Like clockwork, I got my robocall from some 800 number at 10:17 this morning. I wish I could give up my landline.


krantcents January 13, 2011 at 8:00 pm

I gave up my land line! The best part of that is no solicitation calls. They keep on doing it because it works.


Kris January 13, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Wow, I had no idea so many people dumped their land lines! I am living in the past. However, I am on the phone a lot everyday, and home phone is so much more functional than my cell.

I guess unwelcome phone calls is the price I pay for comfort!


Linda January 13, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Get a wireless USB headset and use Google Voice or Skype for your “home” calls. Call quality should be pretty good if your Internet connection is decent.


Kris January 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm

I never thought of using those tools until I wrote this post.

Maybe I need to rename my blog to “everyday tips and thoughts you can give me”…



Roshawn @ Watson Inc January 14, 2011 at 8:37 am

Like the rest, we no longer have a landline as well. Yes, it did tremendously decrease the number of Robot Phone-Dialers. Of course that wasn’t the reason we ditched it. It wasn’t getting used very much, which is not your case. Perhaps Google Voice or Skype would work for you though, as Linda suggested.



Joe Plemon January 14, 2011 at 10:26 am

We still have a land line, but for some reason, we get very few robotcalls. When they do come in (if a human takes the call), I quickly say, “please take me off your call list” They normally do. I have never received such a call on my cell phone, but my wife has a few times.


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