Telemarketers: Do Not Call

Why Are They Trying To Sell Stuff We Don't Need?

This week's commentary is by 60 Minutes II Columnist Steve Hartman. It was first broadcast on Aug. 11, 2004.
Thanks to the Do Not Call Registry and the ensuing court battles, telemarketers have gotten a lot of bad press this year.

I'm going to give them some more.

Now I admit, as evil villains go, telemarketers aren't exactly the scariest-looking lot. They're just really worker bees. Some are even sympathetic to our plight.

"I admit I've hung up on telemarketers before," says one unidentified telemarketer.

My complaint with the industry is that over the years, it has tried to sell us so much stuff we don't need that now every time the phone rings, we're instantly in battle mode.

Our fuses have become that short. I mean, who out there hasn't picked up the phone and screamed, "How many times do I have to tell you I'm not interested, you annoying little pimple?" ... Only to find out it's your mom?

OK. Maybe that was just me. All I'm saying is that we have become terrible cynics.

To prove the point, I did a little telemarketing of my own – with a can't miss offer, a free $20 bill.

Hartman: I want to know if you would like to hear about an exciting opportunity to get free money.

Unidentified Man #1: No, thank you. Bye.

Unidentified Woman #1: No.

Hartman: You don't want the money?

Unidentified Man #2: No, I don't.

Hartman: OK. We're giving away...

I made about 50 calls.

Hartman: You don't believe it, do you?

Unidentified Man #3: No, I don't.

Unidentified Woman #2: Take the money and take me off your list.

Hartman: OK. Bye bye.

I was about to give up. And right then, Chester Frankfeldt answered.

Mr. Chester Frankfeldt: Well, all right.

Hartman: Oh, you said yes. OK, Chester, your $20 is in the mail. Bye.

How about that?

Of course, I didn't mail it. I had to meet him.

Frankfeldt: Hey, there. Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson. There
we go.

Hartman: You never asked me, "What's the catch?"

Frankfeldt: Oh, di--did I, I didn't?

Hartman: No.

Frankfeldt: I ...I must have been sleepy.

Sleepy or not, Chester still believed. It's a promising sign that telemarketers haven't ruined us all. And it's proof that it can even pay to be optimistic -- or tired.
  • Rebecca Leung

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