April 10, 2014

Random Acts… Doing the telephone tango

Posted in Business at 5:55 pm by dinaheng

It may have been an honest mistake – or not.

At the end of February, I called AT&T, irritated over the constant increases in my landline phone bill. Yes, I could just maintain a cell phone and cancel the landline. But since I don’t get a good signal inside my home, half the time the cell phone doesn’t ring.

Surprisingly, the moment I started complaining to the AT&T billing rep, she switched me to the Retention Department. The rep there immediately said he could lower my bill by $10 a month with a “special.” When I asked if I would lose any of my services, he said, “No, everything will stay the same.” So I agreed to stay with AT&T for the lower rate.Dinah Eng

A couple days later, the telemarketing calls started. Since I’ve had an unlisted number for more than a decade, and never give out my home phone to anyone but family and friends, I never got telemarketing calls… until I got on the AT&T “special” plan.

When I called the phone company to ask why I was suddenly inundated by these calls, the billing rep told me that my non-published number had been changed to a listed number. I explained that since their Retention Department rep had told me that no services would change with my lowered rate (which was a recorded conversation), he clearly lied and had made this change without my knowledge or permission. The billing rep said she’d make the number unpublished immediately, and that since it had only been a few days, “there shouldn’t be a problem.”

Six weeks since that little “mistake” by AT&T, and I was still getting three to four telemarketing calls a day from Caribbean Cruise Line, the Los Angeles Times, ADT Security, Elite Security, SRVC, and more.

I put the numbers that showed up on caller ID on my call block list, but the phone still rings once before a call is actually blocked, so the house was never quiet. I put my number on the National Do Not Call Registry, but it takes 31 days for it to take effect, and not all telemarketers honor it.

I asked everyone who called to put me on their company’s do-not-call list, a request that had to be made up to three times up the chain of supervisors before the phone stopped ringing. One day, I finally held my temper long enough to ask one of the telemarketers how they got my number, and he told me that his company bought their call list from Nationwide Marketing.

I looked up Nationwide’s website, called, and got a recording, so I left an irritated message asking them to remove my number from their database. To my surprise, a representative called me back, apologized, and said he would make sure my number was scrubbed from their various lists.

“We try hard to stay current with the Do Not Call registry, but not all our clients comply,” he said. “We’re just trying to make a living, supplying companies with numbers for people who may be interested in their products. The problem comes when some of these companies keep recycling the numbers to others who are selling things people have no interest in. Then the marketing calls just become a nuisance. Companies may keep calling for a year before they drop you off their lists.”

Nationwide isn’t the only company that sells call lists, but at least they seem to respond to complaints. So if you’re inundated with telemarketing calls, don’t just ask to be put on the company’s do-not-call list. Also ask how the company got your number, and close that loophole, as well.

In the fight against unwanted telemarketing calls, peace and quiet at home is dependent on guarding your phone number however you can. Especially since the only thing AT&T (and other telecom companies) will do is charge you for the privilege of not listing it.