Monday, January 6, 2014

'I've had ruder'

     Phone calls from telemarketers bring out the worst in me. Reflexively, I dig in my heels and oppose whatever they are selling. Sadistically, I like to toy with them.
     None irks me more than Charter cable, which employs legions of demons-on-commission to cold-call citizens and try to re-sell us on services we have cancelled:
     “Hello, I’m calling on behalf of Charter—may I speak to Mr. or Mrs. Layton?”
     Now if Mrs. Layton calls Charter, they won’t speak to her, because the bill is in my name, not hers. But the phone-bombers are under no such restrictions.
     “This is Mr. Layton.” I know what's coming next. 
     “May I verify that you are at least 18 years old?”
     Charter obviously doesn't know me, even though I have been a customer for most of 30 years. That should be verification enough. 
     Thirty years represents necessity more than loyalty. U-verse hasn't made it up my hill yet, and Dish can't see over my trees. Charter has a monopoly on ESPN and TBS, which is about all the Laytons watch, though we have to take several hundred others in the package. Occasionally we cancel some services, such as Internet or free HBO, which is our way of squealing when the monthly price ratchets too high. Right now, I am tolerating slower Internet from AT&T just to teach Charter a lesson.
     “Why do you need to verify my age? You don't ask if I'm 18 before your commercials try to sell me a beer. Besides, if you were really from Charter, you would know that I have been a customer more than 18 years.”
     “Sir, I am just following the script.”
     So I’m part of a script, playing a bit part in some drama that for all I know, is being broadcast live right now on Channel 942.
     I’ve gotten this call enough to know how to answer. I could tell them an age, but what does that verify? I could tell them I’m 17 and escape the call right there, but if I was really 17 I would pretend to be 18, so where does that leave me? 
     So I play along and ask the caller, “Can you verify how old you are?”
     The first time I tried that, the young man on the other end confessed that he was just 17. I was immediately embarrassed to be taking advantage of a kid trying to earn an honest buck. I simmered down, politely expressed my frustrations with Charter and asked him to relay my comments to management. He admitted that he couldn’t really do that, because he doesn’t actually work for Charter. He's just an independent salesboy. 
     I hung up the phone and hung my head in shame. Mrs. Layton may not be authorized to speak to Charter, but she has earned the right to tell me when I'm being childish. At that moment, I don’t think she would have vouched that I was acting 18.
     Just the other day, I got another call from a lady representing Charter. When she asked me to verify my age, I went off-script and asked her how old she was.
     “I’m 41,” she replied. 
     Well, shame on me. I meant to just ask her if she was over 18, but now I’ve gone taboo and asked a stranger her age.  So I took a deep breath and tried to muster the manners of a Southern gentleman. After all, I'm the last daddy in America who taught his kids to say “Yes Sir” and “No Ma’am” and don't call a policeman a cop.
     “Begging your pardon and bless your heart, ma'am. I know that you’re just doing your job. I’m sorry if I was rude.”
     “Oh, I’ve had ruder.”
     Well! I expected her to politely say, "That's okay" or "Apology accepted" or the ubiquitous "No problem"which can stand in for everything from "You're welcome" to "You're rude."
     I never expected her to acknowledge my rudeness and then rank it as inadequate.
     Yet for the way I treated her, I deserved worse.
     If a telemarketer can bring me to shame, then what can I do but repent?
     Never again will I ask a telemarketer her age.
     Call me.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so happy the minor telemarketer story has a sequel.

    Unfortunately, you're children usually call policemen cops (we do know better). Worse yet, when your two youngest are together, we call them poe-poe.