Thursday, May 14, 2009

Do Not Call. (No, seriously, don't)

Several weeks ago we had a bad hail storm in our area. Some roofs in our neighborhood have been replaced, and one of these days we'll get ours looked at to see if we have the privilege of paying a deductible to get a less-than-two-year-old roof replaced.

So the vultures have been circling. ("Vultures" being roofing companies, and "circling" being annoyingly begging us to let them do free evaluations and estimates.) As a rule, I say no to these offers; I'd prefer to do my own research and contact companies myself.

Recently, I got this call:

"Hello?"

"Hi, I'm Sue from SoAndSo Roofing; we are an experienced local company who has been in the business for 20 years; we are looking at other homes in your neighborhood, giving free evaluations of their roofs since the recent storm, and giving estimates when necessary; we'll be in your neighborhood Friday, Saturday and Sunday and would like to give you an estimate; which day would be better for you--Friday, Saturday, or Sunday?"

(Finally, Sue pauses. Little does she know I've gotten more and more annoyed through her spiel, which was basically one big, run-on sentence with no chances for me to speak. I really don't like this tactic, which gives me options that aren't really options--I'm not being asked if I want SoAndSo Roofing to come out, but when. I use this pseudo-choice tactic on my child but kind of think I'm too smart for it at the age of 31. So, I respond.)

"We're not interested, but thank you."

"May I ask why?"

(Another sales tactic I don't like. I have a policy of not answering this question.)

"We're not interested, but thank you."

That's when Sue hung up. Now, this really annoyed me. A few minutes later, I realized something that annoyed me even more. We're on the federal Do Not Call registry, a fact I quickly verified, which means Sue's call was illegal, as were similar ones we've received from other companies.

Yesterday I received another call. The salesperson was friendlier, but the call was still illegal. It went like this.

"Hello?"

"Hello, this is Pam Reardon from XYZ Roofing, Siding, and Gutters."

"We're on the Do Not Call list, so we shouldn't be getting this call."

(Brief pause. I get the feeling this is an objection she hasn't heard.)

"Well--your roof is okay, right?"

(Now she's caught me off-guard. That was kind of an odd response.)

"Uh, we wouldn't do business with anybody who calls us despite the Do Not Call List."

"Okay."

(She still sounds a bit taken aback, and the call is over. I look back on this conversation and laugh that it was really two entirely separate conversations, each of us politely refusing to actually respond to the other person's message.)

Now, here's where I would love to hear your opinions. I could easily file a complaint against the company who called me yesterday. I still have the phone number on my Caller ID, and the process is simple. Most likely nothing would come of it, but the information would go in a database and could possibly be used in a future lawsuit. The Engineer and I agreed, however, that we don't want to "go after" local companies just trying to stay in business.

That felt right to me at first...until I started thinking about it from a business standpoint. These companies that are making illegal phone calls are, presumably, getting some business as a result. A portion of that business is probably being, in essence, stolen from more ethical companies who refuse to do illegal marketing. This bothers me a lot and makes me wonder if I should take the limited recourse I have, in defense of the companies who aren't calling us.

What would you do?

32 comments:

silver star said...

While I can't offer any solutions, as someone who's also on the do not call list and keeps getting calls anyways, you were much nicer to them than I would be. Of course, these people tend to wake me up (disadvantage to sleeping during the day) and I'm not friendly to anyone who calls and wakes me up, maybe a little if my boss calls, but that's it.

Gator said...

I'm a HUGE customer service person. To me, if a company isn't complying with the law in this way, they need to stop. I would totally file a complaint. If they are simply a local company that just didn't think before they chose to solicite business in this manner, then they will be made aware of it and stop. If not, then they deserve what comes to them.

Honestly, if that happened to me, I wouldn't have answered the call in the first place. I'm very big on using my caller id to decide if its someone worth talking to :) I admire you for answering those calls and actually dealing with them instead of avoiding them in the first place :)

Ali

Heather said...

I'm a total whistle-blower.

Barga said...

I would not report them for something that they have every right to do. The government has no right to limit who can be told certain things

kellilarablogspot said...

I think the right thing to do, if you want to take action, is to call that first company back & inform them of their illegal activity. I would also (politely, of course) let them know being hung up on spoke more to you than the rude run-on sentence you received as a greeting. And I would include in my phone call the point that not only is monopolizing someone's time like that a selfish approach but it is an assuming one: what if you were on the phone with someone on the other line & only clicked over b/c you were afraid the call was important as well? What if you were pottying your child with one hand while changing a diaper on the bathroom floor with the other? What if you were cooking a meal & had a crying child on a hip & stirring with your free hand?

I mean, really . . . the right thing to do, in my Book, is to go to them personally first. Their response to that would determine my answer to your original question.

~ Danna (logged in as my daughter, sorry)

beckiwithani said...

I think you should call them, ask to speak to a supervisor, and calmly explain exactly what you just told us. About your reluctance to report a local company, but your desire for more law-abiding companies to not suffer.

I think there's a good chance that local companies haven't given much thought to the federal DNC list. The companies who really have something to lose (and therefore have the list on their radar) are the professional contractors who are just in business for the sake of making marketing phone calls for their clients. This roofing company is not a professional marketing caller. They probably just have someone who makes these calls after big storms and the like.

If you calmly explain your position, and you explain that you will have to report them if you get another call from them, then chances are good that you might actually get them to reconsider their position.

beckiwithani said...

I cross-posted with Danna!

kellilarablogspot said...

Hah! Becki -- kinda nifty, eh? :oP

LEstes65 said...

What about calling those companies directly and asking them, politely, why they ignore the Do Not Call list. Because, personally, I'd like to know. Or go to their website and ask them via email. This might open them up to feeling like they can contact you again. However, if you really want to find out and are ready to counter any further calls with, "You DO realize I contacted you about your company's illegal use of phone numbers on the Do Not Call list, right?" maybe it would work.

OR...here's a better thought: why not send this post to one of the local news stations and let their watch-dog reporter take a crack at this very subject.

I mean, I'm with you. I want local businesses to get business. But mom & pop have to follow the rules just like big ol' corporate machines.

Barga said...

i dont understand how you guys are arguing that we should infringe on the 1st here

Living With Lindsay said...

You know what bothers me the most about stuff like this? I'm sure there are some elderly people that they get on the phone and before they know it, the folks are out $$$.

Here's our story, since we had hail damage in our neighborhood, too. Tom was outside working in the yard when some people came by (we get them at least once a day). They offered to get up on our roof and check it out, so he let them. They came down and said it's not that bad, but if we wanted to, we could replace it. Tom said, "Uh, we have a $3k deductible so no thanks." They started telling him that we could make up things to claim - like a wooden swing set, etc - to make sure we'd get enough $$ back to cover our deductible. Slimy, slimy, slimy.

I don't think it's infringing on someone's right to free speech to ask them not to call you - which is what the Do Not Call list does. I've never heard that argument before.

Call Me Cate said...

First offense, I'd probably contact the company directly. It's funny, I've never really thought about this when it comes to local companies but we don't get many calls from those.

I did once have a go at a door-to-door salesman, telling him we're on the Do Not Call list and I was pretty sure it wasn't cool for him to circumvent that by trespassing on my property. (The guy was obnoxious and pushy or else I would've politely turned him away.)

Writer Dad said...

Wow, I like this dilemma. I HATE phone solicitors and I've yet to dig up the simple intelligence to add myself to the Do not call registry. I say report them. Give the companies playing by the rules a fairer shake.

nopinkhere said...

Hmm. I haven't really run into this because we don't have a traditional phone and I don't answer my cell unless I recognize the number. Anybody else can just leave a message.

I'm sure it hasn't crossed the local companies' minds that they need to pay attention to something like the federal do not call list. I don't think I would report them, but I would make sure to bring it up with every single one that calls. If you're feeling more energetic, call back and talk to a supervisor/manager to explain that since they called you in spite of the list they are on your personal "do not use" list.

If you do decide you need a new roof, I'd be happy to recommend the guys who did ours. I hope they won't be on your list!

Sam said...

I think you have some great ideas about what to do about the unsolicited calls. On the other hand, I tend to agree with The Engineer about local companies.

However, (since I'm the dad) I want to say something about all those "roofing" companies looking for business. Your PaPa told me many years ago about all these companies that get into the roofing business after hail storms. The problem is that they are gone once you need warranty work done. Soooo, I would recommend that you find someone who has been in business for many years and call them. I suspect that it may take you days (if not a few weeks) to get an estimate because they are probably overloaded with work right now.

BUT, the next call you get (or the next person at the door), you can simply say, "We already have a roofing company. Thank you." End of conversation.

kellilarablogspot said...

Barga, I hadn't considered the perspective of the Do Not Call list infringing on the First Amendment. Very thought-provoking -- I like it.

~ Danna

Becky said...

I have no patience with people violating the DNC list. I'd report them without a second thought, but that's just me. It's hard to believe that companies doing telephone business in this day and age don't understand that the DNC list applies to them.

And as far as it infringing on the First Amendment? Other peoples'/companies' rights end where mine begin. I have a right to privacy within my own home, and I personally feel that having telemarketers calling is an invasion of that privacy.

It probably would be the nicer thing to do to call the company first and hear what they have to say before reporting them. Telemarketing calls just happen to be one of my pet peeves, so I personally would take the hard-line approach. :-)

C. Beth said...

Wow, these are some fantastic ideas!!

silver star--Honestly, I think I have a phobia of being rude. I have gotten better at being assertive so that's much healthier than how I used to do it when I was more likely to be a doormat. :)

Gator--Actually, this one was just someone's name as the Caller ID. I think someone was hired to make the calls from their home, maybe?

Gator, Heather, Writer Dad, & Becky--You all suggested reporting them. Part of me agrees with you--the law is there for a reason; people in business should be aware of laws that affect them. (Becky--I agree anyone in business SHOULD be aware of this. Maybe they aren't--but I'm a real estate agent and have heard of the Do Not Call database PLENTY of times.) I think it's good some people are the whistle-blower types; it's part of what makes the law work, most of the time, in the US.

Barga--I think people could argue all day about which is more important--the companies' right to free speech or the consumers' right to privacy. I tend to have some libertarian leanings, though that is changing somewhat recently. However--even if this SHOULDN'T be a law, it IS. If the companies believe the DNC rules violate their right to free speech, they need to take it up in the courts, not ignore the law. That's how I see it. I think civil disobedience is only justifiable in a small number of cases, and telemarketing isn't one of them!

Danna, Becki, Lestes65, Call Me Cate, nopinkhere--I actually really like this idea, of going to the company first. I think in the future I will do that. I don't even know which companies called me--I need to jot it down as soon as I hear the name next time. Both of the last two calls showed up on my Caller ID as names of people, making me think people are calling from home (probably just hired to make calls for this situation.) So I wouldn't know who to call--but in the future I want to use this idea. Thank you all!

Lindsay--Oh, my gosh, those types of companies make me SO MAD!!! They are contributing to high insurance rates! Ugh....

nopinkhere--I would love to know who you used! We plan to call the company our pastor used, but I think it might be a good idea to talk to two companies. I'll e-mail you.

Sam--Great advice from you & Papa! Thank you! We don't mind it taking longer--if our roof is damaged it's not bad enough to cause leaks, and a delay isn't a problem. But I have to disagree with only saying, "We already have a roofing company." I really feel strongly about making these people aware of the Do Not Call rules. If they're unaware, it may make them think twice, and if they are aware, it may make them a bit afraid to continue the illegal behavior.

Thank you all for the excellent feedback! This has been a really interesting conversation!

Barga said...

@C beth
what right to privacy? I can stand in front of your house will a megaphone within certain hours and yell at you all i want. As long as i do not invade your property, that is as far as your right goes
(i can also use a super camera and shoot pics through your windows, but i am sure the eng. would kill me)

C. Beth said...

Barga--The right to free speech is of course explicitly guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. However, courts have ruled repeatedly that the right to privacy is implicitly guaranteed.

And even if right to privacy should not be applied in this case (which is admittedly debatable), the place to determine that is the courts. It's not okay for a company to ignore the law. If they think the law is unconstitutional, they can take it to court. If they win, we can all consider other options that might help us avoid unwanted calls.

And if you're shooting pictures through windows, you might want to choose someone who hasn't been pregnant twice in the last four years. I'm just sayin'.

Barga said...

it is, while on private things and in your own self. Using a public thing (your phone line is public, sorry) there is no gaurentee save for your own personal self

C. Beth said...

Public line attached to my private phone.

I don't even know why I'm debating this, as I really don't have a strong stance on the constitutionality of it. But it's fun to play devil's advocate.

Barga said...

that is the main problem, it is still public even if going through something private

like the web, it is considered public yet it runs entirely on private things

we just went over this in 520 today

C. Beth said...

You may be right. But I'm thinking this is one of those things even judges would be split on. You do a great job arguing your points--hope you'll use those talents as a Constitutional attorney or something similar.

Barga said...

probably will run for politics, we know that they don't care about the constitution...

2cats said...

Unless this is a company name that you can actually find in your local phone book, you do not know if it is in fact a local company. It could be a national company with local distributors.
I would report them.
When I get those calls (yes I am on the list) , I just say, "NO." And then hang up.
Someone called me back once and told me how rude I was to hang up on her. I hung up that second time too and she called back and said nothing but slammed the phone in my ear.
The gov't passed teh law after many, many citezens complained about such calls. It is our right to privacy. It is our right not to have our phone numbers thrown about.
And just a little thought here: If you answer your phone, "Hello, so and so's residence..."
The telemarketer instantly knows your last name.
Sorry that my comment went on for so long.

C. Beth said...

Great points, 2cats! And it's crazy to me that a telemarketer would be offended enough to call you back repeatedly. You'd think she would be used to being hung up on?

Gator said...

Ok, now I'm curious as to what Barga thinks about being able to solicit someone on their cell phone... I mean to answer a landline doesn't cost per call, but a cell phone (in essence) does.... But its still just a phone number...

Also, by adding myself to the Do Not Call List, am I not telling you that I personally don't want to hear what you have to say? You can say it all I want, but I don't want you to call me to do so....

Just curious....

Barga said...

I still believe they have the right to call you, just like you have the right to cuss them out
or, in my case, have a conversation about where in India they live. They were caught so off gaurd

Kama said...

I got this from the donotcall.org web site, I had to check becuase I thought I remembered that there were some businesses that were exempt. For instance, I am an Avon lady. I CAN call around locally (I choose not to, but know others who do) by going through the phone book. Here is what the website says. Pay particular attention to the word "interstate":

Who is covered by the National Do Not Call Registry?

The National Do Not Call Registry applies to any plan, program, or campaign to sell goods or services through interstate phone calls. This includes telemarketers who solicit consumers, often on behalf of third party sellers. It also includes sellers who provide, offer to provide, or arrange to provide goods or services to consumers in exchange for payment.

The National Do Not Call Registry does not limit calls by political organizations, charities, or telephone surveyors.

For more information, please see FTC INFORMATION AND DOCUMENTS below.

What about an established business relationship?

A telemarketer or seller may call a consumer with whom it has an established business relationship for up to 18 months after the consumer's last purchase, delivery, or payment - even if the consumer's number is on the National Do Not Call Registry. In addition, a company may call a consumer for up to three months after the consumer makes an inquiry or submits an application to the company. And if a consumer has given a company written permission, the company may call even if the consumer's number is on the National Do Not Call Registry.

One caveat: if a consumer asks a company not to call, the company may not call, even if there is an established business relationship. Indeed, a company may not call a consumer - regardless of whether the consumer's number is on the registry - if the consumer has asked to be put on the company's own do not call list.

C. Beth said...

Kama--Thanks for the info! I did some Googling on this, and everything I read actually confirms that the rules do cover intrastate calls as well as interstate calls. Even the telemarketing industry is acknowledging this (at this link) and if there were loopholes, they'd find them! (And rightfully so; that's their job!) In my real estate business, when the law went into effect several years back, it was made very clear to us that we had to follow it, and most of our calls would have been intrastate.

So...it sounds like the FCC needs to clarify better on their website, but apparently intrastate calls are included in the regulations as long as it's not a company or situation covered by one of the exemptions.

Beth :)

C. Beth said...

Kama--Finally--found clarification on the FCC's site, here.