Friday, May 09, 2008

Poll-cats and telemarketers

Robert S. P. commented earlier, in part: "As a poor student who does polling ...I really have no sympathy for people who abuse and are rude to telemarketers and even more so pollsters. They're mostly students and low-income people. If you don't want to talk, don't answer the phone. "

Robert, I appreciate your perspective. And Angus and I acknowledge that you are one of our best readers, and almost always correct (meaning you agree with us).

But: I have to answer the phone. I have two teen-age sons, and they get into scrapes. Flat tire, forgot something, locked keys in car, got lost, etc.

Further, IT IS MY PHONE. I paid for it. I am on the "Do not call" list. Unless you want to pay me for my time, that means, "Do not call." I am happy to consider offers to do phone interviews, for pay. Just send the contract via U.S. mail, and we'll negotiate it.

Finally, the "I was just following orders" defense didn't fare well at Nuremberg. Why should we credit it now?*

So, I will answer the phone. And if it someone calling me for their commercial gain, at a waste of my time, then abuse will occur. I have zero sympathy for involuntary exploitation of phone-owners just because they happen to be polite. Angus and I, unafflicted by this politeness malady, strike a blow for justice.

I owe civility to invited guests, and to strangers who need my help. If your car breaks down in front of my house, then come on in, use the phone, and I'll make tea and break out a plate of pecan sandies while we wait for the tow truck.

But no civility is owed to people who call me for their gain, against my expressed wishes.

[*Yes, of course this is a ridiculous comparison. What are blogs for?]


Anonymous said...

If you don't want to talk, don't answer the phone.

If you don't want to get your telemarketing ass chewed, then don't call my house.

Anonymous said...

So, suppose you got called for an ANES pilot study... What then? Does that qualify as "for (the caller's) commercial gain"?

(As you might guess, this tips my hand about where I draw the line: Academic surveys, yes; telemarketing/for-profit polling houses, no. Then again, I haven't had a land line since the 90s, so it's not a big problem...).

Unknownprofessor said...

Back when the Unknown Daughter was three years old, I figured she needed practice talking on the phone (She's seven now, and believe me, she no longer needs practice).

So whenever we got a call from a pollster or telemarketer, we'd tell here it was for her. We recorded some of those calls from the other line, and we still get a kick out of her telling the caller about her belly button.

It probably raised the average intelligence level of the people responding to the poll a couple of points to boot.

Anonymous said...

Pumpkin, isn't the Do not call list the result of some big bad regulation that the Government created? Aren't you supposed to be against those things?

Tommy, I only have a mobile and believe internet surveys where the respondent gets paid work, the Englishman

Anonymous said...

Amen brother Munger

Mungowitz said...

Um....I believe that government should protect property rights.

And should prosecute trespassing.

The "Do Not Call" list is the phone equivalent of a "No Trespassing Sign" on a piece of land.

So, no, I don't think that government enforcement of "Do Not Call" is a problem. Why would it be?

I am not an anarchist.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I will elaborate.

A technological solution has been proposed to help the problem of phone calls: caller ID. If you are sitting at home and it comes up “Durham Police” or “Younger Munger Cell Phone”, then I’d say answer it, if it comes up “1-402-555-6666 Gallup Organization” or “1-800-444-5555 Credit Card Company” then you know not to answer it.

Secondly I would dispute that there is any “right” not to be phoned. Do you have a right not to be mailed letters? By choosing to have a mailbox and telephone you are allowing people to contact you. Also, I’m not sure how the laws work in the United States, but in Canada the Do Not Call list does not apply to polling companies. I don’t believe for a second that the Do Not Call list is justified by the government. Such lists should be made with your telephone companies.

As I said in my original comment my concern lies more with pollsters than telemarketers. Polling companies, in my opinion, provide a useful service. That might be debatable, but nevertheless are used extensively by government, industry, and politicians. All of the Obama/Clinton/McCain numbers come from telephone surveys. This is certainly a useful metric even one is jaded about democracy. And I can’t tell you the amount of time I’ve heard someone decline a survey because it isn’t paid. I’ll agree that time is our scarcest resource, but 5 minutes of your time isn’t worth that much.

I’m going to be honest I don’t understand what the Nuremberg defense is referring to? Where did I say anything about following orders? And though you admit it’s a “ridiculous comparison”, I don’t understand why you’d make it. Making a living by phoning people and taking a few seconds of their time isn’t even thematically similar to murdering 6 million people. My point is that it is just people trying to earn money by doing a job you find annoying, but it’s not immoral.

I don’t understand at all how you can say that an unwanted phone call justifies abuse. This is mindboggling to me. I can understand, sort of, not wanting a phone call. But what is the proportional response? Here’s the answer: if it’s a pollster, say simply “No thanks” and hang up. It really is that simple. If it’s a telemarketer keeps on talking, just hang up. I also have no idea what you are talking about when you “involuntary exploitation”. Are you really trying to tell me that answering a phone is tantamount to exploitation? (Leaving aside the fact that it certainly is voluntary.)

When I said I “have no sympathy for people who...are rude” I wasn’t referring to hanging up, that’s fine, I get it all the time. What I am talking about, and what it appears you support, is yelling, swearing and otherwise abusive things said to interviewers. If a door-to-door salesman came to your door to sell you a vacuum would you tell him to “fuck off and die”? If a couple Mormons came to your door, would you go into a tirade about how they owe you money for wasting your valuable time? I think not. If yes, then I’d have to say that person would be a poor excuse for a human being.

You may not “owe” civility to anyone, but what does it gain the world to be rude to a bunch of students and low-income people who are doing a job? It’s legal, not immoral and obviously beneficial to the companies and the employees.

Anonymous said...

Good idea on the private Do Not Call list. Can't believe I didn't think of that. Phone companies lost a profit opportunity by not doing it before the Feds.