Wednesday, March 16, 2011

There Oughta Be a Law...

OK, so I'd probably be the first person to tell you that we have too many laws already, and I'm completely in favor of having some sort of "sunset provision" where old laws come up for review every ten years or so, in order to see if they're still needed. And most of the time, I'd like to see less government interference in business, unless said business is acting badly.

And in this case, I think that a business is acting badly. Even worse, I can't even identify the business in question.

It goes like this: For some reason, I still have a land-line phone, though I question why I do this on a regular basis. ("In case of emergency" is the only reason I can conjure up, but I can probably do other things for the same peace of mind that don't cost $33 a month.) I never actually answer this phone, but it's hooked up to an answering machine (no sense in paying the phone company for voicemail when I have a perfectly functional, if ancient, device on hand), and most of the time, people just hang up on it, which is fine. I get the occasional long-winded messages from political candidates when election time comes around, but otherwise, if anything is even on the tape, it's a dial tone (remember those?) from the caller having hung up concurrently with the beep of the machine.

But lately, there's been a disturbing trend: Companies who not only use a recorded message--which is annoying enough in the first place--but start the message right when the machine picks up. That means that anything the robo-caller "says" during the time it takes for my greeting message to play (and my greeting is looooong, basically advising everyone to send me email instead) is clipped off, so what I hear after the beep is the second half of the message, if even that much.

Again, this is annoying, especially when the caller ends up requesting a person who has never been at this number (of which, I should point out, I have been the sole holder, seeing as how my area code was created during the time it was assigned to me). Sometimes they sound like they might even be collection agencies, but there's no way in the world I'm going to call them back without knowing if the call was even intended for me in the first place.

So here's where it gets really bad--the thing that has sparked my possible call to action: Lately, I've gotten some calls where the recorded voice has obviously "spoken" the name of a person during the time when my greeting is still playing, so I miss that portion of the message on my recording. But the part I do hear goes something like this: "If you are not the person we have named, you have five seconds to hang up. By continuing on the line, you acknowledge that you are the person in question."

The problem here is pretty obvious, I would think: During such a call (at which point I'm not even home, mind you), my answering machine is not smart enough to recognize the name of the person and hang up if it's not me. So in effect, my machine is committing me to something that is likely not true, without my being able to do something about it!

So this is one of those rare times where I'll actually say, "There oughta be a law." At the very least, I would like to see such robo-calls outlawed, because an answering machine is being asked to do something which it has neither the capability nor the authority to do. (And I'd really like to see robo-calls themselves outlawed, but I'm certain that Big Telemarketing has its hands in the pockets of enough members of Congress that such a thing could happen anytime soon.)

Have you had any experiences like this from a robo-call? And do you agree that this behavior needs to be outlawed? Let me know in the comments.

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