This week I thought we’d take a break from the doom and gloom of politics and talk about something more fun. 

Namely, how to make life a living hell for all the telemarketers who are calling you over the holidays, interrupting your time with your family, and trying to sell you something that you not only don’t need but also something you never thought of buying in the first place.

A friend of mine recently flew a post on social media to the effect that America is not a democracy. He based his reasoning on the fact that 98% of Americans want to outlaw telemarketing but, because we still have telemarketers, our votes don’t count. 

The flaw in this argument is the fact that a sizable chunk of these calls originate in another country and that gives us our first lead-in for phone pranksterism.

Let’s say you get a call from a guy with a “southern Asia” accent. I’m specifically referring to India here but more generally to any country where they don’t have a lot of Spanish speakers.  You, however, are from Texas and ready access to some basic Spanish phrases is your birthright. “Tu eres stupido” (You are an idiot) is a good one to start with but you can use your imagination from there.

But remember — THEY called YOU — so you have license to say whatever you want without any fear of reprisal. Telemarketers from Uzbekistan don’t have much recourse on that issue. But before you descend into a profanity-laced tirade remember that you, by virtue of the fact that you do not have a crummy telemarketing job, are a smarter person. The satisfaction you may get from describing perverse acts of degradation to these people will be short-lived. The satisfaction you could get from altering how another person thinks about God and the world is more of a challenge.

That’s where I roll out my “Practicing Your Own Obituary” schtick. It goes like this:

Caller: “May I speak to Jack McKinney?”

Me: “Umm, Mr. McKinney passed away yesterday. It was very sudden. Are you a member of the family?”

Caller: “Uh, no, I’m very sorry…”

Me: “Yes, Jack was a great person, a real leader in the business community, a good father to his children (sob).”

Caller: “Well, is there anyone there I can talk to about...”

Me: “I just don’t know how the world is going to get along without Jack McKinney. Why! (screaming) Why!”

This can go on as long as you want and the beauty of it is that these guys are on a tight timeline. They have to make a certain number of contacts per hour in order to do their jobs and the more of their time that you waste the better. This leads us to the “I Have a Speech Impediment” script:

Caller: “May I speak to Jack McKinney?”

Me: “Wh-wh-wh-what?”

Caller: “May I speak to Jack McKinney?”

Me: “Hu-hu-hu-who?”

This can go on for a while but it’s really hard to keep a straight face while you’re doing it.

For our next step we’re going to get technical so I would invite you to search the internet for prerecorded or “canned” sound effects. Set up a file on your computer at work and have these things cued up and ready to go. From there you have to wait — but I guarantee you it won’t be long — and then you can unleash the sounds of audience laughter (or screaming), circus animals, a freight train or whatever. 

Or, you can devise new scripts based around these sounds. If they call on your cell phone, for example, the “car crash” soundtrack can come in real handy.

The power of American consumerism is one of the main driving forces behind the global economy and any information you may have put out there about yourself is like chum for sharks to move in and get their slice of the pie. 

But if personal information is the new form of currency, well, I really don’t have a problem making these guys work for their money. 

Do you?

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(1) comment

Regan SMITH

[beam] Thanks for starting my morning with a belly laugh. I'll remember a few of these, for the next phone telemarketer I accidentally answer.

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