Sunday, 4 July 2010

Cold callers

I empathized with Alison's lovely blog of July 2nd, concerning the sense of humour failure of the secretary checking her into a course at Summer School. She made a quip over the telephone, and there was, she said , "Silence. The tumbleweed rolled past me into the humour desert. Sigh - it could be a LONG 5 days". Hestia's Larder blog of July 2.

The odd thing is that everybody thinks they have a Good Sense of Humour. Almost every punter in the Dating columns of newspapers claims to have GSOH, but how often do they admit to NSOH, though its pretty important when you're looking for emotional harmony. People who never stop trying to be funny can be extremely irritating, can't I.

The thing is though, Alison, that you can have a lot of fun in the humour-free desert with unknown people, provided its on the telephone where they can't see you and they can't hit you.

I get most satisfaction from the 'Cold Callers', those who ring up just as you're about to serve dinner and who try not to let you know at first that they want to sell you something. There are several techniques, depending on how much time I have:-

1. If I'm in a hurry I let them off gently.
Cold caller- "Good evening John, and how are you today".
Me - "Absolutely dreadful, I've just been told I have cancer of the pancreas and I have only 2 weeks to live, do you give credit ?".
C.C.- " No problem".
Me - "Self-fornicate elsewhere". (Phone down).

2. With a little more time to spare we do my 'How dangerous is he?' routine.
We go through the preliminaries ... we're in your area... we've chosen your postal code for a free security check of your property.........we'll fit everything at your convenience with a 75% reduction...etc.
With this technique I try to be affable and cooperative, but a little bit, shall we say offbeat, slightly zany, he's an odd sort of fellow, isn't he? Not willing to give his exact address, wonder why not. Then when they've almost clinched the deal I say "Obviously I'll have to confirm this with my wife". "Certainly Sir I'll just hold on while you speak to her". "Oh, I wouldn't wait that long if I were you, she's in the attic and I only take her food in once a week".

Silence... nervous laughter, "Ha ha, well perhaps you could call her down and I'll speak to her myself".

"Oh, she can't come out, because of all the locks and chains... the security you know all about that, don' t you?" Prolonged silence, perhaps with muttering in the background.

"Listen John, how long has she been in the attic?". "Oh, it must be about 3 years, since the last one had her little accident" (Phone down).

3. If I have plenty of time and I'm just waiting until the potatoes are boiled, I use my third technique,where the permutations are endless.
I try to have a gin and tonic to hand and I get settled into an easy chair. We go through the usual preliminaries and this time I'm really enthusiastic and keen to buy whatever it is. It might be 'Magic-Weather-Guard' silicone-paint treatment of all my outer walls, just as an example. I spin it out and whet their appetite as much as possible...."it's a huge house,.....Oh, I guess there's about 19 bedrooms,....... about 90 metres long and 3 stories high........but we have 3 guest cottages too..... we had it in our last house and it was wonderful,..... well worth the money, .....I persuaded all our neighbours to have it and they were thrilled..." and so on.

When I can hear the saliva dripping onto their order-book I gradually begin to introduce the hurdles they must overcome......"what colours do you have nowadays? ..... you don't still do that candy-stripe effect, do you?.....couldn't you get some made up specially? ...... what's your best deal on credit arrangements,..... I'd need a 20 year warranty, .....of course you can come and inspect the property, how about 6 am next Sunday?....what do you mean you can't make it that early, I have to work too, you, do you want the business or not?....well go and ask your manager week did you say? I can't manage anything until after Christmas....what do you mean you can't book that far ahead, you're not one of these fly-by-night businesses that folds up after 6 weeks are you? .....well obviously its in next year's diary I'm not stupid......well fetch it then.... can I speak to your manager again please... "

And so it goes on until the potatoes are cooked and its time to administer the coup de grace. "Can I just check that this Magic-Weather-Guard paint of yours is compatible with my walls, the last stuff didn't seem to go on at all smoothly....... what are the walls made of? ....feathers, of course!" (Phone down).

Mmmm, that is sooo satisfying.

This will be my last Post for a few days as I'm popping up to Manchester for a Dermatology Conference. If you miss me, why not buy my book ('Why Man Made Gods and Dogs' by John Burton, any profits go to the National Eczema Society) which will tell you all about Big Bangs, Parallel Universes, String Theory, Sex, Gods, Spirituality, where its all leading to, and when...... and there's even a serious bit about dogs.


  1. Wonderful - I'm a big fan of wasting their time in this manner.

    Pretending to be foreign is also quite fun, especially as you usually end up drifting from Pakistani to Welsh via Jamaican and get the giggles halfway through.

    Some people will say it's not fair, that they're only doing their job, sat in a call centre reading script after script to disinterested homeowners, but I really couldn't give a fig.

  2. Told you!

  3. Oops,I hadn't realized H. and Four Star had got there before me, but I'm relieved to know I'm not the only evil one in the world. I liked the foreign language idea. I've tried the "Oh I'm afraid he died some time ago" and when they say "Who is that speaking?" I mutter softly"St. Peter, (then in a loud voice) S for sugar, T for Thomas.... ". Takes 'em quite a time to twig sometimes.