Image by elh70 via FlickrI was relaxing at home in the evening on the Monday before Thanksgiving, around 19:30, looking through a Hebrew-English dictionary to try and figure out what the song title “הלב שלנו” means in English. (I never did find the meaning of the word הלב; it seems to be conspicuously absent from both dictionaries I possess.) But an interruption was about to occur.
The phone rang.
Normally that would be a simple matter – just pick up the phone, read the Caller ID, and decide whether or not to answer it – but this situation was remarkable in that Caller ID is unavailable at my house. Put more correctly, Caller ID is a subscription service that we do not subscribe to. The cost is several dollars per month, and the phones at home aren’t used enough to justify the expense.
So, I must answer the call without knowing who is on the other end. It’s usually either GrandCentral or my mother, but this time it’s a “robot” call. A recorded voice begins speaking to me. On the off-chance that I will be hanging up on a real person who might at some point ask an actual question, I stay on the line.
I needn’t have bothered. Upon coming to a spot in the text where a changing date is to be inserted, the voice pauses, changes, and continues in a vastly different tone. I hung up before the original voice could return.
For a fact, I know that the number I answered is almost certainly on the Do Not Call List, which is supposed to prohibit marketing calls. The only problem is, there’s a loophole. Non-profit organizations, pollsters, and political campaigns seem to be allowed to dial blacklisted numbers without fear of repercussions. The content of this particular call is irrelevant; the fact remains that this is not the first time, and will not be the last.
Denying the possibility of prohibiting unsolicited telephone calls altogether (a most appealing option, actually), I honestly believe that there should be an option for numbers on the Do Not Call List (or a second list for the purpose) to block all unsolicited calls, whether made by computer or human. In addition, Caller ID should be a standard feature on all telephone lines, with no extra charge. (See “Caller ID Should Be Standard” for more in-depth coverage.)
With respect to blocking all unsolicited calls, some of us just don’t want to be bothered by such an intrusive device unless we know the caller, personally or professionally. If you want to sell me something, convince me to vote for you in an election, or gain my good will and receive a donation of some sort, please take your marketing elsewhere. Interrupt me while I’m on the Internet. No, I do not mean that you should spam me or add me to an email list; I would find such practices just as annoying as unsolicited telephone calls. I mean you should advertise. Buy spots in Google AdWords or something.
See, I don’t object to you getting your message out, but rather to the way you’re going about doing so. The Internet provides a medium where a) people are used to being interrupted by ads, so they will be automatically less disruptive, and b) there is increased likelihood of your ad being relevant. A random telephone call is most definitely less relevant than a Web ad placed near text that relates to what is being advertised.
Feel free to ask me to donate clothing to your cause, vote for your candidate, or buy the latest and greatest in window-blind technology; just do it in a way that doesn’t waste my time or interrupt something I’m already doing.