The Grumpy Old Man

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Grumpy lambasts Business' love of the telephone

Fed up with being forced to do business by telephone?

Increasingly we are faced with no alternative but to do business over the telephone. Grumpy finds the large number of businesses who do this absolutely appalling. What I think is even worse is that most of them seem to record telephone conversations. They claim this is for "training purposes". But I am sure that should it come to a legal argument over what was said (and so nothing to do with training), they would be the first to consult their recordings. The customer, that is you and I don't have this facility available. The only way out of this dilemma is to insist that, if firms wish to communicate with you, then they should do so in writing. This gives both parties a record of what has been said and you, the customer, can review it, securing further information should it be necessary. By getting further information at your leisure, you are not expected to give an unconsidered response over the telephone. What happened to the good old fashioned business letter which ensured each party has a record of what was said and what is on offer?

I am also very irritated when I get cold calls claiming to be from a firm with whom I do business. Regulars of this practise are the utility companies. I find it particularly annoying that although they ask for me by name, they then go on and ask me a number of what they call "security questions". Gordon Bennett, how bloody rude! Now, whenever I am asked these questions, I respond by pointing out that they have telephoned me, so how in the world do I know they are who they claim to be? At the end of the day, there are no security questions I can ask to verify their identity. Here they are, ringing up out of the blue, presuming to ask very pointed questions on private and sensitive matters of finance. Quite honestly, I find it most unprofessional and unbusiness like.

I now refuse to discuss any financial matters over the telephone and request that, should firms wish to communicate with me, then they should do so in writing. Again, should I wish to respond to them, I have had the time to collect and collate the information required to make a reasoned response. I am not being called upon to make an off-the-cuff assessment and response at a time that they choose to telephone me, which, I might add, is usually at a very inconvenient time.

And what about cold-call telephone calls coming from obscure areas of the world? The current ones being Egypt, the Indian subcontinent and some obscure state in midwest America. These callers invariably introduce themselves by saying "hello my name is Fred" or something like that, never giving much more information. They will then go on to request personal details or information about the computer we are using. They are obviously trying to get sufficient information to access my computer and through that perhaps gain access to my bank account.

I regard these calls as a type of modern day SPAM. Having registered our phone number with the advertising preferences agency, we should not be getting any of them. To discourage these callers, I ask for the name of the person making the call and the name of the company he represents. Caller ID gives me their telephone number. Finally, if the person making the call has not by then hung up, I inform him that his telephone call is currently an illegal intrusion into my privacy and, armed with the information that I already have, I shall be making a report to the appropriate authorities to ensure that he and his company are put out of business.

I must observe that, by the time I get to that stage, the caller has invariably disconnected. There are many ways in which we can fight back against these petty annoyances. Perhaps ultimately, just blowing a referee's whistle down the phone! Certainly never be tempted to lie back and do nothing.