Let’s Talk About Rights!

 Posted by at 7:11 am
May 102014

line_figure_phone_400If you haven’t been around long enough, you might not remember what life was like prior to the “Do Not Call List.” The actual label for this is the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) and it first passed in 1995. Managed by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), the rule has seen numerous amendments and, in good government fashion, complications. The essence of the rule is that telemarketers are required to check the “Do Not Call List” prior to making an unsolicited call. As with most laws, there are numerous exceptions, exemptions, and a fair amount of fine print.

Prior to the rule, life included frequent interruptions at all times of the day from a wide variety of folks trying to sell something. About the only way to cope was to simply hang up as soon as you recognized the call’s purpose. If I was feeling particularly feisty and had the time I would occasionally engage in what I called “terrorizing telemarketers.” The TSR has, thankfully, significantly reduced the need and opportunity.

But it hasn’t eliminated it. I’ve been receiving an occasional call from somebody name “Ohan” who is quite sure he needs to help me improve my social networking to build my real estate business. I’m a bit intrigued that he starts out by claiming he’s doing some research — that’s one of the exemptions used to circumvent the rule. Of course if you stay on the phone, you’ll discover the research is answering the question “will you buy my product/service.” Since I’d had the call before, I interrupted, so stated, and requested I be taken off his list of people to call.

He replied, “There is no list. I got your phone number from the Internet.” Then I made a tragic error. I didn’t hang up. Instead I replied, “Well thereis a do not call list and I’m on it. You need to stop calling me.”

Then it got really interesting. Instead of accepting the fact I had no interest in talking with him, he decided to convince me of how stupid I am. What a smart sales technique! The essence of his argument was that since I’d listed my personal cell phone as a business contact, he could legally call me since “business to business” calls are exempt. Now I will freely admit I’m not sure on this one… if I list my personal cell phone number as a way to contact me for business purposes does that give him the right to call? It might.

But it doesn’t give him the right to ignore my explanation that I’m not interested in talking with him. He actually said he was trying to “educate” me. I replied that he was wrong–he was actually trying to waste my time. With that, I hung up while he was still. He did succeed in thoroughly annoying me–at least briefly.

I’m now amused. Clearly he wanted to convince me he and his company know how to increase my business through social networking. What he did instead was demonstrate his own lack of basic social skills. This experience reminded me of yet another self-appointed social media and coaching expert who, when challenged on a statement she made in a meeting, informed me I don’t understand coaching.

Ben Franklin said, “Ignorance is its own defense.” So assuming I am uneducated and lack understanding I think it’s my right to be so and to remain so.

As long as we’re discussing my deficiencies, another thing I don’t understand is why anyone would think this sort of behavior is endearing and likely to result in a sale–let alone a positive relationship. There have been some interesting things written about how social networking is changing the way we view relationships. Who hasn’t noticed the tendency to speak one’s mind on Facebook–even to the point of insulting others?  Maybe it does make sense that the social media experts (at least these two) believe annoying and insulting people is the way to go.

Thankfully, I’m not an expert on social media. I’ve always thought that having the legal right to do something doesn’t mean you should do it. Most businesses are relationship based. You won’t build much of a relationship with prospective clients by simply exercising your rights.

Footnote: I’m not suggesting we ignore the law! Violation of the TSR carries significant penalties in addition to potentially annoying prospective customers. The FTC has published a thorough online outline with clickable links that will help you understand complying with the Telemarketing Sales Rule.