Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Telemarketing is Back, Baby!

It seems as of late, a lot of people are getting back into telemarketing.

I have been getting a lot of telemarketing calls, lately, which is odd, considering I am on the Do Not Call list.  Some of them are outright frauds - trying to get you to sign up for "debt reduction" services.   These people violate the Do Not Call Registry laws and simply don't care - the re-incorporate once a few complaints are filed and move on.  The law only affects law-abiding citizens.  Criminals could care less.

Others try to skirt the law, claiming they fall under one of the exemptions.   For example, surveys are exempt, so one company, selling bogus "energy audits" claims to be doing a survey (which they are not) and then sells you an energy audit.

Charities are exempt and lately a company called "Donor Services Group" has been calling a lot of people soliciting donations for everything from the World Wildlife Fund, to Greenpeace, to Oxfam America.   And of course, they take a slice off the top and then send the rest to the charity, which, after paying high salaries to the people in the board room (1/3 Million to the CEO - now that's fighting poverty, one CEO at time!) decides to hire "Donor Services Group".  It is a nice little loop.

Sorry, I think I'll take a pass on that, Oxfam.  Oxfam is one of the better rated charities, getting an A- rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy.   But its decision to hire an outside telemarketing firm to raise money is, I think, ill-advised.

First impressions are important, and people don't like having their phone lines tied up or their cell minutes used by a telemarketing company.  Moreover, people don't like being interrupted at dinner or at other inconvenient times of the day by telemarketers.  And people don't like it when someone calls, but fails to leave a message, but instead, just keeps calling, and calling, and calling, and calling, until you finally answer.

Similarly, I do not like getting robo-calls, either.   Jumping out of the shower to answer the phone, only to hear the recorded voice of Saxby Chandliss, asking me to vote for him.   To me, this is how you lose votes, not gain them.

Just a suggestion, but if you are hawking for charity or selling a candidate, you might want to check the Do Not Call Registry.  People who sign up for this are people who do not like being called.  And often, you are wasting your time calling such folks, if not just pissing them off.

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Note:  Some have accused OXFAM of being a BINGO - Big International Non-Governmental Agency.  And of course, NGO's have gotten a bad rap lately, sometimes well-deserved.

One of the problems of "feeding the poor" is that it doesn't address the causes of poverty or starvation - such as overpopulation, lack of birth control, civil war, corrupt governments and leaders, stupid fundamentalist religious values, etc.

And some argue that when a charity goes into an African country and throws food around, oftentimes the long-term result is disastrous.

For example, petty dictators who have thrown their country in to wars with neighbors or civil wars internally, can be propped up by food aid - when people run out of food, they revolt (as they have in many Arab countries).  Keeping the poor fed means only keeping a corrupt leader in power - and the charity is doing the government work that the dictator should be doing.

In addition, when the food is free, this depresses prices for local farmers, who then have a harder time competing and selling their products.  As a result, local farmers go bankrupt, undercut by an NGO.

Others have questioned the non-Democratic nature of NGOs - they spend money and affect lives and even nations, but have no external accountability.

OXFAM has responded to such criticisms as being childish and ideological.  But they did not address the nature of the arguments themselves.  OXFAM's response is little more than name-calling.

And some of these criticisms are coming from Africans themselves, who after seeing decades of aid and relief sent to their countries, are not seeing the underlying problems being solved.  Give a family a bag of rice, you feed them for a day.  Give them a gun to overthrow their dictator, feed them for a lifetime.  Give them some birth control pills, perhaps they won't have 12 children that starve to death.  But of course we can't do that, now, can we?

This is not to say humanitarian aid is always bad, only that sometimes these NGOs, like any other Organization, tend to take on a life of their own - particularly when a few people at the top start making a quarter-million dollars a year or more, and don't want the money train to stop for any reason.

Of course, to some people, to even criticize a charity is scandalous.  But you have to see where your money is going.  Blindly giving to charities is not always a very good idea.

Read the American Institute of Philanthropy website sometime - it is an eye-opener.  I used to donate a lot of things and money to AMVETS over the years.  But they were rated F by AIP for spending over 65% of their money on fundraising and expenses and only 35% on programs.   In response to this, they started calling fundraising activities "programs" - and Charities can do this, legally.

If you get a solicitation in the mail from a Charity, and it has an educational pamphlet in it, they can argue that the cost of that mass-mailing is an "educational program" and thus exempt from calculation as "overhead".

What's not to like?  The only better gig to start would be a Church.   You don't even have to disclose your finances for those...

Some related posts on Organizations and Charities:

UPDATE:  November 21, 2011.  I got a call, on my cell phone, no less, from a legal journal, asking me to subscribe.  I told the lady about the Do Not Call registry and she said they got a "list of lawyer's phone numbers" from a marketing company and they were robo-calling all of them.  I mentioned to her that this might be a bad idea.  If anyone is going to sue you for SPAM telemarketing calls, it would be lawyers!

But it seems, regardless, that the number of junk calls I am getting is on the rise - about 1 a day, on average.  Everything from "lower your credit card interest rate!" robo-calls to the home energy audit scam (which they claim is a survey).

Needless to say, if you do business with someone who calls you cold, you have only yourself to blame when it all goes horribly wrong!

UPDATE:  November 22, 2011.  I get a call from a "survey firm" asking me three questions (how do your rate Republicans, Democrats, and the President, on a scale of 1 to 5, on handling the debt) with the gag that you get a "free cruise" for answering the survey.  As a joke, I play along. The gag is, of course, that you have to give them a credit card number to pay for "gratuities and meals" on-board.  The cruise line, Caribbean Cruises, is one you never heard of, and of course, it is all an utter scam.

It goes without saying that anyone who uses a survey or other subterfuge to get you to stay on the phone does not have your best interests at heart.  Any business relationship entered into predicted on a lie, no matter how small, is bound to go downhill from there.

If you talk to such people, always encourage the telemarketer to quit!