Philadelphia, PA

Fun With Telemarketers! Crowd-Sourced Methods for Dealing with These Time Wasters

Roz Warren

After wasting five minutes of my life that I’ll never get back again trying to politely get rid of the slick-talking dude who’d phoned, intent upon selling me seasons tickets to the opera, I asked my Facebook pals, “What’s the best way to deal with telemarketers?”

Many had ideas for dispatching them swiftly:

Hand a 3-year old the phone and tell them it’s Santa

Just tell them you don’t speak English. In English.

I like to belt out a show tune. “If I Were a Rich Man” is nicely ironic.

Heavy breathing works for me.

Say that you’re broke, unemployed and being evicted. Then try to sell them your car.

I ask them to describe what they’re wearing. That usually shuts them down.

I say, “He’s here, and I know he’ll be very interested in your offer. I’ll get him.” Then I put the phone in a drawer.

This is why the Tuba is the best instrument EVER.

Some folks take the opportunity to have a little fun:

A family hobby is telling whoppers to telemarketers. My son once told a telemarketer that his mother was having a baby and the house was flooded. He said he was talking to the telemarketer from the roof, and that he needed to get off the phone to call 911.

I put my toddler on the phone. She loves to chat and is obsessed with the phone. “Hi! Hi! Hi! What’s your name? Hi! Hi! Hi! Did you see Frozen?”

Say “Congratulations! You’re caller number seven and you’ve won a free trip to the Bahamas. Just give me your credit card information and I’ll make all of the necessary arrangements for my vacation… Sorry, I meant YOUR vacation.”

An anthropologist friend turns the tables on them by conducting an ethnographic interview. “That’s an interesting regional accent,” she‘ll ask. “Are you from the south? And how old are you?” She does whatever she can to draw them out and learn as much as she can about their worldview. She kept one guy on the phone for 45 minutes.

Whenever someone from the Philadelphia Inquirer phones to try to sell me a subscription, I respond with: “My attorney has advised me not to speak to the press. And she’s also told me I can beat this rap!”

I like to ask, in a hushed voice “What’s the best way to bury a body in a crawl space?”

Occasionally more than one person gets into the call-deflecting act:

When telemarketers call my workplace, we put them on hold, then transfer them around the office until they give up.

One company wouldn’t stop calling my cell over and over and over, until my husband took the call and began talking to them in fake German gibberish. I remember one phrase was “up-n-chuck-in and flinger-grabbin.” I never heard from them again.

Some folks keep the encounter short and sweet:

Just say no.

Use these magic words: “Take me off your call list.”

Say “No thanks.” Then hang up and block their number.

Another Surprisingly Popular Response? Empathy.

“Thanks for the call, but I’m all set. Have a nice day.”

If you don’t want what they’re selling, make it short. Don’t waste their time or yours. Someone else might earn them a commission.

As somebody who did a lot of phone banking when I worked for a state senatorial campaign, I can tell you that these people have the shittiest jobs in the world. The best thing you can do? Just be polite to them.

I’m a telemarketer. I am also a human being who is just trying to pay my rent. The best way to be a mensch is to say hello and wish them the best of luck. We telemarketers hate what we do too. Please don’t humiliate us.

So what do I plan to do going forward?

While it’s tempting to come up with a sassy putdown or pull out all the stops with a big fat lie, I am, by nature, a nice, well-mannered person. So here’s my script for future encounters:

“Thanks for the call, but I’m not interested. Have a nice day. And please take me off the call list.”

But if they refuse to take no for an answer? I‘m picking up my tuba.

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Roz Warren, the author of JUST ANOTHER DAY AT YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY, has appeared on both the Today Show and Morning Edition, writes for everyone from the Funny Times to the New York Times, and has been included in 13 Chicken Soup for the Soul collections. Drop her a line at

Bala Cynwyd, PA

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