: The other side of Telemarketing Abuse

Well, I tell you, I was ‘ticked off’ when the Longterm Care place that is now mom’s home called with a recent problem.  Mom had received a ‘bill’ from the Police Association of Ontario and she was quite agitated, trying to find a chequebook, envelope and stamps.  She has none of these things anymore as her Alzheimers world is focussed on non-domestic activities.

I suggested the staff take the bill with them while I talked to mom, and likely she’d forget completely about it by the end of our phone call. I asked them to fax the bill to me.

Sure enough, Police Association of Ontario, Cops & Kids Fishing Days, a box number, and street in Etobicoke was on the ‘invoice.’ No phone number. No email. And so I wrote a snail mail letter. I outlined how unfair it was to target elderly people in longterm care homes, that it had caused great agitation to mom, plus took up valuable staff time to track me down on my cell phone, pull me out of a meeting to deal with something we didn’t want in the first place.

I asked them to remove her phone number and address from their database and to confirm with me that they had done so.

I was polite.

I heard no confirmation of database removal. And so I wrote again, giving them a deadline of July 1.

It was 9 pm on a Friday night when my office phone rang and by chance I was at my desk. And Len Wolskenholne introduced himself as an employee of Engage Internative, an organization providing telemarketing fundraising and event management for various charities across the country.

He had received my second letter. He had no idea where the first letter was.

He said that his company buys phone lists from Yellow (and white) Pages groups and uses those numbers as its base for calling. Because they basically deal with a phone list, they have no idea my mom isn’t psychologically well, or that she’s in a home. They just see her name and address, like anyone else.

And so Len and I went online together and submitted mom’s phone number to the government’s do not call list and also to a charity fundraising website so calls will stop. Len helped me get mom’s address out of the databases, as well.

He suggested I call and arrange for a non-published phone number, which I hadn’t thought to do, but as soon as I’ve got time to sit on hold for awhile, I’ll get right to that!

And then he asked me about my life in journalism, saying he started his journalism career at the Sherbrooke Record, just after Conrad Black made purchase of it in the late 60’s. I was starting my journalism career in Kingston at the same time. We chatted about journalism, the challenges facing print portions of newspapers these days, and how we don’t think we’ll ever get comfortable reading online for pleasure.

Len’s interest in my mother and her current life paralleled his own challenges and as we approached the end of the conversation, we both commented how nice it was to solve a problem, and meet a person on the other side of the country.

So, thanks Len. Not for calling mom in the first place, but for responding to my letter and calling me.  It’s great to know her number and address are off these lists and that hopefully this won’t happen again.

And for those of you who don’t want the telemarketing calls to support this or that… to those of you who prefer to answer the door and write a cheque, here are the instructions from Len Wolskenholne.

Go to the Canadian Marketing Association’s website: www.the-cma.org. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to “Consumers”  Under it, select “Do not contact service.”  On the right hand side of the page that comes up, you’ll see CMA Do Not Contact Service.  Click “Register now.”  A form will be in front of you.  Fill it in.  It even lets you enter several spellings of your name, so you cover everything. Remember to click ‘submit.’ It takes about six weeks to take effect.

From the CMA website, you can also access the CRTC’s Do Not Call list.  It’s a similar process, only you’re entering your phone numbers.   Or, you can go here:  http://www.lnnte-dncl.gc.ca/  Once at that site, immediate left, you’ll select “Register my Number” and then do just that.  This activity must be renewed every five years.

Well worth doing, especially for mom.

Thanks, Len.

Here are the websites:  Canadian Marketing Association:  http://www.the-cma.org/consumers/do-not-contact.  Canadian Government Do Not Call:  http://www.lnnte-dncl.gc.ca/

And, of course, to make your phone number unpublished so your number can’t be bought… well, choose your provider and make the call.