October 2006 Archives

Poor old Chad, I think that's what he said his name was. He was on the line for 30 seconds at least before resorting to insults. But it's an indication that boiler-room salespeople just don't have the stamina anymore to get through those vital first minutes before losing it.

I think it might have been the point where I said, "That's two lies you've told me. Want to try for the third?" that sent him over the edge. He got off to a bad start, using cold-call lie number one: "Hi, I'm from X. I'm checking to see whether you got the information pack we sent you."

As a journalist, I get PRs trying the goldfish-memory tactic every once in a while. ("If you recall our conversation the other week about meeting our client's marketing VP..." "No, I don't. But I think you'll recall I said no...") So, I'm used to it. That people try this one on never ceases to amaze me. I can only assume that, sometimes, it works. I told Chad or Chet or Jeb that he hadn't sent me anything.

Welcome to the spam-trap

21 October 2006

Here's a little hint for PRs who think putting small logos in their emails is a really neat idea. It's not. It's a good way to end up in the spam-trap.

Like a lot of people, I have two lines of spam defence. One is on the mailserver, courtesy of good old SpamAssassin. The second line is the email client which, in my case, is Entourage. Its spam filter is fairly effective and has worked that a lot of spam messages have little GIFs embedded in them in an attempt to work around the Bayesian text filters.

What this means is that all those companies that think they're clever for having worked out how to format their emails prettily and stick little images of "PR Company of the Year" trophies and their logos in them are finding that the emails just wind up floating around with over-the-counter stock spam. Sometimes, I fish the messages out of the bin and, if they are really lucky, the senders get whitelisted.

My record for getting a call-centre rep to hang up is now at what I think could be an all-time low. The rules for this game are simple: time the call and, without resorting to insults or shouting, get them to either swear at you or petulantly hang up. Congratulations to some guy from what purports to be "The Phone Shop" to be off the line in less than 20 seconds.

It went something like this:

Him: "Hello, I'm calling from the Phone Shop. I want to ask if you've received your 10 per cent discount from Orange."

Me: "I think it's unlikely, as I told you yesterday."

Him: "This is the first time I've called you."

Me: "I don't think it is, otherwise, why would I mention yesterday's conversation?"

Him: "This is the first time I've called. Good. Bye." Click, brr.

I didn't even get as far as trying to get their address (generally impossible) or office phone number (probably false or permanently engaged). Other than hanging up on potential customers for no reason, I can't quite fathom what The Phone Shop's little wheeze is. They did actually call the day before (different operator of course) and we went through the dance of "Who are you? Where are you calling from?". So it took a little longer for that call to suddenly end. Before we got to that point, I was told, for some reason, they needed a house number and a postcode in order to "give me my discount".

At the time, I asked them why, if they were calling on behalf of my (soon to be ex) mobile-phone company - companies like this cold call with the permission of Orange - they didn't already have the information on record? The usual excuses about "needing the information to process the claim" ensued. If I hadn't before, I definitely lost interest there.