I’m sure you’ll agree with me…

I can’t stand being cold-called.

Rant as below:

I’m not sure what marketers think I do for work but doctors generally need to keep their private cellphone on, in case of actual emergencies, not to sit down and be talked at for several minutes by some chirpy millennial in a call centre interstate that doesn’t know how to calculate a timezone difference.  I answer my phone during working hours, usually because it’s something to do with work, not because it’s a convenient time for Sydney-based call centres to abuse the privilege of having my personal contact information.  I have stopped donating to MSF today.  They called again, despite me explicitly requesting them not to keep calling me, with every month’s new humanitarian crisis.  Email me!

2005 was when it started.  We’d just finished our Intern year.  My Med School friend, Monika, got married.  “Instead of presents, please donate to MSF (Doctors without Borders),” was the request on the wedding invite.  So I did.  Then the calls began.

At first it was like being a kid, receiving your first post.  A letter!  Now, collecting post is a chore.  Bin. Recycle. Bin. Bin. Bill. Recycle.  Recycle.  The same goes for emails: unsubscribe.  Delete.  Delete.  Delete.  I sometimes accidentally delete important emails because I’ve swiped left too fast.  It just never stops.  I wake up and look at the little red number of new emails on my iPhone and sigh.

Before we left for Canada I got fed up.  I had been rung every few months for nearly ten years, to increase the direct debit on my credit card (how did that even start, with a single donation!?), just by $5/10/20 a month.  “Please stop calling me,” I implored.  I’m always interrupted at work to have a call centre automaton recite a script at me, without my consent, forcing me to participate in a contrived conversation about yet another humanitarian crisis, that inevitably ends up at the un-refusable sell.  I feel physically violated by these calls.  It is impolite to simply hang up.  I’m never asked, “May I recite a scripted marketing conversation at you?” only, “Do you have a minute?”  Then the awkward recital begins.  I literally had a minute, not two or three.  This was not what I consent to.  You don’t ask, “Do you want a cup of tea?” then bring out sandwiches, a picnic basket and expect them to spend the night. I don’t think marketers understand consent.

Today I did have a minute.  I couldn’t believe it was happening again. Last time I was called I had finally asserted myself and requested to never be called again, for requests for more donations.  This is not America.  Australia does not endure lengthy political campaigns.  Just get on with it.  Email me.  Ask, “We’re doing another fundraiser drive; may we increase your donation?” Sure.  No worries.  The last guy that had called me had mastered the Chinese parent tone of voice that semi guilts you into listening and agreeing with something you don’t actually want to listen to, or agree with.  But he was cocky as well. He sounded so sure of himself that I made an ultimatum: call me again for donations and I’ll stop donating at all. I had been emboldened by seeing Dr Thonnell answer a similar call, while we were reviewing plain films.  “I already give to several organisations. No.” He was polite, but firm.

I never got called again.

Until now.

For the past few weeks my phone has rung, a Sydney number, and I scrambled to answer it.  I refer women every Friday for non-invasive prenatal testing for fetal aneuploidy and the laboratories are interstate and overseas.  If it’s an NIPT result I can’t wait or call back after work; the laboratory will close.  There are usually two very anxious intended parents waiting for their screening result.  The past two weeks I’ve answered my phone and been blasted with an over-friendly greeting, from MSF, “Do you have a minute?”  I thought it was to update my details.  EOFY is approaching, perhaps it was to confirm the details I had just updated.  “No, I don’t!” I replied, incredulous.  “OK!” chirped the caller, “We’ll call back later!” Then they didn’t call back.

When today I actually had a minute the super friendly young woman started to read off her script, pausing after every, “I’m sure you’ll agree with me….” sentence.  Is that a statement or a question?  Of course I agree with you.  Do you want me to nod?  Syrian refugees have a terrible plight.  So do gay Syrians getting pushed off building tops, tied to chairs.  So do women having to face invasive testing for their high risk combined first trimester screen result.  Do I want to sit down and have a telephone conversation about it with somebody I have never met, have no idea what they look like, and who sounds so annoying that I would never actually want to have a conversation with them about my private emotions?  No.

I had made the threat, so I had to follow through.  It was tough.  I wished I hadn’t have said that I’d stop donating entirely if they called me again, but I did and they did.  Being talked at does not work for me in this donor-recipient relationship.  Being aurally assaulted for unsuspectingly answering the phone, hoping it’s a low-risk NIPT result for the woman who was fighting back tears in my office last Friday morning, is not what I hoped to feel by donating to organisations like MSF. I wanted to look at the news and think, “I helped donate to that… that hospital that just got bombed.”

Solutions: email like UWA alumni association did last week.  EOFY is approaching.  Your donation will help university students like this smiling white girl under a tree.  I had just finished a manuscript draft and a research grant application and thought, “Hey! Here’s a chance to give back to my alma mater!” So I clicked.  30 seconds later I’d donated to UWA.  Easy.

I was given a 1300-number to call to cancel my account.  So I called.  The woman who answered was very professional, and did not make inane comments.  She requested my details, pulled up my account, and read with dismay, “…2005.  You’ve been donating since 2005.”  Yes.  11 years. Longest wedding present I’ve given. Even while I lived overseas.  I kept enough money on my credit card to cover the automatic donations.  And now, we’re breaking up.

I was happy to increase my donations periodically.  To be mailed or emailed.  Just never cold-called.

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2 thoughts on “I’m sure you’ll agree with me…

Add yours

  1. I don’t know if you are/were a fan of Gogglebox Australia; but in case you weren’t a fervid viewer of that programme, let me tell you how Mick dealt with a caller who rang when he and his wife Di had just sat down to watch that week’s budget of programmes. Probably in his 70s, Mick picked up the phone, and said “Hello?” into the receiver. There follows an approximation of the dialogue:

    Mick, after listening for a brief while: “No, I’m sorry, he’s unavailable.”

    Another pause.

    Mick: “No, I can’t take a message for him.”

    Pause.

    “No, it won’t be possible. He died several weeks ago.”

    Pause.

    “Yes, thank you very much. Goodbye.”

    Di: “Who was that?”

    Mick: “I have no idea. Some bloke in Mumbai.”

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