Hello Telemarketers, Can I Have a Minute? You Have the Worst Timing


Hello Telemarketers, Can I Have a Minute? You Have the Worst Timing

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

It’s an all-too familiar predicament: It’s a lazy afternoon, you’re sprawled across a sofa in a blissful daze, the only part of your body doing any work is your stomach, which is engaged in digesting a delicious, sleep-inducing lunch, and the TV is playing the highlight reels from old cricket matches. It looks like stupor. It feels like bliss. But, just like Sachin Tendulkar’s career, all good things must come to an end, and your personal paradise comes crashing down with the rude sounds of your phone’s ringtone. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was a friend or family member calling, but the culprit on the other end of the line is not calling to make plans for the coming weekend. Instead, it’s a member of that particular class of energy vampires called telemarketers.

I am fed up of being on the receiving end of product promotion calls. Lately, my call-blocking average has even surpassed Cheteshwar Pujara’s ball-blocking average. Now, when I get a call from an unknown number, I reject it as mercilessly as Mumbai’s auto drivers reject passengers. But there are times when telemarketers call so often, I feel like an ex who they are drunk-dialing. Not the one to break hearts, I play along, often ending those calls by saying, “It’s not you, it’s me. This is not going to work. I am sorry.” 

But telecallers are a lot like Indian men – they don’t get it when someone is turning them down. They are persistent and have the worst timing ever. An appraisal meeting with my boss was disrupted by a caller trying to give me a credit card. I didn’t want to get a call from VLCC about their weight-loss schemes when I was about to drop my best pick-up line at a bar, but I did. There have been days where I’ve fielded calls from the sanctity of my bathroom because my phone has not stopped ringing. But when you are half-covered in soap and answer a call thinking it must be something urgent, what’s most frustrating is when a recorded message is transmitted from the other end. Whom do you scream at? And what’s the point in furiously cutting the call?   

When most incoming calls on your phone are from telemarketers, your only defence mechanism is to put the phone on silent. Now, all I had to put up with was a vigorous vibration. But even this backfired. Every time I got into a crowded Mumbai local, my body pressed against that of fellow passengers, my phone would start vibrating incessantly. I have lost count of the number of times, the vibrations have woken up a tired commuter trying to catch a nap. And there are few things that piss off a Mumbaikar trying to catch some sleep in a local. Some have threatened to punch me in the face; once I’ve been asked to get off the train. Now I have broken my fixed deposit and am taking a Uber to and fro. 

I didn’t want to get a call from VLCC about their weight-loss schemes when I was about to drop my best pick-up line at a bar, but I did.

And through all of this, phone continued to ring. But fielding calls all day long – Sunday to Saturday, from 8 am to 10 pm – has made me an expert of sorts. Now, I can judge a person by his “Hello”. One day, a man posed as a bank employee and asked for my details. But as someone who can write a thesis paper on telecallers, I wasn’t the one to fall for the trick. I have an account in a public sector bank, and the call came at 1 pm. Even if I was a loan defaulter bigger than Vijay Mallya, no bank employee would call me during their lunch time. No one is that dedicated. Not even India’s Supreme Leader. I meant Virat Kohli. Who else? 

But all irritants aside, telemarketers can be big ego boosters. After all, they are the only ones who believe that I am capable of buying a four BHK on Worli Seaface? That aside, for someone like me who is geographically challenged, they double up as tutors. Comoros, Moldova, and Kiribati – I never knew these countries existed. Now if Arya Stark wants to know what’s West of Westeros, I might be able to help. I should get a call from that place soon: “Hello, we are calling from West of Westeros. Can I take two minutes of your time?” Oh, sure. Only if you give me that magical iron coin with the words “Valar Morghulis” inscribed on it.

My point is that privacy is no longer sacred. But if people are making money off my data, then I should also get a cut. I will happily link my Aadhaar, PAN, ration card, PUC certificate to my bank account, only if money gets credited every time I get a promotional call or an SMS. If this happens, I will do a better job at linking stuff than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

But you need my consent before you call me. So, don’t try to force yourself into my ears until you agree to my terms and conditions. Until then, dear marketers, please lose my number.