Thursday, 20 January 2011

Clever after the event

We've all done it. You put the phone down, and then you think of all the clever things you should have said. It was like that for me yesterday.

The phone rang with that strange caller ID that usually means it's a sales call from another country. I picked it up. 'Hello, this is Mark calling you from Windows...' Now, from his accent, 'Mark' was clearly not Mark - and unless Windows is a suburb of Mumbai, probably not calling from Windows. I hadn't had breakfast yet and couldn't be bothered. 'Sorry,' I said, very loudly. 'I can't understand you. It's a very bad line!' And hung up.

To give 'Mark' his due, he had perseverance. Five minutes later the phone rang again. 'Hello, this is Mark calling from Windows.' I tried the 'Bad line, can't hear you,' approach for a bit, but this got boring. 'What do you mean?' I suddenly said. 'How can you be from Windows?'

'Windows,' he said, 'the operating system you are running on your PC at home.'

Ok, now I knew this was a scam. There's a well known one going around where they claim your PC has a problem, it has contacted them, and all you have to do is pay £s on your credit card and they'll sort it out. I went into aggressive mode. 'You can't be from Windows,' I said. 'Windows isn't a company. This is a fraud and I will call the police if I hear from you again.' And put the phone down. Strangely, he didn't ring back.

But afterwards. Ah, afterwards. I started to think of what I could have done. This wasn't just some poor call centre worker doing a sales call, this was an out-and-out attempt at fraud. He was fair game for anything. I could have:
  • Said 'Hang on a moment,' the put the handset down and left him on the line. All morning.
  • Suddenly started talking in a nonsense language.
  • Or, my favourite, when he said 'the operating system you are running on you PC at home' I should have said 'Oh, you want to talk to Windows. Just a moment.' [Clicking noises off] Then in a robotic voice: 'Good morning, this is the Windows Operating System voice recognition package. How many I help you?' and conducted a conversation as long as he would let me, playing the part of a computer.
Oh how I would have chuckled. But sadly I didn't. Next time, however... Please ring back, Mark.

4 comments:

  1. Very good.
    I am a musician. I was once cold-called by a double-glazing company.
    "We have a representative in your area."
    "Can you tell me where you're calling from?" I asked.
    This wasn't on his sheet.
    "Err...Peterborough."
    "Oh good, I've got a concert there next month. Do you want to come?"
    "Sorry, what?"
    "Well, you're calling me about something I've got absolutely no interest in, so I thought I'd return the compliment. Bye."
    One of the very rare occasions when I did think of the right answer before I put the phone down. Deeply satisfying.
    Of course, since then, it's been downhill all the way.

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  2. Nice one. I do try to sell books to people who send me unsolicited emails, but it's another to add to the armoury for the phone calls.

    I don't get many cold calls as I'm registered on the Telephone Preference Service (see http://www.mpsonline.org.uk/tps/) - it cuts out all the legitimate UK-based cold calls, so you really only get the dubious international ones.

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  3. I'm also registered with the TPS. One possible response is to interrupt their spiel by saying in a loud Mr Gumby voice "Will you be my friend?" and when they start talking again say "I haven't got any friends" and so on and so forth.

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  4. A classic example of what the French call "esprit de l'escalier"!

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