Just before I had Bene, I made a very positive choice not to do something. I didn’t replace our house phone, which had bitten the dust in dramatic fashion, running out of battery within minutes and randomly spewing out ansaphone messages from up to 4 years ago to unsuspecting grandads who called home and were rather surprised to discover we were busy packing Christmas orders and to please not call us at 11pm as we work from home. I can’t even remember the last time someone I cared about, other than him, tried to call us on it. 2 members of my birth family live in other countries, the other two communicate by text because we all have busy lives, I have free minutes on my mobile, which is more than could be said for my home phone contact at the time and I rarely need to ring an 0800 number, because if I’m annoyed with a business, I tweet them.
So at 8 months old, Bene’s lived his whole life without a phone call interrupting his little life. The great, the ENORMOUS, difference between having his eldest sister back in 1998 and having Bene, is that I can have my whole life next to me on the sofa when I want it. Or I can leave it behind when I want a complete break and to just focus on his little face and his needs. I can turn my phone to silent, safe in the knowledge I can still see who is and deal with emergency calls and that if my phone failed, I could be contacted by email. I can choose how I engage with the outside world, dip in and out, call people, text people, decide to answer an email or a text tomorrow, explore a brand at 3 in the morning.
You know what?
I haven’t missed the telephone at all. I haven’t missed calls about double glazing, or debt consolidation, or ambulance chasers or people who want me to sign up to a new energy deal. I’m pretty sure I’m no worse off either. The time involved in dealing with the fall out from swapping internet or gas provider far exceeds the money saved. I haven’t missed BT phoning to tell me they can better any deal I’m currently on, when I was with them anyway and galled to the extreme I wasn’t getting the east deal simply for being loyal. I haven’t missed the people calling me, based on my postcode, to offer me an insulation ‘government sponsored deal’ for my older home when my postcode is made entirely of new builds and the conversation leads, after 5 minutes of preamble, into a discussion about how I’m not eligible for the deal but could still pay for them to improve my house. I haven’t missed people calling me to tell me my mobile contract is expiring and I need to upgrade “so shall we get started” only to find they are just hoping to dupe me because they have no idea at all who I am with, what my deal is or when my contract expires.
Nothing has interrupted the precious time I’ve had with him as a new baby, unless I invited it to. That matters.
I get annoyed with all those approaches but the thing that irritates me the most is it makes me rude and abrupt to some poor sod on the end of the phone doing a job they probably hate just to earn a crust. At least they are trying.
The main reason I disconnected was pay back for the people who did baby calls to me after Freddie died. They couldn’t have known, I know they didn’t know, but they didn’t remove me from their databases when I asked them to. I got too, too many calls from places I had signed up to. Too many calls, too many letters, maternity wear shops, nursery websites, places I might have taken him. Their database numbers mattered more than my feelings and they didn’t stop – and it’s a problem too many people in that situation had. So in my post Bene vulnerable state, I didn’t want to talk to anyone I would have blurted to.
The very worse offenders in general, it has to be said, are business to business callers. Having run a business from home, I’m stuck with a legacy of people who have this number as a business line. So I get SEO companies phoning to try and bludgeon me into using black hat techniques to promote my websites, with bullying tactics such as (and I quote) “well you are clearly a s**t business owner if you don’t want more sales then” and “well, you obviously don’t know anything about selling on the internet because google thinks your businesses are cr*p” (back at ya babe!) I long ago learned to just gently place the phone down on the table on them and walk away, leaving them to talk themselves to a standstill. It’s a couple of years since Max got talked into taking a business to business deal on the phone, from an unsolicited by plausible call, that nearly cost us thousands because of bullying tactics with no time to think.
I did eventually find the time to sign up to the service that allows you to opt out of cold calling and that seems to have had some partial success because having suddenly found myself in need of a home phone again (sociable daughters who no amount of free minutes can satisfy) I’ve found myself remarkably unbothered by callers this last two weeks. Perhaps it worked; perhaps they all just got bored. The new phone plugs in and can’t be lost in the house, which is another advantage. I so remember, back when Fran was a baby, being settled on the sofa, a snoozing baby on my lap (at last!) and the shrill ring of the phone I couldn’t get to or couldn’t find disturbing us. Back then I would have to find it because I would worry it was important, or want it to shut up or perhaps even need the social contact. It would be gutting to disturb her only to discover that it was an offer of yet more discounted electricity bought with the price of my sanity.
One thing I have genuinely discovered – and it behoves me to think carefully about it as a business owner too – is that unwonted, unsolicited contact puts a brand on the list of people I will never deal with. It turns me off utterly. I dislike the arrogance of people thinking I want to spend my precious evening time discussing their product on their terms. I dislike the calculated nature of the sales pitch. I loath ones dressed up in a guise of knowing me or dealing with a problem they are pretending I have. I don’t want to have to be savvy about fraudulent calls. I refuse to talk to my bank on the phone now, partly because they are annoying and pretend to need to talk to me when they really just want to sell to me but mostly because they want to call me and then make ME prove who I am. I’m tired, with a busy life and a baby. Write to me if it’s important. But ONLY if it’s important. Otherwise, you know, leave me alone. Don’t call me, I’ll call you!
So tell me, what do you think about cold calling and unsolicited sales calls? Does it bother you? Do you have a tactic? Do you rant, rave or pretend to be interested? tell me
Disclosure: Bounty sent me the phone pictured in exchange for this post. Ironic, no? Views and feelings are my own and my phoneless state for the last 9 months is entirely genuine! So far, only grandad has called our new purple phone