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'Hello, is this the party to whom I am speaking' - Bob Paslay

In my tiny, cheap apartment, I don't have high speed Internet service and go through the phone line. Many days I just forget and leave the computer hooked up and so my phone line remains busy. But when I think of it, I unplug the computer and hook the phone back up.

This has resulted in a series of annoying calls from telemarketers trying to sell me everything I don't want and don't need. I try to be polite, as most of you probably do, but after a while it is annoying dealing with people who are programmed to not listen to your response and move on with their spiel. Obviously the day in second grade when they taught the meaning of "no" these telemarketers were absent.

So I have come up with the perfect or near perfect way of dealing with telemarketers.

"Hello, is Robert Paslay there?" the person who is from some country I can't quite identify asks. This is the tip-off because all my friends call me Bob and so this is someone working from a formal list and secondly they have no idea how to pronounce my name. Growing up, I have been called everything from a Scottish fabric pattern to a debilitating disease. For the record, it is paz-lee, not paisley and not palsy.

So I immediately say, "He's not here. Can someone else help you?"

They then say, "Is his wife there?"

So I have developed two answers depending on what mood I am in.

The first one goes like this: "Who is this? Are you insinuating I am home with his wife while he's not here? What are you trying to imply. Are you from some kind of detective agency or something?"

The sudden burst of offensive patter catches the telemarketer by surprise. "Why no. I just..."

"You just what? Am I being followed?" Then I have put my hand half over the mouthpiece and say loudly to the table lamp next to the phone (since I live alone), "Hey Betty, some guy wants to know if we are here alone with your husband gone. What do you think he is up to?"

And then I proceed to grill the telemarketer some more. "If I called your house and a guy answered, how would you like it if I implied he was home alone with your wife. By the way, are you married? What's your home number?"

Depending on whether I am in an odd mood, I continue this way until he runs screaming from the phone.

The second approach I take when the telemarketer asks if Mrs. Paslay is there, I say, "Robert told me he was gay. Who is this Mrs. Paslay?" And this halts the telemarketer, but I plow on. "What is this woman's name? How long have they been married. I need more details on this woman. I can't believe he lied to me."

I alternate these two responses and delight in seeing how long I can keep them on the phone after I have sprung the trap. The hunter has now become the hunted. Rather than them trying every way to keep me on the phone I am keeping them on the phone.

I only came up with this scam recently and I know the fun of it will probably wear thin after a while but in the meantime it seems to work like a charm.

One other thing is to ask a million questions. I haven't done this one yet but might try it this weekend. "So, tell me how all this works since they deregulated the phone companies. I can have any phone company I want? Do you all have your different lines running across the same telephone poles?" I have tried one other in the past and that is the changing the subject on them. "So, what city are you calling from? Dallas? What's the weather like there. It's kind of clear and warm here in Atlanta. So have you ever been to that Southfork Ranch where they filmed Dallas? What's it cost to get there. Say, is that actor that played J.R. Ewing still alive? What was his name again?"

They say that some people are so charming they could talk an Eskimo into buying aluminum siding for his igloo. And so I understand the concept of out of the blue trying to talk someone into signing up to visit a condo in Florida in exchange for a free trip or in suddenly dropping your phone service for another. But the problem is they don't put the charming people on this task. They put some one either from another country or someone who sounds bored and reading from a prepared script.

What they are banking on is that there is no longer brand loyalty. So, you have widgets but we can sell you didgets for half the price of widgets and they do the same thing. So price rules out over brand loyalty.

And they know as well as I know that I don't know anything about how the phone system works. The breakup and the degradation and the other consternation is all voodoo to me. When I was coming up there was the "phone company" and they had local calls and long distance calls. So they know I not only don't understand it, but I don't care if Fred's phone service or Ma Bell is servicing me as long as there is a dial tone on the phone when I pick it up.

Good sales people have their whole plan set out. A friend of mine years ago had one saying, You can't close the deal unless you have a guy and his wife there at the same time. Otherwise, the one person says, " I like your widgets, but let me talk to my wife and we'll get back with you." This is human for a fish saying, "I like that hook but let get off it a minute and I will be right back."

Hey, I just thought of another scam. With a very diverse population in our area, what about going to a foreign language immediately.

"Hello is Mr. Paslay there?"

"Guten tag. Er is nich hier. Sprechen sie deutsch?"

Ultimately the best plan that works is to keep my computer hooked up so they can't get through.

Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald and can be reached at bpaslay@news-daily.com or at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257.