We've hit a nerve. When we asked our readers to send in clever responses to telemarketing calls, we were immediately slammed with thousands of e-mails. Some were from angry telemarketers, but most were from readers fed up with intrusive calls and pessimistic about the effectiveness of the Do Not Call Registry.
Several responses were popular among readers. We received a lot of these suggestions: "Ask them to hold and then set down the phone and walk away," or "Say you don't have a phone," and "Pretend you can't hear them." Another popular response was to fake gastro-intestinal problems in the bathroom.
To those who sent in the Seinfeld approach -- "Give me your home number and I'll call you back there" -- no fair cheating. Make up your own and send them in to email@example.com.
Here are 10 of the most creative responses we've received so far.
I'll Be Watching You
"I can't believe you got this number so quickly. I got out of prison yesterday. You know what I was in for? Selling telemarketers' personal information to people that do bad things to them. Can I get you to stay on the line for just about thirty five more seconds while this thing downloads your cubicle location and headset I.D.?" or "This call will be recorded for quality assurance."
You've Reached Santaland
If you have caller ID, when you pick up the phone say, "Hello this is Buddy the elf." Then talk really fast so they can't understand you when you say, "Loser says what?"
Guess where you've called
If you have caller ID, say, "Trixie's Call Girl Service. Press 'one' for an appointment. Press 'two' if you are seeking employment. Press 'three' if you are a law enforcement officer."
Sure, Come on Over
A reader from Sydney, Australi a wrote about his revenge on a telemarketer selling aluminum siding.
"We were forever getting calls to clad (add siding to) our home. In the end, I was really cheesed off so under duress I made an appointment for a rep to come and give me a quote.
"When he arrived and found my home was of brick construction he virtually went through the roof, but on settling down he asked why I had accepted the offer of a quote.
"I said, 'Being sick of calls from his company, I decided to accept their offer.' That was the last call we had for aluminum cladding."
Another reader's father had a similar solution.
"My dad once invited a guy out to the house to give an estimate on waterproofing the basement that my dad couldn't convince him we didn't have. When he asked my dad to show him the stairs to the basement, my dad took him outside to a hole in the backyard leading to the crawlspace and offered him a flashlight.
"The guy looked at my dad and said, 'But you don't have a basement,' to which my dad replied, 'That's what I've been trying to tell you!'"
Get Your Hands Up
Interrupt them and demand to know how they got this number. Before they can reply, tell them to be quiet and listen. Tell them federal agents are en route to their location, and to follow your instructions to the letter if they want to avoid being shot. Tell them to shut down their computer and all other devices in their office, hang up and unplug the phone, then to kneel down in the middle of the room. They are then to cross their ankles and place their hands on their head and stay that way until the agents arrive. Then hang up.
Glad You Called
"That offer sounds great. Is it dischargeable in bankruptcy?" or "Do you accept welfare checks?"
I Know Yo u
Cry out in surprise, "Judy? Is that you? Oh my God! Judy, how have you been?" Hopefully, this will give Judy a few brief moments of terror as she tries to figure out where she could know you from.
"This is she," he said.
Another reader wrote in about an irksome problem he has with telemarketers.
"Because our home is under my partner's name, they almost always call asking for him. When I tell them he's not here, they then ask for 'Mrs.' I finally got brazen enough to reply, 'You're speaking to him. Now what can I do for you?'
"More times than not, they hang up, especially if it's a man calling. I guess the whole 'gay' thing makes some of them uncomfortable. Oh, well!"
You're On the Air
"Caller number nine you're on the air. What would you like to hear?"
One reader says a sure-fire way to get tele-blacklisted is to recite (bad) poetry.
"I am so glad you called; I just finished some poetry that I wanted to try out. I will be glad to listen to the rest of your call if you'll listen to my poem."
"Sometimes, in life, you find, that if you try, as you will and have before, you may be …" Fill in the rest with rambling nonsense for about a minute; then stop. When the telemarket er starts to talk, cut him off and start rambling again for another few minutes. Continue this as many times as is necessary until he hangs up.
If he is persistent, ask: "Did you like the poem?"
If he says yes, ask which part he liked the best. Demand specifics and comment on the emotional angst and spiritual juxtaposition of the part in question.
Think You Can Do Better?
If you think you have a better response, tell us about it by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please keep it clean and avoid being overly cruel -- the point is to be funny, not vicious. If you can get the telemarketer to laugh with you, you get bonus points.
Remember, the best way to avoid these calls is to get on the Federal Trade Commission's Do Not Call Registry and report the companies that violate the law.