Friday, July 20, 2018

Friday Ramble - Free Stuff

The telephone rang before I was ready to get up this morning. Unknown caller. I rolled over and in a few minutes it rang again. Another unknown caller. I didn't answer either one, but I did get up. I don't answer calls from numbers I don't know. Sure, I might miss out on something good, but at least I've saved some aggravation. This may partly explain the popularity of texting. Even telemarkets have learned that the person who owns my number is just not answering. I know this because yesterday I was engrossed in working on a webpage and accidentally answered a call on my landline. It's a corded phone so I don't have to press a button. The guy must have been one who'd been calling, because the first thing he said was, "You're a hard person to get hold of." I laughed, thinking it must be someone I knew, tho I didn't recognize the voice. But no, he was a caller for a fundraiser.
When I do by chance answer a telemarker, I try to be nice. Life is too short to be gratuitously unkind. And the Good Book does say "Be kind to strangers, they could be angels unaware." Why not on the phone, too? This tidbit neatly segues into my ramble into the past on this Friday, a column I wrote about four years ago. Understand this was a hypothetical situation!

Completely (Risk) Free 
Riiiight! How many times are we taken in by that phrase? I know I have been too many times to count. And its cousin, ‘If dissatisfied, cancel anytime.’ Uh huh. Just try calling the number you’re supposed to call to cancel your Clutter-Free Living subscription after six unread issues clutter your coffee table. If you persevere through half a dozen pass-the-buck call transfers, or manage not to be disconnected, you might get to talk to a live person. You very calmly explain that you wish to cancel your subscription and receive a refund on unused issues. The person oh-so-sweetly wants you to tell them why you could possibly be dissatisfied with such a stellar periodical. When you remind them you were told you could cancel for any or no reason, you get more circular talk. And to please hold while the representative confers with the ‘circulation manager.’ 
‘Circulation manager’ comes on the line to persuade you how much you need the magazine. You yell and scream and finally are told that yes, of course, your subscription will be cancelled. Relieved, gullible you hang up. Only to have to go through the same thing for the next two months when the magazines keep piling up. By the time the next-to-last issue is due to ship, your subscription might be cancelled. Three months pass and eventually a check for five dollars arrives in your mailbox.
Once upon a time we only got into these predicaments if we unwisely allowed a door-to-door salesman – or an earnest student ‘working his or her way through college’ - inside our front door. Now telephone solicitors calling from huge boiler room operations, and online offers too good to pass up, lie in wait for us multiple times daily. Online websites which charge for information are masters of this sleight-of-hand scam. Sign up and browse for free. Only once an account is created a credit card number is required before any useful information can be accessed. Humans are so constructed that once they’ve invested time in a project, they are more willing to invest money. Thereby are cyber millionaires created, from ‘free’ stuff.