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Recently I had an idea about telemarketing. Before I tell you about it, though, I should tell you the two (plausible) assumptions I'm making.

First, nobody likes to receive telemarketing calls. I personally find them intrusive and annoying, and the few other people whose reactions I've seen find them so as well. On the other hand, a newspaper article I read some time ago gave me the idea that old people who are lonely might sometimes like to receive telemarketing calls just to have somebody to talk to. I suspect this is true, and you should keep it in mind, but I don't think it affects my argument below.

Second, nobody likes to make telemarketing calls. Here I don't have direct personal experience, but it's easy for me to imagine that telemarketing is a crummy job. The pay can't be all that good, and to get it you have to spend all day being hated and rejected. And if that's not proof, well, I once read some Dilbert cartoons about telemarketing … too bad I can't find them now.

At this point, you should be thinking “why?!”: why do we have telemarketing calls, if nobody likes them? I have some thoughts on this matter, but they really belong in a separate essay. In the meantime, you'll just have to wonder.

The thing I'm interested in here is not the theoretical question of why we have telemarketing calls but rather the practical question of how we can get rid of them. And that's where my idea comes in.

Now that we've figured out how to use legislation to prevent unsolicited email (spam) and unsolicited faxes, we should use the same methods to prevent unsolicited phone calls (telemarketing).

As I understand it, the decisive argument against unsolicited email and faxes is that they use the resources (server space, fax paper) of the recipient without consent. The exact same thing is true of telemarketing; the only difference is that the resource (people's time) is less tangible than the other two.

The only real argument I can see against my idea is that it would put a lot of people out of work. Well, what better time to do that than when the economy is booming and unemployment is low? Seriously, though, there are many ways we could make the transition less painful. For example, we could make the legislation not take effect until well in the future … say, a year from now, or a few years. That would give everyone in the field plenty of time to realize they're in dead-end jobs and to go out and find something better.

* * *

It's a good feeling, being in sync with the times. Two days ago, I read that the FTC had proposed a national do-not-call list.


  See Also

  Great Idea, A

@ May (2000)
o February (2002)