Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gas Marketer Phone Harassment

Me: “Hello.”
Unknown Caller: “Can I speak to whoever handles the gas bill?”

Huh? This really threw me off guard the first time, but not the second or tenth times. I guess this saves them the trouble of trying to pronounce people’s names. These calls from 623-238-6131 have been quite persistent.

When I was young, I used to talk to telephone solicitors as though they were people, but this took a lot of time, and it was hard to get off the phone. My next strategy was to yell at them, but by acting angry, it left me feeling angry for a while. Yelling at them didn’t help much anyway. The person on the phone is stuck in a low wage job and is not a decision maker with the telemarketer.

The next strategy I tried was to say “just a minute” and set the phone down for a few minutes before hanging it up. This was amusing for a while, but sometimes I’d forget to hang up, and if my wife wanted to make a phone call, she would have to run around the house to find the off-hook phone.

Now I just listen long enough to be sure that it is a telemarketer, and I say “I’m not interested, thanks” and hang up without listening for a reply. For very persistent telemarketers, I tend to remember their numbers, and I just don’t answer. This seems to minimize the disruption in my life, but maybe I’ll find a better strategy at some point.

I’m used to the gas bill people showing up at my door pretending to be with my current gas supplier and asking to see my gas bill. Their goal is to get an account number from my gas bill and switch me over to their service (without my knowledge). I don’t know how widespread this problem is, but it is quite prevalent around my area. Maybe the company behind the annoying calls I’ve been getting is trying to do the same thing. Who knows?

What has all this got to do with personal finance? Natural gas marketers who use these tactics often have rate structures that will cost you more money than your current gas provider. The important thing to remember is that if you give these people the slightest bit of encouragement in person or over the phone, you might get switched to their service. It won’t be until later that you find out what terms you “agreed” to for payment.

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