Thursday, June 11, 2009


As I struggled with the thrust of my sermon today, mental cogs graunching as competing concepts ground against one another, the phone rang on the desk of my home office. I picked it up.

There was a pause, that cursed pause that comes as a computer assesses whether or not it's got you. I did what I never do, and waited. "This is Credit Card Services, with an important alert. We've determined that you're paying too much interest on your current balance, and need you to call us immediately so that we can adjust your rate. Please press 6 to speak with a customer service representative."

I have no credit card balance. I never do. Not that they know or care. They're just trolling for suckers. Wanting to get off their list, I pressed six. There was a pause, then a woman spoke in a bored drawl that could only come from a small cubicle in a large, overlit room.

"This is Credit Card Services. Did you press six to reduce your interest rate?"

"No, I wanted to talk to someone about being taken off your call list." There was a click, and silence. She'd hung up on me. I was amazed. That's actually not legal. At least, I don't think it is. As I sat there, wondering how I might follow up on this amazingly annoying firm, the sound of a ring came through on the other end, as if I'd just called someone. The same bored drawl came through the phone.

"This is Credit Card Services. Did you press six to reduce your interest rate?"

"Um, no, I, uh wanted to talk with someone about you not calling me again, and..." There was a click, and silence. Huh, thought I. I stayed on the line. There was a ring on the other end again, and a different voice answered. It was a man, youngish, also bored.

"This is Credit Card Services. Did you press six to reduce your interest rate?"

"No, I was hoping to speak with someone about getting off your call list. If there's a manager I..." There was a click, and silence. Then a ring, and a woman answered, in a tone that told me she was a young African American.

"This is Credit Card Services. Did you press six to reduce your interest rate?"

Then it dawned on me like the rising of the morning sun over Bangalore: They couldn't hang up. They had clearly been instructed by their hellish quasi-criminal social pariah TelemarkeBoss to simply hang up on anyone who asked that question. But the message hadn't gotten to their phone system. The computer that dialed for them would cut you off when they hung up...but it wouldn't disconnect until I hung up. They were trapped. I had them. I switched to speakerphone.

"I did press six," I said. "But not for that reason." "Do you have more than $4,000 in credit card debt," she asked. "No, but I do want to figure out how to get you to stop calling." There was a click. I grinned. The phone rang.

For the next twenty minutes, I kept letting them try not to call me, leaving the speakerphone on as I worked on church reports. They tried hanging up. I kept coming back. They tried leaving the phone on their desks, while I heard folks jabbering in the background. I pressed buttons to send rhythmic tones through to them. They tried hanging up again. No dice. Eventually, they found a manager...but only after twenty-five minutes of passing me around the office.

I love technology.