July 2011. “Go to hell!” I slam the phone down.
“Why do you let them get to you?” My son, Joseph, sits relaxed, leg draped across the arm of an overstuffed chair in our living room. He looks genuinely amazed at how angry these calls make me.
I explain, “I feel violated. I’m trying to enjoy the first evening we’ve had together in months and they break into my home and march me through their damned sales scripts. That was the fourth call we’ve had in the last hour.”
Joseph says in his let’s-improve-Dad voice, “They don’t care if you shout at them. They just check off another box on their computer screen and move to the next name. All you are to them is a prospect’s-name-goes-here in their script. Just hang up and pretend they never called.”
Now I’m not only angry at the intrusions, but I have to defend my feelings. I start to explain and the phone rings again. I pick up and after three seconds of silence hear, “Hello? Is this the owner of the house?”
Adrenalin kicks in, my pulse races. I’m going to deal with this intruder on my own terms. “YES!” I reply.
“We have a work crew in your neighborhood. Would you be interested in having your driveway re-paved?”
“We’re running a special promotion. If you order now you can have a thirteen inch television or a toaster oven absolutely free.”
“Which one do you want?”
“YES!” I feel a bit uneasy but anger spurs me on.
“Do you want them both?”
“YES!” Joseph looks puzzled. I motion for him to come listen in.
“I can do that!” The sales rep seems energized by my greed. “Which credit card would you like to use to reserve your prizes?”
Joseph giggles. I motion for him to be quiet.
“I see.” Pause. “Is your mommy or daddy home?”
“YES!” I feel the power. I’m running this bastard through my script for a change!
“Can I speak to one of them?”
Joseph is holding his stomach trying to regain control. I offer him the phone. At first he refuses, but then takes it.
The rep asks, “Are you the owner of the house?”
Joseph replies, “NO!”
“Do you rent?”
My body shakes as I try to keep quiet.
“Would you be interested in having your driveway re-paved?” The rep sounds suspicious.
“Is this some kind of a joke?”
The rep hangs up.
Joseph and I have tears rolling down our cheeks. I can’t catch my breath. What a wonderful game! We’re both computer geeks by trade and suddenly realize we have a fascinating challenge: our scripts against their scripts.
I say, “Let’s see who can create the script that keeps a rep on the line the longest. We follow the script exactly – no matter what. Loser cuts the lawn.”
We grab paper and design our scripts. My YES YES YES script was a fine ad lib. But I can do much better. I race to create my new script before the phone rings again. A few minutes later we’re ready.
My script reads: Hello? Hello? Yes! Yes! Wow! No! Yes! (repeat).
We sit silently and wait for the phone to ring. It’s like our fishing trips thirty years before, little Joseph staring at his bobber trying to think a fish onto his line.
Forty minutes pass. No call. Where are they? Where are the fish?
At last – the phone rings! I pick up and hear the telltale silence as a computer waits to see if it’s dialed a live one. I turn to Joseph and say, “We’re on!”
I read from my script. “Hello?”
A rep asks, “Hello? Am I speaking to the owner of the house?”
“Hello? Can you hear me?”
“I represent North Shore Cabinet Re-facing. We’re having a special on kitchen cabinet remodeling.”
“Are you familiar with how we remodel kitchens?”
“Wow!” My response doesn’t really fit.
The rep seems not to care. “We replace your cabinet doors with new doors at a fraction of the cost of a whole cabinet.”
“No!” I cheat and make my No sound like I’m impressed.
“I can have you in a new kitchen in a week.”
“Would you be interested in freshening up your kitchen?”
I run out of script and start over from the top. “Hello?”
The rep speaks a little louder. “Can you hear me?”
“I was saying we can give you a new kitchen in a week.”
“Okay! The next step is for us to come out so you can select your door style.”
“Wow!” I’m getting uneasy. I don’t want these guys coming to my house. Joseph points at me with a smirk and shakes his head. I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into.
“Good. I have next Tuesday or Thursday evening available.”
“I could do Wednesday at nine.”
“Yes!” These guys are going to show up. What now?
“Great. I’ll put you down for Wednesday evening at nine.”
I return to the top of my script. “Hello?”
“Hello? I’m here.”
“Hello? Can you hear me?” The rep is shouting.
“So we’re set for Wednesday evening at nine?”
Joseph doubles over.
“I need to confirm your address. You live at 120 Elm Street?”
“Wow!” I’m really uncomfortable. What if he shows up?
“Do you live at 120 Elm Street?”
“No!” I exhale audibly.
“What is your address?”
“Is it 120 Elm?”
I start my third lap of the script. “Hello?”
“CAN YOU HEAR ME?” The rep is screaming.
Rep: “GOOD BYE!!”