Chuck’s Corner - April 2007
The other day I called a friend of mine and he told me that he almost didn’t answer the phone because his caller ID reported my name as “Hussein.” No first name was displayed - just “Hussein” – as in “Saddam Hussein.” “That would explain it” I said. “Explain what?” he asked. “The phone calls I keep getting from telemarketers asking to speak to Mr. Hussein” I said. (In case you don't know, neither my first nor last name is "Hussein.")
Yes, for the past year or so I’ve been receiving calls from telemarketers representing various home loan and satellite companies and they always ask to speak to Mr. Hussein. At first it was annoying but after a while I decided to have some fun with it. Depending on how busy I was when they called, I would employ one of several tactics to see how long I could keep them on the phone without actually buying their product. It was kind of like a prank call in reverse and, since they initiated the call, I think I’m well within my legal and ethical rights to waste as much of their time as possible in an attempt to keep them from calling someone else like you. You can thank me next time you see me.
In general, I had 3 basic plans to choose from that I improvised based on watching too many episodes of “Crank Yankers.” Here’s a brief description of each:
1. The old man – This one was handy if I didn’t have a lot of time. Basically, I would tell the caller that Mr. Hussein was my father-in-law and I’d pretend to call him to the phone. I’d then do an old-man voice and pretend to be hard of hearing.
Them: “Mr. Hussein, may we interest you in a 5% loan?”
Old man: “What’s that? A five inch bone? No – I don’t need none of that Viagra stuff. Hell, I got more than 5 when I get out of the pool in January.” <Click.>
2. The ex-dictator – Sometimes I felt it was best to just go with the obvious gag and I’d try to impersonate Saddam himself. I’d ask the caller if they were calling from the CIA or something. When they explained that they were selling me a satellite system I’d feign interest and ask if it was capable of tracking nuclear weapons. Upon “learning” that it was just for watching TV I’d ask them how they got this phone number and implore them to forget they talked to me since that whole hanging thing had been staged and I was now living under-cover in the United States.
I didn’t do this one that often. Not because I think it’s wrong but because I do a really bad Saddam Hussein impersonation.
3. Finally - if I have nothing whatsoever to do at the moment I’ll play along with them and answer their questions. At some point I’ll lose interest and then let them know that I have no intention whatsoever of buying anything from them. They REALLY hate this.
Here’s an example of a recent conversation I had with a guy trying to sell me on Dish Network…
Him: “Mr. Hussein, may I interest you in Dish Network?”
Me: “I used to have DirectTV but I got rid of it because it sucks. You have to have boxes on every TV set and it’s a pain in the ass. I already get cable and it has everything I want to watch on it.”
Him: “But Dish Network is cheaper. How much do you pay for your cable each month?”
Me: “That is correct. I steal it from my neighbor. I climbed the pole behind his house one night and put a splitter on it so I get cable for free.” (This is not at all true but it seemed like the right thing to say at the moment.)
Me: “You know, you sound like a nice enough guy but are you sure you’re right for this job? I mean, really, you’re not very good at it.”
Him: “I can give you over 200 channels for only $19.95 per month.”
Me: ”No, seriously – you really should find another line of work. I’ve been talking to you for over 10 minutes and have no intention whatsoever of getting Dish Network. Don’t you have a quota to meet or something?”
Him: “You really don’t want Dish Network?”
Me: “I really don’t. But thanks for calling.”
The funny thing is that, usually, the callers eventually end up laughing themselves either because they finally catch on to the gag or just out of nerves.
In any event, I really should call ComCast to see if they can correct my caller ID record since I imagine having your name reported as “Hussein” is one of the quicker ways to get on some kind of secret government watch list. In fact I think I’ll do that right after I go outside to see what those black helicopters are doing…
As usual, you can send your thoughts, comments, questions and suggestions to ChucksCorner@ComCast.net.