The cold shiver that used to run down my back when my landline rings in Paris has been replaced by disdain and disgust. No one who I care about calls my landline, so the conclusion is inevitable – telemarketers.
We all need to make a living, right? I don’t judge them, but I don’t appreciate them. When I see that 01 or 09 number blink on my phone, I hesitate to answer it. I know there’s no reason to, but in the off/not-so-off chance that it’s President Hollande calling to congratulate me with the Legion of Honor, well, I push “talk.”
“Mister Peerollee? This is Nancy from the XYZ Association and I’m going to talk to you about something at length before even asking if you really care about it,” the voice sings in French on the other end.
“Uh, hi Nancy…” I barely manage to get out before the monologue begins. Banks, service providers, Tupperware – I’ve gotten it all. People like to sell things on the phone. However, being a foreigner, I’ve learned to turn the tables, transforming that universal fear we all have of pesky telemarketers into a game to see what strategies work best to force them to hang up.
Just a few strategies I've worked with in the past:
1. I don’t speak French. This one also works for anyone asking for money or donations on the street (even the legit ones). It’s a good starting exercise in evasion for amateurs.
“Bonjour monsieur, Nancy de chez XYZ à la pareil” Nancy says in her most articulate French.
“Hello? Who is this?” I reply.
“Monsieur…” she tries again.
“Sorry what? Huh?” I continue.
”Oh, excusez-moi,” and click. Done.
2. I don’t have the item you are selling an upgrade to. I don’t have a kitchen. I don’t have a television. I don’t have Internet. It works every time, though it necessitates a certain level of French, best for novices and intermediates. “Surely you must be joking, sir,” Nancy asks me. Nope, I’m not, so further discussion is futile. They get the message and bid me adieu.
3. I won’t be here for long. I’m not contemplating suicide, no, instead I drive home the fact (well, fiction) that I am a foreigner who will soon be leaving the country. This one requires a good level of French to drive the point home but with enough mastery of the language not to sound too French (never my problem). “But sir, it’s just an informational meeting, surely you can come,” Nancy pleads. No, Nancy, I won’t spend my precious few weeks left in France hearing about new bank offers. Sorry.
Now I actually get excited when the phone rings to test out my other options, knowing full well that if all else fails, I can hang it up and no love will be lost...