Lloyd Harnishfeger: The joys of ‘nuisance calls’

By Lloyd Harnishfeger - Guest Column

We senior citizens can always tell when it’s meal time. That’s when most of those delightful phone calls arrive, right on schedule! My favorite, usually just after breakfast, goes something like this:

Caller: “This is John. I just need to verify some of the information you supplied earlier. Please …”

You’ll notice that unlike most of these callers there’s no “good morning” or “how are you today?” or even “hello.”

“Marjorie,” I ask, “do we know who this is? His name is John.”

She replies, “No, we certainly don’t know anybody named John from Nigeria!”

John calls us several times a week. I’ve yelled at him, called him all the insulting names I can think of and told him not to call us again, but he keeps right on talking. You see, there’s no way to discourage him, since “John” is a recording.

Sometimes if he doesn’t call for a few days, I worry about him. Is he OK? Sick? A death in the family? My concerns are usually relieved soon enough, however, when good old John calls again. I suppose I should let the recording run its course and allow a live human being to tell me what information they want “verified.” Probably just our Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and banking information. Maybe I should supply these, since he says we’ve already supplied all of that earlier. Funny, I just don’t remember ever giving him that info.

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t give him this information. What do you think?

The real joy of these correspondences comes as we try to think of the best and most appropriate ways to answer them. Our late brother-in-law, Vic Fornes, of Dayton, related this incident. Plagued by repeated offers for new storm windows, he finally replied, “Oh shoot! I wish you’d called me sooner. We just had all our windows bricked up!”

On those rare occasions when a recording is not being used, I can always tell when a nuisance call is beginning. It goes something like this:

Caller: “Hello! Is this the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd? Har… Haen… Hershen…”

I feel so sorry for these fine folks. Obviously they’ve never had the benefit of learning even first-grade phonics! After all though, our name is four whole syllables long, and all of them right in a row too.

Following one such fumbling attempt, I took pity on the caller: “Say ‘Har,’” I suggested. “Now say ‘nish.’ (Hang on). Now try ‘feg.’ And the final one is ‘er.’ OK, say ‘Harnish.’ Got it? Say ‘feger.’ You’re almost there. Now put them together and say ‘Harnishferger.’”

He did so. I congratulated him profusely, said goodbye and hung up.

(Yes, this is a true account.)

Now come on. We’re all adults here. These callers are “just trying to make a living,” right? We should cut them some slack, since doing this kind of work probably means they can’t sleep at night! Therefore I have some suggestions that could make their job much easier.

1. When calling senior citizens, speak loudly and slowly.

2. If English is your second, third, fourth language, hire a high school sophomore girl, and let her do the calling. On second thought, this is not a good idea. She is probably sleeping fine all night.

3. The best times to call are from 10 to 11 a.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m. Never call seniors between 2 and 3 p.m. (Nap time.)

4. Re-program your computer to stop multiple calls to many individuals’ numbers, hoping somebody will pick up.

5. Honor those asking to be put on your no-call list.

Those calls can certainly be annoying in the extreme. However, one can only imagine the anger generated when a person who works nights has come home from work and hardly fallen asleep when awakened by such a useless telephone call, especially when it’s a recording, and they can’t even vent!

What’s the answer? Something has to be done about this rude and uncaring invasion of our privacy. Whatever is decided however, it should be kind. We certainly would not want to inconvenience these hard-working individuals, would we?


By Lloyd Harnishfeger

Guest Column

Lloyd Harnishfeger lives in Pandora.

Lloyd Harnishfeger lives in Pandora.

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