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September 25, 2003

"Do Not Call Registry" Kills 2 Million Jobs

By Byron LaMasters

Do I like telemarketers? Nah, not really, but for millions of Americans, it's a job. And our economy under President Bush has lost more jobs than any under any administration since Herbert Hoover. The "Do Not Call Registry" could, in fact kill up to two million jobs, USA Today reports:

But the telemarketing industry says it also will wipe out as much as half of its $100 billion in annual sales, send ripples through the fragile U.S. economy and put 2 million of its 6.5 million employees out of work. Industry officials say many of those workers are tough to employ: About 5% are disabled, 26% are single mothers and 95% are not college graduates. Average hourly wage: $9.67.

So, it's really a shame, that neither Republicans nor Democrats will stand up for these people.

Am I saying that telemarketers aren't annoying? No, they are, but to me, I'm willing to spend 15 seconds several times a week telling telemarketers that I'm not interested if it means saving our troubled economy a few million jobs. If you aren't willing to do that, then there's plenty of things that you can do. The "Do Not Call Registry" isn't needed. Conservative blogger, Joe Kelley writes this:

Telemarketers rack up annual sales of $100 billion. Clearly someone is buying something from these people that call our house. If telemarketers were totally unpopular, they would vanish due to lack of sales. Instead, they’re thriving. Let’s face it, telemarketing calls are only annoying when they’re selling something you don’t want.

I’m also fearful of the Law of Unintended Consequences – if marketing companies cannot make money through phone sales, how long until they revert back to door-to-door salesmen? I find door-to-door salesmen much more annoying than phone salesmen. Will the FTC stop them, too?

I’m really embarrassed as an American that we feel the need to have the government do something to stop annoyances, particularly when we have the ability to stop them ourselves.

We can:

Hang up the phone when called

Use caller ID and not answer the phone from unknown callers

Screen calls with an answering machine

Use new technology like the Telezapper

Utilize features from most phone companies that can block all unknown callers

We are smart enough as individuals to defeat the telemarketers in our houses and we don’t need Uncle Sam to fight this fight.

Oh, I do support legislation to prevent telemarketers from calling cell phones because, unlike with a home phone, it’s not just annoying, it costs me. The government should protect us from financial losses from telemarketers, but really has no business protecting us from annoyances.

I agree 100%.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at September 25, 2003 05:51 PM | TrackBack


So you're just taking the telemarketing industry's word for it that the no-call list will cut their revenues in half and cost 2 million jobs?

Those numbers are completely bogus.

Besides, most of the telemarketing jobs would eventually go to India anyway. That's where all the telephone tech support jobs are already going.

Posted by: Kent L at September 25, 2003 09:24 PM

given your usual level of astuteness, i'm also surprised to see you accept that 2 million figure. in responding, i was going to say, off the top of my head, that 25 states already have 'do not call' laws (including most of the larger states -- California being the only notable exception). however i checked with the direct marketing association and find that it's actually 27 states ...

so if there was going to be some catastrophically huge job loss as a result of 'do not call' lists, i think we'd have seen it already.

(and kent's point about telemarketing jobs going to india is well taken)

as a side note, oregon has had a 'do not call' list for several years. i've been on it for the last two, and the number of times my phone rings and it's not *really* for me have dropped to almost nothing. (now if i could just get rid of those persistent wrong numbers ...)

Posted by: CrowGirl at September 26, 2003 02:29 AM

Even if this is true, it's probably just a matter of time before telemarketing centers get exported to low wage countries with lots of English speakers such as India - as Kent pointed out above.

Customer service for many US companies is already being handled in Indian high tech centers such as Bangalore. The customer service reps are trained to speak with American accents and given identies which include American sounding names. They are kept updated with sports and weather info on US cities so they can make small talk like, "Do you think the Cubs will choke again this year?"

Telecommunications technology makes it possible to conduct such operations from almost anywhere on the planet.
The US telemarketing jobs were on the endangered list long before any legislative or administrative measures were enacted to limit nuisance calls.

Posted by: Tim Z at September 26, 2003 05:25 AM

I'd love for all of the telemarketing jobs to disappear. I doubt more than a small fraction would go away even with the no call list, though.

But telemarketing is a poor economic activity - it has high costs that are borne not by the companies, but by the public at large that has their time wasted by these calls. I would bet that the cost of all of the time lost is much higher than the positive economic activity of the purchases made. So the economy may well see a net gain when the no call list is active.

As someone else pointed out, outlawing mugging puts muggers out of work, too.

Posted by: Tom McDonald at September 26, 2003 09:29 AM

Fine, maybe it's not 2 Million. But I find it hard to believe that thousands of jobs wouldn't be lost with 50 Million less people to call. I accepted the 2 million number because it was the only figure I saw. If anyone has a better figure, let me know...

Yeah, we all know how Republicans use telemarketers in India to do their fundraising. Heck, my tech support for my Dell computer was out of the Philipeans. I was a little shocked at first, but it makes sense. Another reason not to buy a Dell...

Posted by: ByronUT at September 26, 2003 10:00 AM

We already have a 'do not call list' in TX. Granted, companies outside of TX are not affected by this law, but I would be curious to see how many jobs were 'lost' because of our statewide list. You can already tell telemarketers to not call you again - doesn't that threaten their jobs as well if the same logic is applied?

*A lot* of telemarketing calls now are simply recordings. In those cases, there really are no jobs to be lost. And if you have a fax machine, watch out for spam faxes. I get at least one call a day that is a fax machine on the other end.

If I owned a telemarketing business, I would welcome a list that helps me avoid calling people who wouldn't listen to my 'pitch' to begin with. It would likely decrease my costs and increase my profits to be able to call only those people who are open to being called. I don't see why they are fighting it tooth and nail.

I can sympathize with anyone who loses their job for any reason. But I agree that these jobs aren't going to stay in the US for very long anyway. If I were one of the people manning the phones, I'd already be concerned because of India, and not because of Congress.

I'm curious if you also think the panhandling law in Dallas is wrong? That too is basically a form of solicitation (although there are safety issues involved as well). I have mixed feelings about that...

Posted by: Jason Young at September 26, 2003 10:32 AM

Oh, and can we agree that Congress has better things to be doing than this right now, no matter how you feel about this list?

Posted by: Jason Young at September 26, 2003 10:40 AM

Yes, I opposed the anti-panhandling law in Dallas. Just as I don't buy things through telemarketers, I don't give change to panhandlers, but the point works the same way. We would drive telemarketers out of business if we simply didn't buy their products. The best way to stop panhandling is to not give panhandlers money. I would only support an anti-panhandling law if the government would provide food, shelter and other basic services for homeless people. Anti-panhandling laws don't stop panhandling. Homeless people have nothing to lose. All the laws do is criminalize homelessness.

Posted by: ByronUT at September 26, 2003 10:44 AM

Yeah, we can agree on that Jason. I find it very ironic when we're getting shot at in Iraq and we're still losing jobs in our economy that the number one priority of Congress (and this isn't a partisan issue here, I blame both Democrats and Republicans) is to stop annoying phone calls. Good Lord.... what is this country coming to..

Posted by: ByronUT at September 26, 2003 10:46 AM

What if you saw a headline that read something like, "Anti-Burglary Laws Kill Thousands of Jobs"?

My point: there is a valid question whether telemarketing is a socially acceptable behavior and a legitimate way to earn a living. As a society, we made that decision about burglary long ago. And I think the analogy is not far-fetched at all: Whoever steals several minutes of my time, several times daily, steals at least as much as the person who burgles my apartment.

I'm not suggesting we abandon people who are forced to this kind of employment. I'm suggesting we fund programs to find them a legitimate livelihood.

Another angle: when someone snail-mails me an ad, the government supplies the transport and the advertiser pays for it. With telemarketing and spam, I supply the transport, and I pay for it.

Let's go down Byron's list of things we can do:

* Use caller ID and not answer the phone from unknown callers

Well, not really. Some of the phones from my current client's office don't show on Caller ID, and they have a legitimate business... apparently they have a different local service provider, and perhaps it has to do with which phone services have rights to use the Caller ID info. And my girlfriend has worked in a clinic which occasionally had to phone their patients at work; I think you can understand why they don't show on Caller ID.

* Screen calls with an answering machine

If I ignore a call that doesn't Caller ID, and let my answer machine take it, a lot of telemarketing machines (not people, just machines) leave a message anyway. Then I have to get up and erase the message. That's twice they've interrupted my day.

* Use new technology like the Telezapper

I've done the equivalent of that by recording the SIT tone at the beginning of my outgoing message on my answer machine. It worked at first. Little by little, as telemarketers catch on, it ceases to work. This is like an arms race that neither side ever wins once and for all: just how many devices, over how many years, do we have to buy to prevent being interrupted during dinner?

* Utilize features from most phone companies that can block all unknown callers

I have that service, and it does NOT block telemarketers. My best guess: the calls are coming from outside my regional carrier, specifically for the purpose of not being ID'd.

Well, that about covers it. Byron, I agree with 99 percent of what you write, but this one is just off the wall. Excuse me, speaking of off the wall, my phone is ringing...

Posted by: Steve Bates at September 26, 2003 12:42 PM

I basically agree on the panhandling. Making it against the law doesn't really accomplish much. Are we going to put them in jail? Fine them? Do we expect them to be able to pay? And if they don't?

I agree shelters should be built. I'm sure we could do it - instead of spending money on enforcement of this law, spend it on shelters instead. But I don't think it would convince most panhandlers to stop...

Posted by: Jason Young at September 26, 2003 01:38 PM

Good response, Steve.

We all know about those solutions listed, and if they worked, we wouldn't have the public response to the no-call list.

As I think anyone with kids, especially young kids, would agree, the telemarketing calls hit during the busiest or second busiest part of the day (morning being the other, during which I'm starting to get calls, too). And it's not just a few calls. We get anywhere from 2-12 (I've had as many as 13 calls from 6-9 pm, all telemarketers). I'm willing to bet the average is 4 or 5 a night.

I even get calls at 9 or 9:30 pm.

The real frustration, Byron, comes from 2 things. 1) Most of these calls come from someone sharing my information and profile. 2) Even when I ask, specifically requesting not to be called again, the same people call me. (Discover and AT&T, you bastards have a special place in hell.)

I pay the bill to have the phone at my service, not someone else's.

California's new anti-spam law should be interesting to watch, too.

Posted by: Tx Bubba at September 26, 2003 01:45 PM

Clarification: I said above, with regard to blocking calls that don't ID, that I have "that service." It is possible Byron is talking about a service I don't know about, though glancing through SBC's advertised custom services, I don't see it. I have the service called "Anonymous Call Rejection." As best I can tell from experience, it blocks calls only from phones that would ordinarily be Caller-ID'd, but on which the caller has either explicitly dialed a blocking code before dialing my number, or has chosen to block identification by default. This ACR service didn't block calls from my girlfriend's former employer, nor does it block calls from my current client, even though both show "Unavailable" on the display. And it most certainly doesn't block telemarketers.

Posted by: Steve Bates at September 26, 2003 02:05 PM

I hate the anti-panhandling law and the "no call list". What was the point of the "no call list"? to make bush look good, a "people person", for that he made 2 million american jobs gone. he just lost 2 million people's vote. smart move..bush. I dont get the anti-panhandling law placed on texas. It doesnt affect just the homeless on the side of the road asking for spare change but it also affect churches on the side gathering donations for multiply purposes, some to help these homelesses have a nice hotmeal, and some shelter.This also affected the Firefighters on the side asking people to put money in their boot. The name of this I am unsure of. The purpose of the firefighters collecting money is for equipment,uniform, and other stuff. Im trying to find a way to repeal these law.

Posted by: roger powers at April 26, 2004 09:57 AM

I pay for my phone service. It is a tool for me to use. It is NOT a tool for any business to use free of charge. They can call me if THEY pay the bill. I can't believe how wrong headed your thinking is. Would you think it is OK for a business to walk into your garage, take your lawn mower, and make money mowing your neignhbors lawn with it?

Let telemarketers go find a real job. That would be a job where they can hold tangible evidence of their existence in their hands at the end of the day. This service industry crap is just a bunch of smoke and mirrors...voodoo economics.

Also, what are you talking about harassing call volume of "15 seconds two times per week"! I was constantly harassed every evening with ten or fifteen calls per evening before I registered for the do not call list.

Our local central offices are designed and upgraded based on usage. Telemarketering can cause the local phone office to be forced by the PSC to upgrade based on call volume. Then the company asks for a rate increase!

Only a moron could possibly think that we should be harassed by scumbags "to save our troubled economy".

Again, put this into your head "It is MY personal phone which I pay for". Mine!

Posted by: Ray at November 14, 2004 01:14 PM

"Panhandling" is a lot of work. When was the last time you saw a fat panhandler? As long as people are not aggressive about it, there should be nothing wrong with it - protected by the first ammendment, nothing more than wearing a T-shirt for example with something written on it, or asking someone for the time of day. People that support themselves this way make anywhere from 65 cents a day to $30. This is a lot less than a welfare check. Many religious people take vows of poverty that require them to support themselves this way. It is a fundamental infringement upon human rights not to allow someone to express need, voice hunger, request shelter, articulate abuse that has happened to them. Panhandlers are subjected to constant harassment and threats by the public, and the police, not to mention solicitation for sex. Most of them are gentle people who would not harm a soul. Forcing all poor people into a shelter so you don't see them is not only seggregation and a deprivation of liberty (shelters are required to track people), but also harms the public in that they are not allowed to see the truth of poverty in the world around them. In this country, we pay millions of dollars to maintain borders with countries where people starve so that we don't see them, and are willing to kill people who try to cross this border to feed themselves.

Posted by: Gabrielle at May 16, 2005 07:16 PM
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