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Is it really possible robocalls will end?

Country Roads_Arvid Huisman

As I’ve grown older, I have avoided becoming a grumpy old man. For the most part.

Oh, I get cranky in traffic and my patience with stupid people could use a boost, but most of the time I’m in a decent mood. For an old guy.

There is one thing, however, that will make me cranky in a flash and that’s robocalls — computerized calls without a live human on the line. In particular, I detest those darn robocalls selling extended automobile warranties. When I hear a recording say, “We’ve been trying to reach you concerning your car’s extended warranty…” I am instantly exasperated.

I have tried ignoring them but in the process have discovered that I have not answered legitimate phone calls.

A year or so ago, upon receiving a robocall about extended auto warranties, I pushed “one” to talk to a live agent. He began the conversation by asking the make and year of my automobile. “A 1952 Studebaker,” I lied. In a very nasty tone the agent told me to do something to myself that is anatomically impossible.

The Federal Communications Commission maintains that robocalls about extended automobile warranties have been the leading consumer complaint for the past two years.

There is “sort-of” good news. CNN reported recently that the FCC has announced telecom providers in the United States will be required to block millions of those robocalls every day.

The FCC order targets a group of six companies and 13 individuals accused of sending more than 8 billion messages advertising extended vehicle warranties since 2018.

The number of phone companies complying with existing federal law to detect illegal robocalls has quadrupled in the last year, according to the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. Meanwhile, scam texts have increased twelve-fold.

All of that said, I am not overly optimistic. The CNN report says that violators “could” face penalties. Until the FCC really shows its teeth, the companies responsible for the robocalls have little incentive to stop.

My frustration with the extended warranty folks is deep-seated. About a dozen years ago the extended auto warranty companies used email to promote their product. Upon receiving such an email one day I wondered what a warranty would cost.

I emailed for more information and within a few minutes the extended warranty company called.

From the start the agent assumed I was ready to buy. I had to interrupt him to say that I was only inquiring about rates. He continued his high-pressure pitch. Unable to say anything I finally hung up on him.

Within a minute the same salesman called back to yell at me for hanging up on him.

“That was very rude,” he exclaimed.

I told him I had been in sales for years and that not listening to your prospect is not only rude, it’s stupid.

He yelled some more and I hung up on him again. He didn’t call back but I’ve been ticked with these guys ever since.

I am encouraged by the FCC’s recent action, but I am not confident that those darn robocalls will be ending soon. And even if the auto warranty calls subside, there are the robocalls from vacation marketing companies, political candidates, non-profits, Medicare supplements, and a host of other marketers.

Though I’m not aware it has cut down on the number of phone solicitations I receive, I have a firm policy of not buying anything over the phone and not donating to any organization over the phone.

It’s tough to sell an old salesman!

Arvid Huisman began writing Country Roads 32 years ago, and today the column appears in several Iowa newspapers. He can be contacted at huismaniowa@gmail.com.

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