Editorial – Good Call

It’s happened to all of us: the workday is done, the kids are (sort of) corralled at the table, the meal is ready, and then the phone rings. One more interruption in the already overcrowded, stressed-out day. Maybe It’s a friend or relative; maybe It’s that call you’ve been waiting for about a recent job interview.

?Hi. My name is Bob and I’m calling from (pick a company, any company). How are you this evening??

And with a sinking feeling, you realize You’re left with two choices. You can hang up, or you can take a deep breath and remind yourself that the person at the other end of the line is someone much like yourself, doing a job they probably don’t like in order to pay the bills (option B, while definitely more Canadian, also involves spending even more of your precious time politely trying to extricate yourself from the sales pitch). Either way, telemarketing calls are irritating, frustrating, and (usually) a complete waste of time–if I want new windows, doors, or a newspaper subscription, I’ll go find them, thanks.

At long last, the federal government has taken steps to remedy the problem, but the devil, as they say, is in the details.

On the surface, the National Do Not Call Registry is a grand idea. It’s modelled on the U.S. one introduced in 2003, and will let consumers register their phone numbers (including cell and fax numbers) in order to avoid telemarketers. The process is simple: call or go online, provide the numbers you want added to the list, and presto–after a 31-day grace period, no more annoying telemarketing calls. (At least not for three years. After that, you have to re-register.)

But look a little closer and you’ll find that your dinner hour may not become a peaceful refuge after all.

You may not get calls pedaling aluminum siding, but you can still expect to be inundated with requests from charities: they’re exempt from the rules. Oh, and come election time, the phone might still be ringing off the hook. Political parties don’t have to abide by the Do Not Call list either.

Maybe That’s not so bad, you think. After all, charities help make countless lives better, and you’ve really been meaning to become more aware of important political issues.

In that case, would you like to take a survey? Research companies are–you guessed it–also not required to use the list. Neither are general-circulation newspapers. (Why they’re any different from other companies selling a product is beyond me.)

Well, that should do it for the exemptions . . . no, wait, there’s more. A company selling windows and doors (or any other service) can’t contact you–unless, of course, you’ve established a business relationship with them. In that case, your phone number is fair game, even if You’re registered on the list.

So if you think the new phone registry (scheduled to be up and running near the end of 2007) will end those annoying unsolicited phone calls, you may be right. As long as you don’t mind having your dinner interrupted by charities looking for donations, politicians trying to get your vote, people taking surveys, offers for trial newspaper subscriptions, companies you’ve previously dealt with . . . oops, gotta run. There’s the phone.