Coffee heat rising

Blocking the Scammers

Enough! I finally decided to get off my duff and do something about the interminable telemarketing robocalling scammers. They’ve taken now to calling as early as 7 in the morning and as late as 8:30 at night. It’s not unusual to get half a dozen nuisance calls in a day. The National Do-Not-Call list does exactly nothing to discourage them, and Cox, the least obnoxious of the phone companies locally, flat refuses to provide the most effective telemarketing blocker, NoMoRobo — because, we’re told, telecom companies claim their old copper lines aren’t up to the task. (Never mind that most landline users now get our phone service through the cable.)

The strategy I chose is far from the most economical. If you want to keep a household phone system that allows you to have a wireless extension in every room, the cheapest way is to switch from landline to VoIP.

Here in Phoenix, Ooma offers a VoIP service that supports NoMoRobo, apparently for no extra charge. This allows you to cancel Cox’s phone service, leaving you only with the cost of the Internet connection, saving about $30 a month. Without the phone in the “package,” of course, Cox can be relied upon to jack up the cost of the Internet service — they never miss a beat, you can be sure. So your saving would be less than the present cost of the phone system. Ooma is only a few dollars a month — because it’s an Internet connection, not a telephone service, you escape the outrageous taxes and fees, which in our parts cost more than phone connection itself.

I decided not to cancel my landline, antiquated though the technology is, for several reasons:

A landline phone plugged directly into a telephone jack will work even when the electricity is out, and even when Cox’s Internet connection is down. VoIP will not.

Yeah, I know: use your cell phone. Well, I have one clamshell phone that I often forget to recharge…what happens when the power is out, an emergency is in progress, and the damn cell phone (assuming I can find it in the dark) is dead?

After studying the Ooma sites and the Ooma reviews, it looks to me like setting up a VoIP connection with one of their boxes is “simple” only to The Young and The Techie. You can put money on it — a lot of money — that when I try to make the thing work, I will fvck it up. It then will be days before I can lure my son over here to get it to work, and without a doubt I’ll lose the phone number emblazoned all over my business cards and stationery. These are not likelihoods: they’re givens.

I suspect the sound quality falls short of the quality a hard-wired system delivers. Even fans of Ooma — which is said to be one of the better programs — call it “echoey.” Do I really want to be talking with clients on an echoing line?

In theory, the 911 operators can find you if you dial from a land line. Remains to be seen if that’s true. Last time I called 911, I was choking and couldn’t speak. When I couldn’t get any words out, the 911 operator hung up on me. But…the theory is there. Theoretically…

The largest of these considerations is that when I say I’m all learning-curved out, I’m not kidding. I’m so averse to having to take a college course to re-learn the use of a tool I’ve used comfortably for decades, I’m actually willing to pay for the privilege of not having fart around with that.

So I just plunked down a hundred bucks to buy a British-made device called the CPR V5000 Call Blocker. It’s pretty much plug and play, from what I can tell. There are some circumstances in which it may require some jiggering, but apparently they don’t apply to my system.

The thing comes with 5000 known telemarketing phone numbers already blocked. So from the moment you plug it in, you reduce the deluge of calls. Then you just push a button (or #2, from an extension) to block a pest caller when he dials you. Before long, few or none get through.

You can block entire area codes. There are a couple of area codes from which nothing but phone solicitations are sent; block those area codes, and you block every call coming from within that code. Some 1,833 customers have given this gadget an average rating of 4.5 stars. At Amazon, the maker has patiently and fully explained dozens of consumer questions — if you read through them, you get a clue to how to deal with all the issues people ask about — and the company also has live customer service reps who are reportedly competent.

Its nearest competitor, twenty bucks less at Amazon, has racked up just 11 customer reviews, averaging only 4 stars. Since many producers pay people to write reviews, it’s best to discount the 5-star reviews — with so few reviews, doing so would probably drop the average rating. And its sales copy is not written in idiomatic English — they couldn’t even bother to hire a native speaker to pitch their device.

This doodad is supposed to arrive tomorrow. I can’t wait!

Best phone solicitor story of all time

LOL! Over at The Buck List, Buck Weber holds forth on his two favorite ways to deal with telephone solicitors. His post reminded me of the time one of my graduate school professors occupied a fair amount of class time telling us about his latest encounter with a call center employee.

At the time—this was long before the Do Not Call law, when most people could expect two to six nuisance sales calls a day, and long before caller ID—we were in the middle of a particularly obnoxious spate of harassment from people trying to sell carpets. So one day Jack picked up the phone and yea, verily, a young-sounding woman asked him if he wouldn’t just love to take advantage of today’s special on gorgeous new carpeting, “only in your neighborhood.”

“Oh, I’m so glad you called,” he exlaimed. “I was hoping to hear from you!”

“You were?”

“Yes. I’ve decided I do want to carpet the house and am very interested in your offer.”

Well, of course the young woman was beside herself with joy. After some happy small talk during which they discussed the types of carpet and the possible color scheme, she asked him how many rooms he had.

He described a typical suburban house, as most housing in Tempe is: three or four bedrooms, a living room, a family room. Lots of carpetable space.

She asked for the approximate dimensions. He gave her figures for all these rooms.

They set up a day for a salesman to come over and measure each room and show him carpet samples. He gave her an address and made an appointment.

As the conversation wound down, she thanked him profusely for his business (probably the first sale the kid had ever made). He said she was welcome, happy to talk with you, etc., and then, just as she was about to hang up, he said…

“Oh, by the way, I have one question…”


“These carpets can be installed over dirt floors, can’t they?”

A moment’s pause ensued. “You have dirt floors?”

“Why, yes,” he said. “Doesn’t everyone?”

The line went dead. For some reason, he didn’t get any more calls from carpet sellers.