TeleZapper reduces calls from tele-sellers

April 25, 2002|By Kevin Cowherd

AT LONG LAST we address the burning issue that has been uppermost in the minds of Sun readers from Rising Sun to the Delmarva Peninsula, from Baltimore to the far reaches of Western Maryland, and that of course is: Did the TeleZapper work?

The answer is: Well, yeah.

Sort of.

Regular readers of this space will recall that the TeleZapper was first discussed here three weeks ago, when a personal jihad on telemarketers was declared.

At the time, I was fed up with the annoying calls at all hours for the VISA Platinum card and MCI long distance and Verizon, fed up with anonymous, headset-wearing drones in ash-gray cubicles in, say, downtown Denver chirping "How are you today?!" as if we were pals sharing a beach house.

So I shelled out $49.95 for the TeleZapper, the hot new device to block telemarketing calls, from a company called Privacy Technologies.

According to the TeleZapper brochure, 90 percent of all telemarketing calls are computer-generated.

So the TeleZapper works like this: When a telemarketer calls and you pick up the phone, the TeleZapper "outsmarts" the computer by "emitting a special tone that tells the computer your number is disconnected."

This does two things. First, the poor sales wretch on the other end never gets to talk to you. And your number is supposedly dropped from the computer's calling list.

Eventually, the brochure promises, telemarketing "calls are virtually stopped altogether," since your number is being dropped from more and more calling lists.

Anyway, I promised to let everyone know how the TeleZapper worked, so let's go right to the scoreboard, shall we?

Before installing the TeleZapper, we were averaging four or five calls a day from telemarketers in my house.

In the more than three weeks since installing the TeleZapper, the total number of telemarketers who have gotten through to us is - the envelope, please - four.

The first call was from an incredibly annoying man with a national magazine, who rambled on and on about how "special subscribers" like me could renew now at the unbelievable rate of blah, blah, blah.

How did you get past the TeleZapper? I demanded.

"Excuse me?" he said.

Mister, I said, do you realize you just penetrated a top-level communications shield with fiber-optic link-ups to the Pentagon, the CIA, an aircraft carrier battle group in the Mediterranean and our NATO forces in Europe?

Any minute now, I continued, black helicopters will be landing on the roof of your building and special ops troops will be rappelling down to your window, ready to kick it in and whisk you away for interrogation. I pray for your soul.

There was silence on his end of the line.

Finally he said: "Sir, this offer is good for - "

No, thanks, I said. My best to your family. And I hung up.

The second call was from another national magazine, a woman with a low, husky voice immediately assuring me: "This is not about renewing your subscription."

It was too early in the morning to launch into the whole security-shield, special-ops rant.

So I said: But I want to renew my subscription. Right now!

"Sir, I'm not calling about -," she said.

Renew it for 10 more years! I said. The check's in the mail!

But she said she couldn't do that. She was calling, she said, about a special series of books they were sending me that I could peruse free of charge and mail back if not completely satisfied and blah, blah, blah.

The third call was taken by my wife. She listened patiently for several minutes.

(My wife actually did part-time telemarketing work for Sears when she was in high school and therefore has some misguided empathy for the poor mopes who makes these calls.)

When she hung up, she shook her head and said: "I have no idea who that was from or what they were trying to sell."

The fourth call was from a home-security outfit here in Maryland - a call, I'm assuming, that was not computer-generated.

Nevertheless, I told the pleasant-sounding woman on the other end to take a hike. Well, in so many words.

(Look, these telemarketers are like stray cats. Show 'em the slightest kindness and you'll never get rid of them.)

So that's the bottom line on the TeleZapper: four telemarketing calls in more than three weeks. (We also received at least a dozen calls where there was a click on the other end when we answered. According to the TeleZapper brochure, this means we probably just "zapped" another telemarketer.)

Charlene Brandt, a spokeswoman for Privacy Technologies in Ohio, said the company had no figures on the average decrease in telemarketing calls produced by the TeleZapper, since each household gets a different volume of calls.

But she said the results of my trial run with the TeleZapper were in line with what other customers have reported in satisfaction surveys.

The TeleZapper has only been on the market since last fall. And while her company does not divulge sales figures, Brandt said "overall consumer response has been phenomenal."

Me, I'm just happy the phone doesn't ring as much.

Although naturally I feel bad about getting the special ops guys involved.

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