Canada recently instituted a nationwide do-not-call list for telemarketers. Apparently the US Congress recommended such a thing fifteen years ago, but the final decision was to have individual telemarketers maintain their own do-not-call lists. That is fairly stupid, because there are so many companies that you'd never get on all the lists before one company folded and reemerged as another, quite possibly using its old do-not-call list as its new list of hot prospects.
Canada's new do-not-call list is equally stupid. There's a website you can go to in order to register your number(s) as do-not-call and any Canadian telemarketing company or foreign company making calls on behalf of a Canadian corporation is supposed to check their list against the registered do not call numbers and not call them. They can be fined $1500 for calling me anyway, so it sounds like something with teeth, but it disregards the fact the telemarketing is a scummy industry, and it's implemented in a stupid way.
Instead of being required to submit their call lists to be checked and pruned against a master list, the companies are required to buy the master list. That's right, telemarketing companies can buy a list of every Canadian who has asked not to be called by telemarketers. And the way the system works, the larger the company, the more they have to pay for the list. So of course what has happened is that little tiny companies open for the sole purpose of buying the list for cheap, and then selling it offshore where they can call me with impunity.
I got a call today, one of those machines calling. It told me that a friend had entered my name at the Bay or Zellers and that I had won a trip to Costa Rica. Now the Bay and Zellers are Canadian companies, and my friends are smart enough not to enter me in dubious contests, so I knew this was not above board. I pressed 1 to talk to a customer service representative. He had an impenetrable accent, so I couldn't understand his name, nor the name of the company calling when I asked for it. I think he may have made it deliberately unintelligible because when I asked him to spell it, he said for more information he would have to transfer me. Transferring is good, because the higher up the chain of command you get, the more of a nuisance you are able to be. In order to transfer me he wanted to know my name. I told him I wasn't giving him my name because he called me and therefore the onus was on him. He said he had to have my name to transfer me, so I told him sarcastically it was Jane Smith. He either didn't or chose not to recognize that as a default generic name and accepted it, but then wanted to know if I had more than $5000 in credit card debt. I told him I didn't give out that kind of information, just to transfer me please. He tried a few more times to get me to tell him. I told him the answer was Mu. He insisted on a yes or a no, and when I made it clear I wasn't giving it out, he hung up on me.
Scumbucket telemarketing company. This sort of thing is bad for my blood pressure or something, I'm sure. The *69 call told me that the call was from 616-980-2643 which is in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Their service provider is named Lucre but the company name is ex-directory. Michigan has do-not-call laws protecting Michigan consumers, but what can I do about it? Global telecommunications is such that every single country in the world would have to be signatory to a global death-to-telemarketers pact before do-not-call registries are of any use whatsoever. I can't screen my calls by number, because I get calls from all over and who knows when some pilot friend is calling from a hotel or an FBO in Grand Rapids telling me they are coming north and can I meet for lunch? And screening by always letting the machine pick up also causes you to miss important calls from people who want to talk to you now or not at all. I could solve this with technology, but it's not just about telemarketing.
While I was still fuming about this, a story came on the radio about a chemical plant in Canada that had been sold to someone in Edmonton who just walked away from the responsibility of the plant when the economy took a nosedive. No payroll no forwarding address no nothing. Because I live in a modern, responsible country, the government stepped in with an emergency order asking the workers to stay at work and make sure that the plant didn't just explode, or pump hazardous chemicals into the environment or become the incubation ground for a new Batman villain, or whatever happens to untended chemical plants. I'm not sure anyone knows. The government then tried to track down the owner of the company and apparently the trail ends in Slovenia.
That's the way the world is these days. I'm horrified to think of what is happening in countries with lesser ability to step in and deal with this kind of situation. A Canadian company could just walk away from responsibility in Zaïre and who is going to be able to do anything or even know? Someone knows, and with today's global communication I'm sure I could find dozens of such cases documented by concerned individuals, but how is anyone to distinguish real should-be-crimes from made-up stuff posted on the loony websites of whacko sky-is-falling nutjobs? And even if the whole world knows, who can prosecute or hold to account a numbered Uzbekistani company with investors listing addresses in Slovenia, Paraguay and Delaware? For countries that have environmental regulations, it would be possible to require, as part of the initial environmental permitting process for new facilities, the posting of a bond sufficient to safely close down production and clean up the area in the event of abandonment or catastrophe, but that would be a large amount, and the savvy investor would just build the facility in a jurisdiction with a more short-sighted desperation for jobs.
Anything that happens in the world affects the whole world these days. The working conditions and pay at your job may be cantilevered by unions and government regulations, but ultimately in the global economy it is dependent on what the most desperate person will accept. And that person can be anywhere in the world. We can't just fix our own countries. We have to fix the whole world to get this to work. How do you fix the whole world? Historically, the spread of law has followed conquering armies. I don't think conquering the world for freedom from telemarketers is the way to go here. More optimistically, manufacturing and environmental standards also spread by economic pressure. The kids who grew up in the Cold War had it good. They knew they'd be wiped out by the Bomb. Me, I can't figure out which worldwide disaster to be concerned about.
The telemarketing part had a happy ending. I called the Bay's customer service and they efficiently transferred me to a customer service rep who knew about the usurpation of the company's name and assured me that their loss prevention department was working with the relevant authorities to stop the telemarketers, who apparently were also fraudsters. I assume they are going to nuke them from orbit, so if you live in Grand Rapids, you should probably go out of town for the weekend. And if you comment on this blog entry, do take into account that the official Posterperson for Readers of Aviatrix's Blog is employed in the telemarketing business, so any comments demonizing all telemarketers will not be taken well.