When my brother Tom was in the Foreign Service, he ran across a file on someone whose visa application had been denied.  A colleague had written LLPOF on the file. 

Tom:  “Hey, what does LLPOF stand for?”
Colleague (matter-of-factly) :  “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

We have always gotten a kick out of this story.  It’s laudable that a childish taunt can come in so handy when you need a bit of code, even in the lofty halls of the diplomatic corps.

And now, apparently, that name is written on my file, somewhere in a cold-calling company located God-knows-where.

It happened like this.  On Thursday I was sitting at my desk, trying to get work done, when the office line rang.   Failing to recognize the caller ID, I answered crisply with my name.  A woman immediately launched into her spiel about how she was with Yellow Pages Online and just needed to verify my information, and this was still my correct address, right? 

When she paused to take a breath, I did what I thought was the humane thing.  Instead of saying “This is an office, take us off your calling list, never call here again,” I decided to let her down easy.  Be kinder, gentler.  I said “You know, I’m on the other line, I just can’t talk about this right now.”

Dropping the friendly young girl chirp, the stranger on the phone turned into a fire-breathing she devil.  “Oh yeah!  Sure you are!  What a LIAR!”  SLAM.

I jotted her comments on a turquoise post-it note so I would have her exact words for this post.

I naively thought that when you were listed on the Do Not Call Registry, these nuisance calls would stop.  But no.  We get harrassed on our business line by cold-callers all the time, because apparently, companies are still fair game.  We also get unsolicited faxes, which are so anachronistic that they’re almost collectible.  Who sends faxes anymore?  People trying to reach the TRAVEL DEPARTMENT, coaxing them into signing up for Bahama cruises…that’s who.

Chris and I especially enjoy the calls from India, with Bollywood-accented voices saying “Hello, my name is Fiona” or “Hi, I’m Lucas.”  Sure you are, what a liar!

I was talking to my friend Lindsay about this yesterday.  Apparently nonprofits and charitable organizations are still allowed to cold-call private homes.  In her house, nobody picks up the phone between 5:30 and 8:30 PM, letting all calls go straight to voicemail.  Most of them are hang-ups, because they’re mostly begging calls.

On those rare occasions when Lindsay answers the phone and it’s a nonprofit, she gets rid of the  beggar by saying “Our family already has a pet affliction.  We give to the disease that actually affects us” – and this WORKS!  Because really, who but the most callous of callers would argue with such a statement?

Years ago, Chris had a brilliant inspiration upon receiving an unwanted sales call.  He covered the mouthpiece, handed the phone to five-year-old Ian, and said “This nice man wants to hear about your favorite Power Ranger.  Tell him everything.”  Ian obligingly began babbling into the phone, “My favorite Power Ranger is the blue one, Billy.  He’s really big and strong and I’m going to be him for Halloween.  We already got the costume, and the mask.  I watch the show every day after my nap.  Who is your favorite Power Ranger?”  Then, looking baffled, “He’s not saying anything.”

Ah yes, sweet victory.

I would love to know if you have any great lines that are guaranteed to shut down the cold callers. 

Because they’re still lurking out there, in boiler rooms and strip malls, from India to Indiana, punching in our office number.   And waiting to yell at us if we dare to let them down easy.

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