Anti-Junk mail chain letter spam

By Shamus Posted Friday Mar 3, 2006

Filed under: Nerd Culture 7 comments

Recently someone sent me some tips for dealing with telemarketing calls and junk mail, in the form of a chain letter. I find this to be both ironic and humorous. Like all chain letters, it takes something good, adds on a bunch of nonsense and flim-flam, and then begs people to spread it around. Let’s have a look:

Andy Rooney’s tips for telemarketers

Three Little Words That Work !! The three little words are: “Hold On, Please…” Saying this, while putting down your phone and walking off (instead of hanging-up immediately) would make each telemarketing call so much more time-consuming that boiler room sales would grind to a halt.

Then when you eventually hear the phone company’s “beep-beep-beep” tone, you know it’s time to go back and hang up your handset, which has efficiently completed its task. These three little words will help eliminate telephone soliciting.

I have no idea if this is really from Andy Rooney. Not that it matters. I don’t really consider Rooney to be some sort of techno-expert. He’s a guy on TV. He does what I do (communicate with people) except that he has to wear makeup. I can’t think of anyone less impressive to cite as a source. A common chain letter tactic is to attribute the contents to some authority, and I expect that is what has happened here.

In any case, this suggestion is brilliant. I will be doing this from now on.

One of the things I struggle with is that the people doing the actual calling are working for peanuts. While worthy of scorn, they are just reluctant henchmen serving a mastermind who is far beyond your reach. They are verbal punching bags, and no matter how much abuse you heap on them, none of it will make it back to the lothsome people running the show.

But by following this suggestion I can do something besides vent on some hapless drone. If I ask them to “hold on a second” and then walk away, I have not done anything to the sap on the other end. I’m sure he’d rather sit there in silence than read through his script for the fifty-third time today. More importantly, I’m clogging up the works. If I had implied that perhaps his mother was less virtuous than is normally expected of mothers and then hung up, he’d be interrupting someone else’s dinner by now. But instead he’s sitting there doing nothing, which is costing his employer (Calling Center Manager Plapatine) both time and money. Best of all, it doesn’t require any extra effort on my part. I was going to put the phone down and walk away anyhow. All I have to do is not hang up.

Do you ever get those annoying phone calls with no one on the other end?

This is a telemarketing technique where a machine makes phone calls and records the time of day when a person answers the phone. This technique is used to determine the best time of day for a “real” sales person to call back and get someone at home.

What you can do after answering, if you notice there is no one there, is to immediately start hitting your # button on the phone, 6 or 7 times, as quickly as possible. This confuses the machine that dialed the call and it kicks your number out of their system. Gosh, what a shame not to have your name in their system any longer !!!

I do get these hang-up calls from time to time. They usually preceed a real telemarketing call by an hour or so. When I get one of these, I know that odds are good I have a spam call coming in the next hour.

But I don’t think the suggested solution makes the slightest bit of sense. The machine is just seeing if you pick up. I hear the hang-up click the moment I say “hello”. I’m certain the machine isn’t listening beyond that point, even if it was possible to “confuse” it.

This is the sort of superstitious thing people come up with when they don’t understand how a computer works. The program only cares about one piece of input: You answering the phone. By the time you realize what you’re dealing with, it has that piece of info, and it would be senseless for the programmer to go to the extra trouble of having the thing listen beyond that point.

When you get “ads” enclosed with your phone or utility bill, return these “ads” with your payment. Let the sending companies throw their own junk mail away.

These things are opened by a human. As a rule, I don’t want to confuse this person when I’m paying my bill. The last thing I need is for them to see the ads and throw them away, along with my check. If a utility company wants to send me an ad with the bill, I don’t get too bent out of shape. This isn’t general spam sent blindly to everyone. These guys know who I am and we have an existing relationship.

When you get those “pre-approved” letters in the mail for everything from credit cards to 2nd mortgages and similar type junk, do not throw away the return envelope. Most of these come with postage-paid return envelopes, right?It costs them more than the regular 37 cents postage “IF” and when they receive them back.
It costs them nothing if you throw them away! The postage was around 50 cents before! the last increase and it is according to the weight. In that case, why not get rid of some of your other junk mail and put it in these cool little, postage-paid return envelopes.

Send an ad for your local chimney cleaner to American Express. Send a pizza coupon to Citibank. If you didn’t get anything else that day, then just send them their blank application back! If you want to remain anonymous, just make sure your name isn’t on anything you send them. You can even send the envelope back empty if you want to just to keep them guessing! It still costs them 37 cents.

I do this from time to time. If the ad makes me angry, I almost always make sure to send them some junk back. There are some credit card ads that are very sleazy and decietful, and those guys get to pay for me mailing them junk.

I don’t do this to ALL of them, because it’s just too much hassle. You’d have to really spend time on this if you wanted to get them all.

The banks and credit card companies are currently getting a lot of their own junk back in the mail, but folks, we need to OVERWHELM them. Let’s let them know what it’s like to get lots of junk mail, and best of all they’re paying for it…Twice! Let’s help keep our postal service busy since they are saying that e-mail is cutting into their business profits, and that’s why they need to increase postage costs again. You get the idea !

If enough people follow these tips, it will work—-

The postal service was having trouble long before the internet came along. Email is just a handy excuse. In any case, telling me that doing this will help out the postal service doesn’t really motivate me.

This tactic takes a little effort on my part. More effort than would be needed to simply throw the stuff away. Junk mail isn’t the worst problem we face, spam-wise. Unlike email spam, the sender does indeed have to pay for it. Unlike telemarketing calls, junk mail is only a slight annoyance.

I have been doing this for years, and I get very little junk mail anymore.

I seriously doubt that one person doing this can affect their own supply of junk mail. While it is true that if EVERYONE did it, it would no doubt impede the efforts of the junk-mailers, but remember how this works: This return mail is opened by someone working near minimum wage, opening envelopes and looking for completed applications / checks / sign-up forms or whatever else they want you to send back. That guy probably doesn’t have any power over who does and does not get junk mail. Even if he DID have the power to take you off the list, is he going to take that extra step because you sent him a fistful of coupons? This is assuming he even knows who you are. If the ONLY thing you send is coupons, then he’s not going to know who sent them, and thus cannot stop sending you junk mail.

And all of this just wouldn’t be complete without:


(rolling eyes.)

If you have a good idea, you will never need to beg people to spread it around. Great ideas are viral in nature. Typing in ALL CAPS only draws attention to the fact that this is the true goal of the email: not to combat solicitation, but to simply spread.

So, this email had one good idea, which is this: Ask telemarketers to hold and let them sit there. As I said at the beginning, it is a good idea wrapped in a bunch of nonsense.

In closing, please forward this link to all your friends. ;-)


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7 thoughts on “Anti-Junk mail chain letter spam

  1. MOM says:

    hmmmm. I thought the junk mail thing was just as good as the “hold on a minute” thing. We don’t get telemarketers anymore because we signed on to the do not call list. And I get LOTS of spam I don’t send to you, even though they promise me great wealth if I do. I actually got this one from Marylou AND Bert, Marylou is a serial spammer. Bert is on her list. M believes everything that hits her mailbox. Sometimes I snopes it and send her the results. Usually I ignore it. I only even read a small portion of what she sends. The sappy stuff is her weakness, ICK. But she means well and occassionaly I get something worth viewing. She asks me if I mind getting her email stuff (sometimes there are 10 in a day) and I always assure her I don’t mind. No backbone here. I am going to send you a recent email from her with a series of photoshopped pics. I wrote her to tell her they were fake. Sometimes I get a perverse satisfaction out of raining on her e-mail. Kind of passive aggression I guess. Like “hold on a minute” to telemarketers.

  2. Alkaru says:

    Having worked as a telesales person for a couple of years (it pays money which buys food) I’ve got a few things to add here.

    Junk Mail – in the UK where I am there is a Do No Mail list – signing up for this cuts out pretty much all your mass mail. Takes a few months to take effect but once its done – well I haven’t had any at my home address in a year (apart from the local Council stuff *sigh*)

    Phone calls

    1. Sign up for your Do Not Call list. By all means tell the person on the phone you have done so – but don’t lie and then get irate when someone from an entirely different company calls you (but I told them I am on the list ….)

    2. Don’t swear – especially if you also claimed not to be person they are looking for – firstly because there is no need to be rude, but also because they will call you back – probably timed to be the most annoying their shift pattern will let them.

    3. Same as 2 – don’t repeatedly claim that person is out. They will just call back.

    4. Just saying no thank you I’m really not interested – after you find out vaguely what it’s about – this is probably the quickest way to get them off the phone and not call you back with this offer – for permanent no calls from any company the Do Not Call list is the only way. And telesales people can’t sign you up for that – you have to do it yourself – they can only take you off the list for the specific thing they are actually calling about.

    5. Make sure this is not actually a company you deal with – sometimes this is sales from your bank etc – but the bank also does sometimes call to ask you about other things with your account – mine contacted me once because of a massive error with my student accommodation money getting deducted twice and putting me thousand overdrawn. I was certainly glad they called me that day – so don’t hang up straight away.

    People on minimum wage don’t get paid enough to care about your dislike of calls – but if they getting lots of abuse(and they probably are) one polite person stands out and they are a lot more likely to actually do their best to prevent their company at least from pestering you.

    Oh yeah and automated dialling systems – they are really dreadful for causing complaints – your best bet for them is to complain to your bank or any other companies you deal with that use these systems any time it happens – if they get enough complaints they might stop using the blasted things. Hopefully they will get made illegal soon.

    But make sure you sign up for Do not call and Do not mail – it really does make a huge difference.

  3. Keith says:

    Junk mail isn’t much of a problem anymore, but when it was, and I got a really irritating piece of mail, I would go into the garage and get about 5 oz of lead tire weights, & stuff them in that nice postage-paid envelope along with my torn-up junk mail (name included so they could figure out who cost them $2.50 in postage and take me off their list). Yes, a lot of work, but it doesn’t take too many folks sending in lead tire weights before they have bigger problems on their hands – hazardous waste disposal – and that costs a lot more than postage. On second thought, you might not want your name in there….

  4. H Lorentz says:

    I seem to have few problems with spam mail. My company email, [email protected] , constantly has the network guys working on it. I’ve only received a couple messages in the last few months.

  5. K says:

    Those people are typically paid per successful call, so this still hurts the individuals more than the mastermind.

  6. dude dudeson says:

    2. Don't swear – especially if you also claimed not to be
    person they are looking for – firstly because there is no
    need to be rude, but also because they will call you back
    – probably timed to be the most annoying their shift
    pattern will let them”

    So as a tele-marketer you went out your way, to deliberately hassle people for swearing at you? Being sworn at is part of the job – you do not earn peoples respect by calling unsolicited.

    Not everyone will be stepping out the shower, nice and warm and relaxed. Expect people that have had a really crap day at work, they’ve spilt coffee all over their new pants – and they are itchy as hell and need a God damned shower. when the phone goes off the first thought that pops into their head is:

    They would be perfectly happy to hear it’s their mum or girlfriend ringing up to say they loved them. But no. it’s some guy on the end of the phone trying to sell them some bullshit.

    My friend over in Scotland worked as a telemarketer for 2 weeks. She rang up a poor old woman who had her husband just buried. You’d be a heartless bastard not to feel like your intruding. She, my friend, quit the job because of this.

    Kindly wasting your time,

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