The Plastic Hippo

April 24, 2013

As sure as eggs is eggs

Filed under: Society — theplastichippo @ 2:09 am
Image via Ronans Blog

Image via Ronans Blog

As sure as eggs is eggs, the telephone will ring the instant that Eddie Mair asks a crooked politician on the radio a killer question or at the crucial moment when a cheese sauce is about to turn from ready to ruined.

The logic of cold calling a landline between five pm and seven pm in order to illicit money is perfectly understandable given that there is a good chance that the intended victim will actually be available and ready to be defrauded. However, the tactic of trying to ensnare a captive audience is guaranteed to fail when the target is more interested in stirring the Mornay, dolloping up the Jersey Royals, serving the cauliflower and avoiding incinerating the gammon. It is difficult to know precisely which part of “f**k off” these cold callers fail to understand.

Both the private and third sectors now seem to know an awful lot about our business and, more importantly, our telephone numbers and e-mail addresses. With the economy smelling like a kipper left on a radiator for a couple of weeks, it is no surprise that shysters desperate to turn a dishonest buck in a something-for-nothing society should redouble their efforts to separate the gullible from their money. So, five or six times a day the telephone will ring asking if I am aware of government grants to insulate the loft or offering huge discounts on double glazing simply because the firm happens to be in the area. Tenacious to the end, it is difficult to know precisely which part of “the loft is insulated and the house is double glazed” these cold callers fail to understand. If we are to believe the current crop of pig rectums in Westminster with the unusual ability of being able to have both ends of their bodies simultaneously in the trough, this entrepreneurship is to be applauded as it will create economic growth. Sadly, this kind of growth is normally associated with cancer and testicles and the need for loft insulation and double glazing will be minimal once everyone but the very wealthy is homeless.

We can, of course, admire the chutzpah required to spend the day telephoning random numbers in the hope of finding at least one windowless and un-insulated fool but there are others using telephony with darker intent. The five second silence after picking up the call and saying hello is clue that you are being called from a very long way away. Eventually, a voice with an outrageous accent reminiscent of Apu from the Simpsons will say:
“Hello, my name is Samuel Taylor Coleridge and I am calling from the Microsoft Corporation. There is a problem with your computer and your security is at risk. My colleague Charlotte Bronte requires your passwords and bank account details.”
It is difficult to know precisely which part of “Shiva is a vengeful God” these cold callers fail to understand.

What was, at first, simple irritation at these calls turned into anger in the way that unattended Béchamel sauce turns into putty. Once the anger had subsided, a bit of fun was had by responding to calls in a different language or by speaking nonsense if time allowed. But, the best strategy by far was to reverse the intrusion by saying:
“I`m so glad you called. We happen to be in your area and would like to offer you a free quote without obligation to have your head stuffed down a toilet.”
Strangely, the cold caller hung up.

If the crooks and the chancers are amusing if irritating, there are others that are more upsetting. There can be nothing more embarrassing than people who parade their charitable giving as an indication of moral superiority and neo-liberal one-upmanship. The “look at me, I`m a good person” mind-set is both repulsive and self-indulgent. However, we as a family donate to charities, usually by direct debit, and are happy to do so quietly. Now that our bank details and contact numbers are available to those charities, some of them have decided to cold call us to ask for more. What is disturbing and depressing is that some charities are employing private telesales companies to generate further donations. One operative, going for the hard sell, told me that for just an extra five pounds a month I would save the lives of a hundred babies. I told the operative that I was cancelling my direct debit and would donate to a charity that did not spend money on professional canvassers. The operative hung up. Rest assured, I have written to the CEO of that charity and to several others explaining why I have moved my money elsewhere.

Having invented a cheese sauce that could solve the nation`s highway pothole problem, my mind turned to the wisdom of Mark Twain. As early as 1890, he offered the world this poignant Christmas greeting:
“It is my heart-warmed and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us, the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage (every man and brother of us all throughout the whole earth), may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss, except the inventor of the telephone.

As sure as eggs is eggs, rather than engage with blood suckers, the best policy is to hang up and look after the cheese sauce.


  1. You make some interesting points about cold call charity fund raisers. We get a number knocking our door. My wife thinks that I am a naughty person when I engage them in conversation – mainly because my job is that of income generation for a voluntary sector body and we raise in excess of £14,000,000 p.a. from donations without using telephone calling and without going outside our existing supporter base. We then obtain various grants for whatever and that takes us up to £23,000,000 p.a. and there are a team of paid staff of 1.5FTE doing this. We outsource nothing of this function at all and our income has risen above inflation for each of the years that I have been here. Indications are that 2012 will see a similar increase.
    The key has to be to get donors keyed into the work of the organisation and to use volunteers who are already giving so that no one is being asked to give by some one who is not. And, this is where I am accused of being naughty for I always ask those asking me “when did you sign your direct debit?” and if they do answer positively I then ask ‘what motivated you to give?’ If the answer is “I haven’t and I don’t” they then get a brief fund raising master class. And, if in the case of one who managed not to mention the motivation of their organisation and was using an HSBC Private Bank Umbrella because it was raining I emailed the CEO very quickly indeed. It just seemed a bit odd that an organisation campaigning about tax-avoidance was using a brolly from a company set up to move wealth off shore and minimise tax (see their web-site).
    However, it also has to be noted that a lot of the charity people are kids who currently find it impossible to obtain a job so “anything will do”.
    Fund raising is a skill – perhaps a science and certainly an art form if it is done properly. The problems come when employees/contractors have no synergy or sympathy with the organisation that they are working for. The average tenure of a director of fund raising is less than three years and then they move. It just seems odd to me that you can be passionate about XYZ today and ABC next week. And, it is the embedded passion that changes it from marketing to fund raising. Being a big headed git I can do both, hence doing fund raising for local causes in my spare time (and if any one would like to donate to a skatepark I can post details [with permission of the PH]) At 56 and well over weight it is not for me, but our town needs one.

    Comment by Zummerset — April 24, 2013 @ 7:14 am | Reply

  2. A strange post.

    The poor sods who cold-call from wherever they might be on the planet are, like the rest of us, trying to earn a few shillings as best they can. I can advise, from personal experience, that this is not a great job.

    My present technique is to quickly engage in a personal conversation. A small degree of empathy with the caller, rather than abuse, seems to work wonders. At the very least, it appears that, having been treated reasonably, call centre staff do not call back.

    If this fails, the Hippo would be well-advised to invest in a answerphone!

    The Realist

    ps I note that, almost as a matter of course, the legendary BrownhillsBob has indicated his liking for this post. No doubt I am in for another electronic kicking for disagreeing with his/her view

    pps must dash – the BettaWare catalogue man has just rung the doorbell

    Comment by The Realist — April 24, 2013 @ 11:17 am | Reply

    • Comment by BrownhillsBob — April 24, 2013 @ 10:29 pm | Reply

      • A disturbing addition to the canon of the mighty Hippo.

        That such a powerful, generous and occasionally erudite blogger should choose to pick an argument with a humble suscriber is odd. I will refrain from a direct observation, save to observe that there is, I suspect, something Freudian going on.

        As a relative newcomer to the medium of blogging, I had hoped for better treatment from an expert.

        By the way, videos of dogs chasing their tails could be indicative of more serious problems. I suggest that you consult a vet, a doctor or your neighbour

        The Realist

        Comment by The Realist — April 25, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

  3. Realist, I’d check that over.


    Comment by BrownhillsBob — April 25, 2013 @ 12:48 pm | Reply

  4. Bob

    Feel free to check whatever you can reach.

    The Realist

    Comment by The Realist — May 17, 2013 @ 8:19 pm | Reply

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