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Telemarketing Tunes
by Rod Bartchy

I used to just say ”No Thanks” to telemarketers and hang up. On occasion, after say the third call in six minutes regarding a great deal on crawl space inspections, I might let loose with some invective.  It was dinner time, ok, and the cat was eyeing my salmon.

But last month I had a change of tune, both literally and figuratively.

As soon as the telemarketer got her pitch out, I launched into a robust version of Home on the Range. When I got to ‘a discouraging word’, she hung up. 

Since then I’ve had a lot of success with this approach. Many of the calls are sourced overseas. How to respond to Home on the Range is not spelled out in their telemarketer playbook about saving me money on my electric bill.

They’re ready to rock if it goes to cost comparisons, kilowatt hours, and two-year deals. But ‘where the deer and the antelope play’ leaves them baffled. 

But to the credit of some telemarketers, after a stanza of Home on the Range, they’ll still gamely try to get me back on point.

“Ah…yes...Mr. Rod it is home we are talking about and we can save you money on your electric bill.”

My last name is virtually unpronounceable unless you’re Swiss, so telemarketers worldwide call me Mr. Rod. They all claim to have names like Frank, Jim, Sally or Carol to make me feel comfortable

So now I have a choice. Sing another stanza. Pick a different tune, or riff off their bogus names. 

“Hey Jim, how’s the weather in Albania this morning?” or

“Carol, is India a good place to retire?”

This too is not in their playbook. Some will disconnect at this point, but a brave few will persevere. 

“It is a very good place, Mr. Rod. But you do need life insurance. Who will pay the bills on…home on the range when you are gone?”  

Good try. Plucky even.

But when this happens I’ll up the ante and launch into my brother’s favorite number, Who Let the Dogs Out.

After a couple of stanzas, I’ll pause. They’re usually stunned into silence at this point. Then I’ll press on, accusingly.

“You let the dogs out, didn’t you, Frank!  Not good!”

Some will instinctively protest their innocence while frantically riffling through their playbook under dogs. 

It’s the rare one that gamely tries to use dogs to redirect me back to their pitch.

Take the case of ‘Sam’ from Shanghai.  After the first verse of Who Let the Dogs Out, he  melodiously returned with

“Yes, Mr. Rod, your pets are important to you but so is your phone bill.”

He’s good, that one.  I parried with my rap version of MacArthur Park.

“MacArthur Park is &%!@% melting in the dark, dog, all that sweet green icing’s goin’ down.”

Sam came back, not with a spiel about my phone bill, but with a great reggae rendition of the next lyric.

“Someone left da cake out in da rain, mon. I don’t think, I don’t think I can take it” Think Bob Marley with a Cantonese accent.

Game on Sam.

“Cause it took too long to bake it” I countrify in my soulful faux Willie Nelson tenor.

“And I’ll never have that recipe again” Sam did a great late career Sinatra.

Something special was happening. We both knew it. And the next line happened spontaneously, both of us singing together.

“Oh no!”  Sam held the note a bit longer than I did. A beautiful moment really.

We finished the rest of MacArthur Park. Yellow cotton dress…Old men playing checkers. You know the song.

I didn’t buy into his sketchy cell phone company’s two-year deal. He figured as much. We were past that now. But I did invite him to call me back anytime with his play list. We’re buds now and on a slow night in Shanghai I’m always available to sing the blues.