When I had my telephone number added to the National Do Not Call Registry, it was mostly out of curiosity. I didn't really believe it was going to stop annoying telemarketing calls, but there wasn't much to lose in trying.
What I liked about the registry was that, once I was on it, those unwanted calls would clearly be illegal. With a little ambition, perhaps I could seek remedies for my suffering. It seemed to be worth a shot.
I filed my first complaint using the Federal Trade Commission's automated telephone service. Since there was no response, I used a form on the Internet the second time.
"Thank you for filing your complaint with the National Do Not Call Registry," read the automatic response. "Do not call complaints will be entered into a secure online database available to civil and criminal law enforcement agencies. While the FTC does not resolve individual consumer problems, your complaint will help the agency investigate the company, and could lead to law enforcement action."
I translate that to mean: "We probably aren't going to do anything, but if we do, you will never know."
It seems the response to receiving illegal calls should be to hang up and get over it. Still, when I got my next call I couldn't resist continuing my investigation.
"It is urgent that you contact us concerning your eligibility for lowering your interest rate to as little as 6.9 percent," the recorded message told me. I pressed 1 to speak to a representative.
"Hi, this is Naomi with card services," the friendly voice said. "I understand you are interested in lowering your current interest rates. Can I have your first name please?"
I informed Naomi that my number is on the National Do Not Call Registry and I shouldn't be bothered. I asked her to identify the company she works for, and, to my surprise, she happily told me.
"The name of my company is IXE Banking Centers," she said. "We got your information through the credit bureau Experian."
This came as quite a surprise to me, because the last time I pressed 1 to speak to a representative, an angry woman refused to give me information and then hung up. Now, I had Naomi killing me with kindness.
It made me realize that hanging up is the best thing she could have done for both of us. The more information I have, the more capable I am of wasting time.
Paul Lundgren is a newspaper columnist and a very nice man. His e-mail address is paul @ geekprom.com.