by adam mathes
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When representatives of the telemarketing industry make arguments about impending job loss as a result of the Federal Do Not Call List, which they seem to do at every opportunity, I never hear people respond with an attack on their illegal use of predictive dialing.

Ever picked up the phone only to have dead air? That’s probably predictive dialing. There are two main uses for automated predictive dialing. The first is to maximize telemarketer “talk time.” If you assume only 20% of people answer their calls, then you can call 10 people for every 2 telemarketers available to answer and get better productivity than having 10 telemarketers call 10 people. If, however, you are the third or fourth person to pick up out of those ten, nobody is available to talk to you. My guess is that if you have about 20% picking up, then they are dialing more like 20 for every two telemarketers, just to be sure everyone’s working regardless of fluctuations.

This wastes the time of people who answered their phone, but increases call volume for the telemarketers. So everyone wins. Except consumers, who are annoyed, had their time wasted, and, if you believe the telemarketers claims, also unfortunately missed out on some very important, worthwhile business opportunities that certainly would have been worth interrupting dinner for. (Also, the actual telemarketers, who don’t even get 10 seconds off to wait for the phone to dial after somebody screams at them and hangs up.)

The other even less defensible use of predictive dialing is calling when there are no telemarketers available, just to determine whether the number is valid, and whether you are more likely to answer a call at 3pm or 8pm.

The whole point of predictive dialing is to hire less telemarketers to do more work. If these companies could increase profits by firing every telemarketer and replacing them with a computer synthesized voice or outsourcing the work to India they absolutely would. They could not possibly care less. One could argue that it’s simply a productivity enhancer, and capitalism at work, but it’s not. It’s an abusive tactic used by telemarketers to decrease their labor force and increase their profits in flagrant violation of existing regulations, not to mention common decency, and at the expense of the public’s wasted time.

See, the thing to keep in mind is that predictive dialing is already illegal -

FCC rules require that companies identify themselves to consumers and also that telemarketers maintain "do-not-call" lists for people who do not wish to receive telemarketing calls from a certain company. The practice of predictive dialing, and the resulting abandoned calls, often do not allow consumers to identify the company calling and, therefore, do not afford consumers the opportunity to make a "do-not-call" request under FCC rules.

Now, despite the fact that predictive dialing is already a violation of existing regulations, it has been made doubly, explicitly, without a doubt illegal in one of the provisions in the Do Not Call List regulations.

If telemarketers are forced to actually have a human being listening to every call they make, they theoretically need more people to get through the same call volume. Personally, I don’t think the Do Not Call List will have any effect on the number of people employed by telemarketers since they will just end up calling the numbers not on the Do Not Call List more often.

I know the job market is horrible, but the truth is nobody has been forced to work in the telemarketing industry. My views on this theoretical job loss among telemarketers is this: if companies employed “fecalmarketers” to throw feces at people’s homes in order to get their attention to then sell them aluminum siding, see if they might be interested in finding out more about financial services, or if they wanted to change their long distance service provider, and then the government stepped in and said, hey, wait, you know throwing feces at somebody’s home is really not cool and you’re not allowed to do it to people who have signed up for this “do not throw shit at my house list,” would anybody really argue about putting people who hurl feces for a living out of a job? Sure, the fecalmarketers are losing their jobs, and nobody likes to legislate people out of work, but maybe these people should have thought twice before entering an industry that required them to throw unwanted shit at people’s homes.

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