When I started at the ad magazine, I did outbound calling, where the object was to identify items which had sold (company revenue, and a slice of it for me!) or, failing that, get the client to renew his ad. Not surprisingly, most of the time I got voicemail, and often the client hadn’t read the manual:
[Prerecorded VM lady] “The party you have dialed,…”
[Clueless client] “Hi, you’ve reached Jane and John! Leave a message!”
[VM lady] “… is not available.”
Then there’s the Sprint lady. I’m not sure what flew up her nose, but the recorded voice from Sprint just SNARLS out the digits: “The number you have dialed, 5! 0! 8! 9! 4! 6!…” Jeez, chill, SprintHilda.
Others make full use of a free-form outgoing message. There’s one guy out there with a 2-minute prayer on his OGM, and while I don’t doubt the sincerity of his multiple blessings on callers, I wish he’d cut to the chase and leave the Holy Trinity out of it.
My favorite OGM, even though I fell for it every time, was the Ferris Bueller wannabe. His pickup was complete with the sleepy “Hello?”, the precisely timed pauses, several uncannily appropriate responses and then the kicker: “Don’tcha just hate when voicemails do that?”
Occasionally I’d reach a warm body, and the reactions ranged from hangups to lonely people telling their life stories. I’ve switched to inbound calls now, but we reps are all in the same room, and at any given moment we can usually hear an outbound rep protesting, “No, I’m from The Classifieds. The Classifieds? The Classifieds Magazine. No – ma’am – you placed an ad with us? No, I work at The Classifieds…”
The brevity award goes to a client who picked up and shouted, “NOT SOLD!” (I hadn’t counted on caller ID.) Well all righty then! At least those two words and a hangup boosted my calls-per-hour stats, partially compensating for Father Frank’s interminable blessings.
Doing inbound, I get warm bodies all the time now, with the exception of a few persistent faxes. The easiest way for us to access a client’s account is by his phone number. One would think that it’d be easy to get a number from a client, and one would be wrong. Much of the problem is unconscious – they know the number, so they blurt it as quickly as possible, letting their volume fall off during the last 4 digits. Hispanic callers can be a challenge (I took French), but so funny: “Fie oh ay, tree nye sebbeng…” Some callers act stunned when I ask for their number and release it with excruciating concentration, as though they’re giving birth. Quite a few start with 1 (“1-978-…”), and way too many leave off the area code. Then when I ask for the area code, almost without fail they give me their… zip code.
The strangest phone number phenomenon is regional. We’re all convinced they’re putting something in the water in Fall River (excuse me: “Fah Rivvah”). For some reason, almost every caller from that general area gives an aberrant reading on his number (“508-55-
56-78-9”). Usually the area code is intact, but we’ve had pauses in those, too. It’s frustrating because at least half of the calls come in from cellphones, so when one of those FahRivvahrites gives a 2-digit exchange, I always think the cellphone blanked on a digit.
If you’re with me so far, once we get into the client’s account, the real fun begins. The ads can paint a picture:
Other ads just scream “Deal of the Century”:
I know, I know, let he [sic] who is without sin cast the first stone. We definitely mess up sometimes, and what comes out of our mouths often isn’t quite what was intended. Overheard in the teleservices room:
“Did you shave the dragon before you ate him?” [Yup, a bearded dragon. The client had joked that he wasn’t sold, they had him for dinner.]
“…and you know why? Because I don’t give a rat’s Hello, may I speak to John?…”
And we’ve been known to fatfinger the input. Gems found while proofreading:
Humidors in the “Construction Trucks & Equipment” category… with an incorrect phone number.
1976 Pontiac in “Special Events”. [Maybe it was, for one lucky couple on prom night.]
Xneox. [Xenon? Anyway, this looks like what a Dr. Seuss character says when he sneezes.]
Health quar. [This error got the guy a free renewal. When you’re selling puppies, “health quarantine” gives a far different impression than “health guarantee”.]
FORD UP NOSE. [Chevy in ear? Dodge Ram up butt? This is my all-time favorite heading, and it actually made it to print. It helps to know that we abbreviate “pickup” as PU, and that the ad was in the “Truck Parts & Accessories” section, but it kills me anyway.]
Can I change the price? [Hey, it’s your ad. You can change anything but the actual item you’re selling.]
We have to lower the price every time we renew, right? [Um, no. We have rules, but not cruel ones.]
[“So your heading is ‘2001 SUBARU FORESTER L’. How do you want to describe it?”] “2001 Subaru Forester L…” [Glad you cleared that up for us.]
I picked up a copy of Horsepower [our biweekly color mag limited to items with engines], and the ad for my canoe isn’t in it.
[“That change will be reflected in the May 1 issue.”] When will that come out?
It’s a New England thing
5-draw file cab w/petitions. [So is there a partition I can sign mandating the correct spelling of “drawer”?]
Dept. of Redundancy Dept.
Sitting armchair. [I hate the stand-up kind.]
Outdoor shed. [Good, because I don’t have space for it in my living room.]
Baby bassinet. [The adult ones are so unwieldy.]
ABS brakes. [And here I was thinking you meant ABS headlights.]
In our copious free time between calls, heh, we enter ads which have been sent by fax, e-mail, snail-mail and the web. In our clients’ own words:
2 pr alum crotches. [I’ve never even seen one.]
[Boat with] Porti-Party.
Rod island railing. [We have a winnah! Take that, “rod iron” and “rot iron”.]
8″ Fisher plow. [Shall we file that under Tonka Truck Accessories?]
2 cain armchairs. [But I’m not abel to sit in them.]
Uses std 115 house plug. [Remind me not to have you rewire my house.]
The 2 banks are in immacuble shape. [Incredulate!]
Almost roadworthy. Drive now, restore later! [Repent at leisure, behind bars!]
BLOW-UP DOLL. …slightly used. [This is icky on so many levels. I have to wonder, though: does she have an aluminum crotch?]
1 owner, used 3 times. [You just keep on usin’ me… until you use me up.]
2 owners, always garaged. [May I put you on hold while I call the authorities?]
The stroller was used for my twins who were born in 2004 so it is new. [Where’d you park your DeLorean?]
OK, so maybe I do know where SprintHilda got her attitude.