Telemarketing and the Categorical Imperative

My patience for telemarketing grows shorter with every call. Billboard advertising may ruin my view of the world, but calling me at home to sell me a product steals my time and invades my privacy. Realizing I’ve trapped an unsuspecting rat, I sometimes use the opportunity to engage the caller in a discussion of Kant’s Categorical Imperative.

Me: You know what would really work for me? How about you give me your home phone number and I’ll call you there at my convenience. I am, after all, the customer.

Them: Well sir, this will only take a minute, and…

Me: I wonder what it would be like if every business in the Yellow Pages called people in their homes to sell them their products. The home phone would become unusable. Do you really intend that every business should do what you’re doing right now? Do you understand that this form of marketing, if performed by all vendors, would literally make home life unlivable for the very customers you’re trying to reach?

Act so that the maxim [determining motive of the will] may be capable of becoming a universal law for all rational beings.

Them: [stone silence]

Me: Telemarketing is immoral.

And thereabouts the caller generally gives up on me. But this morning, as I took an unsolicited call from MCI with a towel wrapped around my waist, the telemarketer responded with this:

Them: Sir, it’s the American way.

I was dumbfounded. I should have responded by asking what part of “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” telemarketing came under. Instead I lost my head and just started yelling at him. I don’t know what. Something about how can he sleep at night, etc. It was kind of nuts. Amy got worried for me, wondered what I was doing to my blood pressure. I suppose she’s right, but damn it felt good. Cathartic.

Music: Spizzenergi :: 6000 Crazy

9 Replies to “Telemarketing and the Categorical Imperative”

  1. Thanks for the reminder of Kant’s Categorical Imperative. Great application. But it begs the question, is driving a car immoral by Kant’s logic?

    I’ve tried the “can I call you at home” gambit after I saw it on Seinfeld. Worked like a charm until someone cracked and began yelling at me “this is my job, gobnabit!”. I, of course, yelled backed, “get a new job”.

    Minette is quite patient and asks the tm’s to send info on how their company is benefitting the environment and the community. Works like a charm (i.e. they get off), but we’ve never seen any of the requested info.

    My sister says, “just a minute” and leaves the phone off the hook and hangs it up a few minutes later.

    I’m told when you receive a robot message you can jam their computer by hitting the # key quickly. Is this just an
    urban legend?

  2. Damn, Joshua beat me to the Seinfeld reference.

    The phrase that works wonders is “Please put this number on your do-not-call list”.

    Lotsa info at – covers telemarketing as well as junk snail and e-mail.

    It IS the American way that corporations have more rights than individuals. Tragic but true.

  3. The do not call list works sometimes, always worth asking. Key thing though is to get off the phone as quickly as possible. Not because it helps maintain your sanity (although it does), but because they monitor how long they can keep you on the line. The bigger window you give them the higher you rate as a prospect, which of course leads to more calls. This is one of the only areas in life where it pays to be rude and rushed…

  4. I can’t believe Seinfeld used the same line … or rather can’t believe I came up with the same line independently!

    We’re definitely on the do not call lists, but calls seem to keep coming through anyway. Chris, of course you’re right about corps having more rights than individuals. Gack.

  5. I signed up at junkbusters a few years ago and after about three months my junk mail and junk phone calls reduced to a trickle. I also used to get completely aggravated by the calls until I learned to interrupt immediately and say, “would you please put me on your no call list?” They *always* reply with their script about how long it may take, but that’s the end of the call. I’ve never had anyone try to continue the sale after that. My aggravation level and blood pressure stay much lower now! :-)

    And yes, it is unfortunate that the American Way is to give corporations so many rights, but then they’ve bought and paid for our current President and many other of our public servants, haven’t they? (Insert ad for campaign finance reform here.)

  6. Josh, I don’t think driving a car is immoral by Kant’s standards because I think most people absolutely *would* will that all people drive everywhere! Whether that’s a wise intent is another question…

  7. Loved the tales of Josh’s sisters and Minette’s techniques. I doubt the # key trick works, or if it does, probably only on certain (now old) TM phone systems.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *