You've Got the Goods On 'Em?
Don't Let Them Off the Hook!

1. Contact the company and let them know your intentions.
You've probably got an 800 number for the company. The odds of you getting anywhere with them are almost nil, but it's a free call, and you should start there to say you went through the proper channels.

The 800 number or "Customer Service" number is their first line of defense. Their operators are programmed to be very sympathetic and apologetic and offer to guarantee that you are never called again. They are also programmed (and may also believe) that you have no recourse, since it was "an accident."

This is, of course not a valid excuse. You asked to be put on the Do Not Call List before. That should have taken care of it. Ok, so you've jumped through the hoop. Now you can demand some satisfaction. You can ask to talk to the manager at the 800 number, but they're just someone who is better at defusing the bomb that's being dropped on them, and for some reason, the operators don't like to turn you over to a manager. I've even been hung up on while being "transferred to the manager" (by the same company that was my first kill).

The best bet here is to ask the manager for the name of a person at corporate headquarters or in the legal department. They avoid giving these numbers like the plague, but sometimes will cooperate. Should they resist, and they usually do, you have the internet at your disposal, as well as good old-fashioned information. Look up their corporation on the internet to find out what city they are in. Then dial the area code for that city plus 555-1212, and ask for the listing for that company. It costs about 50 cents, but you get a phone number that the general public isn't "supposed to call." You've penetrated their shell, and they aren't expecting you to attack them from here. The operators here are trained to be friendly and helpful, so they're not going to instinctually hide information from you.

When you call this number, ask for the person in charge of telemarketing. Odds are you'll get transfered to about 5 different people before you find the right one. They often don't know themselves who the appropriate person is. Remember, you've reached the underbelly of Corporate America, where fat, lazy, stupid, and greedy is running the show. If you're polite and friendly, you can often actually get help from the operator! What a concept!

As you're getting transferred from person to person, find out their name so that if you get dumped into voice mail you can come back to them. This time, when you call, you've got a name to ask for, so you're IN! Also, if you do get shuffled off to the next person, and they're not the right one, you can say "So-and-So said you were the person to talk to," and you've got a "paper" trail. The responsibility has been passed to this person, and as long as you're polite and professional, this person HAS to deal with you, since you've got their name. Now they're squirming.

When you do finally get to some Vice President of Marketing or someone in the Legal Department, remember to keep calm, polite, and friendly. You may have to tell your story to several Vice Presidents until you get transferred to the right one.

2. You've found someone in power. Let them know the score.
Calmly tell the person the time, date, and telemarketer's name from the first telemarketing incident. Tell this person that you requested to be put on the Do Not Call List. Tell them that you then received another call, and give them all the information from that call as well.

They will undoubtedly be apologetic and offer to "personally" ensure that you are put on a Do Not Call List. Since you found them, and they were not expecting someone of the general public to do so (I had one company keep asking what division I was from), they may be a bit flustered. Here's the second most satisfying part.

Tell your new friend that you are aware of the TCPA, or Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, and that you plan on enforcing it. But do it with a smile. Even a lawyer gets a little creepy feeling when threatened in a cheerful voice. At this point the person will either play dumb or just come out and ask what you want. Tell them that you want $500 dollars for each phone call you received after requesting to be put on the Do Not Call List. I have had multiple calls from the same company in the past, so I use a strategy where I say "If you cooperate, I'll forget about all the instances for $500, but if you fight me, I'll take you to court for each count." First USA/Bank One was guilty of at least 5 counts, so they didn't even fight it. They consulted their lawyers and called me back in a day or two to offer me the $500.

Odds are, though, that they WILL fight it. Prepare yourself for the storm of lies about to be unleashed on you.

3. They will try to convince you that you don't have a case.
Here are just some of the lies that different companies have tried to feed me (most companies offered several of the following), and my responses to them:
      LIE: "It was an accident so we're not liable."
      Response: I assumed it was an accident, and am therefore only charging you the "accidental rate." The TCPA states that intentional violations are worth three times the damages.

      LIE: "That's not what the law says. You don't understand the law"
      Response: When is the last time you looked at this law? Let's let a court decide.

      LIE: "This law doesn't apply to us."
      Response: Unless you're a charity organization, it does.

      LIE: "We thought you meant that you didn't want to receive phone calls from OUTSIDE companies, not our own."
      Response: I asked to be put on the Do Not Call List, and that includes your own.

      LIE: "You're a customer of ours, so we have the right to solicit you, despite your request to the contrary.
      Response: Bullshit. See you in court.

Unfortunately, they are almost certainly not going to cooperate. They know that few people actually want to go through the trouble of filing a small claims suit. They will call your bluff--except that you're not bluffing.

It's time to file that suit! Laws vary from state to state, but you can go to your local court house and the clerk will give you the forms. You can see a copy of the complaint I filed against Discover Financial Services, Inc.

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