Joe Pisani talks telemarketers, phone scams and the phone book
Our phone company is offering an amazing new service that will change America forever — a caller ID that identifies “potential scams.”
Phone scams have become the junk mail of AT&T. They keep our nation’s economy churning, along with our prison system. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve been duped at least once, and my family won’t let me forget it. As a result, I developed a foolproof method to avoid being duped again — I don’t answer the phone. So I hope you haven’t been trying to call.
I’m tired of having the phone ring, only to discover a con artist on the other end. (Oops. That was my college alumni office looking for money again.) I’m tired of getting calls at 9 p.m. on Sunday and 7 a.m. on Monday, telling me they’re stopping my Social Security checks or that my computer is infected with coronavirus.
Did you know that even though Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, he refused to put one in his study, probably because he knew telemarketers would drive him crazy.
One of my first calls that was identified as a “potential scam” came from the phone company itself. A recording asked if I had received the new phone book, so I looked outside and sure enough, there it was, wrapped in a single-use plastic bag and soaking wet in the gutter. How come the phone company gets to use plastic bags and we can’t?
At this time of year, phone directories are dumped on lawns, driveways, sidewalks, curbs and snow piles. It’s an annual ritual that makes me think the phone company studies the Farmer’s Almanac and schedules distribution day when there’s a blizzard or nor’easter in the forecast.
“The Weather Channel is predicting nine inches of snow on Friday,” the CEO announces, “so be sure to get out there and dump as many directories as you can in snow banks, and make sure they’re covered with road salt and sand!”
When the spring thaw arrives, my neighbors still have directories scattered around their mailboxes, but they refuse to pick them up. Our neighborhood looks like New York City after a Super Bowl Parade, which is something we probably won’t see again in our lifetime.
I’m not like them. I LOVE phone books. Truly. Sincerely. I’d be lost without the White Pages. I had to stop using directory assistance because it cost as much as a Tesla just to get the number for the Social Security office. And once I reached the Social Security office, it took 25 minutes to get through the phone tree to the right person and another 25 minutes of waiting, only to learn I reached the wrong person and she couldn’t solve my problem. I’m convinced this is part of a massive government conspiracy to keep us from taking our benefits so that the system can stay solvent for another 48 hours.
I can never find the phone number I need on the Internet. There are dozens of websites, but none will give you information unless you give them your credit card, and then the only thing they’ll tell you is that your neighbor got arrested with a hooker during a cocaine bust. But I want his phone number, not his arrest record.
The phone book is cheaper and easier to use, and you can trust the information, which is usually more accurate than the IRS’s. I don’t care if it’s soaking wet from sitting on my lawn for three days. I’ll take it inside and spend a few hours drying the pages with my wife’s hair dryer.
So you can imagine my delight when I saw the directory out there in a plastic bag that I can use when I go grocery shopping. I was so excited that I ran out, picked it up, brought it in, wiped it off and kissed it, only to discover it was just the Yellow Pages, at which point I threw it back on the lawn ... but kept the bag.
Joe Pisani can be reached at email@example.com.