A year ago I switched my electricity supplier. A rival company was offering a deal with cheaper prices, so I moved over.
Then a couple of weeks back my original supplier phoned me to inform that the deal which had lured me away had now expired and their prices were once again cheaper. So I moved back.
Then a couple of days ago I was phoned again by the rival supplier. They had obviously got wind of my intended treachery and wanted to turn my head by reading me long lists of unit prices. I was doing homework with my son at the time, and in truth getting a bit fed up with this, so I told them to call me another time.
Which they have done. Again and again and again. I now recognise the number and avoid answering, fearful that I’ll crumble once again and end up stuck like a ping pong ball being bounced back and forward between these two energy corporations for the rest of my life.
I don’t receive many personal or business phone calls (almost all of my genuine communication is done by message, email, smoke signal or carrier pigeon) so I have a fair idea that when my phone rings it will be an unwanted call and, very often, of dubious origin.
The numbers are usually English, but sometimes from abroad. Often I don’t answer. But this leaves me in a state of uncertainty, that little nagging doubt in the back of my mind. What if it is a genuine useful call? I wouldn’t want to miss that message from the producers of Strictly Come Dancing, checking on my availability for the next series (‘McCambridge didn’t answer, see if you can get The Krankees instead’).
If I do answer the caller invariably cannot pronounce my name (‘Is that Mr McCaaaambreeedge?’).
They often start by asking me to confirm a personal detail, which I refuse to do.
Sometimes they start by telling me that they have reason to believe I’m eligible for PPI compensation, a dishonest way of making me think they have already done some research of my case.
Other times they ask me if I’ve been involved in an accident (‘not until this very moment’).
But most of the time I never let the conversation get that far, hanging up before any level of personal connection can be established.
Then they leave it half an hour, and try me again.
I’ve had scam calls from Tunisia, where the caller dials your number but hangs up before you can answer. The idea is that you see the missed call and phone back. If you do, the call will cost you a fortune.
On one occasion a caller asked me what sort of phone I was using. The question wrong-footed me and I had to answer honestly that I wasn’t sure. There was a moment of silence before he called me a ‘dickhead’ and hung up.
Another day I answered more quickly than the caller expected and heard her saying to a colleague ‘Christ, I’m going to need a large drink when this day is finished’ before snapping on her corporate voice as soon as she realised I was on the line.
On a couple of occasions I’ve told the caller to ‘hold the line’, left the phone beside the bed and then gone off to have a bath, just to see how long they’ll hang on for.
The calls seem to come in bands. For a few weeks I’ll receive none at all and then several in a single day. I imagine my number is on a database somewhere and, quite possibly, my photo is pinned to the wall of a sweatshop somewhere, under the heading ‘Soft Touch’.
Recently I’ve noticed occasions where I’ve not answered a call from an unknown landline number, only to receive a call seconds later from a mobile.
I really don’t want to be rude to these callers (it must be a terribly difficult and demoralising way to make a living), but the sheer persistence and inanity of the contacts is bringing out the worst in me. It also puts me on edge every time my phone rings, which is not how I want to be. I know there are some genuine calls out there, but it’s getting evermore difficult to weed them out from all of the rotten ones.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is, for God’s sake, just leave me alone.