Sunday, February 17, 2008

That Was An Invalid Response

Freezing rain canceled church, so I was sitting at the kitchen table relaxing on a Sunday morning. The phone rang.

I answered as I always so, "Steve Poling speaking." It is something all my friends expect and well within the guidelines I learned in grade school about how to use the telephone.

This approach has the advantage of immediately putting telemarketers on the defensive as they will invariably ask, "May I speak with Steve Poling?" When I'm feeling unkind, I answer them with, "What did I just say?" In any event, I won't buy anything from anyone who asks to speak with Steve Poling after I tell them that I am speaking.

In recent years this alternative telephone protocol has brought unexpected benefits. Nowadays computers can do rudimentary speech recognition. Thus some telemarketers' computers will wait until someone says, "Hello," before launching into their pitch. "Steve Poling speaking," is insufficiently close to "Hello" for the computer to cope. The result is usually a few seconds of dead air sufficient to convince me to blow off this robocall.

However, this morning the telemarketing call only paused briefly before replying, "That is an invalid response." Telemarketing computers are offering telephone etiquette advice? I hung up.

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