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Reply and Revenge

Do phone calls from banks offering loans or credit card companies flogging their products irritate you? Do you find that your temper flares and you rudely cut them off?

india Updated: Feb 12, 2006 02:58 IST

Do phone calls from banks offering loans or credit card companies flogging their products irritate you? Do you find that your temper flares and you rudely cut them off? But then, your anger spent, do you have moments of remorse when you feel you should have handled the matter less wrathfully? With more restraint and less fury? Finally, do you end up annoyed with yourself? Promising that next time, though firm, you’ll also be more polite?

Well, that’s exactly how I would react each time my mobile rang and I answered an unsolicited enquiry. It could happen up to five or six times a day. Sometimes three times an hour. Even whilst I was away in London or Singapore!

But no more. I’ve found a solution that not only takes care of my petulance and anger but, more importantly, is a powerful antidote to the persistent callers. It’s the perfect remedy. It’s simple, effective and yet completely reverses the tables. I find it delightful. Irresistible. And most enjoyable.

The trick is to engage the calling party in a prolonged and polite conversation. They’ve called to ask you questions but if, instead, you start putting the queries and do so with the same enthusiastic curiosity they deploy it really stumps them. It also gets their goat. Before long they will bang the phone down. And you’ll be left laughing.

Let me illustrate with an example from yesterday.

“Is that Mr. Thapar?” It was a female voice and sounded well-practised.

“It is indeed, my dear,” I replied. “How very good of you to call. What’s your name?”

“Monica.” But she sounded surprised at my friendliness.

“Monica,” I responded, “What a lovely name. How are you? And where did you get my number from?”

Monica wasn’t sure what to say. Or, at any rate, if she said anything I couldn’t tell what it was. But she did mention she was from ICICI Bank.

“Never mind,” I continued. “Now that you’ve rung let’s have a chat. Tell me about yourself. How old are you?”

“Why do you ask, Sir?” This time she sounded a little worried.

“Oh, purely out of curiosity. But I realise it’s rude to ask a girl her age. So tell me, where do you live?”

“Why?” Now her voice sounded very short, even abrasive.

“Just like that, but don’t worry. Maybe you would prefer to tell me where you went to school and what your favourite subject was?”

At this point Monica disconnected. As far as ICICI Bank is concerned it was a wasted phone call.

An alternative version of this tactic is the one I tried on a caller who said he was from American Express. It happened a few days earlier.

“Good morning Mr Thapar,” said a male voice sounding rather pleased with itself. “My name is Varinder.”

“No,” I responded, “you’re joking. You’re not Varinder. You can’t fool me with that one.”

“I am, Sir.” The poor chap responded, quite flummoxed by my refusal to believe him. “I promise you I am.”

“But you sound like a Vinod not a Varinder. Or may be possibly a Vikram. Varinders have much deeper voices.”

“Sir, I am Varinder from American Express. I promise.”

“Funny,” I said. “I once knew a Varun at AmEx. Do you know him? Tall chap with a nice smile. Perhaps 30 years old.”

“No, Sir,” replied Varinder, wondering what was happening.

“Well if you ever meet him do say hello. I hope he remembers me.”

“I will, Sir.” And then Varinder hung up.

I accept you could say this is just playing silly games. But so what? What makes such tactics such fun is that they take the mickey. What they do is lead those well-trained telephone voices, who have been taught to be unctuously polite and sugary sweet, into losing their cool. Slowly, steadily but surely they fall into a well-laid trap. Not for a moment do they realise what’s happening until it’s too late. And when, finally, it dawns on them, they’ve already been done for.

It’s cold-blooded calculated revenge. And I recommend it. No doubt the phone calls will continue but your resentment of them and your anger at yourself for not handling them with greater poise and thoughtfulness will cease. In fact, for a while you will eagerly await the next one.

So ring away ICICI or Amex, HDFC or Hutch. I’m waiting for you!

First Published: Feb 12, 2006 02:58 IST