To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Thursday, November 26, 2020

New Observercast

Don’t Call Me

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BY SUSAN ESTRICH

My son was in the other room on the phone, and he sounded like me, which is not always a good thing. By the time I caught on, he was asking for the supervisor’s supervisor. Usually, he gets mad at me when I lose it with customer service representatives, but here he was, channeling me at my worst.

It had to be bad.

It was.

He and his girlfriend are moving. She called the utility companies, the way you do, to arrange for billing at the new place. One of them was the gas company, for the stove and the dryer and I’m not sure what else. That’s when it started.

They took her phone number. And my son’s too – ostensibly for the gas company, not for internet service. [Setting up internet service is something he has been doing for me since he was about seven, which was after he started coding and cared more than I did about speed and reliability.] Yet that’s what he was receiving a call about.

Allconnect, the company he was on the phone with, “provides consumers with comparative shopping services so they can save money on satellite and cable TV, Internet, phone, and home security services,” according to their profile on Inc.com. In other words, telemarketing. It turns out that they have a national partnership with local gas companies – companies that you have no choice but to give your number to if you want to cook. My son asked them to take his name off their list. They didn’t. By the time he got to Stephanie at 4:08 yesterday, it was not pretty, which is the way it seems to be.

I shop for shoes online, and the next morning I wake up with ads on every page for shoes. I remember when Derek Bok, then the president of Harvard, lamented that the brightest minds in America were going to law school. These days, they are writing algorithms to sell shoes. Which might be OK, if I’m really looking for shoes. But I stopped looking at Hondas months ago, and they are still inundating me. Algorithms be damned, we chose the Mini.

And once in a while, don’t we all search for things we don’t want to be reminded about the next morning, particularly if anyone else is around?

There was a case study of one of the big retailers using data to pitch to pregnant women. At first, it didn’t work as well as they’d hoped: The women should have been buying their prenatal vitamins and the rest, but they weren’t. Why? Because they were spooked. In some cases, they hadn’t even told their husbands they were pregnant yet.

So the retailer started adding gardening equipment – not the obvious interest of a pregnant woman – to the ad along with prenatal supplies, and boom! Pay dirt. Who were these people to know you were pregnant before your husband? Actually, they even knew you felt that way.

The spam filter works some of the time, but I still get spam every day, so I never open anything from someone I don’t know. Yesterday, I missed an appointment that way; I didn’t even look at the email confirming the appointment, because it came from a name I didn’t know.

On the other hand, most of the spam comes from the accounts of people whose names I do know, and I wonder – for a second – if they might actually be getting in touch. Then I see my name in alphabetical order with a few others in the recipient list, and I know. And wonder if my contacts will be next.

The phone is my nemesis. It rings and beeps constantly, and it is almost never anyone who wants to do anything but sell. Mostly I don’t recognize the numbers, so I don’t answer. But they trick you now, using local numbers in your area code that might be the dermatologist, except they aren’t.

There’s that telltale pause when you pick up the phone, and the person on the other hand realizes they have a live wire. “Is this the Estrich family?” they ask. The Estrich family comprises me and four dogs; my kids have a different surname.

Occasionally, I ask if they are selling dog food, which prompts a pause. Mostly, I just say no. I feel bad for the people calling, but not bad enough to hear about timeshares. I say, “Please don’t call again,” like you are supposed to do, and somehow, the phone keeps ringing.

At least I don’t have to call the gas company to set up service – or tell their telemarketing partner to go away.

Susan Estrich’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer

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Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich
Estrich served as a law clerk for Judge J. Skelly Wright of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and Justice John Paul Stevens of the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1988, she was the campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' 1988 presidential run, even though she had never before managed a political campaign. She was the first female campaign manager of a major presidential campaign, and the first female campaign manager of the modern era. [5] [6] Estrich appears frequently on Fox News as a legal and political analyst, and has also substituted for Alan Colmes on the debate show Hannity & Colmes. She writes regular articles for the conservative website NewsMax, for which she is a pundit.[7] She is also on the Board of Editorial Contributors for USA Today.[8] She is currently a law professor at the University of Southern California Law School and a political science professor at its affiliated undergraduate school. Before joining the USC faculty in 1989, she was Professor of Law at Harvard University, where she was the youngest woman to receive tenure.[9] On January 10, 2008, Estrich joined Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, a law firm based in Los Angeles, where she chairs their Public Strategy in High Profile Litigation: Media Relations practice area. [10][11] She writes a nationally syndicated print column distributed through Creators Syndicate.