Leland Teschler's Editorial: Take Back Your Privacy

Dec. 9, 2009
It has become common practice among people requesting information online to hide their identities, and aggressive sales tactics are the reason.

It has become common practice among people requesting information online to hide their identities, and aggressive sales tactics are the reason. When a Web site demands your phone number in return for a download of a white paper, experienced Web surfers know what’s coming. They can soon expect a call from a telemarketer trying to close a sale on what was just a query for some background information.

No wonder, then, that more and more engineers and other professionals now give fake names and phone numbers when asked for their particulars. As one engineer put it, “When I am ready to talk with a vendor, I want it to be on my terms.” Clearly no one enjoys being a hapless target of some predatory marketing strategy.

But with just a little thought, it’s possible to use such telemarketing interactions to teach vendors how not to reach potential customers, all while having some fun to boot. To see the possibilities, think back to episodes of the long-running TV show, The Simpsons, wherein bad-boy Bart Simpson made crank phone calls to Moe’s Bar trying to find bar patrons with some rather odd names. One of the classics was, “Hey, I’m looking for Amanda Huggenkiss!”

I say this idea is too good to just lay dormant in TV show archives. Why not resurrect it and give some thought to using a pseudonym when collecting reference material online? Imagine a telemarketer being handed a prospect list largely populated with names like Yule B. Sari, Robin D. Craydle, and Winnie Bago. But a joke name is wasted without an equally creative phone number to go with it. I’d suggest using a number from within the organization that originated the telemarketing call in the first place. A few minutes spent perusing its Web site should turn up several good candidates.

Your hope, of course, is that the telemarketer assigned to bother “Anita Bath,” or whatever other name you decide to give, resides in Asia like so many of the people in this line of work. As such, chances are English will be his or her second language. These individuals may lack enough familiarity with American culture to realize the whole thing is a joke.

Some might quibble with the ethics of turning Asian phone banks into sources of prank calls this way. I argue that you are actually initiating an organizational-learning experience by siccing these people on the company that retained them in the first place. A firm whose employees get numerous calls for Quint S. Henschel and Paige Turner will eventually put two and two together, no matter how dense its top management is. Such experiences will hasten the day telemarketing is no longer viewed as an effective way to engage potential customers and will help move companies toward more enlightened marketing practices.

And you may also be able to find some humor in contributing to the impression among Asian telemarketers that Jim Naysium and Ty Tannick are both common names in America.

— Leland Teschler, Editor

Do you have some favorite family friendly joke names? Send them to us at [email protected]. We’ll publish the best ones we receive as a service to the engineering community!

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