Thursday, January 15, 2009

On my way back home at the end of Christmas break, I got a phone call just as I was heading out of Toronto. It wasn't a number in my contact list [1], and I was driving, so I didn't answer it. If the phone call is really important, the caller would leave a message. They didn't. Since then, I've received 8 more phone calls from the same number, 5 in the last 3 days.

Last week, not long after the first two or three calls, I checked the number on Canada 411 [2], and came up with nothing. I Googled the number, and found a site on which people identify unknown phone numbers. A few people on this site claimed it was from CIBC. Although I do most of my banking with them, I still wasn't going to answer when I got calls from that number. Occasionally they call with something important to tell me. Usually they just want to sell me something.

I suspected the same was true with this number. But today, when I received call number 9, I thought maybe, just maybe, 5 calls in 3 days meant that it really was something important, so important that they couldn't risk leaving a message on my voice mail. So I answered. Having confirmed my identity (and done a reasonably good job at pronouncing my last name), the caller began her spiel, trying to sell me the latest insurance product from the bank, or the credit card, or something. I wasn't interested. I never am. When will they get the point?

In any case, I kept listening, in part because I'm not usually very good at interrupting people when their talking (and I don't like hanging up on people, even if they're annoying telemarketers), but also because her voice sounded remarkably like that of the voices you typically hear on recorded messages. Even the responses to my questions sounded like that. I kept listening because I was waiting for some sort of cue that this was in fact a recorded message, and CIBC had purchased some sort of technology that could almost seamlessly integrate prerecorded messages with sound bites generated on the fly, based on my responses. I think it was an actual person who had perhaps been doing this job far too long. So much for my hopes of fancy technology.

These calls are annoying, and I wish they would stop. Of course, it's my bank, so I don't think adding my number to a Do Not Call list would help. Even if it weren't, though, it appears that it wouldn't help much, and might actually make things worse.

[1] As a general rule, I don't answer my phone unless the number is in my contact list.

[2] Which has considerably less information now than it did a year ago.

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