Many people find phone solicitors and scammers to be a nuisance, but I see these calls as a major source of amusement. I figure that since they called me, it’s my conversation to steer as I see fit.

The scammers from Windows Technical Support are my favorites. These are the guys calling in heavily accented English from some East-Asian boiler-room, trying to convince you that your computer has been tracked down as spewing enough viruses to shut down the entire internet, and if you simply give them your Visa card info they will remotely clean it up for you, otherwise they will revoke your Windows privileges. I used to try to trip them up technically, but now I have a higher purpose. It’s amazing how agitated these guys get when you try to take them off-script.

WTS: I am calling you from Windows Technical Support about your Windows computer.

Me: That’s great, but we don’t use the computer that much. I am having problems with my refrigerator, though. It’s a Maytag side-by-side with the ice and water dispenser in the door.

WTS: Sir, this is Windows Technical Support...

Me: That’s fine, but I need help with the refrigerator. The icemaker’s not working and I don’t have any ice for my orange soda. I just love a nice, cold orange soda on a hot summer day, don’t you?

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WTS: *agitated* Sir, your refrigerator is not important right now. This is Windows Technical Support...

Me: Well it’s important to me. How would you like to drink hot orange soda?

*click*

Windows Technical Support calls again:

WTS: I am calling you from Windows Technical Support about your Windows computer.

Me: *East Texas accent* Windows? You do Windows? What do you charge?

WTS: Yes, I’m calling because your computer is creating error messages on the internet.

Me: So what do you charge? By the window or for the whole house?

WTS: *befuddled* Sir, I will need to get my supervisor - one moment.

A hand-over-the-receiver pause ensues, and then I’m literally handed to someone else.

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WTS Supervisor: Yes this is Charles Vincent, technical supervisor. We are calling you about your Windows computer.

Me: So what do you charge per window? Are you a local company? Do you send just one guy or a whole crew?

WTSS: Sir, this is about your Windows computer.

Me: I ain’t got no computer. When can you give me an estimate? I got a big picture-window on the front and just regular windows on the sides, but you’ll need a ladder to reach the windows up on the...

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WTSS: *sternly* SIR! We are not carpenters. These are not glass windows, it is for Windows computing.

Me: Not glass? You’re just trying to sell me some kinda newfangled plastic windows then, aren’t cha...

WTSS: *laughing now* No sir, goodbye.

*click*

I get a lot of robo-calls calls from companies who use actors to try to make it seem like the machine is a real human, and then they use voice recognition to intelligently branch their actor’s scripted responses. They even respond in an amused denial if you ask them if they are a robot. Often people will try to ask them math questions or some such but I decided to take it down a species level on the next call I got.

Robo-caller: Hi, this is Jason with Home Security. How are you today?

Me: *barking noises*

Robo-Jason: Great. I wanted to talk to you about your family’s alarm system. Did you know you should have it inspected annually?

Me: *more barking noises*

Robo-Jason: That’s right. I wanted to let you know that we will be in your neighborhood conducting no-obligation home security audits in the next few days. If you can hold on while I get a scheduler, we can set up your no-obligation appointment.

Me: *more barking noises*

Robo-Jason: Great.

*hold music*

Call Center Worker: Hello this is John with Acme home secur...

So now I have a live human. I could have just hung up at this point, but I decided to stay in character instead:

Me: *barking noises*

Call Center John: ...ity. I would...

Me: *more barking noises*

Call Center John: ...like to...

Me: *aggressive barking noises*

Call Center John: ...sched...

Me: *very aggressive barking noises*

Call Center John: ...ule

*click*

Sometimes these interactions are short and to the point. I do not like country music.

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Perky Solicitor: We’re calling from 100.3 ‘The Bull’ to let you know how you can win Garth Brooks tickets all week! Just listen for...

Me: *interrupting* Excuse me, but I’d rather poke my eardrums out with a pencil than listen to Garth Brooks.

Perky Solicitor: Um, ok. Wow...

*click*

In April 2014 I bought a new Mazda. For some reason Mazda decided to get an early start on the model year labeling so I’m driving around in a 2015 in the second quarter of 2014. A few months roll by and a nice young lady from the ominous-sounding Warranty Service Department called.

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WSD: This is the Warranty Service Department calling to inform you that the warranty on your 2015 Mazda is about to expire. We are able to extend your coverage up to fifteen years to protect your valuable...

Me: Excuse me?

WSD: Yes, we are calling to inform you that the warranty on your 2015…

Me: Wait, wait, wait… Are you even listening to the words that are coming out of your mouth right now? You expect me to believe that the warranty on a brand new 2015 car is about to expire, and it’s not even 2015 yet? Seriously? Does anyone ever bite on this crap?

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There was a long silence on the line, and then Diogenes’ lamp was suddenly thrust into the conversation:

WSD: Sir, my job is to read whatever is on my screen.

Well, you can’t argue with that.

A few months later (still 2014) they call again. This time I’m ready for them.

WSD: This is the Warranty Service Department calling to inform you that the warranty on your 2015 Mazda is about to expire. We are able to extend your coverage up to fifteen years to protect your valuable asset. How many miles are on the vehicle?

Me: 475,000

WSD: Um…

Me: You see, I have 19 children and we’re filming a reality show pilot where we only have one car to deal with everyone. We have cameras all over the car to film all the trips we make with all the kids. It’s called Clown Car Family, going to be on TLC.

WSD: Um, are you sure you have that many miles on your car?

Me: Yes, in fact we’re filming this call to be on the show so we’re going to need to get you to agree to a release. What’s your full legal name and social security number?

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WSD: I don’t think I’m supposed to give that out. So you have 400,000 miles on your car?

Me: 475,261 to be exact. We drive it 24/7. Now I’m gonna need your information so you we can put your voice on the show. I’m ready, so start with your name.

*click*

The art of the prank call has been dying since the advent of Caller ID. Phone solicitors play a vital role in preserving the skills needed to help keep this venerable art alive by (inadvertently) offering themselves up as fodder. For that I salute them, and I hope they call again soon.