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Robo call: A form of ignorant marketing in which an organization, often a political campaign, uses a machine to dial your phone number and leave a prerecorded message, deliberately wasting your time and subjecting you to a dehumanizing experience in order to save the organization time and money. – Urban Dictionary

I picked up the phone after the second ring.

“Hello,” I said, in my normal Sunday afternoon voice.


“You are not detected to be human,” the recorded voice said. “Goodbye.”

Well, goodbye to you, too, I thought.

That was one I hadn’t heard, and I thought I’d heard them all.

I’m a lot of things, but the last time I checked I was still human.

Robo call?  Or prankster?

I never screen my calls, or check caller ID to see who’s on the other end.

It’s an old habit. When I was in the newspaper business all of those years, we always made certain the phone at The Daily Republic was answered by a real person, and then the call would be transferred.

Oh there were times when the receptionist would say to me, “It’s Mr. Such and So and he sounds upset.”

Those calls were rare, and most of the time conflicts could be resolved, but not always.

When the newspaper endorsed Bill Janklow in 1994 over Jim Beddow, a local man and former Dakota Wesleyan University president, it was a long day.  It would have been easier had Beddow been a poor candidate, but he wasn’t. The newspaper looked at the candidates’ philosophies regarding state government’s role in society, taxation and spending, social issues, and general ability to get things done. It was a close call, but Janklow got the endorsement.

The first call of the day came when we opened for business.

“Hi Mr. Hamiel,” said the woman on the other end. “Mr. Smith (not his real name) wants you to know he is canceling his advertising with you, and not just for the week but for all eternity. Thank you.”

Those words are a publisher’s nightmare.

We lost a number of advertisers after the endorsement, but ultimately they came back – after they had made their point, and it was a painful one for the newspaper.

Most larger businesses today use a recorded answering service. You know, “Press one for news, two for advertising, three for newspaper subscriptions, four for classified advertising, five for obituaries, six for ”. . . ad nauseum. Followed by: “Please hold. You are important to us.”

Of course you are. That’s why you’re not connected to anyone.

It’s a mystery to me why larger companies don’t hire a real person to answer the phone. Customers still appreciate “high touch,” not “high tech.”

OK, it’s a pet peeve of mine and I admit it. It seems like an entirely human response.

Sept. 20, 2017