Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Monday 7 March 2005

Labour cold-calling

I had a telephone call earlier this evening. From the Labour Party (or so what I think was a recorded voice indicated). Presumably I would have been transferred to a live operator if I had spoken immediately, or maybe not - because perhaps there were no operators available to deal with me at the time. I assume that calls are made automatically and farmed out to any available operator to deal with.

The curiosity of the call, for me, though was something else entirely. You may have wondered why I mentioned above that I had not 'spoken immediately'? Well, like a lot of people (most people?), I now receive a lot of cold-calls, the telephonic equivalent of junk-mail, and I have 'caller display' on my telephone system at home and either don't pick up, or don't speak immediately if I do, for incoming calls where "WITHHELD" or "INT'L" is shown in the display window, to help me filter out this junk. In the case of tonight's call from the Labour Party the display showed "INT'L" and I would normally have remained silent until the caller spoke, but when the recording started playing I said 'hello'. Now I could have understood those exploiters of the workers the Conservatives using a foreign-based call centre to make their cold-calls (and perhaps they do, for all I know), but I confess I was a little surprised that the Labour Party does this.

Of course being an out-and-out capitalist roader (a phrase I last heard circa 1976 in China) I have no objection in principle to the use of foreign-based call centres, in particular; cold-calls from UK-based call centres can be just as irritating! But they are sometimes useful - one of the insurance companies I use seemed to start using one in India about three years ago and I notice no lessening of quality in the way my calls to that company are dealt with, perhaps even a little to the contrary.

I suspect the real key to why those cunning 'rascals' in the Labour Party use a foreign base to originate the calls (even if the operators themselves are actually UK-based for all I know) is to circumvent attempts to block such unwanted incoming calls. I have a feature (which I pay a small fee for) on my telephone line called 'choose to refuse' - this allows me to block calls from specific telephone numbers, very importantly even from withheld numbers. This is very useful for blocking calls from, for example, companies trying to peddle double-glazing or similar - they can call once, but only once. But this little feature does not work for calls originating abroad. Over the past couple of weeks I have had a great number of silent calls showing "INT'L" in the display window; I had assumed they were just the usual rubbish - but now I wonder if the kind of rubbish I am being subjected to is of an entirely more annoying kind. This pre-election phase has begun nastily and I fear it will descend to even worse levels of nastiness as the election process gets fully underway - hold on for a bumpy ride!

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