Tuesday, July 15, 2003

do not call

Salon is running an article that might as well have been written by flunkies for the telemarketing industry. It gives the last word to approvingly paraphrasing a lawyer who fights against telemarketing laws saying, "But unless the government gives us the opportunity to opt out of all of life's annoyances, why single out telemarketing?" The obvious retort being (1) telemarketing is a pretty huge and predatory annoyance, diminishing the utility of a vital communications medium, and (2) what kind of argument is it to say that if we can't legislate out all annoyances in life we are unfairly picking on any that we do--others might think that ridding the world of some annoyance is still progress.

Also, toward making the argument that keeping the telemarketing industry from calling people on do-not-call lists will damage the economy, the article uncritically recites the following stat: "In the United States in 2001, telemarketing companies employed 4 million people and generated $274 billion in sales, according to the WEFA Group, an economic research firm." This works out to almost exactly $1000 for every man, woman, and child in the United States. What on earth do they have to be counting as telemarketing sales in order to reach this figure? I wonder if they are counting the revenue generated from interest from credit cards hawked over the phone. If so, do they really believe that these credit card companies wouldn't be making these kind of profits off consumer debt if they didn't have the telephone with which to market their cards? And if that were the case, would it really be a great argument against restrictions on telemarketing?

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