about the universe forum commander Shop Now Commanders Circle
Product List FAQs home Links Contact Us

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Steve Cole's thoughts on things to beware of when getting calls from a business.
1. Now and then, I answer the phone and hear something about this being a "courtesy call." This should set your radar on high alert. A "courtesy call" is code for "we want to get you to agree to something." When I was a kid, companies would send products to people uninvited, including instructions to pay for the products or send them back. The US Congress then passed a law that unrequested products were free samples and you did not have to pay for them OR send them back. And so it stayed for decades, until somebody figured out that if they called and said "We're sending you our product on approval; please review it and then you can either pay for it or send it back" they legally had you on the hook to do one or the other. (When you hear that, be very careful not to include the word "yes" anywhere in your answer. Tell them "I don't want it. Do not send it.") A variation of this is when a company that provides a service makes a "courtesy call" to offer you the service (such as mail order prescriptions). Be very careful that you know which company you are talking to.
2. Something that caused me constant trouble when I was the legal guardian of my aged mother was the home health care companies. An elderly relative in a nursing home is entitled (thanks to Medicare) to have regular visits from a nurse trained to provide home health care. The trick is, Medicare will only allow one such service to be used, and they do not all offer the same range of specific care. (I used the one I used because they did something my mother needed which none of the others did.) This is a good thing since it means more care and often better care than the retirement home offers. There are several home healthcare agencies in each city, and some of them are very pushy (and even unethical) about marketing their services. They might call you and pretend that they already are the service you use and offer you some free extra service "the next time we visit your mother." Say "yes" and you just agreed to change to their service. Also be sure to tell the doctor of record for your relative to never give out medical records without your written consent. Needless to say, you need to pick the right service and remember who they are. If one of the other services calls you need to very specifically say that you use the other one and don't want to switch a new service. Another thing that happens is that one of the agencies will go to a retirement home and offer them a bounty for every patient they sign up, or some other inducement. (One I encountered offered to base a nurse inside the retirement home which meant a real medical professional would be on-site during business hours, but only if they signed up 80% of their patients. The nursing home then handed each "responsible relative" a form to switch to that service without telling them that signing the form meant they were switching to another service. This was swell for the nursing home but meant some patients lost specialized care they had been getting.)
3. Generally speaking, I just hang up on cold calls or don't accept them in the first place. If I want to buy a particular thing (investment, insurance, or whatever) then I know I want to buy it, I can find someone locally (with good references) to sell it to me, and I probably want to get at least two bids before deciding who to buy it from. The last person I want to buy anything from is a cold caller who is just working his way down a list and reading from a script.
4. If you start getting high pressure sales tactics, just hang up. One of my favorites is: "So you're ok with paying too much?" meaning that I need to buy what this guy (who has no idea what I pay for it) is selling. Another (a scripted response when I say I want my lawyer to read the contract first) is: "Well, if you need his permission, perhaps you're not the business leader I thought I was dealing with."
 5. I think one of the biggest lies in the business world is "I am the guy who takes care of ... for your company and I need a decision on something." No, he is not the guy who takes care of that; he's a salesman for a company you never heard of. Another lie is "I called earlier and was told that you had to confirm the order."