Those pesky intrusions right on tea time annoy us more than they really ought to. Sweating the small stuff is clearly ok in such circumstances.

Blame the "a man's house is his castle" principle. We all have to put up with slights, difficult people, road rage and rudeness as we go about our business outside of the house. But once we're home, we breathe a figurative sigh of relief and think: 'well, at least I'm safe here'. And then the telephone rings and suddenly, just when your defences are down, you're forced to deal with someone else who wants a piece of you. And it's infuriating.

My key strategy lies mainly in avoidance. I take our landline off the hook whenever I'm working, cooking dinner, eating dinner or watching a favourite television show. I take it off when I sleep too since the home telephone number we've had for sixteen years previously belonged to a travel company and we still get occasional 4am enquiries about booking rental cars in Belgium.

There were several recurring strategies for handling telemarketers in the reader responses to Debbie Mayo-Smith's recent piece, Cold call success. They included rudeness, boring them with your complaints, asking them for their number so you can return the call and leaving them hanging on the line awaiting your return.


I've found the most effective way in which to repel telemarketers that do get through is to deny, deny, deny. They ask: "Can I speak to the home owner?" I reply: "Sorry, there's no one here." They ask: "Am I speaking to the mortgage holder?" I say: "Sorry, that's not me."

A few years ago a telemarketer called and said: "Hello, could I speak to your mummy or daddy please?" I replied in my most childlike voice: "Sorry, they're not home right now."

When you fail to pass telemarketers' screening questions they can't get off the line quick enough. I've become so fond of denying responsibility that I use this technique on other occasions too. It all started when my daughter was a baby and a vendor pitching something like movie passes arrived at our front door. Our nanny answered it and I heard her say: "Sorry, I can't help you - I'm just the nanny." And the salesman continued on his merry way down the road.

It was revealing to witness this exchange. For some reason these cold callers want to deal only with the home owner - not the nanny, the gardener, the candlestick-maker or a house guest. Failing to confirm your status as home-owner is like having a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to telemarketers and door-to-door salespeople.

It's such an effective strategy that I'd probably use it even if it meant having to baldly lie about my relationship with our home. But, conveniently, the house I live in has never been owned by either myself or my husband; rather it is owned by a trust with which we are associated. According to my rationale that makes me more of a tenant than anything else.

My denial policy may give me some degree of warped satisfaction but it doesn't stop the nuisance calls from happening in the first place. Just as email spam persists because of those who respond positively, unsolicited telemarketing calls are really fuelled by the people who answer the phone, engage with the caller, follow the script and - shock! horror! - even sign up for the goods or services being sold.

Regardless of whether these people are motivated by boredom, loneliness, naivety, low self-esteem, politeness or simply have a canny eye for a bargain, they're the ones who are the true source of the nuisance that is telemarketing. Perhaps some of the widespread disapproval reserved for telemarketers should be directed toward those consumers who give them hope and keep them rewarded.