Monday, August 20, 2001

Telemarketer's call sells man on warning

        Fred Reams likes to keep people from getting caught off guard.

        When he heard about a purse being swiped from a car at the Clermont County park where he exercises, he spread the word.

        As he stepped off his daily 14-minute mile, he warned his fellow walkers.

        “I don't like anyone getting ripped off,” said the 72-year-old retired ironworker.

        Fred called me last week to sound another alarm.

        He issued a warning about telemarketers. And gave some advice.

        Beware of out-of-town sales calls, he said. Pay close attention to what the caller says. If you're not interested, say so and hang up. Fast.

It's for you

        Last Wednesday night, Fred sat alone in his Pierce Township kitchen. “The wife was out.”

        He was busy doing three things at once: eating a snack, sketching a 7-foot-long model steamboat he's building and watching TV.

        The phone rang.

        Fred glanced at his caller ID.

        “Pueblo, Colorado” blinked the machine.

        Fred was expecting a call from out West.

        “Our son, Walt, drives an 18-wheeler all over the U.S. He calls us all the time to let us know where he is.”

        Fred answered the phone.

        “With half an ear,” he admitted.

        He heard a female voice ask: “Do you accept these charges?”

        Figuring his son was calling, Fred said yes.

        Turns out Walt wasn't on the line. The caller “wondered if I was satisfied with our phone service.”

        Fred cut her short.

        “I was ticked off. But I didn't cuss.”

        He just hollered “Whoa!”

        And banged down the phone.

        Fred called a Cincinnati Bell long-distance operator to see if he was going to be charged for a collect call. The operator was not sure. The call came from another phone company. Billing can take weeks to go from one long-distance carrier to another.

Number, please

        The next day, Fred still was steamed. To cool down, he told his story to his fellow walkers.

        “Two out of three had been bitten by the same call,” he said.

        Fred got even angrier. So, he called me.

        “If Pueblo, Colorado, wasn't such a long trip,” he said. “I'd drive down there and tell them how their phone call made me so cotton-pickin' mad.”

        No need to drive across country to register that complaint. Fred can just drive across town.

        The call came from the Pueblo outpost of Convergys Corp., headquartered in downtown Cincinnati. I found that out after calling the number left on Fred's caller ID gizmo.

        Lauri Roderick, Convergys spokeswoman, assured me the international company that handles customer-service chores for a slew of firms doesn't do business by making long-distance collect calls. She also said the firm would pay for any collect call Fred might have inadvertently received from Convergys' Pueblo location.

        Cincinnati Bell also came through for Fred. The phone company will not bill him for the call he placed to the long-distance operator.

        Fred feels satisfied with how the conflict over the annoying long-distance call was resolved. To him, getting the charges dropped is a bonus.

        “I just wanted to call this to someone's attention,” he said.

        Consider it done.

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