“Do Not Call”– A Boon Or A Shot In The Foot?
As I write this piece, the final day for signing up for the current “Do Not Call” registry has arrived and it appears that more than 42 million people have signed up for the program. I have no way of knowing how many individuals this disconnects from unwanted calls, but I suspect that it numbers over 80 million adults–the primary target of this rule.
As a consequence, a sizable portion of this countrys families can now sit down to a peaceful dinner without interruption from someone hawking a free trip to Orlando or a low mortgage interest rate. Ah, nirvana–peace at last.
There is no question that the use of the telephone for business solicitation has in recent years been overutilized and perhaps even abused in some cases. The popularity of the registry is in itself evidence that the public is fed up with this activity.
But it does raise the question–Is this a good move or has the government, specifically the Federal Trade Commission, shot itself in the foot? At a time when government is trying to stimulate the economy and create jobs, is this barrier to legitimate commerce counterproductive?
Perhaps if we can set the emotions aside it might be instructive to take a look at the history of telemarketing.
I have been told by old-time insurance agents that in the 1920s and 1930s, when telephones were becoming commonplace, they were never used as a tool for solicitation. But, that all changed during World War II, which brought gas rationing. No longer was it practical to drive across town to make a cold call on a prospect using up ones limited supply of gasoline. To prevent such rationing from disrupting the flow of commerce in our business, the telephone became our salvation–eliminating many needless trips by automobile and saving precious time in the process.
When I entered the business in 1956, the telephone was the essential tool for reaching new people in need of our product. I can recall eight death claims that my company paid in my early years that were the result of phone calls I made. Sure, I talked to a lot of people who were not interested, but more importantly, I talked to some who desperately needed our product and my services.
Not only was insurance placed in force, but wills and trusts came into being, some of which might never have been created but for that all-important phone call. Buy and sell agreements in business settings and estate planning in my later years often sprang from an initial telephone contact.