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12-Sep-2016 07:29 by 5 Comments

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Remember when the ringing of the phone used to be the harbinger of good news? I must get at least 30 cold calls a week, each more irritating than the last.

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There is nothing more disconcerting – or harder to combat – than a nice person being a nuisance.Others share my aversion, according to a new survey.“Cold caller chumminess” causes widespread resentment, with particular contempt reserved for salesmen who think it is OK to address complete strangers by their first name.How best to respond to these charm offensives, which are about as welcome as a knock on the door from a Lib Dem canvasser during an episode of Mad Men?Cold calls have become so endemic, so bad for the blood pressure, that they demand a robust counter-strategy.Four or five years ago, when I got a cold call, I would just say “No, thank you” and put the receiver down.

As the calls increased, I adopted a more belligerent approach, directing a volley of expletives at the person on the other end of the line.

I reasoned that if cold-callers knew quite how much exasperation they provoked, they would think twice before making the call.

Now, perhaps because I have mellowed, I deal with callers more subtly, using the rapier, not the bludgeon.

I still try to impress upon the callers that I regard their efforts to sell me dodgy insurance policies as akin to an attack by killer wasps, but I engage in a dialogue with them, partly for my own amusement, partly to teach them some much-needed manners.

Here are five of my favourite countermeasures, tried and tested against a variety of cold-callers, from double-glazing salesmen to people conducting lifestyle surveys from a call centre in Mumbai: 1. This counter-intuitive ploy wrongfoots the caller and enables you to occupy the moral high ground.

Greet them effusively, say how nice it is to get their call, ask where they are calling from, what sort of day they have had, etc. “Listen, mate, I hope you are not trying to sell me something, are you?