Markets in everything?

by on January 27, 2009 at 12:37 pm in Economics | Permalink

Steve Levitt is not sure whether this report is true:

The Toronto Globe and Mail reports
that Canada’s do-not-call registry is being sold for next to nothing to
international scammers who are barraging these households with phone
calls, but are largely beyond the reach of Canadian law.

In contrast to Levitt, I would think that the people on that list are extremely prone to buy things from telemarketers.

Scott Leibrand January 27, 2009 at 1:04 pm

Why would someone who dislikes telemarketing enough to put themselves on a do-not-call list be “extremely prone to buy things from telemarketers”? My intuition on this matches Levitt’s…

Jacob T. Levy January 27, 2009 at 1:17 pm

I’m on the Canadian do-not-call list, and I can certainly confirm that it’s leaky at best.

I view being on the list as an added reason never to buy from telemarketers, and a justification for being rude to them and just hanging up– I think much of telemarketers’ traction comes from the reluctance to be rude to them, and people’s propensity to keep talking until the other person lets them go.

Fraud Guy January 27, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Or you could be on a do-not-call list because you want to cut down on the calls.

Of course, the drop of the last 15% (first 85% from being on the DNC) came after the foreclosure. Now no one wants to call me except family, friends, and creditors.

michael webster January 27, 2009 at 1:51 pm

I predicted that this would happen, in August 2007.

http://www.bizop.ca/blog2/telemarketing-fraud/what-is-new-with-the-do-not-ca.html

Buy an answering machine, screen your calls, and you will be better off than signaling to the world that you fear that you are a chump.

Garth Wood January 27, 2009 at 2:28 pm

I’m a Canuck, and I’m on the DNC list, because I simply couldn’t stand the constant interruptions. Of course, the old interruptions are fading away, to be replaced by a whole new set of shiny, freshly-scrubbed companies whose mission in life is to annoy me endlessly.

Software exists to block numbers on a number-by-number basis, but it requires you at least partially dedicate a computer to answering the telephone. And these companies have also learned to do round-robin dial-outs where you can never know the next new number they’re calling from.

I screen, but it’s an imperfect solution at best.

babar January 27, 2009 at 2:51 pm

why have a phone?

Joe January 27, 2009 at 3:48 pm

We put my mother-in-law on the U.S. list. She is in assisted living and has a very difficult time saying no and hanging up, or remembering who she has already bought things from. Being on the list has easily saved her hundreds of dollars in duplicate magazine subscriptions, etc. I’m glad Robert is so sympathetic.

a_c January 27, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Is the RSS feed for this site broken?

anonymous January 27, 2009 at 4:18 pm

As transaction costs go to zero, the amount of spam goes to infinity. It costs nothing to send an e-mail, and in a VoIP world, it will soon cost nothing to make a phone call to anywhere in the world.

There is even a nice parallel in the fact that a caller ID phone number can be faked as easily as an e-mail return address.

In virtual worlds like Second Life, where objects can be created for free, grey goo generating objects are a constant problem. Currently this is mostly it is used by griefers as a prank or denial of service, but if virtual world economies grow sufficiently in future years it would certainly be used for moneymaking purposes.

The key point involves costs literally being zero, not merely very low. Bulk postal mail costs only pennies per mailing, but because it is nonzero, mailings must be carefully budgeted and targeted.

A world where transactions take place online using electrons, as opposed to a brick-and-mortar world where transactions involve shoving atoms around, is a world of zero costs where spam will inevitably flourish.

At some point, however, some impoverished country will hit on the idea of selling Westerners a local phone number that requires long-distance charges to dial, even if it is only pennies per call. You will dial your friend who lives down the block via their Madagascar phone number. This will be sold as a value-added phone-spam-resistant service. Best of all, the billing infrastructure is already in place.

Eventually Google mail and Yahoo mail will hit on the same idea, and these will become profit centers for their respective companies.

Joe January 27, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Robert, perhaps you are a troll.

Take responsibility for her well-being, indeed. That’s why we got her on the list – a much easier way to enhance her well-being than the tedious process of canceling subscriptions, insurance contracts, health club memberships, book clubs, and so on. It’s not like we have unlimited time to see to her well-being, on top of the the time we already spend handling her finances, taking care of her appointments, driving her around on errands, helping her manage her medications, etc.

I suppose we could cut her off from the outside world entirely by canceling her phone, but social isolation wouldn’t exactly enhance her well-being. Or maybe we should monitor all of her conversations real-time, giving up our personal lives so that telemarketers are not in the least inconvenienced.

Robert S. Porter January 27, 2009 at 6:00 pm

The feeling is mutual.

Yeah, I bet you’re one of those polite people who likes to swear at retired women and students. If you have a problem with getting phone calls, cancel your service.

Doug January 27, 2009 at 6:19 pm

If I have a problem with door to door salesman, do I have to sell my house? Can’t I simply not allow them on my property? Don’t people have a right to decide who may use their own property (i.e. their own phone, and the phone line they lease)? If you call someone who has informed you (via the list) that they do not want you to call, how are you any better than a tresspasser or stalker? Aren’t you using their property in a way you are not authorized to use it?

Being a telemarketer is harrassment, an imposition, and despicable behavior. It is not justified by the fact that you are a retired woman or a student.

Vincent Clement January 27, 2009 at 6:42 pm

“a legitimate marketing and sales tool”

Funniest thing I have heard all day. If it is such a legitimate tool, then why do telemarketers have to resort to spoofing their caller ID information? I’m a Bell subscriber and their telemarketing pops up as 000-000-0000.

Robert S. Porter January 27, 2009 at 7:09 pm

If I have a problem with door to door salesman, do I have to sell my house? Can’t I simply not allow them on my property? Don’t people have a right to decide who may use their own property (i.e. their own phone, and the phone line they lease)?

A phone line is nowhere near the same thing as a home. If you do not want salesmen coming to your door then you should post a sign instructing them not to go on your property. The only way that your “leased” phoneline example works is if you come to an agreement with your telephone provider. Do no not have some natural right to not be phoned. Get caller ID or work out a deal with your phone company. Otherwise you have no case.

Being a telemarketer is harrassment, an imposition, and despicable behavior. It is not justified by the fact that you are a retired woman or a student.

You’re a terrible person. Do you yell at Jehovah’s Witnesses too? How about stealing candy from small children? Does it make you feel important?

Robert S. Porter January 27, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Robert do you really believe that telemarketing is a valuable service to the world? Do you believe this about email spam too?

If you do you’re in a tiny minority, most people view these as unwanted intrusions, which we’re not quite sure how to get rid of without breaking the good features of an open phone/email system.

Both are issues to be worked out with private service providers, not the government. Spam filters from places like Gmail work quite well. If people don’t want to be called they should figure a way to remedy the problem without running to the government.

Anonymous January 27, 2009 at 7:51 pm

Do you yell at Jehovah’s Witnesses too?

Sure, why not?

Brian 2 January 27, 2009 at 8:18 pm

If people don’t want to be called they should figure a way to remedy the problem without running to the government.

They did, by telling the telemarketers to stop calling them. Of course, they were ignored. Be thankful that the solution was the DNC list instead of prosecutions for criminal harassment.

Anonymous January 27, 2009 at 9:29 pm

Do you yell at Jehovah’s Witnesses too?
Sure, why not? And I think they like it, too. Gets them all fired up.

How about stealing candy from small children?
Usually at Halloween.

Does it make you feel important?
Yelling at JH’s just feels good. Stealing candy from small children makes the candy even sweeter. And I am very happy in the knowledge that I am, in a small way, helping prevent tooth decay in sweet innocent little children (usually with big puppy dog eyes!).

Now, telemarketers are another issue. Yelling is not so great as they usually hang up. But taking the time to engage them in lengthy conversation is great fun. Kind of like scam baiting. YMMV

Slocum January 28, 2009 at 7:29 am

Sooner or later, I’m going to get exactly what I want, which is this: only calls from numbers on my approved list will ring through. All others will be automatically routed to voice mail. If the junk callers don’t leave a message (and they rarely do), it’ll be like they never even called–which would be perfect. People I want to talk to will leave messages and I will add them to the approved list. Voila.

Anon January 28, 2009 at 9:57 am

Sooner or later, I’m going to get exactly what I want, which is this: only calls from numbers on my approved list will ring through.

Try Google’s Grand Central.

J Greely January 30, 2009 at 3:05 pm

improbable says: “I’m surprised we haven’t yet seen spam filtering phone services: it wouldn’t be that hard for a phone company to filter calls, using blacklists and whitelists, and routing unwanted calls to voicemail.”

Ooma does that (announcement here). It’s been one of our most-requested features since we launched, and it’s very popular.

[disclaimer: yes, I work there]

-j

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