Make the Red Cross stop
December 10, 2008 12:09 PM   Subscribe

How do I get the Red Cross to stop calling me? Also: I am not actually a dick, really!

For years now, the Red Cross has been sending their telemarketers to me. The calls have been steadily gaining in frequency, until this past month when it's grown intolerable. I get multiple calls every day, to the point where I have pretty much stopped picking up when the call says "Unavailable."

I've asked the telemarketers to take me off the list. They don't. I read online that the Red Cross is exempt from the Do Not Call list, so I am screwed there. Do I have any recourse? I'm not going to have to change my phone number, right?

I support what the Red Cross does. I support giving blood. I feel like an asshole for posting this question. But man, I'm gonna give it on my own time, and when they're calling, and calling, and calling, and calling, well, being put in the position where I either donate or get a deluge of telemarketers on my ass does not exactly put me in a charitable mood. How can I make it stop?
posted by schroedinger to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ask to speak to a supervisor and then ask THEM to take you off the list.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:18 PM on December 10, 2008

Are they specifically calling to ask you to donate blood? (Rather than $$$) I was getting calls asking to schedule a blood donation time while in the midst of a flu/cold thing that wouldn't go away this fall, and after I said I "hadn't been feeling well lately" they stopped calling completely. I think I may have inadvertently implied that I was unwell in a way that would permanently bar me from donating.
posted by yarrow at 12:22 PM on December 10, 2008

You're right, the Do Not Call list doesn't apply because they are a not-for-profit, but they should still stop calling you if you ask them to stop, especially if you're getting calls from a telemarketing firm representing the Red Cross, not the Red Cross itself. From the Do Not Call Q&A (PDF):

29. Are calls from political organizations or calls soliciting for charities covered?
Political solicitations are not covered by the TSR at all, since they are not included in its definition of “telemarketing.” Charities are not covered by the requirements of the national registry. However, if a third-party telemarketer is calling on behalf of a charity, a consumer may ask not to receive any more calls from, or on behalf of, that specific charity. If a third-party telemarketer calls again on behalf of that charity, the telemarketer may be subject to a fine of up to $11,000.
posted by donajo at 12:27 PM on December 10, 2008

I had the same thing with a local charity. Multiple calls a day for special events. Refused to take me off their calling list, despite repeated requests to 2 levels of supervisors. After some investigation it turned out they had contracted out their telemarketing to a private company, and I suspect the employees were treating it as a joke amongst themselves to see how much they could wind me up, because I was getting pretty angry. I also discovered that the private company was renowned for giving as little as 27¢ of each dollar raised back to the charity.

After a while I wised up, emailed the head of the organisation, copied to a local journalist known for investigating scams and consumer problems. The first email achieved nothing. The next day I repeated the emails each time they called. The calls stopped immediately. The head of the organisation actually called me to apologise and asked me not to take it any further.

So, my advice is - find email addresses or postal addresses for as many senior people within the organisation as possible. The Red Cross is a much larger organisation than the one I was dealing with. Write a calm but strongly worded email/letter stating that you will never donate their organisation while they continue to call you. Mention that you are so annoyed that you are telling friends, colleagues and acquaintances of your displeasure, which is obviously very negative for the organisation. If you have a local consumer advocate (newspaper? online?) contact them as well.

See if you can find out whether they are doing the telemarketing themselves or if it's contracted out. If the latter and it's a company as bad as the one that was calling me, that is very useful information to mention in your communications - media here actually shut down one charity's entire fundraising for a while when it was found out their contracted telemarketers were giving to the charity a tiny fraction of the money raised.
posted by valleys at 12:30 PM on December 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

Ugh, I sympathize. I used to get 5-6 calls a week from them, but have managed to get it down to once every few weeks.

I've found that the call volume has a lot to do with my desirable blood type (O+) and persistent blood shortages in my region. When they call, I tell them my specific plans to donate at X location in X amount of time. They enter this information in their database, and then it's usually pretty clear until that date approaches, at which time I get reminder calls. And then the cycle starts again.

If you're serious about getting them off your back, you might try telling them that you do not qualify to donate. You recently contracted mad cow disease! You suddenly remember all that drunken transactional sex and recreational drug use! That will probably get you off their lists fast.

On another note, the American Red Cross has had TONS of problems and ethical snafus.

They also sell your blood. Yes, some of the proceeds from the sales go to processing costs, but some is also skimmed off for their outrageous overhead and operating budget.

If you want to give blood, look into donating at a hospital. It won't be sold, and you will be guaranteed that it will be used in your community. Most hospitals have in-house blood services.
posted by charmcityblues at 12:33 PM on December 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

Tell them you have sex with men. Seriously.
posted by hermitosis at 12:34 PM on December 10, 2008

(I mean, if you are one.)
posted by hermitosis at 12:34 PM on December 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

The Red Cross would call me EARLY every 56 days with robocalls telling me to show up and give blood. I also have a desirable blood type (AB+) and I do donate sometimes, just not regularly. I'm not sure what finally made the calls stop coming. I think I changed my phone number the last time I donated blood to some not-mine number (Is there any reason the RC would need to telephone me? No, there is not) or maybe it was when I called the regional office and left a long voice mail explaining my work-nights status, or maybe it was my repeated email that said the same thing. In short, I did manage to make this work (I also don't give them my social security number) but it took longer than it should have.
posted by jessamyn at 12:41 PM on December 10, 2008

How do I get the Red Cross to stop calling me?

Tell them that you have/are something off this list. "I'm a tuberculosis-suffering, drug using homosexual who has unsafe sex in the bins outside the needle exchange" should work.
posted by Solomon at 1:15 PM on December 10, 2008 [3 favorites]

My boyfriend used to telemarketing for our college's Alumni Fund, and I remember him saying that in order for a caller to take someone off the list, there was a specific phrase that the person had to say. Have you said "Take me off your list" specifically? I'd also try talking to a supervisor who may be more helpful.

charmcityblues, I will definitely echo your sentiments about the Red Cross blood services. The NY Times had a big feature about that recently. However, please be careful before you bash the blood banking industry...we all "sell" the blood but that is because there are serious costs involved with the collection, processing, testing and distribution of blood...employee salaries, equipment costs, blood bags, transportation, etc...but most blood banks are members of AABB and have contracts negotiated with the hospitals where the amount we charge for a unit of blood is very close to what it costs us to produce that unit.

Also, donating with a hospital doesn't guarantee that the blood will stay in your community...if the hospital collects more than it needs, it's going to export (i.e. sell) to other hospitals. However, the general idea is to give with a local hospital or regional blood bank, where the blood will most likely be transfused to a local patient.

posted by radioamy at 1:20 PM on December 10, 2008

jessamyn: AB+ is only useful for someone else with AB+ blood. You can get blood from anyone (O, A, B, AB, RH pos or neg) which is good for you (you are a "universal recipient"). O neg is universal donor.
posted by kamelhoecker at 2:50 PM on December 10, 2008

kamelhoecker: yup, AB+ is also rare-ish and I'm in a rural area and apparently this matters
posted by jessamyn at 2:55 PM on December 10, 2008

I have this problem too. What I do is go online and schedule an appointment a few months away, then if they call I say I have an appointment lined up. Once I do that, the only calls I get are from an independent group (a church group where I donated once) that apparently has a different calling list than the national Red Cross one.

You can schedule/reschedule/cancel appointments online which makes it really convenient.

Note: I do give blood regularly a few times a year, I just really don't like getting phone calls every 56 days.
posted by beandip at 3:20 PM on December 10, 2008

I told them I had a cold and was waiting until I felt better to donate and the calls STOPPED. I don't know what they put in my file, but you might want to tell them you have the flu.
posted by winna at 3:25 PM on December 10, 2008

You may need to contact them at their national # at 800-733-2767, rather than telling them when they contact you. Tell them what has happened with the repeated phone calls, and ask to escalate to a supervisor if necessary. Also let them know that they need to inform their local branches to do the same if they maintain separate contact lists from the national org. Mention that you are being put off from donating money or blood by the harassment. In these economic times, charities are taking that sort of thing especially seriously because they need every cent they can get.

If you do ever intend on donating blood again, don't lie and tell them that you have some sort of health problem, because they will probably have to ban you from donating for life.
posted by fructose at 4:01 PM on December 10, 2008

There is this approach, which has the double benefit of being fun and effective.

I would also tell charity telemarketers that if I got one more call I would be going to the state Attorney General. That was also effective but much less fun.
posted by trinity8-director at 5:20 PM on December 10, 2008

Trinity8 link was good and the link in the last comment on that page was excellent (the Counterscript). I copied it for family and friends to use and enjoy. I don't get telemarketing calls any more since I went to cell only (except from the cellphone company!). I sure felt hurt being left out by all the politicians calling this year.
posted by artfann at 6:30 PM on December 10, 2008

jessamyn: AB+ is only useful for someone else with AB+ blood. You can get blood from anyone (O, A, B, AB, RH pos or neg) which is good for you (you are a "universal recipient"). O neg is universal donor.

This is only the freshman version. When it comes to avoiding blood transfusion reactions in real live people, not textbooks, type matched blood is always superior. The reason is that it is not possible to do the tests for minor transfusion reactions by mixing whole blood if the units are not ABO-type compatible. Thanks for giving blood jessamyn!

posted by ikkyu2 at 6:33 PM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

They call me incessantly as well. They called in the first few weeks of my pregnancy - and when I told them I was likely pregnant they asked if they could call back in 6 weeks and confirm that I was still pregnant. I also frequently don't qualify because my iron levels are chronically low. On the advice of a doctor - I'm not donating until I get my levels up. The person on the phone always encourages me to come in anyway. I have found that kind of gall and the incessant calling seriously reduces my desire to donate. I've memorized the number and don't pick up when they call. Telling them you have a disease will definitely get them to stop calling but will also likely preclude you from donating in the future should the spirit move you. Acutane (among other drugs) takes you out of the donating pool for awhile. You could tell them you're on an indefinite course - they do seem to use a decent CRM system that suspends calls for specific medical durations.
It's a good, easy thing to do. I do it when I can but they need to work out a better way to get donations.
posted by Wolfie at 3:58 PM on December 11, 2008

Update: After being woken up to receive my sixth call of the week, I kind of snapped. I asked to speak to a supervisor and told him in no uncertain terms that I would never, ever donate blood to the Red Cross again if I kept on getting calls. I said they could mail me stuff but never call me again. The supervisor seemed to take this seriously, and I hope that I will actually be removed from the list.
posted by charmcityblues at 8:02 AM on December 23, 2008

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