Please hope me make these calls stop!
September 16, 2010 5:48 PM   Subscribe

Someone has been publishing my son’s cell phone number in ads for some land he has for sale. How can we get him to stop doing this? Plus: I know the guy’s first name and where he works and it’s close by. Minus: He insisted in an email that the phone number was his.

My 18-year-old son started getting calls a couple of weeks ago about some land for sale. I googled his phone number and found a Craigslist ad with it as the contact number. I emailed the guy through Craigslist and flagged the ad, noting that it had my phone number in it. (Throughout this I’ve been calling the number “mine” just to keep things simple.) He sent me an email back, saying basically, “I don’t know who your provider is, but this is also my number, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I emailed him back asking him to please double check, because we’re getting his calls. I never heard from him and Craigslist removed the ad a couple of hours later.

Last week, my son started getting calls again. This time I can’t find his number online anywhere, so we suspect that he’s putting it on a sign somewhere. The calls are really annoying my kid and I don’t blame him.

The email he sent was from The business is a place that most likely has an open office we could walk into and it’s less than three miles away. My husband and son want to go up there and talk to the guy. Is this a really bad idea? I’m afraid that the guy might retaliate and publish my son’s number someplace problematic. If they do go talk to the guy, are there any magic words to convince him it’s not his phone number? He’s obviously a couple of Cheerios short of a complete nutritious breakfast, and I am at a loss.

Here’s what our correspondence looks like so far:

Me, replying to Craigslist ad: Hi! You have my phone number 832-xxx-xxxx in your Craiglist ad. Please remove it ASAP. I am also contacting Craigslist about the mistake. Thank you, Me.

Him, from his work email (this is paraphrased): “I don’t know who your provider is, but this is also my number, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Me, replying to the above to his work email: Could you check your phone number again please? I'm getting calls on your ad. A phone number can only be assigned to one person. If you're not getting any calls, that's probably why. Thank you, Me.

Me again, to his work address after the calls started again: I'm sorry to bother you, but I'm getting calls about your land again. You seem to have put my number on a sign somewhere, at least that's what I'm guessing from the messages I'm getting. I suspect your provider told you your number wrong. Could you do me a favor? Could you please call someone else's cell phone from yours while they are with you? Then you can see what number shows up on their caller ID and correct your sign. Thank you, Me.

For what it’s worth, my son doesn’t get other misdirected calls, so I doubt there’s a mix-up anywhere except in this guy’s mind.
posted by zinfandel to Grab Bag (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Yes, your husband and son should go up there and talk to the guy. Nothing malicious is going on, since your son has the phone number, and he doesn't, and somebody screwed up. But for some reason just emails are not straightening it out. The problem has now gotten too complicated for email. A nice friendly meetup should do it, and nothing to be worried about. They'll probably all go out for a beer, if your son is old enough.
posted by beagle at 5:57 PM on September 16, 2010

the business is less than three miles away. it sounds like a true mixup that could be cleared with a face to face conversation (make sure you bring someone with you as a witness), and some calls placed from his cell phone that will show up on a caller id and clear this thing up. if he's nutty about it, then go talk to someone at the police station and see what they would suggest as the next step. at worst, your son might have to change his number.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 5:59 PM on September 16, 2010

Forgive me for saying, but you sound a bit hostile in this post, and in your emails to this guy.

He is NOT intentionally hurting you or your son. He is trying to sell some land, and either he has made a mistake or the phone company has. It is NOT his fault. (Or yours.)

So, approach him in a spirit of understanding and problem-solving, not "there's only something wrong in your mind". You (both your family and this guy) have a problem to solve. Work together, and don't be a dick about it.
posted by alternateuniverse at 5:59 PM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

You didn't indicate when you sent the last email, but if it's been a couple of days and you still haven't heard back, I would call this business and ask to speak to a higher up. I would imagine that they would be receptive since he's involving localbusiness through the use of his work email.

I would be weary of storming his office and demanding that he stop printing your son's phone number. He's already made it clear that he won't do that, and physically intimidating him could unnecessarily escalate the situation (he might be a nut, for all you know).

If all else fails, your son will continue to get annoying phone calls. It sucks, and it happened to me when I got a new phone number, but it will eventually stop.
posted by tomtheblackbear at 6:04 PM on September 16, 2010

Reading the other answers is making me think that contacting the manger of this business might not be the best course of action. I wouldn't do anything that could potentially get this guy into trouble. I would still advise you not to confront him, though.
posted by tomtheblackbear at 6:10 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yeah, I realize that the language in my first email was demanding. That was on purpose. Maybe in retrospect it was a mistake, but I wrote it that way so that hopefully he wouldn't make excuses or blame the problem on someone else. Most people reading that would go "Oh, shit" and fix the problem. I can't fix it, he has to. I think my next two emails were nicer.

Also, I sent the last email 7 days ago, and gave him the weekend to get out there if the sign is there (his work is nearby but the land is 50 miles away).

I'd love to hear more opinions and worst case scenarios.

Thanks y'all.
posted by zinfandel at 6:10 PM on September 16, 2010

Have you considered that maybe this guy is dyslexic and has inadvertently switched a couple numbers here? Maybe he doesn't even know he's got a misprint.
posted by MrZero at 6:14 PM on September 16, 2010

I see what you were thinking, but think about it from his perspective. I would read that and might think *you* were the "nutcase" who is "a few Cheerios short of a nutritious breakfast". It's such a short note, with no explanation or anything... I might think it was a prank or something. Remember, it was posted on Craigslist, so he probably got a bunch of junk emails about weird stuff anyway.

Also, you have no way of knowing if he's out of town, has the flu, god knows what. He probably has more important (to him) things to do than fix this problem. And first impressions are everything. Think about it from his perspective.

So, at this point, I would:
- contact him in a more interactive way (in person, phone)
- be super nice (assume he has other stuff going on/tried to fix it and couldn't/doesn't know what you're talking about because his wife posted the sign without him knowing/etc.)
- work together to solve the problem
posted by alternateuniverse at 6:18 PM on September 16, 2010

Have him call the phone number from his work phone. If you answer, he'll be very surprised, but then probably realize that it's a different number.

But, perhaps he has dyslexia, as MrZero suggests...
posted by reddot at 6:21 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

If the land is 50 miles away, maybe it has a different area code and he is not aware of that. Maybe he has the same number with a different area code given him by either phone company or someone at work and he was not aware that it is different. I would call the phone company and ask them what course of action is best. I am quite sure this has come up before. THen, I would go down there politely and figure out the mixup. Then if he still does not change it, I would change my number and put his friggin number all over the net. (Ok, I would not do the last part, but the rest is good to go).
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:25 PM on September 16, 2010

It seems like email isn't working for this problem, so I agree that you should step it up a notch. However, it seems the next logical step would be to call the business and ask to speak to the person. Just showing up at his office sounds a little bit confrontational and is likely to make him a bit defensive (and thus less likely to do what you want).
posted by ssg at 6:26 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oddly, something similar has happened to me twice.

a) A local medical clinic inadvertently printed my home phone number in their brochure and I was quickly besieged with hundreds of calls from their clients requesting appointments. I eventually tracked down which clinic it was and informed them of their error, which only slightly slowed down the number of calls because there were apparently a lot of these brochures out there. The thing that did the most to stop the calls was changing my voicemail message to "Hello, this is jamaro. If you're calling XYZ Clinic, you have the wrong number, the correct number is xxx-xxx-xxxx. Everyone else, leave a message." I temporarily got into the habit of not answering the phone when Caller ID showed a number I didn't recognize.

b) The other time was when a video rental store transposed some numbers and publicised my number as theirs on a huge sign facing an expressway. I informed them of the error, they were jerks about it (something about how they weren't going to change it because much the sign cost them and the sign was more about promoting their name/location...wha?) and from then on I answered calls like so:

Caller: Hi, how late are you open?
Me, in my best surly video clerk voice: I'm closed. ::click::

Caller: Do you have (latest release) in stock?
Me: No. ::click::

Video store changed their signage after a few weeks of that. So, try approach A first and then go to B.
posted by jamaro at 6:27 PM on September 16, 2010 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I disagree with some other commenters, I think your emails were entirely appropriate.

Yep, visit him at work, with your sons phone and another phone. Ring the number on his ad from the 3rd phone, and when your son's phone rings but his doesn't, he might understand. Then ask him to ring your son's phone or the 3rd phone, and get his correct number from the caller ID.

Make sure you're non-confrontational. Act as though all you want is to sort this out so a) he can sell his land, and b) your son can be left in peace.

I think you can do that in a nice way, if he's dyslexic or whatever and it's genuinely an honest mistake, and I also think it's the only way you're going to get a resolution short of changing your son's number.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 6:32 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ask someone who calls you where they got the phone number.
posted by soelo at 6:36 PM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm surprised other people are telling you to be so nice to the guy. I'd be very annoyed, maybe because I've been receiving collection calls for almost FOUR YEARS from the girl who had my phone number before me. I seriously just got a collection call today. At 7AM, after a night of terrible sleep with a teething toddler.

But you asked nicely, and the guy did not fix the problem, nor did he apparently even bother to half-ass looking into it to see if it was his error. Now he's not even responding to you. He's ignoring you. That's pretty obnoxious.

If it were me, I'd figure out if he were the business owner, and go to said owner if he's not and explain the problem. Guy's not doing his job correctly. He had a chance to do his job correctly when you pointed out the error THREE TIMES. If he is the owner, yeah, I'd probably go down there in person and be nice, but firm. If it goes to hell from there and he insists it's his phone number, maybe get the police involved. I hate to suggest having them use their limited resources on something like that, but you're getting harassed by this guy's incompetence.

Or, you could just start messing with the callers. "Well, the land's still available, but I've got to come clean about the massacre that happened there back in '82..."
posted by kpht at 6:38 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

if he's unwilling to make any changes, he's just going to lose all potentials that end up calling your son. since you have no vested interest in him getting those potentials and he has decided to not labor himself with your concerns, i'd say you're free and clear to either ignore those phone calls entirely or to explain that the ad is mistaken and this is not the correct number and that you have no further contact info to provide, so sorry and good luck etc.
posted by radiosilents at 6:44 PM on September 16, 2010

True story: Years ago, Sprint was my cellular company. When number portability came along, I switched to T-mobile. Took a long time (weeks) for my number to port over, but eventually it did.

Many months later, I start getting a flood of calls for somebody else. All these callers are correctly dialing the number they were given.

Then I get a call from Sprint. Turns out they had flagged my number as "available for reassignment" in their system, and had given it to some other guy. Oops. The problem was dealt with in less than a day.
posted by adamrice at 6:50 PM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Overthinking this one. Just say, "Sorry, wrong number" and hang up to everyone that asks. You're not being confrontational, not being misleading, just politely brusque. It is not your problem that the seller put down the wrong number. You don't need to go and see him. The problem will self-correct shortly, without the seller finding out who you are.
posted by scruss at 7:01 PM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

Can't you just call your wireless provider or even the police and let them know what is happening?
posted by KokuRyu at 7:05 PM on September 16, 2010

Calling the police seems like way overkill to me. Getting a phone number wrong is not a crime, nor is failing to correct your mistake. Go and talk to the guy, demonstrate the problem, and hopefully it can be sorted out. If not, then scruss's approach is my second preference. But law enforcement is not the answer here, for hopefully obvious reasons.
posted by impluvium at 8:24 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you asked the new people where they saw the number?
posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:42 PM on September 16, 2010

Kpht, that's really cruel. Do unto others and all of that.
posted by alternateuniverse at 9:18 PM on September 16, 2010

Something is weird here...

If it is indeed true that only one of you can have the number, his response doesn't make any sense.

Either he is getting calls in response to his ads or he is not.

I say go down there, ask him to dial the number right in front of you, have your son's phone ring and prove your case. If his phone rings too, you have a problem.

On the flip side, has your son heard from anybody trying to reach him but getting this other guy instead? That would also be something to check.

If the guy is a jerk and doesn't want to change it, he is A. stupid because he is not going to get a response to his land sale and B. opening himself up to a not-so-nice response. You could mildly suggest that you will be sure to share your thoughts about him and his business to anybody who mistakenly calls your son. That might get him to realize this isn't worth it. If it is a small town you might also consider going to the local newspaper--they are always interested in weird little stories like this that have a clear good guy/bad guy, particularly when the good guy is a kid and the bad guy is an adult. I'm sure this guy doesn't want negative press over something so stupid.
posted by Elminster24 at 10:09 PM on September 16, 2010

Maybe his number is for a different area code. When people call XXX-XXXX after they drive into your cell area, it goes to your line. So you're only getting people who are in a certain area. But if they called in another area, it would go to him.
posted by acoutu at 11:27 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd definitely escalate to the guy's boss, or the owner of the business. The guy you emailed had multiple opportunities to fix the problem and decided not to. Your emails were pretty direct and to the point. He had his chance and blew it.

That said, I think you need to frame it in a way that makes them care. The simple fact that you (or your son) are getting a lot of misdirected phone calls isn't really their problem. That they are not getting phone calls from prospective clients, and moreover that prospective clients are actually being routed to someone whose opinion of them isn't all that great ... that is something they have, or ought to have anyway, a vested interest in fixing.

So I'd contact someone higher up on the totem pole, and give them the opportunity to resolve the issue. There's no reason to be rude, but no reason to be obsequious, either. You're doing them a favor. If they decide not to fix the issue, you should feel yourself under no obligation to let misdirected callers know the correct number or anything else about the company, except that they have the wrong number.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:31 PM on September 16, 2010

Reminds me of the urban legend of the hotel that printed this man's telephone number in their brochure and refused to change it since they had spent the printing costs and the brochure was otherwise correct.

He was tired of the daily and nightly phone calls from people trying to get hold of the hotel. One day a woman called and said she wanted to plan a wedding at the hotel. Deciding to take a different tact, the man said, "Certainly. We have a special rate on our ballroom for weddings. Give me all the details and everything will be arranged and ready on your wedding day."

I'm not suggesting you do anything like this, but certainly let the guy know that his customers are going to be subject to your son's possible unpredictable and cranky moods.
posted by eye of newt at 12:31 AM on September 17, 2010

Go visit? I'm way too lazy for that. Email. Suggest that he try calling the number 832-xxx-xxxx to verify the situation. Change the message to: "If you are calling about land for sale, you have reached a wrong number, and I do not have the correct number." Delete any and all calls about the land. He's trying to sell something, and the calls are bothering you. It's not your job to solve his problem.
posted by theora55 at 7:29 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

alternateuniverse: "Forgive me for saying, but you sound a bit hostile in this post, and in your emails to this guy."

I don't think so at all.

If this is a business that walk-ins are reasonably expected, I would suggest going to the business with the phone, call the number in the presence of the guy and ask him to explain how when you call his ad number it gets to the son's phone. Then call the guy's number and show him the caller id as well. Hopefully he gets it. This is not good for his land sale, and I would expect he would want this corrected immediately.

Elevating this to the level of his boss is inappropriate because this has nothing to do with his work. Going to the business is actually borderline but if people walking in and wanting to talk to someone is not out of the ordinary, I would do it.
posted by dozo at 9:09 AM on September 17, 2010

My home number used to be one digit off from a local nursing home. Not the nursing home's problem, and I dealt with the misdials politely. Until.

One crackhead called repeatedly for her man, who apparently worked the graveyard shift. It didn't matter that I gave her the correct number. (She'd just hit redial.) It didn't matter that I asked her not to wake me up at 3 a.m. (A relative was in a health crisis, so turning the phone off at night wasn't a solution.) This happened every few nights, for weeks.

Finally I answered the phone "Nursing Home, how may I help you?" and got the full name of the guy she was calling. Then I called "John," at work, at 3 a.m., and had a little chat with him about speaking to his supervisors tomorrow if I ever got another fucking call from his stoned girlfriend. Worked a treat.

It's quite possible that it's an area code problem. Personally, I wouldn't escalate beyond finding out where the sign is (and then possibly removing it) and/or having your son provide no info when he gets misdialed calls.
posted by cyndigo at 11:32 AM on September 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

1. When this kind of thing happens for landlines, there is a process in place for a free/subsidized number change. See if a similar policy applies with your wireless provider.

2. If your son has/upgrades to an android phone, you can probably use Google Voice, and its wonderful call-separation features.

3. If all else fails, there's theora55's solution, above.

Good luck.
posted by Citrus at 12:38 PM on September 17, 2010

Hmm, I once tried to convince someone that a wrong number was correct (in fairness, he woke me up at 6am and spotting transposed digits over the phone is quite hard when you're half asleep). So I have some sympathy for the guy, he probably looked at his ad too quickly, thought it looked fine, and shot off a grumpy reply.

However, the easiest way to get it resolved might just be to e-mail him again from a different address, claiming that you called the number posted and that someone told you it was the wrong number. (Bonus if you can get one of the wrong-number-callers to tell you where the fliers or whatever are which are currently listing your number.)
posted by anaelith at 8:39 PM on September 17, 2010

« Older Books on Bosses?   |   AARP-isms Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.