Will Noone Rid Me Of These Troublesome Political Calls?
October 29, 2010 7:56 AM   Subscribe

We get what I consider to be an excessive number of political advocation/push polls/polls/robocalls at our house (9 calls between noon on Wednesday and noon on Thursday, for example). We get 1-3 political-oriented calls per-week year round, but it is beginning to feel like harassment now. Help me figure out how to cut way back on the calls for the future.

Limiting factors: We can not get rid of our landline in the near future. We live in Virginia, in one of the hotly contested Obama swing districts. There are multiple voters in the household, all Independent, all united in asking live callers to never call again - efforts that have shown no discernible effect.

All 3 parties at the local, state, and national level call us regularly the time to greet people at the airport or to push their agenda or to give them money, in addition to the various ________ for _________ "independent" ad-making bile-spewing groups. Now we have variously voted in Democratic or Republican primaries in the past (in order to get the best choice in November) - which is legal in Virginia, so its understandable that the parties might want to contact us - but every time they call we ask to be taken off all their lists, and they say they will and never do. We've seen a very very small reduction in calls from the Democrats, but calls from the Republicans and conservative _______ for ________ groups have mushroomed. Now we're getting political calls from them for elections in Virginia AND Illinois AND West Virginia.

I'm pretty sure someone in the local GOP gave the local Tea Party our contact info, too, and they refuse to believe me that we don't want their calls, have never given them money, and that I might speak for the household in asking them not to call again.

Would a registered letter sent to local, state, and national groups help?
Is there someplace online where I can at least ask them not to political spam me for states I don't even live in? Could I at least get them not to send me the same George Allen or Sarah Palin robocall 3 or 4 times? Am I asking political parties the right thing when I say "Please take me off all of your mailing, phone, and contact lists?"

Finally, many of the _______ of _______ blank groups and pollsters refuse to tell me who is paying for the call (just the service who is running it). How do I figure out who to ask to stop calling us, and what - if any - tactics would work with them?

Sorry about the length - I'm just so frustrated! Help!
posted by julen to Law & Government (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not in Virginia, but when I became a registered Democrat (instead of a "decline-to-state"), the number of calls I got fell dramatically. I'm thinking that your stated Independent status makes you an irresistible target for political calling, especially this year with the crazy Tea Party narrative.

Oh, and I just hang up on the ones that won't say who they work for. (They always turn out to be push polls.)
posted by purpleclover at 8:03 AM on October 29, 2010

Until you figure out how to get off these call list, get call display, ignore the unknown/800 numbers, and hook the line up to Google Voice. Turn on the transcript option. It's not perfect, but you'll get the gist of the message without having to actually listen to it. Give everyone access to the Google Voice account and make sure you don't have any legitimate missed calls. The calls are irritating but this way you can just 'ignore as needed' and not let the callers ramp up your annoyance and irritation.
posted by barnone at 8:17 AM on October 29, 2010

As a New Hampshire resident who goes through this every 4 years, the one other piece of advice I can give is to interrupt at the first possible moment to say, "You already have our vote". It won't solve anything in the short-run, but it cuts down on the number of calls over time. It also works incredibly well for in-person visits: just slowly start to smile as they begin their spiel and then let them know you're totally on board and thank them for coming out.
posted by yerfatma at 8:20 AM on October 29, 2010

Well, if it makes you feel any better, you've only got a few days before the election, then it should die down until 2012.

That said, political calls are thoroughly exempt from all of the various Do Not Call legislation, so your best bet is to simply not answer the phone if you don't recognize the number. If it's important, they'll leave a message.
posted by Oktober at 8:22 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Google Voice may help here, but you'd have to find a way to publicly change your number to what you get from it, so that people call that number instead. Not sure how to solve that problem. If changing your number outright is an option, then you can give people the GV number instead of the original landline number that you get new - while making sure the landline number is unlisted.

But, once you're gettng calls through GV, you can enumerate who gets right through, force everyone else to go through call screening (which should put a stop to robocalls), and even pull a slick one - use a custom recorded greeting of a fast-busy signal, which will cause a lot of automated calling systems to automatically drop your number from their database, because they think it's disconnected.
posted by Citrus at 8:29 AM on October 29, 2010

The contact information you put on your voter registration pretty much gives everybody license to send you all kinds of crap, and there's not really any way to stop that.

The only way to stop the phone calls (that I know of) is to re-register to vote and leave out your phone number. I did it years ago and haven't had a call since.
posted by stefanie at 8:46 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Lifehacker had a post on just that subject this week: Press Pound to to Escape Political Robocall Lists
posted by doorsfan at 8:48 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

oops, looks like these are not all robocalls, but if you get any...
posted by doorsfan at 8:49 AM on October 29, 2010

I don't know if it's a regional thing (I'm in CA), but I use AT&T's Privacy Manager service. Basically, every call has to come with Caller ID info or they are forced to talk to a robot and say who they are before talking to me. We still get some robocalls, but darned few; it has been maybe 1 a week lately.

Of course, it makes me hate AT&T all the more. They charge me to have a phone. Then they charge other people to call me. And they charge me yet more to keep them from calling me. But it seems to help compared with my friends.
posted by 300baud at 8:54 AM on October 29, 2010

Port your landline number to a VOIP service that lets you filter calls. I use ViaTalk, which lets you filter based on full or partial caller ID number (all 800/866/877/888 calls go directly to voicemail), caller ID name, or lack of any identifying information. Rather than using ViaTalk's voice mail, I have it forward such calls to Google Voice, which is a better voice mail system.
posted by kindall at 9:03 AM on October 29, 2010

I find that screening all my calls does the job. Just don't answer.
posted by Carol Anne at 9:06 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Register as a member of one of the two parties. You'll still get some calls, but the independents are the coveted vote.
posted by azpenguin at 9:14 AM on October 29, 2010

I used to be employed by making phone calls in the election season - sometimes "polling" covertly done by a candidate who was trying to identify supporters, or smear the other candidate by asking leading questions, or just getting out the vote.

(not proud of that job - but it was a job)

Anyway, if it was the getting out the vote variety, the only way to stop us from calling over and over again was to say, "I've already voted". That way we put an x by your name since it was pointless to call again.

So if you get a human on the line, say "I already voted and please don't call me again. Thank you". That should work for that one campaign/researcher/poll etc.

It'll make a small dent.
posted by kongg at 9:32 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

non-elegant, but we just let our landline go to the answering machine and delete all calls for the month leading up to the election. People we actually want to talk to know to call our cells. In the alternative, you can do what people used to do before cells and caller ID when trying to screen for a limited period of time, which is tell someone to ring the phone once, hang up, and then call back. When you get the "Ring - hang up - lots of rings" you know it's someone calling you on purpose.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:45 AM on October 29, 2010

Congress really needs to amend the donotcall.gov service to apply to political organizations as well as corporations.
posted by dgran at 1:57 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a member of a political party and I still get an obscene number of calls.

I simply take my cordless phone off the charger, let the charger die, and assume if you really need to call me you will call my cell. Occasionally I will charge the phone up long enough to check messages, but that's all. (It helps that this phone has a crappy battery and won't hold a charge long anyway.)

This is the ONLY way I can survive political season without feeling like committing assault and battery with a cordless phone.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:42 PM on October 29, 2010

We screen our calls year-round and haven't talked to a telemarketer, pollster, or bill collector* in years. The outgoing message, which never changes:
*beep beep beep* [the three-tone "line disconnected" signal, downloaded from the net]
"Hi, you've reached 555-1212. We screen our calls to avoid telemarketers, so if you are one, please put us on your Do Not Call list. If you're not a telemarketer and you really want to speak with us, please leave a message because that's the only way you'll get through. Thanks."
The ones who don't hang up when they hear the tones generally hang up after "to avoid telemarketers". The ones who wait past that usually hang up after "that's the only way you'll get through." It's usually only pollsters and political calls that stay on the line past "Thanks".

* No, we don't know anybody named John Bailey, and even if we did, we wouldn't give you his contact info because you're a bill collector and that automatically inclines me to the other person's side.
posted by Lexica at 3:00 PM on October 29, 2010

I just wanted to point out that Virginia does not have party registration, so that's not an option to fix it.

Having spent a lot of time phone banking for various candidates (sorry!), I agree with the above suggestion of saying "I already voted" - that is pretty much the only thing that will get you off a party's call list (for that cycle).

I'm guessing you're in the Virginia 5th, which is one of the most-watched races in the country and kind of a big deal, with tons of money and advertising pouring in from outside sources. Thing will quiet down in just 4 days, and you can breathe easy until...state delegate races next year! (Seriously, if you are sick of political calls, you should probably just leave Virginia).
posted by naoko at 5:46 PM on October 29, 2010

I feel your pain. I'm in PA, and we have gotten a ridiculous amount of phone calls and mailers this year from both parties. They're merciless! And I refuse to vote for anyone who calls after I've asked them to remove our number from their list and any candidate that sends more than two mailers .. essentially I don't plan on ever voting again, really.

I don't have any tips for getting around the robocalls. I haven't gotten a chance to try the # key work-around, so I don't know how effective that is. I've found that it's not always effective to ask the caller to remove my number from their mailing list. I've had more luck feigning confusion and saying, 'Who?!!? Uhhh.. you have the wrong number!' or (with a slightly wavering voice as if I'm barely keeping it together) 'She's dead.' I like when they start stammering and apologizing. I'm not a nice person..

Not answering the phone is the most efficient way, but that's not always practical.
posted by Mael Oui at 10:36 PM on October 29, 2010

'She's dead.' I like when they start stammering and apologizing. I'm not a nice person.

This would work too. It is heartening to think that some of the people I have gotten this from might have just been screwing with me.
posted by naoko at 11:04 PM on October 29, 2010

"He's dead" hasn't stopped the GOP from calling for my late father-in-law. I'll try "He's dead, but you have his zombie vote!" next time.

A coworker just tried "This is an organ transplant hotline. Is this an emergency?" Too early to see if that worked.
posted by dws at 11:10 AM on October 30, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! For reasons that I won't go into, we can't not answer restricted numbers. I guess I knew it would be useless to write a formal letter and impossible to find a major bullet to end this, but I like to dream (if only to stop getting messages targeted to voters in other states!).

The pound solution has already seemingly worked a little, and will probably help reduce the 1-4 calls we get each week in non-prime-politicking season, which will be awesome.

I like the idea of the disconnected ringtone on the voicemail, very much, but will have to play with that idea in the future.
posted by julen at 6:25 AM on October 31, 2010

« Older Need a good lawyer in Nashville   |   Making photocards online - there's got to be a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.