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May 10, 2010

Why you should NEVER buy things over the phone

TECHNOLOGY - My mother has a policy when it comes to the phone. She never EVER buys anything over the phone. If it can't be bought in person or over the internet, then its not worth having.

Its also a quick way of getting rid of annoying telemarketers. All you have to do is say: "I'm sorry I don't buy things over the phone."

Arguably "I don't have a credit card." would also work quite well.

But in the event you do get stuck on the phone with someone you might be surprised by the amount of trickery they will use to make the sale.

Lets pretend you live in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in Canada? With one click the guy in the call centre has the local weather report for Regina which is a mere 80 km away.

It doesn't matter what "Dave" is trying to sell you. It doesn't even matter whether he really lives in Regina or India (which is increasingly a statistical likelihood). It doesn't even matter if his accent sounds Canadian.

Foreign call centres are increasingly resorting to trickery to make the sale and that means pulling out of every trick in the book. They will look up local weather reports, the local time, movie theatre times, hone their Canadian sounding accent all with the primary goal of getting your credit card number and making a sale.

India's call centres is a trillion dollar annual business. They've been going through hard times in recent years as increasing numbers of people in Canada and the USA now use cell phones and don't want to talk to telemarketers. Their solution has to become more aggressive and sale savvy.

There's also the issue of companies outsourcing call centres to India, but that issue is now being dealt with by pretending to be Canadian. Add a Canadian accent, talk about their love of Tim Hortons coffee, bitch about the Toronto Maple Leafs' latest losing streak and add an "eh?" and you've got a convincing act.

And the trickery doesn't end there. Some companies also keep track of holidays, storms, earthquakes, etc. which may have caused people to miss credit card payments, etc. and then pretend to be all understanding.

Its not just Canadians they're tricking either. Americans are just as likely to fall for the Canadian accent. Mostly because they don't think Canadians are much a threat. An out of work auto worker in Michigan won't be as upset at a Canadian accent than they would at an Indian accent trying to sell them something.

It’s also easier to trick an American to provide credit card information for a purchase if they think they’re dealing with someone “next door” in Canada.

And this is not an isolated incidents says industry specialists. Its widespread and even big name companies like Bell Canada, Rogers and credit card companies are involved. You may think you're talking to someone from Halifax working for Bell Canada... but there's no guarantee.

It’s now considered standard practice in so-called “accent neutralization” classes to teach new employees how to sound North American. Instructors gives new employees tips for pronouncing words like “turtle” and “bucket” as westerners do and correct their mistakes until they sound "normal".

Its not easy to disguise an accent. The Indian accent is a bit of a challenge to disguise.

India is not the only country doing this either. The Philippines is the new kid on the block and have a significant advantage. The Filipino accent sounds almost identical to an American accent. That means less training is required to make their accent passable.

Already the Philippines’ share of the call centre industry has climbed from zero to 15% in only 10 years. In 2010, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, president of the Philippines, boasted that her nation “with 90 million people has challenged India’s one billion population for (call centre) supremacy.”

And they're not the only competition. Since 2004 India's share of the market has fallen from 80% to 40%.

One last tidbit that they're now using: Twitter and Facebook accounts. They look up your info online so they can stick a face and your hobbies on the screen and market to you more directly. Scared yet?

They even setup fake Facebook accounts in the event you get into a "real" conversation and trick you into befriending them. After all if they can see more of your details they can market to you more effectively.

Makes you think twice about talking to telemarketers? Good.

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