I’m sorry, Brian/Bryan Gregory, that confirming the spelling of your name is too much for you to handle

At 10am on November 30, I received a telephone call at work with "Anonymous" as the caller ID. Strange. But maybe it's the same person who called my office phone from New York at 1am on the day after Thanksgiving and didn't leave a message, and they're just following up on the first business day after the holiday weekend.


Hello, this is Brian Gregory from Fred Asher Associates and I'm calling blah blah blah blah blah are you interested in this opportunity or know someone who is?

I may have gotten the names wrong since he spoke so quickly.

"I'm sorry, that was a bit fast. Your name is Brian Gregory?"

That's right.

"Is that with an I or a Y?"

Why do you need to know my name?

What a strange question. This is information he volunteered at the start of the call, and besides, it's only polite to identify yourself when you call someone.

"I just need to log this call."

Are you interested?

"We can get to that once I get some basic information. Is Brian spelled with an I or a Y?"

Why does it matter?

"I need to log this call so I can record my time, that's all."

— *click*

I guess it wasn't important. I mean, if it was important, you probably want the person to get your name right.

Comments (27)
  1. John says:

    This is the wrong approach; now you’ve let him free to bother other people.  What you should do, as a common courtesy to your fellow man, is to string him along for a bit and keep telling him to hold on while you do something.  Then every 30 seconds or so check to see if he is still there.  If he is, talk to him for a bit then tell him to hold on again.  Repeat until he hangs up.  Not only have you wasted his time with minimal impact to yourself, but you have also saved another innocent person’s time.

    [That’s why I was trying to do, but he just hung up on me when he figured out my strategy… -Raymond]
  2. Karellen says:

    Cool. Were you in fact following an anti-telemarketing script[0], or was that just a coincidence?

    [0] http://www.xs4all.nl/~egbg/counterscript.html

  3. Steve Hiner says:

    About 10 years ago I got a call from a printer toner sales guy.  He happened to call right at the beginning of my lunch hour.  I figured I didn’t have anything more interesting to do during lunch so I talked to him while eating and browsing the web.  I let him think he was close to a sale but just couldn’t quite close the deal.  Ultimately he ended up bringing in his manager to try to close the deal.

    Telemarketer time wasted: 45 minutes

    Other companies not annoyed by his call: 20+

    It was my form of community service for the day.

  4. tim says:

    Not only did I get a good chuckle from this posting, I also picked up a new phrase du jour!

    "The social skills of a thermonuclear device!"

    I promise to use this daily for at least 1 month.

    And seeing as I already have your attention^H^H^H^H^H wasted your time, I just wanted to say how much I love the blog, to thank you for putting up with the nit-pickers and finally to say I bought your book!



  5. http://www.junkbusters.com/fcc.html

    If it’s a Cellular line, you may be able to make a tiny (but punitive) amount of dough from these people.

  6. Alexandre Grigoriev says:

    During real estate/refi boom, I was getting calls from those refi companies. A good way to stop them calling me was to ask for their company name, address, phone number, and (the killer phrase) say: "do you mind that I’m recording our conversation?".

  7. A few weeks ago, i had a telemarketer call trying to sell me their DSL service. My line’s running at just over 15 Mbps right now, so when he said they could offer a "2 megabyte/sec" service, it was quite plausible. I kept him talking for quite a while, but don’t think I ever managed to convey the factor of eight difference between megabits and megabytes.

    On the bright side, the last three cellphone telemarketers I’ve had have all conceded that my current plan is, in fact, significantly better than the one they’re trying to push; since I make very few calls, getting tethering thrown in for free with the half-price data plan seemed unbeatable, until I managed to get the data itself thrown in for free earlier this month…

  8. Chris K says:

    I thought I’d read this story before: http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2009/06/05/9700489.aspx

    I’d love to have your patience when talking to these people. I usually hang-up before they say anything, if it sounds like a telemarketing centre.

  9. Chris K says:

    What I meant to say was: "I thought I’d read this story before (but I haven’t)"

  10. Viraj says:

    Fred Asher? It was probably Rod Asher & Associates, a Bellevue company (http://www.asher.com/). When I was at Microsoft they called me a bunch of times…

  11. cthulhu says:

    cut them off while they are introducing themselves with a sharp "stop!" then continue, "Who approaches the Phone of Tom must answer me these questions three, ‘ere the other side he see."

    "What is your name?"

    "What is your quest?"

    "What is the capital of Assyria?"

    If, and only if, they can answer all three questions correctly must you buy whatever wares they are selling. Otherwise cast them into the gorge of eternal peril (or hangup if no such gorge is available).

  12. SteveM says:

    So we can all sleep better tonight finally knowing that it’s Brian with an I


  13. silky says:

    I agree with the desire to get correct details; but I’m not a fan of the wasting-his-time approach. Let people be; sometimes they may be having a bad day, or whatever. I don’t see a particular reason to be an asshole to someone you don’t know, regardless of what you think they’ve done or what you’ve judged them guilty of.

  14. Brian K says:

    I know stars, I worked with stars, some stars are friends of mine. That was no star.

  15. Drak says:

    If I was this Brian/Bryan person I’d be glad someone asked how to spell my name. Most people get mine wrong (although it is the logical spelling for this country), even if they know me. The worst is the people sending me e-mail with my full (correctly spelled) name as sender and they still get it wrong in the first line…

  16. Karellen says:

    Well, given that I’d rather pay to keep people on welfare than to have them waste my time while I’m trying to eat my dinner or do something useful, I’d rather they picked welfare while looking for a job that actually contributes to society. Instead, not being able to look for work, because of and while doing something that makes the world I live in an empirically measurably worse place to be, is a worse position for them, and the rest of society, to be in.

  17. bahbar says:

    Actually, the only way to reduce the amount of telemarketing we receive is by making it less cost-effective to the companies that run the campaigns. The only way I’m aware of at my level is indeed to keep the person on the other side busy with me, with no intent to sign up or anything. It’s not about being an asshole to the TM, it’s just economics.

    Maybe they’ll figure it out, and even remove me from their listings, for all I know. Even better.

  18. J says:

    "Maybe they’ll figure it out, and even remove me from their listings, for all I know. Even better."

    The main reason I don’t mess with telemarketers is because the other option to relenting and removing you from their list is to steal your credit card number or other information.  Rather than draw extra attention to my account, I just hang up the phone.

  19. HagenP says:

    Probably the "so I can record my time" did it.

    One strategy I’ve read about is to offer ‘consulting services’ to telemarketing companies. If they call again, they get a hefty bill for the listener’s time.

  20. Morten says:

    > but I’m not a fan of the wasting-his-time approach.

    I am. They have voluntarily accepted a job that involves pissing off other people by wasting *their* time and quite possibly, given the audience here, breaking their concentration (capital crime there IMO). Stand the heat or get out of the kitchen is what I say.

  21. silky says:

    Karellen: While you may have the luxury of deciding what to do, some other people do not have such possibilities, and need to take whatever jobs are available to them to pay for the requirements of life.

    I think one thing we can do is be more tolerant and respectful to all people; it’s fairly trivial to be rude and aggressive, and sometimes warranted if you aren’t listened to; but to do it without immediate cause is just wrong, IMHO. But anyway, probably not much point debating this here.

  22. DrkMatter says:


    > They have voluntarily accepted a job that involves pissing off other people by wasting *their* time

    Are we talking telemarketers here? I do not know a lot of people who picked telemarketing as a career out of a choice. Just like working at McDonald’s, it’s the kind of job you pick up because you’ve run out of options. Given the choice between welfare and working in telemarketing, which would you pick?

  23. We’re on the do-not-call registry, and (outside of election season) most of the unsolicited calls we get show falsified information in the Caller ID.  I do recognize that the poor guy who ends up speaking with me does not set the policy of the criminal outfit he works for, and my response line takes that into account:  "Do you know Jesus?  Do you know that Jesus loves you?  But Jesus thinks your boss is a f*king jerk.  And Jesus says you and your boss will go to hell for what you’re doing."

  24. It makes perfect sense to me … he might have suspected that you were a cop and were trying to trace the call to determine his location, and didn’t want to stay on the line long enough for you to do so.

    The more interesting question is what was he trying to sell to you that he was worried about the call being traced.

  25. Bryan Gregory says:

    It is spelled with a ‘Y’.

  26. keith says:


    It’s the right thing to treat everyone, including telemarketers, with basic human decency, and not gratuitously yell at or curse at them, but as they initiate the call and thus create an imposition on the recipient, the burden is on the telemarketer to recognize delay tactics or if a call is not going to close in a sale, and move to end it.  This is not a responsibility of the recipient.  Indeed, gaining personal entertainment from chitchat may be a sufficient utility function for the recipient to stay on the line; if that entertainment is enhanced by a hidden agenda to make the telemarketing company less profitable, the recipient should be free to take the actions to improve their enjoyment of an interaction that was imposed on them.  Conversely, initiating an interaction with someone and then wasting their time would be wrong.  But being drawn into an interaction and lingering: so what?

  27. rw says:

    This here is still my favorite prank call (by Tom Mabe):


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