Take Me Off Your Damn List, UNICEF!

Trixare4kids is one of those zen consumerists who can sit in the lotus position for hours, a telephone nuzzled into the crook of her neck, as she hypnotically murmurs chakras to herself and tries to get herself removed from mailing lists. She’s pleasant, perky and polite with CSRs, but she is adamant in getting her name off the labeled stickers a thousand companies a year slap on half a tree and smash through her mail slot.

Of course, sometimes, no matter how pleasant and resolved you are to get satisfaction from a company that is harassing you, it doesn’t matter: you call up and get some snotty pill on the other end of the phone. Trix ended up getting in a bit of a scuffle with UNICEF, of all organizations, when they started claiming they needed to take down her telephone number to remove her from a mailing list.

What Trix is wondering is whether or not there would be any reason for UNICEF to request her phone number to remove her from a mailing list. We can answer that: of course there is! They are hoping to migrate you from their mail harassment list to a phone harassment list. Just be glad you don’t find college students with UNICEF armbands twitching like hopped-up amphetamine junkies on your doorstep twice a week, like I do.

As part of my “no junk mail” campaign, I have signed up with the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service http://www.dmaconsumers.org/offmailinglist.html , opted out of credit offers https://www.optoutprescreen.com, and followed a lot of the advice from here: http://www.obviously.com/junkmail/

Also, acting on a tip from a fellow consumerist reader, I started saving up the catalogs and pleas for donations from various organization. Then, I spend a few minutes every week calling them to request that I be removed from their list. My results using this method have been okay, but I’ve had to be vigilant in that I’ve had to call certain catalogs and organizations numerous times, to finally get off their list. It’s like mutating – when one is gone, another comes along to take its place.

UNICEF can’t seem to get the message, though. I’ve had to call repeatedly, even after the “6-8 weeks” they say it will take. And then this morning I had this exchange with a passively aggressive woman on the front lines with UNICEF, who either needed a break or another line of work all together. I would like to say that in my younger, hungrier college days, I worked as a CSR and I know how difficult it can be. Thank god I don’t have to do that anymore, but that’s also why I always try to be especially pleasant when I call them.

Me: Good morning, I’m calling to get my name off your mailing list, please.

CSR: That’s no problem, ma’am, I’ll just need your phone number.

Me: Umm… no. You can’t have my phone number.

CSR: Well, we NEED your phone number in order to take you off the list.

Me: (nicely, really!) I prefer not to give out my phone number, it’s an unlisted number. I’ve never given my number to UNICEF nor am I donor. I’m not asking to be taken off a phone list, I’m asking to be taken off a mailing list.

CSR: (obviously annoyed) Well then, I will have to take ALL your information.

Me: That’s fine, the address is 555 Main Street…(pause pause pause pause) Hello?

CSR: (obviously even more annoyed) ZIP code, I need to start with your ZIP code.

Me: Oh… 95555.. (pause pause pause – I have NO idea what info she needs next) Ummm Hello?

CSR: (heavy sigh of exasperation) ADDRESS, now I need your ADDRESS

Me: 555 Main Street (pause pause pause) Hello?

CSR: NAME, I need your NAME

Me. Trixare4kids…

CSR: (interrupting) You have to SPELL IT.

Me: yeah, okay, T-R-I-X…

CSR: Is that P as in Peter or T as in Tom?

Me: T as in Tom.. I don’t have an uncommon first or last name, but this went on for awhile ended up having to spell out my entire name: Tango, Roger, India, X-ray…. (I’m not kidding)

So she very grudgingly took all my information, I felt I was being punished for not wanting to give out my phone number, and I got the standard “6-8 weeks” line. I also got the feeling that she wasn’t really taking my information down. Don’t ask me how I know this, but can’t you just tell? Either that or she hung up with me and hit the “delete” key. That’s okay, I’ll just cheerfully call back next week when I get another 35 pieces of paper stuffed in an envelope begging for money.

I’m wondering if anyone else has been asked to cough up a phone number to get off a mailing list, it just doesn’t make sense. Or is there something I’m missing?