Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bullying the Wrong Bully

This post on Google + was widely celebrated.  The post’s author, Chris Blasko, is an IT Administrator who received a typical unwanted telemarketing call.  Blasko proceeded to use his considerable IT skills (as well as his guile)  to convince the hapless telemarketer on the line that he (Blasko) worked for the IT department of the telemarketing company and intercepted the call in order to fix a problem with the telemarketer’s phone.  Blasko then walked the telemarketer through a procedure which ostensibly would resolve the “issue,” but instead reset the phone to factory condition, rendering it useless until reconfigured by the telemarketing company’s real IT department.

Blasko, on the aforementioned post:

That's right. I made a telemarketer unwittingly factory reset his phone which means he will be unable to make anymore [sic] calls until someone is able to reconfigure his phone and that will take at least an hour or longer if they can't do it right away!

Most people commenting on the post lauded Blasko’s actions, as did many others who linked to the post on their blogs.  People are so fed up with telemarketers and their sleazy tactics that to put one of them out of commission, even for a short while, feels like a satisfying victory of some sort; a “Revenge of the Nerds” moment.  I had a different impression.

No doubt, telemarketing is despicable in general, and the techniques employed by many telemarketing companies are repulsive.  Here’s the thing though.  I don’t think anyone actually enjoys being a telemarketer.  The evil is in the boardrooms of companies that design misleading telemarketing strategies that prey on the gullible or uninformed, not in the person who, due to circumstances we are not privy to, decided to take a job at one of these companies, probably as a last resort or out of desperation.

Blasko’s post may initially feel like an example of the bullied overcoming the bully, but that is simply not the case.  The true bullies, the people who call the shots at the telemarketing company, were unaffected.  The telemarketer who Blasko tricked into unwittingly resetting his phone is actually much more of a victim than Blasko.  If we are annoyed and exasperated from receiving a few calls like these every day, imagine how it must feel to be the guy (or gal) that makes those calls, non-stop, for 8-hour shifts day after day.  And, thanks to Blasko, on top of all that this guy now has to make an embarrassing call to his own IT department.  Who knows, maybe the idle time caused by the reset will have an impact on his livelihood, or could even cost him his job.

I don’t blame Blasko one bit for feeling frustrated with telemarketers, and I’m sure he felt that putting this one out of commission for a while was the only way he could somehow “get back” at these people who invade our privacy and try to scam us out of our hard earned money.  However, unfortunately all Blasko accomplished was to make some unfortunate guy’s already awful day just a bit more awful.  

I don’t know Chris Blasko, but I have no reason to believe he is anything but a kind and decent guy.  And judging from my own experiences when being rude to telemarketers, I’m sure the initial joy Blasko felt after the phone call was quickly replaced by guilt and empathy toward the docile telemarketer who so obediently followed his instructions.

My humble suggestion: next time, Chris, just hang up the phone.