Can You Hear Me Now?

I don’t know whether to be confused or ticked off, though I’m leaning toward the latter. I received a number of hang-up calls to my cell phone again yesterday, and one very odd call to my home phone, which came right after a “private” call hang-up. Normally, I might think the message that was left was legitimate. However, I’m tempted to believe the caller was not who that person claimed to be, nor wanting to funnel work to me as stated. In fact, the more I think of it, the more I’m convinced I’m being harassed.

Remember the association I didn’t join? The calls did seem to stop, but yesterday I received a larger-than-average number of calls to my cell (very few people have this number, but this group does) and another upsurge in home calls. That has me thinking the message stating that this potential client had been trying to contact me for two weeks or better and will take business elsewhere if I’m unreachable is a ruse. Maybe I’m wrong, but my instincts are telling me otherwise.

The caller was brusque – explained that there was work to be had but that I hadn’t answered and this person had no idea why I hadn’t called back. Here’s a clue – you never left a message until yesterday, and even then, there’s no call-back number. None. I cannot call you if I don’t know you’re there. Since I receive about 30 calls a day from unidentified numbers (and not work-related), I have to screen calls or I’d never get a thing done. Now, thanks to the message, I have to start answering every one. I’m not doing it to gain work – I’m doing it to prove myself right about who the real caller is and that person’s agenda.

I state this here because I’m pretty sure this isn’t a real client. Even if it were, do I want to work with someone who won’t leave a call-back number and gets upset that I’m not answering messages that aren’t left? I can help you, but you have to meet me halfway. As a working writer, I have to rely on answering machines so that I can free up my time to complete client projects on time. Otherwise, I’d be always on the phone. Any professional understands that – at least I hope so. If not, we may have a problem from the get-go.

I’ve taken steps to verify my suspicions. I’ll share these with you once I see if it works. And I’ll share the results.

Meantime, do you screen calls? If so, why? Do you have a dedicated work number, or do you use the home number?

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  • Kimberly Ben April 8, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Wow, if it turns out to be the organization that you’re suspecting, clearly they have too much time on their hands. I always wonder who actually has the TIME to sit around on the phone harassing someone??? Please keep us posted.

  • Susan Johnston April 8, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    That certainly sounds shady! I’m lucky that I don’t get many calls (except for my mother and that has petered out since she started working again). I do most of my interviews on Skype so I can type without awkwardly cradling the phone. I can only make outgoing calls on Skype, so that helps reduce incoming calls. I also have my cell phone, but again, I don’t get too many calls on there. Mostly email. But man, I get a LOT of email! It’s easy to hit delete, though, so I’d rather spam than pesky callers.

  • Lori April 8, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    A few reasons why I believe this to be an attempt to get me to answer my phone – the caller used the name of my no-longer operating “other” business, which I had recently provided to this association. In fact, that’s the ONLY place I’ve used that old name for two years now. The caller spoke in a familiar voice, and was a bit halting in the delivery – said there was work I was missing out on – INSURANCE work (that was added as an afterthought, I think) – and that if I couldn’t be reached, this person would take business elsewhere. And there was an “I’ll call back later” stuck in there somewhere.

    I may be wrong about the caller and the motives, but it seems too coincidental. And I was by the phone all day yesterday – no more calls.

    I did a cursory search for this person on Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other haunts. Nothing. No one in that field, for sure. This person shares a name with a popular singer, so I’m even more suspicious.

  • Devon Ellington April 8, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    I screen ALL calls ALL the time. Most of the working day, my phone is off. I check messages twice a day, and return calls in designated periods. It’s in my contract. If the client doesn’t like it, hire someone else.

    90% of phone contact is useless, in my experience. If it’s important and relevant, email me.

  • Lori April 8, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    I’ve never had a soul complain about my screening calls before. Most people who work from home (or even in a busy office) understand the deluge of calls that come in during a typical day. Honestly, I spend my mornings writing and ALL calls go to voice mail, even my mother’s! I get a little free time around lunch, and the afternoons are sometimes less crazy.

    My motto – my phone is there for my convenience, not everyone else’s. I’ll answer it when I’m able. To not leave a message and then get upset with me because I don’t know who you are or what your business is – that’s unreasonable.

  • Ruthibelle April 8, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    “my phone is there for my convenience, not everyone else’s.”

    that certainly makes sense!

  • Amanda Nicole April 8, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Sounds like it’s that abrasive organization!

    I don’t have call display, so I can’t screen my calls, but I don’t receive many phone calls anyway. Like Susan, I get my share of email spam instead. I can definitely see where you’re coming from, and I’d screen if I was being pestered that much!

  • Gabriella F. April 8, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    I have two lines, a hard line that I don’t give to clients and a cell, which I use for business. However, so that I don’t start getting tons of calls from sources and PR people, I don’t give my cell number to many people other than clients. That means I don’t get many calls during the day at all.

    On the hard line, because relatives have got into financial trouble and their creditors began to call me, I always screen home calls. I simply don’t answer calls from people I don’t recognize. And I use to identify all callers just so I know who’s trying to bother me.

    I don’t know if you’re like me, but since I spend a lot of time interviewing people on the phone, I don’t enjoy talking on the phone much otherwise. Feels like I’m tied to the phone too much!

  • Irreverent Freelancer April 8, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    I second Devon on this one. I NEVER answer my phone during working hours unless I’ve prescheduled a conference call with a client. To reach me, you must either plan in advance or leave a message and wait for me to get back to you. No exceptions.

  • Kimberly Ben April 8, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    I second Devon and Irreverent Freelancer on call screening. My exceptions to this rule: If I’m not terribly busy, or am dealing with a client project I might answer, but I only talk 10-15 minutes. If we can’t get anywhere in that amount of time, I’ll schedule a second call.

    I no longer answer calls on weekends (though they persist…). Hardcore call screening during deadlines of course.

  • Sid Prince April 8, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Listen to your gut Lori. You’ve been doing this long enough to tell when it’s a potential engagement and when it’s something else.

    Though you didn’t ask, I’m giving it anyway. My advice, if they do get you on the phone they should get a Thanks but no thanks. My dance card is full.

    People are strange, and I don’t think you can be too careful when it comes to harassment. If it gets too bad, your cell provider will change your cell number, usually for free. It’s a hassle, but could be better than the alternative.

    Sorry, I don’t have many moments of drama, but this jumped out at me for some reason.

    All IMHO,


  • Lori April 8, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Thanks for the advice, Sid. It’s appreciated. Actually, I did one better – I decided to run all my cell calls through a tracking service. Even if the number shows up as “Withheld” I will still be able to see who it is. If I’m to make any case for harassment, this little tool will be a godsend.

    And you’re right – anyone who gets that huffy from the get-go over circumstances I cannot control isn’t going to be easy to work with.

    Gabriella, I have the opposite setup – my land line is for client work and my cell is for very specific client work only. My family and a smattering of friends have that number. It’s on my business cards, but I don’t hand it out readily. Otherwise, I’d be taking calls on Friday evenings or Sunday mornings. No thanks. I have to have time to switch off my work mode or I’ll go crazy.

    Amanda, caller ID has saved me MANY wasted hours answering calls from people trying to sell me things. Despite being on both state and national no-call lists, these fools have found a handy way around it – recorded messages or “surveys” that suddenly turn into sales pitches.

  • Katharine Swan April 9, 2009 at 1:57 am

    Lori, that tracking service sounds handy! How do I find out more about it?

    I always screen calls. I only have a cell phone — no home line — so I only answer numbers I recognize. Anyone else can leave a message. And when I’m working, the only calls I answer are from my husband (because I love him), my mom (because if I don’t she leaves 5-minute messages), or the owner of the barn where my horse is at (because he would only call in an emergency).

    On the whole, though, I believe in email. For the most part, that’s how everyone communicates with me during the day — hubby included.

    Now, if I could just learn the self-restraint to screen my emails, then I’d be in good shape!

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  • Lori April 9, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Katharine, you crack me up! If my mother left 5-minute messages, I guess I’d answer, too. Luckily, my mom is somewhat answering machine-phobic. She always sounds like she’s about to run in the other direction, and she delivers it staccato – “Lori! It’s Mom! Call me.”

    The first few times you hear that you wonder who died. Then you realize she just hates machines. 🙂

  • Anne Wayman April 9, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Hey Lori, if it turns out it is that association I hope you report them to the BBB and the phone co. It’s not harassment, it’s stalking!

    I sort of screen calls… looking at the caller ID… the people who have suppressed their numbers make that uncertain.

    If I don’t want to answer while working I turn the ringer off… then I’m not tempted.


  • Lori April 9, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Oh, I intend to, Anne. It’s crazy. And it’s certainly not how I expect an association to conduct business.