DO NOT CALL
DIAL and TRIBULATION
A T COUNTY FAIRS IN PENNSYLVANIA THIS SUMMER, VISITORS LINED UP FOR THE FERRIS WHEEL, COTTON CANDY, PIE-EATING CONTESTS — AND TO RENEW THEIR SPOT ON THE STATE’S DO NOT CALL REGISTRY.
Who knew that the list, which was established in 2002, came with a five-year expiration date?
Not Mark Baicker, a pension manager from Carversville, Pa. “It’s totally confusing,” he says. “When you’re signing up, it should be permanent? As the Sept. 15 deadline looms, the state is puffing the word out through public-service announcements, newspaper ads and TV spots. Still, only 690,000 people out of the 2 million registrants who need to renew have done so.
These mixed signals in Pennsylvania could mirror a problem the entire country will face next year, when the first people who signed up are dropped from the federal Do Not Call list.
The nationwide registry, with 148 million numbers, is considerably larger than in Pennsylvania, one of the few states that still operate a list independent of the Federal Trade Commission’s. Nearly half (or 63 million) of the numbers were registered in 2003, the program’s first year, which means they’ll start to fall off the list as early as next summer. Unlike in Pennsylvania, federal budget constraints will prevent a massive national get-the-word-out movement with television ads or county-fair booths.
The five-year limit was set in place to purge the list of Americans who invariably move or change numbers . But for tele-marketers, a lack of awareness about the expiration date signals new opporturnty. “Will we attempt to touch people no longer on the list? O f course? says Tim Searcy CEO of the American Teleservices Association . The “mass expiration he argues, will also let customers decide whether they want to opt out. “New offers might be compelling after five years,” he says. Most households probably don’t see things that way. “I bet 99.9 percent of people who swear off calls never want to get them again,” says Baicker from Pennsylvania.
That’s one reason businesses have been targeting your mail-box and in-box instead of your land line.
From 2001 to 2006, direct-mail spending increased from $24 billion to $32 billion, according to the Direct Marketing Association, while profits rose from
$363 billion to $517 billion. Similar jumps occurred with catalogs and Internet marketing; meanwhile, telemarketing spending has remained flat at $46 billion.
Earnings in that time have only slightly increased, from $382 billion to $393 billion. “Our members have shifted how they reach peopie,” says Jerry Cerasale, the association’s senior vice president . “But people will likely get calls.” Better practice hanging up.
NEWSWEEK Magazine (Pg. 14)
SEPTEMBER 10, 2007
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