The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Stranger danger morphs over years


October 6, 2019

Quick, what’s the first lesson your parents taught you when you were little?

I’m going to assume, for the purposes of this column to go smoothly, that it was the classic, “Don’t talk to strangers.”

At some point in life, this philosophy butts up against everything else you’re told to do growing up. Trying to sell Girl Scout cookies or Boy Scout popcorn? Strangers have money. It’s Oct. 31? Put this costume on. Strangers have candy.

Soon, “don’t talk to strangers” morphed into something else with my parents: Don’t buy things from strangers. Or, as my dad ended every conversation with a telemarketer, “I don’t buy things over the phone.”

It’s advice that’s served me well over my lifetime. My cell phone, and my land line while I had one, has always been inundated by telemarketers.

Frequently, these are people who are trained to make sales quotas, and they’re armed with a book that gives them a response to everything you could imagine telling them. “Now is not the right time,” is met with some promise that prices will never be this low again. “I need to discuss it with the family” is met with some flattery that you’re smart enough to make important decisions without supervision. I did feel sorry for the telemarketer who called me to offer me a subscription to the newspaper I already worked for — I’m guessing that response wasn’t in the book.

I learned my lesson from the one time I said yes. The phone company promised me upgraded services to try out for free. All I had to do to cancel was to call back and say I wasn’t satisfied. What they didn’t tell me was the cancellation hotline apparently operated four hours a day and the guy manning the phone line took 45-minute lunch breaks every hour.

I’ve slowly morphed back into “don’t talk to strangers” mode. If I didn’t recognize the number, I would still pick up because you never know who’s got a story tip or which friend was calling to say they got a new number. Everything else gets a hangup.

“I’m with the firefighters association, and we’re doing our fundraising ...” click.

“I’m with Vegas vacations and ...” click.

“I’m calling on behalf of ...” click. Whoever you’re calling on behalf of can call me themselves.

In recent years, we’ve come to learn these are robocalls, placed by a computer to connect you if you answer. And the longer you stay on the line, the more the computer program is told to continue calling your number.

Fortunately, a recent software upgrade on my phone gave me the option of, “Send calls from non-contacts directly to voicemail.” Sure, maybe it’s that story tip or the new-number friend, but if it’s important enough to call then it’s important enough to leave a voicemail.

My next step was to change the voicemail message. After numerous blooper takes, I finally recorded, “You’ve reached Kevin Wilson, and I can’t take your call. If you aren’t in my contacts list, you’ve gone straight to this voicemail message. If you’re in that category, please leave a message explaining why you should be in my contacts. I can assure you my car warranty expired years ago, and I have no federal student loans.”

On second thought, maybe I should change it again. “I don’t talk to strangers, and I don’t buy things over the phone,” sounds like a great voicemail greeting.

Kevin Wilson is editor of the Eastern New Mexico News. He can be contacted at 575-763-3431, or by email:

[email protected]


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