The phone has been ringing like mad this weekend, something I expected given this is the last weekend before the election. One of the more persistent political callers has shown up on Caller ID as Fort Ashby, WV with a number of 304-999-9999. Well, obviously that's a fake number (Fort Ashby's prefix is 298), and I don't know anyone in Fort Ashby, so I ignored it. After about twenty subsequent calls (!!!) I answered it and asked them to please stop calling. I was assured the calls would stop. So when they called again after this, I answered... and started asking questions.
My first question was if the call was about voting, and I was told yes, I was being called on behalf of one of the two big political parties. I then explained I'd asked them to stop calling me, and that I now needed to speak to a supervisor of some sort since that hadn't happened. The agent was very polite and explained she needed to put me on hold and leave her desk to get a supervisor. I said that was fine.
The supervisor came on a few minutes later and introduced herself. She said her name was Tammy. I explained to her that I'd been receiving calls from them all weekend and this was my second request to have something done about it. She assured me I would be put on their "no repeat calls" list. That there is even a "no repeat calls" list to begin with is disturbing, and that one has to be asked for placement upon it, even more disturbing. I told Tammy I'd already been through this "put you on the list" thing once this weekend, and since it hadn't happened, she would have to tell me a few things before I let her off the hook as easily as the last person making this promise.
I told her the 999-9999 number was quite obviously bogus and asked if she was really located in Fort Ashby, WV. She told me she was actually in Pulaski, VA. I didn't go down the road of the ethics or legality of falsifying Caller ID, but I asked if there could be other political call centers like hers all across the country falsely claiming to be inside WV. She admitted that was indeed a possibility.
I informed her I was one of those swing voters who could make a difference in this election (for whatever that's worth!), and that calling over and over and over was tantamount to screaming from a mountaintop, effectively diluting any message she hoped to convey. I told her that, in fact, she was achieving quite the opposite effect. Tammy apologized for the numerous repeated calls and told me the phone numbers came from a list developed by the company in charge of this operation. I asked for the name of this company, not expecting to get an answer, but Tammy told me it was Global Contact Services, with headquarters in Salisbury, NC.
Global Contact Services, which specializes in making political calls, absolutely has a call center in Pulaski, VA. There are also three call centers in WV — Wheeling, Huntington, and Summersville — and an operational headquarters in Mount Hope. Call me crazy, but if you're going to be calling people in West Virginia to vote for a candidate or party, I think employing actual West Virginians to carry that message — especially when they're already part of your company! — would go a long way toward your credibility. Running it from the Pulaski, Virginia call center and using fake Caller ID info? Not so much.
I asked Tammy if she would give me the number for Global Contact Services and she told me she wasn't allowed to divulge that information. I asked her if it might be on the Internet somewhere, and if the company had a website. The best she would commit to there was maybe. The company does in fact have a website (linked several times above), and the phone number for the corporate headquarters is 704-647-9621. There's even a blog.
After about seven minutes of conversation, and Tammy assuring me once again I wouldn't be receiving any further calls from them, I thanked her and we hung up. As of now, there have been no further calls from Fort Ashby, WV (or Pulaski, VA, for that matter). Tomorrow has still to pass, but... so far so good.