I won't kick the telemarketers when they're down and when most of the nation is rejoicing over the launch of possibly the most popular government program since Social Security.
  This month, the Federal Trade Commission's national do-not-call list takes effect, which means that telemarketers may not call the 48 million-plus phone numbers consumers have registered with it. (There are exceptions, of course, especially for existing customer relationships and political and charitable fund-raising.)
  Consumers are happy that they won't be interrupted at dinnertime as often with sales pitches for credit cards, siding, or incredible bargains on vacations. And the press, recognizing a big story, just can't resist rolling out every phone clich? it can recall, most of which can be summed up as "Americans Hang Up on Telemarketing."
  But not me. I want to keep telemarketers in business at a time when the beleaguered American Teleservices Association says its members could lose 2 million or more jobs, about one-third of the total. Nationally syndicated humor columnist Dave Barry added to the ATA's woes in late August when he urged readers to call the ATA's phone number, which he provided, to "tell them what you think," according to the Associated Press. A tide of calls from Barry's obliging readers jammed the ATA's phone system. (Call the ATA's Indianapolis headquarters and you'll get a message that this is not the number to call for registering for the DNC list. Inexplicably, the ATA doesn't give you the number, either.)
  In fact, in an effort to be nice, I have not placed my home phone number on the federal do-not-call list. Our 6-year-old is even trained to speak politely to telemarketers and ask them to wait while he summons Mom or Dad.
  As a journalist, I have an ulterior motive. Sometimes I actually like to hear a telemarketer's pitch for a credit card. Not that I'll take the card, but occasionally a telemarketing call or a mail solicitation can reveal genuine news about what an issuer is up to.
  My charity has limits, however. Our household probably gets at least 15 telemarketing calls a week. If the telemarketers start working their lists of remaining eligible numbers doubly hard, then I might just have to join the DNC movement.
  Even with the loss of a forecasted 60 million numbers to the FTC registry, telemarketers still have some hope. As one marketing executive notes in our story about the post-DNC world beginning on page 50, many calls had become a waste of time for card issuers. "Telemarketing was saturated," says the executive. "The vast majority of consumers eliminated are those that were hanging up anyway."
  The telemarketing industry is certainly going to shrink, but it has adapted before, most notably by capturing more and more inbound calling business. It will adapt again.
 

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