Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Friday, March 12, 1999

Reach out and
hassle someone

Mrs. Martha Heimlichmaneuver in?" the caller asked. Heimlichmaneuver? I replied.

"Hemmingshtimer?" he tried again.

Keep going, I urged, you're getting warm. Here's a hint: it starts with "M."

"Memmingshturger?" he ventured.

Oh, you're soooo close. Go, boy, go.

"MemminGer?" he asked.

Fabulous! Now, lose the hard "g."

"Memminger!" he said triumphantly.

Now, ask the question all together from the top, I directed.

"Is Mrs. Martha MEMMINGER in?" he asked, like someone one who just won the lottery.

No, I said.

"All right," he said. "Please tell her I'll call her back later."

What's this about? I asked. This is her husband, Mr. Heimlichmaneuver.

"I'm from Flaky Financial Services, and we'd like to offer Mrs. Memminger a credit card with (reading) rates so low that we practically have to pay her for using it."

Let me guess, I said. You aren't the CEO of this operation, are you?

"No," he conceded

You don't even work for the company, do you?

"Ah, not exactly," he said

In fact, you are just some boiler-room telephone weanie who gets paid to cold-call names off a list, am I right?

"Sounds kind of harsh when you put it that way," he said.

I'VE got a question. I get about two of these calls a day now. And, all of the callers ask for my wife. Why is that?

"We're not allowed to speak to the husband," he said.

Allowed? By whom? The Cold-calling Financial Shyster Network Police?

"Look, man, they give me a list of names and I dial the numbers. I'm sorry if I've bothered you. I've got to go."

No, I said. You called. I just want a little information. You seem like a financially astute individual. You are, aren't you?

"Well, I own my own Yugo," he said.

A titan of industry! I erupted. Now, tell me, Mr. Gates, do you ever do business with someone over the phone?

"Does Pizza Hut count?" he asked.

Not unless you are buying a franchise.

"Well then, no, I guess not," he said, sadly.

So, when it comes to YOUR money, would you do business with a complete stranger who calls you up while you are just sitting down to dinner and can't even pronounce your name?

"Hell no!" he said happily, as if he had just aced a high school personal hygiene exam.

So, why would you expect me to have anything to do with Flaky Financial Services?

"Geez, mister, why do you think I asked to talk to your wife?" he said.

Yeah, I know. Wives are easily dazzled by a suave and sophisticated financial charmer like yourself.

"You'd be surprised," he said, proudly.

Actually, I wouldn't. That's what makes the whole thing so depressing, that these kind of insulting, brain-dead tactics actually work.

"It's a crazy world," he said philosophically.

Well, listen, I figure by keeping you on the line, I've saved at least 10 other innocent victims from having their dinner interrupted by you. It's been a pleasure.

"Don't mention it," he said. "And you'll tell Mrs. Heimlichmaneuver that I called?"

Oh, yeah.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

or send E-mail to or

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