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Published: Friday, 7/11/2003

`Do not call' affecting area firms' plans

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

So many people are signing up for the National Do Not Call Registry that ABC Seamless Siding plans to lay off half its telemarketers and Ever-Dry Waterproofing is setting up promotional booths at twice as many fairs and festivals this summer.

“It's obviously going to change the way we do business,” Mike Sepanski, general manager of ABC in Toledo, said of the Federal Trade Commission registry.

The program, for which people can sign up now but which takes effect Oct. 1, establishes a list of phone numbers that telemarketers and others pitching products or services are not supposed to call. If they do, except under certain circumstances, they can be fined up to $11,000 per call. Exempted are politicians, nonprofits, and charities as well as survey-taking organizations.

Upgrading ABC's automatic telephone dialing equipment to eliminate numbers on the registry would cost $25,000, which is too costly, Mr. Sepanski said. He plans to cut half of his eight telemarketing positions and instead send more direct mail, have television and radio spots, and set up promotional booths at fairs and festivals.

Ever-Dry in Sylvania Township will take its pitch to 60 fairs and conventions, up from its typical 30. It does not expect to lay off any of its 16 telemarketers who together manually dial 4,000 to 5,000 phone numbers a week, general manager Gil Ramirez said. But he will do more advertising in newspapers, magazines, and door-to-door material.

Mr. Ramirez is uncertain how much the registry will hurt his business, suspecting that most people who register already don't answer the telephone for telemarketers or immediately hang up on them.

That's the theory of Doug Boyce, vice president of Spring Valley Marketing Group, which sells software and other services to telemarketers from its Springfield Township office.

“The people who are going to fall for the pitches aren't the people who signed up to be taken off the call list,” he said.

But the new law will drive some telemarketing operations out of business, partly from costs of upgrading equipment to ensure the registry numbers are not called, he said.

Some trying to sell products or services hope the alternative promotions will prove fruitful. ABC Seamless, for example, said it plans to hold drawings for company products at its fair booths, and the law permits it to call people who register for such drawings for up to 90 days, even if the number is on the do-not-call list.

Even businesses exempt from the law expect to be affected.

NFO WorldGroup, a surveying firm whose main office is in Northwood, expects to spend twice as much time fielding complaints from people who mistakenly believe that pollsters are covered by the new law or who suspect NFO is selling something, said Kevin Orians, an NFO vice president. The firm employs 600 locally.

Even the potentially stiff fines for calling do-not-call numbers probably won't eliminate sales calls, said Richard Eppstein, president of the local Better Business Bureau.

“A lot of telelmarketing is going to go offshore because they couldn't care less about the laws,” he said. “There may not be much reduction in telemarketing. They just won't be doing it from the states.”



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