The phone is ringing, and so it must be dinnertime, a time when telemarketers can be relatively sure you are there so that they can then disrupt your meal and family conversation with a pitch to buy this, that or the other.
These calls are so annoying that it was something like a bursting dam when the Federal Trade Commission said last week that people could start registering online to have the salespeople leave them alone. As of Tuesday, there were more than 11 million registrations. There would have been more except for two things. Some people could not get through to www.donotcall.gov because of heavy use, and some 3 million people neglected to complete the process through an e-mail acknowledgement.
The telemarketing industry fears an annual loss of billions of dollars in sales when the system is wholly intact, while others predict the system will not work, despite stiff penalties for infringements. The prediction here is that the system will work reasonably well and that most businesses will find ways to make up for losses. There are exemptions to the system — charities, for instance.
Trying to sell something over the phone is not in itself dishonorable, but we live in a mass society in which something reasonable can quickly be multiplied into something unreasonable, namely 100 million attempted telemarketing calls a day. All these uninvited guests have been altering the quality of home life, and not by bestowing more harmony and tranquility. The federal law now being implemented was justified, as is amply illustrated by all those Americans rushing to register their phone numbers.