Ethics Dunce: Chris Blasko (Whoever He Is)

Chris's photo goes in the lower right...

Chris’s photo goes in the lower right…

A Chris Blasko proudly posts the following on Google Plus:

Today is a good day. I just had a call from a telemarketer. Did I yell and scream at them, you ask? Certainly not. Like a good IT administrator I put my skills to use for their benefit. Here’s how the conversation went:

Computer: “Press 9 to not be contacted in the future. Press 4 to speak to someone about your mortgage issues”
<presses 4>
TM: “Hello, are you having problems paying your mortgage?”
Me: “Hi, this is the IT department. We intercepted your call as we detected a problem with you phone and need to fix it.”
TM: “Oh… ok, well what do we need to do?”
Me: “We’re going to need to fix the settings by pressing 4-6-8 and * at the same time”
TM: “Ok, nothing happened.”
<alright, so he’s not using a Polycom>
Me: “Are you using the new Polycom phones that we deployed?”
TM: “No, it’s a Yealink”
Me: “Ok, I see. You haven’t had the new Polycom phone deployed to your desk yet. Let me check our technical documentations for the Yealink.”
<did a quick Google search, “yealink phone factory reset”>
Me: “Alright, do you see an “OK” button on your phone?”
TM: “Yes I do”
Me: “Alright, you’re going to press and hold that button for 10 seconds.”
TM: “OK, pressing it now”
Me: “Perfect, let me know if you get a password request”
TM: “OK, nothing has popped up ye-
<click>

That’s right. I made a telemarketer unwittingly factory reset his phone which means he will be unable to make anymore calls until someone is able to reconfigure his phone and that will take at least an hour or longer if they can’t do it right away!

I’m sure all of Chris’s fans think this is just the coolest thing in the world, but it’s really not. It’s just gratuitously mean. His victim’s employer is actually pretty ethical, since Chris could have pushed 9 to end the call and not be bothered in the future. Instead, he decided to make life miserable for some poor minimum wage earner in one of the most boring jobs on earth, who is probably trying to eke out a living and support his family during tough economic times.

There are plenty of ways to make one’s displeasure regarding telemarketing practices known, but the poor schmuck doing the calling isn’t involved with making policy or business decisions. Just to show how smart he is, though, Chris sabotages the work of someone he has never met, complicates his day, and maybe even loses him his job. Maybe the poor guy was on probation. Maybe he had an earlier screw-up and his job was hanging by a thread. Chris doesn’t care. He just wants to hurt someone.

Then he wants to boast about it. A hoard of people cheered him on too, except for one, a “Anuj Ahooja” posting from an Amazon address, who protested that “the poor guy was doing the job he was told to so he could get a paycheck – exactly what you do – and you’re hindering his means to do that,” and opined that Chris was “a dick.” Naturally, Chris, being one, puffed himself up with righteous indignation, and doubled down—my comments in bold:

  • “He knew the job he was asked to do, which also means he knows how his job is viewed by the rest of the world. Therefor he made the conscious choice to ‘hassle people all day’. Since that’s the case then he is willing doing a job that is not welcomed by society and he should be willing to deal with those repercussions.”  Chris  apparently thinks he is “society.” Chris is wrong: telemarketing occurs because it makes money. Many, many people order from telemarketers. The job is part of commerce; it isn’t child trafficking or drug dealing—it is legal, it is honest, and it is hard. “He should be willing to deal with those repercussions” ? Garbage: that’s  like saying that kids selling magazines door to door should be willing to deal with abusive people who sic their dogs on them. Yeah, we all have to deal with mean people in our jobs. That doesn’t make the mean people any less wrong.
  • “No, his paycheck is not the same as mine. Mine is earned by helping people and businesses with legitimate issues that they either contract us to fix or call us on a case-by-case basis. I fix issues to enable others in-turn earn their paychecks.” Or, Chris sabotages other people’s attempts to earn their paychecks if he regards himself as sufficiently superior. Yecchh.
  • “He earns his paycheck by preying on uninformed people and duping them into services or products that are always a scam. His paycheck is lined with the hard earned money of average people. He and the “company” he works for are not any kind of positive force in society; they literally fit the description of a parasite leaching off of the life blood of the common person.” That’s your delusion, Chris, and since you didn’t have the integrity to let us know what product or services the telemarketer was telemarketing, we can’t assess your accuracy in this case. But I do know that your gross generalization is wrong: I know of many products and services that are sold by telemarketers that are not shams. I, for example, bought a gym membership from one that served me very well for many years. You can hire telemarketers to sell anything: I once considered hiring one to sell subscriptions to my theater. Your justification for your gratuitous cruelty requires misrepresenting an innocent minimum wage worker as a monster, and an industry as a virtual crime.
  • “Do not dare tell me that “I’m a dick”. I do not welcome these calls. I am on a national Do Not Call list to avoid being hassled by these people. That fact and the fact that they circumvent any consequences by illegally spoofing their number (which is a federal crime) to avoid being found out is a prime example of why this is not a legitimate business.” Oh, but you are a dick, Chris….excuse me, Ethics Dunce. Where did you get the idea that you only have an obligation to be fair, respectful and kind to people you encounter in life that you chose to encounter, or welcome? Your conduct violated the Golden Rule, and basic decency. If everyone acted like you, nobody would go into sales of any kind. You have no idea if the poor telemarketer has any idea how the company operates. You are the kind of person who abuses secretaries, clerks and receptionists. You know—a dick.
  • “Do not presume to judge me or who I am based on a single post where I turn the tables on horrible people. Imagine if I came after you for working at Amazon. What if I said “You’re a dick for working at a company that treats its warehouse employees like slaves” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon.com_controversies#Treatment_of_workers)” Ethics Dunce Signature Significance!  1. The old “we can’t judge someone who does unethical things as unethical” canard. We can, and we should, because that’s how society establishes cultural boundaries, and avoids a society where people think its funny to abuse strangers over the phone. 2. Your critic can’t presume to judge you for wrecking a poor worker’s day and seeking acclaim for it, but you judge a complete stranger as a “horrible person” when you could have avoided contact with him by pushing a single button, and all he did was play stooge to your harassment. 3. You would also be a dick for attacking your critic based on what you read on Wikipedia, and anyway, working for Amazon is not analogous to intentionally deceiving a telemarketer and disabling his work station to make yourself feel superior. 4. There is nothing more typical of an ethics dunce than evoking the Golden Rule as a defense after violating it.

______________________

Pointer: Fred

42 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Chris Blasko (Whoever He Is)

  1. Jack, you are a kind – and I mean that – and generous man.

    I agree with you far more often than I disagree. This is one of those rare cases.

    Telesales marketers who ignore the DNC registry violate the law. That they hire unsuspecting dupes is irrelevant. While, as Mr. T. once said “I pity the fool”- and I do – that pity does NOT give telescammers the right to hire the not-too-bright to scam other people.

    Perhaps I’m just being cantankerous tonight; I received a telesales call this evening from the “U.S. Medical Department.” I informed the caller that there is no such thing and told him to fuck off. The caller had a HEAVY Spanish accent, though a google search on the number reveals it to be a long-time scam number that usually outsources to India.

    While I understand that the people who make these calls are victims themselves, that doesn’t grant them license to victimize other people.

    I am opposed to capital punishment as a matter of principal. The one exception I’d consider would be placing the heads of people behind telesales scams – and spammers, oh, yes, spammers – upon spikes and parading them through the neighborhood.

    These are not crimes of passion. They are crimes of greed and exploitation, and though we might pity the exploited – on both ends – we do NOT have to be gentle to them.

    • I’ll be honest, I don’t understand why people get so upset about telemarketers. The harm done to you is an interruption and a minute or two of your time. Instead of coming up with clever ways to tell them to “fuck off”, you can simply ask, “I don’t want to receive any more calls” or “Put me on your Do Not Call list”. If they are in compliance with the law, and most are, then they will. If not, take the number, go to complaints.donotcall.gov and file a complaint. If they block the number, hang up or don’t answer in the first place.
      Full disclosure: I worked for a financial services company on outbound calls, for customers that had an existing relationship with us. I got some of the “fuck offs”, and I always felt like it was a totally disproportionate response. I mean, if that’s how mad you get about a phone call, imagine if someone smashed the windows on your car or stole your wallet?

    • It is against the law unless you already are buying services from these companies, they are charities, or political campaigns.

      My husband handles it by registering the appropriate complaint, I simply say no thank you and hang up.

      I agree with Jack that what this guy did was unethical, but the company was breaking the law. And even for companies who are NOT breaking the law, there is ample evidence that they prey on the elderly and other suspect classes.

  2. I think, by this definition, all sales is victimization. You can hang up, you can push 9, you can walk away and say no…or, in my case, not answer the phone. Beating up on the little guy is just taking out frustration on someone who can’t do anything about it…it’s like kicking a dog.

    • Huge difference between this and kicking a dog (and I am a HARD CORE dog lover).

      People who kick dogs, unless inestimably cruel, do so because the dog did something unacceptable. I emphasize: this does NOT give license to kicking dogs. But the analogy is inaccurate.

      In the case of spammers/scammers, the only POSSIBLE way to shut down the exploitation is to make it unprofitable. The people behind these scams will continue to exploit their workers – and targets – as long as they can make a buck by doing so.

      If they can’t make money by doing so, the frontline of scam operations will disappear. And so will the scam.

      We have enough trouble with smart scammers. No reason we should permit the dumb ones to exploit the even dumber.

        • No, he’s inspiring said cog to quit – or at least convince said cog that the pursuit is fruitless.

          Again, I sympathize with the “cog.” That the cog may not have other good options doesn’t justify the cog’s exploitation by the asshole that hired him/her, whose only goal is expanding he circle of exploitation.

          I’ll go with you this far. “Chris Blasko” COULD have said the the telesales person something along the lines of “You DO know that you’re engaged in a scam, and that your boss is an asshole, yes? And that the number of people who will fall for this scam won’t provide as much sustenance for you and your family as you could provide by taking a dump in front of your house and planting a squash seed in it? You know that, RIGHT?”

          If the answer assures you that you’re wrong, you have nothing more to offer the dishonest bastard. If you touch something human, maybe the poor bastard will take a dump in front of the house.

          • How do you know it’s a scam? I covered that—if this was a scam, I still object to the target, but that’s valid input into the discussion. I assume it was a valid service or product, in the absence of data.

            • Because in this day and age cold calls like this are either representative of scam, or, in EXTREMELY rare cases, EXTREMELY poorly organized businesses that are run by exploitative assholes that didn’t do their homework and waste the time of legitimate businesses that have no possible alignment for their services.

              I deal regularly with both. AndeEither way, would you want to work for one? Me neither.

                • As I have stated, most people who take these jobs don’t have much in the way of options. But if my experience is any indication, most of the callers aren’t US citizens – they are offshored. Your taxes are NOT paying their freight.

                  You are arguing 1) that it’s better to scam Americans rather than support them, and 2) that one can justify the exploitation of an upstream individual because a downstream individual might – or might not – be smart enough to recognize a scam.

                  Love ya, man, but I don’t buy either argument.

                  • Arthur, I’m not talking about scams at all. I consider that supposition and irrelevant to the issue. It’s a legal, low level job, and taking joy in making a hard life harder on the pretense of striking a blow against a industry that won’t feel any effect from the gratuitously mean conduct meets no ethics standard in existence…and boasting about it online as if its a heroic act is especially nauseating. He’s so pleased with himself, and he’s accomplished nothing positive at all.

  3. Blasko’s antics are about as amusing as Elan Gale’s antics and probably just as true. Blasko didn’t do anything that anyone else couldn’t do in some way or another if a person even wanted to do something like that. What’s worse is that he has to write about it so everyone can see what a “clever” guy he is. I stopped finding things like this even remotely clever or funny around the age of nine.

  4. I worked as a coldcaller in high school before the do not calls started and as a group everyone was desperate for any job that might provide income. A decade later I sent maps, insurance information, and orders for shampoo and the callers were often the epitome of rude when they were the ones calling in. Much later when downsized, the same company was only doing the outbound solicitations. The telemarketer at Minimum got a minus for losing the ‘live’ customer who hit four. If it is a scammer, he would have done better to say X company called me despite my being on the DNC list. It takes a lot of reports before an underfunded department can go after them.

    People do not take these jobs because they want this kind of abuse, it’s only desperation. Many of the people taking these jobs are older, handicapped, or educated and recently downsized and just aren’t physically able to take standing all day minimum wage jobs. It won’t stop until people stop rewarding cold calling, it’s got far better odds than the lottery, right?

    I sincerely hope this was a written anecdote, as it reveals him to be a supreme jerk. Do you shoot your mailman or UPS man if you don’t like what they bring?

  5. This is an example of a group of people who can be treated badly as a group because “everyone” agrees they are a nuisance and there is no accountability for how you behave toward them.
    The people working for call centers often have few other choices and they are working, which is much more socially responsible than getting a check from the government. I’ve had two children and a husband work those soul crushing jobs while going to school and it’s not something people should feel self-righteous about not having to do. When you need money you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the ethics of the people who provide the job as long as it’s legal and you get paid. My sympathy is 100% with call center workers. Those who are unjustly called can take reasonable steps to prevent it, but abusing the person making minimum wage reveals something about yourself that you might want to think about.

    • Let’s just legalize prostitution. It will give them options, and some might actually want to buy what they are seling. 🙂

    • For this point, I agree verbally abusing low level employees is unacceptable (with active sabotage completely out of line). I do not object, however, to informing a call center employee that his company is illegally calling a number, or that the call is a scam. I also do not object to limited strong language when a legitimate caller is ignoring basic requests for civility in its contact policies.

      If someone is on the Do Not Call list, and gets called anyway, there is a much higher risk of it being a scam. Elaborate equipment can spoof Caller ID’s or plain old social engineering (merely pretending to be a legitimate company) makes any unidentified call suspect. Only when it is a company that I know I do business with do I give them the time of day.

      I was once having trouble installing Windows on my laptop, and conveniently, I got a call from “Microsoft”. As I was already flummoxed, I actually went along until he lead me to an obviously fraudulent website. I then informed him that he was working in a scam and that I was hanging up. He then called back, was verbally abusive and threaten to cancel my Windows license. I then said something impolite, hung up, and recorded the caller ID number (which was so clearly gibberish, I couldn’t even report it using the FTC web form). Initiating verbal abuse is unacceptable, but giving the caller the benefit of the doubt does not usually make sense.

      I will occasionally indulge companies I currently do business with when they can credibly identify themselves, because I have gotten extremely good deals from some, such as my phone company and cable company competing against each other with phoned offers. However, I have also had to repeatedly tell my bank to stop calling me, because they were calling on a nearly daily basis hucking unneeded life insurance, credit monitoring and other crap. (This was really bad until one phone company offer included caller ID that let us screen out the bank’s calls). The bank finally stopped after two strongly-worded requests made several weeks apart. Initiating verbal abuse is wrong, but using merely strong language when provoked is not (I may have implied I was going to close my account, for instance). It is a somewhat blurry line, easily leading to excess, but the response should always be proportional.

  6. What about erroneous debt collection calls? I know someone who keeps a whistle near the phone to discourage people from calling back. It always raised my alarms, since I don’t think we should deafen someone just for having a crappy job.

  7. I would want to know how this telemarketing firm works before I decide how unethical this act is. If this is Mr. Blasko’s mortgage company and they are calling him to offer him a refinance deal, this is pretty low. There are telemarketers out there that really do prey on people, though, and I have less/no sympathy for them. For example, I keep getting a telemarketer calling my cellphone who suggests they are the FBI and I am under investigation (they are selling security/ identity protection services). A debt collection agency called my neighbor and told her to put a note on my door to call a number because I was ,going to jail if I didn’t get this fixed soon, In this case, they were looking for someone named Michael on a street with my street name in my state. They didn’t even have the last name of the guy who owed the money, but they were trying to get it out of me, threatening me with jail. If Mr. Blanko did this to either of these two firms, I don’t really have a problem with it. Yes, it is vigilante justice, which is not ideal. However, there is no one to protect us from this abuse. When there is no other justice around, vigilante justice will have to do. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but sometimes they make a lesser wrong.

  8. Unfortunately telemarketing has earned a horrible reputation because the – in my experience – few reputable companies have done absolutely nothing to try to curb the abusive firms. There is a reason doctors, lawyers and other professionals set codes of conduct and enforce them… maybe marketing firms should set forth those principles and make sure to drive out of business whoever won’t meet them.

    I’m not excusing Blasko’s abuse, just pointing out where it’s coming from.

  9. I, too, am a good IT administrator. Because of this, I know that Chris Blasko is not just an Ethics Dunce and a dick, but also a criminal.

    By his own admission, he executed a social engineering con over the telephone, which resulted in a successful denial-of-service attack on his victim. He is probably guilty of felony computer trespass.

    –Dwayne

  10. Telemarketers can be a nuisance for some but may also be godsend for others who may not be aware of a product that may be of benefit. We all hate getting those calls when we don’t want the product and I would never buy anything over the phone, but some people do otherwise the activity would not be done.

    The most salient point in Jack’s argument is the computer generated call was that it outlined the issue for the call and gave the receiver an option to never be called again .

    Computer: “Press 9 to not be contacted in the future. Press 4 to speak to someone about your mortgage issues.”

    Aside: The DNC registry does not apply to non-profit calls and many mortgage assistance services are organized as non-profits to get funding to provide the services.

    The argument that telemarketers waste people’s time is hard to justify when the average thirty minute sit-com is interrupted with 10 minutes of nuisance marketing. The difference is we accept that as part of the deal to watch the broadcast. Nonetheless, they waste my time if they bring me no value.

    Chris Blasco might have not wanted the service offered but he very effectively eliminated the firm’s ability to help someone else who may have been in dire trouble. How would Chris feel if he learned that his actions prevented someone else from learning of the service, and as a result lost their home in a foreclosure that might have been prevented had they known about the service?

    But I digress. Wyogranny made an insightful point that we should consider carefully. We have made a class of people – through no fault of their own – worthy of vigilante justice. We see them as inferior and thus eligible for our indiscriminate retribution. Just how far would we extend that line of reasoning? More importantly, why do we think we are on a higher moral plane then some Joe or Jane just doing their job?

    Bottom line: You simply don’t screw with another person’s livelihood when you have been given an early option to NOT participate. You became a “dick,” albeit a flaccid one, when you seek to show how smart you are in your response to something you consider a nuisance.

    • So we’re ignoring the spoofed caller id, the telemarketer ignoring the dnc registry, and an automated prompt allowing the recipient to “opt-out” of future calls? The telemarketer was on the wrong side of the legal fence and the only current way to stop them is to make it too costly to harass people that are trying to do their job or relax after work.

      My boss likes to keep telemarketers on speaker and just ignore them until they hang up. I enjoy transferring them to whatever number shows up on caller id. Chris actually found a way to make these companies think twice before harassing people.

      Stop trying to defend people that make a living by harassing people.

  11. What about the fact that this was a call that was coming from a completely illegal scam organization? Chris doesn’t have a mortgage nor has he ever had one. Chris is also on the National Do Not Call Registry (https://www.lnnte-dncl.gc.ca/index-eng). You’re being extremely selective with what information you chose to share from the Google+ post and the comment thread. This was an illegal call. It was not a call from a company that Chris already does business with. I suggest that you go back and read all the comments.

    • Doesn’t matter. He beat up on a low-level employee who wasn’t calling the shots.He was seeking praise for abusing the caller. The remedy for a company that calls someone on the (useless) DNCR is to report it, not pick on the low level employees managing the phones.

      • Reporting does nothing in most cases. Killing productivity does make it harder to harass people though. Then you factor in the cost of IT services.

        • If reporting does nothing, then the DNCL is a sham, and the remedy is to address that. If a law isn’t enforced, no one will obey it eventually. So your solution is to keep sabotaging endlessly fungible working stiffs trying to make a living, knowing it will do not good (and it won’t)? Chris was just making himself feel good, and grandstanding for elite twits. He knew he wasn’t fixing any problems, and he spent several minutes wasting his “Productive” time when he could have ended the call in a split second.

          • How do you report a spoofed caller id or a private number? Right now the best way to defeat these operations is to go the aggressive route. When we have the technology to actually stop telemarketers instead of laws designed to stop them, these working stiffs will be out of a job.

            • I don’t deny that, Paul, and I eagerly await the day. I duck about ten telemarketing calls every day, and sometimes three times that. But it is not the fault of the callers themselves.

  12. I am on the Do Not Call registry, and still get calls. Worst are the robocalls, where, in order to tell them not to call, I have to wait for them to pick up after THEY CALLED ME. No, I don’t have a problem playing with them a bit if they robocall me, make me wait for THEIR response, and haven’t a genuine clue about whatever product they are selling.

  13. Jack, I wonder if your position on this topic has changed, as scam calling has increased ten fold the past 4 years?

    Very few telemarketing calls these days are legitimately in the recipient’s best interest. Some are outright criminal organizations threatening people’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

    Interesting discussion in my field. I will have to read old posts more often.

      • I agree,Chris took it too far. However, my question is what civility (ethical treatment) is owed to callers who spoof their phone numbers to trick you into answering? Who (these days) are quite likely to be at best shady, and at worst threatening to have you arrested if you don’t fork over payment this instant?

        I have gotten calls (which go to voicemail, since I rarely answer call from strange numbers any more) from New York state, for instance, asserting that ‘4 serious allegations’ have been pressed against ‘my name at this moment’ and to call them back before they take any legal action. This call always will ‘expire in the next 24 hours working hours’ (three days? one day?) and I will be taken ‘under custody by the local police.’ Not once do they identify themselves or that this call is to me personally.

        1. This is a threat to my liberty and property
        2. Texas will not extradite to New York, or honor a warrant in most cases
        3. No law enforcement or federal agency makes call like this
        4. If I had legal trouble, I would know about it. This doesn’t just happen without there being something in writing.

        This must get some traction (meaning profit) as the calls happen every few months. They have left the same message on friends and my minor children’s phones as well, which leads me to believe they are calling random numbers. You can look up this scam quite easily: it is known to the FCC.

        What civility do I owe such scum? None. I already do not extend the courtesy of answering most calls due to the waste of time. (Leave me a message, if you are legit, and I will decide if I know you) My contention is that I own them nothing. Interrupting my day, with the intention to deceive and take advantage of me, is outside the social contract in my opinion.

        The example above is no better than a mugger, who takes his life in his hands if he threatens me or mine. In that case, I can defend myself under threat. However, this does not give me the right to retaliate when the threat is more subtle and depends on my own gullibility to harm me, as Chris did.

        When I have time to kill and accidentally answer one of these calls, I might play along. For instance, I got a call from the IRS (spoofed number) where the ‘agent’ claimed I owed taxes from several years prior. They knew quite a bit about me; enough that my aged grandmother might have been fooled. The call was quite believable. They had my home address and my previous address, knew prior phone numbers, and even could tell me cars I had owned before. (All available online, if you know where to look.)

        But I know the IRS doesn’t call you demanding money.. period. So I pretended to be a bit slow, and strung the (obviously foreign) fellow along, exploring his ‘scripted’ answers to my questions. I eventually agreed to speak to his supervisor, to whom I would make a payment.

        Another foreign sounding person got on the line asking for my personal banking information so they could draft the payment(s). I again strung him along, making him restate everything the first guy had gone over. He even gave me an (real) phone number for the IRS and his Agent badge number (I assume faked), lending a veneer of veracity to the scam. When I asked if I could call him back at that number, he attempted to give me his ‘direct line’ which was (oddly) an 800 number.

        After wasting time for about half an hour, I mentioned that the IRS does not take money over the phone. He got indignant! “Why did you waste all my time if you knew that already!” he yelled. The utter gall. I told him “Because you are a criminal, and I saved three other Americans you would have called today!” He was quite upset at the lost revenue, cursing me out and threatening me.

        Was that unethical? It WAS satisfying… but was it wrong?

        I do not need a car warranty, or electrical service, or conversion to solar power, or any of the hundred other scams in circulation right now. I feel like even legitimate companies depend upon social engineering to get you to buy when contacting you in this way, so we have to protect ourselves for sanity’s sake.

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