OK, I admit it. I lied today. I don't normally do that; I'm a terrible liar in fact. I'm sure it goes back to when I was a kid and how my mother could always tell when I was lying. She wasn't the sort of person you wanted to get on the wrong side of. So I'm badly out of practice. But I'm working on it.
Or rather, I've actually been working on becoming a more persuasive and powerful communicator. I've joined Toastmasters. I'm doing workshops on public speaking, sales and marketing. I'm reading The 48 Laws of Power. This last one is all a bit Machiavellian for me, and if taken literally the laws involve a lot more deception than I'm really comfortable with. But I'm learning. And today it came in handy.
I decided that time to get ADSL2+ broadband is long overdue, but there's a problem: my phone number isn't “portable”. A couple of Internet and phone companies with better deals than my current provider told me I can't switch to them unless I get a new number. I wasn't all that keen on having to change phone numbers, tell everyone I know and reprint 2000 business cards. So I thought I'd just stick with my current phone company despite the extra cost. I gave them a call, and talked to a helpful sales consultant. Let's call him Jesse, because that's what his name was. Jesse was very friendly, and about as helpful as someone could be while explaining that they couldn't possibly do what I really wanted. Even though I'm an existing customer, they couldn't transfer the number to their new ADSL2+ equipment in the telephone exchange. So no matter what I did, I needed a new phone number in order to get ADSL2+. My only reason for sticking with them in the first place was the vain hope that I wouldn't have to change phone numbers, and with this hope dashed I decided I might as well switch carriers as well and get the better deal.
After about 45 minutes of going through the scenarios with Jesse, I concluded that the simplest solution was to get my current phone company to change my phone number, and then switch to the new cheaper guys once that was done. Now Jesse couldn't do this directly because he was from the sales department. But he could put me through to the service department that could help me. Jesse suggested that to avoid having to go through the whole rigmarole again, I just tell the guy in the service department that I want to change phone numbers because I'm getting nuisance calls. In other words, he suggested I lie.
Jesse put my call straight through to a guy in the phone company's customer service department, who I'll call Manesh, because once again that was his name. I liked Manesh, because he engaged in a little small-talk to build rapport with me, and he didn't pretend that he wasn't in a call center in India. “How's the weather over there today?” he asked.
“Good, good, thanks.”, I replied honestly while planning my deception.
“Great, because it was 44 degrees here in India yesterday!”. He seemed a friendly straight-shooter, and I liked him immediately.
“So what can I do for you today?”, he asked cheerfully.
“Well, you see, I'm getting all these harassing phone calls and I'm really over it. So I want to change my phone number please”, I lied. Straight into it. Felt pretty good too, I must say. Confident, and strong.
Manesh took pity on me, and was more than happy to relieve me of these bogus nuisance calls by changing my number. “I'll even waive the number-change fee, given that it is a case of harassment”, he said. He went on to outline the procedure for police involvement if it continued after the change:
“Oh, I really hope that won't be necessary, but thanks so much for letting me know just in case.”
Manesh also suggested a silent/unlisted number, at extra charge. Given that I'm not running from any underworld figures and have a fairly mundane life that doesn't generally make me the target of hatred from strangers, I'd rather not be unlisted. I kind of like the idea that friends, even ones I haven't met yet, can find me just by looking me up in the phone book. But what about my harassing caller? “Actually, I think it's some sort of fax machine or modem that keeps ringing me every 10 minutes. So I don't really need an unlisted number.”, the lie grew.
He was pretty cool with that, and initiated the number change. Then he suggested I could get my old number redirected to the new one. “You can do that? Yeah, that would be great!” I enthused. That way friends who don't know I've changed my number can still get in touch.
Oh, but what about that nuisance caller? “Sorry... you won't want to redirect your old number because then the nuisance caller will still come straight through to you.”, Manesh pointed out helpfully. No, of course not. Well, actually...
A little more deliberation and Manesh mentioned that I could have a recorded message on my old number, redirection, or both. “A recorded message would be great, because I think it's just a fax machine hassling me. A machine won't get the message, but other people will be able to find my new number. Yeah, let's go with a recorded message. Can I change it to redirect the calls later, if the nuisance caller stops?”
“OK, I've put your request into the system as an emergency request because of your nuisance caller. It should be changed within 24 hours. I will ring you back tomorrow to organize the redirection message.”
“You'll ring me?”
“Yes Sir”, Manesh replied in perfect Indian English.
Wow. I couldn't believe it. None of this waiting-on-hold-for-hours crap. They were going to ring me. My previous major interaction with this same company 4 years ago didn't go anywhere near this well: I was moving house and wanted to keep my existing Internet address and phone number; apparently an “unusual” request according to their complaints department to whom I eventually had to go in order to get what I wanted.
This time, I got what I wanted much more easily just by lying. I only had to lie a little though; it's not that bad, is it? And it saved us both a whole heap of time. But it bothers me that I live in a world where some things just go more smoothly when you lie. It shouldn't be like that. People should be honest. Other people should respect that. I should get what I want be being straight with people up-front. This should always work in every relationship I have.
Oh-oh; I'm should-ing all over myself again. Life is easier and ultimately less frustrating and/or stressful when I can accept that things are the way they are, not the way I think they should be. Odd that I should learn this lesson once again by, of all things, lying to the phone company though.