Date: Fri, 27 May 94 00:40:32 PDT
Subject: Robert Bulmash
Forwarded-by: bostic@vangogh.CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
Forwarded-by: firstname.lastname@example.org (Mike Meyer)
TELECOM Digest Mon, 1 Jul 91 20:01:56 CDT Volume 11 : Issue 505
Forwarded-by: "wayne d. correia" <email@example.com>
Subject: Robert Bulmash Leads Charge Against Telemarketers
WARRENVILLE, Ill. -- Robert Bulmash is the telemarketing industry's
worst nightmare. He and a small army of followers, fed up with the
modern epidemic of junk calls, are fighting back. Their motto is
"Leave Us Alone or Pay the Price!" Their strategy is mischievous,
ruthless and surprisingly effective.
Bulmash instructs the 550 members of his group, Private Citizen
Inc., to answer junk calls cordially and tease out all the information
they can about the identity and location of the "junker." Then twice a
year, he sends a notice to more than 800 telemarketing companies, with
a list of his members and a warning on their behalf:
"I am unwilling to allow your free use of my time and telephone ...
I will accept junk calls for a $100 fee, due within 30 days of suchuse
... Your junk call will constitute your agreement to the reasonableness
of my fee."
Private Citizen members, who pay $20 a year for the service, say
their junk calls drop 75% or more. As for the "invoice," it has left
Sears, Roebuck & Co., ChemLawn, and a handful of other telemarketers
so bemused they've actually coughed up the $100. Others, though not
all, have had it dragged out of them in court.
The leader of this rebellion is an intense 45-year-old paralegal
with the flair of an angry stand-up comic. His little war, run out of
his home in his spare time, has stirred up the giant telemarketing
industry, where mention of the name Bulmash draws shudders of disgust.
"Everyone in the industry knows Bob Bulmash," sighs Kenneth Griffin,
an American Telephone & Telegraph Co. official and past head of the
American Telemarketing Association. He worries that the Bulmash
crusade will "regulate us and put us out of business," and adds: "I'm
sorry, but we're going to defend ourselves." (In fact, AT&T right now
is defending itself against a $100 claim from Bulmash.)
At the other end of the telemarketing line, Bulmash is a hero.
"Thanks for taking on the greatest annoyance to man since the
invention of the housefly!" wrote a grateful Oregon woman who read
about him in a local newspaper.
In a 1990 national survey of telemarketing targets, 70% said they
consider such calls an "invasion of privacy." Walker Research Inc. of
Indianapolis conducted the survey via, of all things, random calls to
U.S. telephone numbers. The survey also found that 44% of the targets
considered their last telemarketing call "pleasant," and 41% think
telemarketing serves a "useful purpose."
All these calls are coming from an exploding industry with an
awesome arsenal of new technology. American companies will spend an
estimated $60 billion on telemarketing this year, up from $1 billion
in 1981, says the industry association.
One especially popular purchase, all too familiar to households, is
the "adramp," short for automatic dialing recorded message player. It
courses like a virus through the phone system, blaring its come-on to
one number after another in sequence.
Another hot new weapon is the "predictive dialer," which speed-dials
one number after another, sending to live agents only the calls that
answer. With one of these, a telemarketing shop can double the number
of prospects its agents talk to in a day.
Lawmakers are starting to worry about this calling frenzy. A
proposed federal law would create a national list of people who don't
want junk calls, and make it illegal to telemarket them. States have
also introduced some 300 bills this year curbing unsolicited sales
Bulmash's group, Private Citizen, is reachable at Box 233,
Naperville, Ill. 60566.
© 1994 Peter Langston