Hung Up on Viagra Calls

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Greg Richter takes another telemarketing call. (Photo by Laura Axelrod)
Greg Richter takes another telemarketing call. (Photo by Laura Axelrod)
Greg Richter takes another sales call for Viagra during his 50th birthday dinner. (Photo by Laura Axelrod)

If you ever get on U.S. Pharmacy’s call list, you’re screwed.

That’s OK, though, because they’ll sell you enough Viagra, Cialis and Levitra to screw as many other people as you want.

My cell phone started getting calls from the company a few months ago. Initially, I hung up as soon as they started their sales pitch, but they were persistent.

Common sense should tell you to take a number off your call list if you never make a sale, but not so for U.S.  Pharmacy. They just call and call and call. So I decided to just start wasting their time.

First, I figured I would challenge them on the legality of their operation. But my conscience got to me when I realized the caller on the other end of the line might actually be a poor person in a developing country. The guy might well have needed a job and applied at a call center not knowing about the nefarious deeds of his employer.

So I figured I’d give “Dave” or “Bob” or “Steve” or whomever the benefit of the doubt when I took the call.

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Sure enough, the phone rang one Sunday night, and I immediately told “Doug” that he was unwittingly participating in illegal activity since American law forbids selling prescription drugs to someone without permission of a doctor. Doug assured me that everything was completely on the up-and-up and that his company has been in business for seven years.

I told Doug that I was going to continue talking to him simply to waste his time and keep him from calling other people.  After all, he was trying to illegally sell them medications.

“I have all night, sir,” Doug smugly replied.

“So do I,” I shot back.

After a good 10 minutes of arguing with Doug, he admitted that he was in Pakistan, so U.S. law didn’t apply to him. Aha!

After another 10 minutes, Doug was begging me to hang up the phone.

“I thought you said you had all night, Doug,” I said. “It hasn’t even been half-an-hour!”

I told Doug he was free to hang up anytime he wanted, but he wouldn’t. Clearly, U.S. Pharmacy won’t let their employees hang up first.

So I started taunting him. “Come on, Doug. Hang up! I’m not stopping you.”

“Please, sir, hang up the phone,” Doug pleaded.

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Finally, he told me his shift was over and he had to get home to his girlfriend. I told him to hang up and head on home. He wouldn’t because he couldn’t.

Eventually, his “girlfriend” got on the line and continued the pleading.

“Do you know you’re boyfriend is working for criminals?” I asked her.

“Please, sir, let him go home!” Doug’s girlfriend begged.

I kept taunting.

Finally, they hung up.

And that was the end of that.

Until two days later when they called right back. I kept up the routine. They kept begging me to hang up.

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“Just quit calling me if you don’t want me to keep you on the line,” I told them.

But they didn’t.

And, if you are wondering, they mask their number, so you can’t call them back or even block them.

My wife got tired of hearing me berate them and made an alternate suggestion: Preach to them.

She was raised Catholic in New England and didn’t think I would really do it. Her Southern evangelical husband proved her wrong.

Every call after that became a Billy Graham crusade.

“I don’t need Viagra,” I’d say, “I’m a Christian priest. But I do want you to know that God loves you and has a great plan for your life. Did you know that Jesus died for your sins and wants to be your Lord and Savior?”

“I am Muslim, sir.”

“Oh, well that’s nice. Does your Islamic faith condone attempting to sell illegal pharmaceuticals to people?”

“Uh, no sir.”

“Then why are you doing it?”

“Have a nice day, sir. Goodbye.”

“Oh, don’t go. I’d like to say a prayer with you. Would that be OK?”

“Uh … OK.”

(Photo by Greg Richter)
A pile of pills (Photo by Greg Richter)

“Lord, I thank you for the opportunity to talk to Jimmy today, and I pray that you will show him he is not living right by trying to sell drugs to people that are probably just vitamin pills. Please, lead him to the light of Jesus Christ so his sins will be forgiven and he will live in heaven with you forever. Amen.”

“Uh, OK sir.”

“God bless you!”

“Thank you, sir.”

This went on with several callers until they finally started having Americans call me. One American told me he was an atheist.

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“Well, how does it feel knowing you’ll just die and cease to exist?” I asked. “That has to be depressing. I guess that’s why you have no morals.”

“I get my morality from my humanistic beliefs,” he assured me.

“Oh, well that’s nice. Does your humanistic value system condone attempting to sell illegal pharmaceuticals to people?”

“Uh, no sir.”

“Then why are you doing it? Let me say a little prayer with you …”

“Have a nice day, sir. Goodbye.”

Even though they clearly weren’t supposed to hang up first, my conversations were getting shorter and shorter. I was beginning to think they were passing word about me around the office.

Then it happened. The phone rang and I went into the witnessing routine.

“Oh, you’re the God guy,” the caller said. “I’ve heard about you.” And he immediately hung up.

So, they had heard about me. But still, they wouldn’t stop calling.

I figured I had discovered their two weaknesses: 1. They couldn’t hang up first, and 2. they didn’t have the ability take a number off their list.

Clearly, though, my “God guy” routine was over. They were hanging up immediately. I had forced a rule change. But if they still were too cheap to delete numbers that wasted their time I could keep up the fun – I’d just have to change my act.

I came up with a few scenarios, and my wife suggested I start recording them.

Wouldn’t you know it – they quit calling.

And then – after several weeks – they returned.

You can hear the result in the video below:

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Not wanting to repeat my performance, I had another story ready for the next call.

But I was in a restaurant celebrating my 50th birthday when my phone rang. That put me at a double disadvantage: I couldn’t put the call on speakerphone to record his side of the conversation, and I could only use words that would be acceptable in public.

This time, it was “Brad” calling. I told him I was eating dinner, but he was undeterred. He asked if I was taking any medications.

I told him I used to take Viagra, but it gave me a permanent erection. But I would be interested in some sort of drug to return my penis to flaccidity.

But, like I said, I couldn’t be quite that graphic, so Brad didn’t really catch my point. He kept trying to sell me a lower milligram dosage of Cialis because he promised that it did not have the same side-effect.

I told him it was too late. I’ve had the erection for two solid weeks and it wouldn’t go away. It was making it impossible for me to go out it public. I’m not sure he ever understood. But he did hang up.

I’m toying now with saying I’m a woman or that I’m actually currently having sex with three people simultaneously as we speak. Better yet, I’m really ugly and no one will have sex with me. If I take Viagra, it will just remind me of how bad my life is.

Until then, I’ll be waiting by the phone.

If you want to join the fun, send me suggestions in the comments.

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Greg Richter
Greg Richter has 25-plus years experience as a journalist. He spent 17 years with The Birmingham News in Alabama and currently freelances for a conservative-leaning news website. He is author of an e-book, "The Easy Budget," written under his pen name, Owen Tew. He is almost an expert on the song "Sweet Home Alabama" after writing an opus on its background for The Birmingham News. His work also has appeared on The Huffington Post and The Hill.com. You can follow his rantings on politics, religion and more on Twitter @owentew or at his blog, Syncopaterfamilias.