In defense of robo calls

OK, carefully look over the top of the foxhole. Yes, it’s safe. The election is over. Now, I’d like to talk to you about robo calls.

No! Stop! Don’t throw that at me! Hey, do you eat with that mouth? STEP AWAY FROM THE UNSUBSCRIBE BUTTON.

We hate robo calls because they are intrusive, often anonymous and sometimes offensive. Campaigns love robo calls because they’re cheap, cheap, cheap. Depending on quantity, you can place them for less than two cents apiece.

Mind you, I cheered when I saw the Federal Trade Commissioner is offering a $50,000 prize for the company who comes up with a way to block robo calls. My Facebook comment was, “Sainthood will follow, in record time.”

But let’s not be so quick to judge. I do think that robo calls can play a valuable role for associations and in public participation processes for communities.

If you need to remind committee members about a meeting, why not assemble their phone numbers and make your own, automated call? They’ll recognize your name and your voice and shouldn’t resent the reminder. The voice message can supplement an email notification.

I also think cities and townships could use a warm, positive phone message from the mayor or supervisor to invite participation at public planning sessions and charettes. Using a commercial source for the phone numbers means you’ll miss the growing number of people whose primary phone is a cell phone, but it’s better than doing nothing at all.

For that matter, have you thought about asking all your households for their email address and phone number? Send a card to every household with their tax or water bill and ask them how they want to be notified about things like snow emergencies and municipal events.  Don’t hesitate to ask them if they’d like to receive notifications via text. You can use free or inexpensive online services to send mass texts to people who have opted into that service.


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