Do I have to answer?

A reader wants me to weigh in on her decision to stop answering the phone:

“Need your input. I have stopped answering phone calls that have Name Unavailable, 1-800 Home Services” Unknown Name”, etc. and outlandish names of people I never heard of and all different numbers from Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania, you get the picture. My family feels I should answer every call, and I did that for a while, until I am ready to throw the phone out the window. Every single call was for a survey, change your credit score, apply for first one thing and then another, etc etc etc. I feel that if my phone number is displayed to someone I am calling, because they always say, ‘Hi Cynthia’, or they say further in the conversation, is my phone number of xxx still the same, then I should have the right to not answer calls of unknowns. What do you think?”

These days it’s estimated that half of all calls are robocalls. A great many of them are scams. Many of them use spoofed numbers to disguise themselves on Caller IDs. Partly because they’ve found a way to get a kickback for each time numbers display on a caller ID.

You certainly have the right to pick up the phone only when you feel like it. In this hyper-connected world, people forget that. There are some people who get very angry if you don’t immediately respond to a text or message. Almost as if they can’t grasp that you have an entire life going on outside that message. While there are some cases, like at work, where you might be obligated to respond to inquiries immediately, in everyday life, you are at no one’s beck and call. I’m old enough to remember taking the phone off the hook in the evening or during dinner as not to be disturbed.

If you’d like to ensure that only people you wish to speak to make it through, some phone companies do offer options where only numbers you’ve already approved are allowed through to your house. Other callers do have the option of pressing a number and leaving a message to attempt to get approved, but you have to give the OK first.  For example, AT &T allows you to designate 20 safe numbers that ring right through. You might want to check in and see what your phone provider offers.

If your family is concerned about you and just wants to make contact, perhaps you could set up a particular time of day to call or even a special signal for people to use so you know it’s them. Back in the days before caller ID, we had a family friend who only answered calls when callers used a special signal or ringing twice and hanging up, then calling again.

2 thoughts on “Do I have to answer?

  1. If you have a person in your contact list, the caller ID will let you know, even DR’s offices. If the caller ID doesn’t interest let them leave a voice mail and check it when you decide to find out what who called you for. I agree tooo many robo calls and I do not let them control me. I am in control of what call I answer or not. Even if it’s a friend or family, if I am involved in something I don’t want to be interrupted from. Hope you get a lot of replies, Trish

  2. I don’t answer the phones either. I am an old, retired person and I receive very few calls that matter. As noted by others, pretty much all my calls are scams or telemarketers. I don’t have caller ID on my land lines because I decline to pay for it. (It comes standard on my cell phone.)
    However, I do have an “old fashioned” answering machine that allows me to hear the caller starting to leave a message, and then I can pick up if I am near the phone and want to. If the call matters, the caller will leave a message. Most robots do not leave messages, although a few do. IMHO, people who think a ringing phone requires an answer are forgetting who’s in charge here. I pay for the phones. They are my electronic servants, not the reverse.

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