Friday, February 15, 2008

Don't call me Mrs

Dear [insert name of CEO of relevant charity here],

Thank you for your letter informing me that I have so far not made good my telephone pledge of $20 to your charity.

Unfortunately there are a couple of problems.

For a start I have no memory of making any such pledge. I work at home and am enraged by disruptive, intrusive, unsolicited telephone calls from strangers trying to get between me and my money. (Even charitable strangers. My modest budget allows for contributions to my charities of choice and they do not include yours, worthy as yours may be.) It is highly unlikely that, having got up from the middle of a now-doomed sentence and answered the phone to such a solicitation, I would have been in a mood to offer $20 to the person responsible.

(Yes I'm on the DO NOT CALL register, but they make so many exceptions it has hardly been worth doing, and people have begun to get around it by making automated calls which one answers only to hear a recorded voice, and an oleaginous male American voice at that.

And no I can't leave the phone off the hook; I am a freelancer with an aged parent and need to be contactable at all times.)

As I say, I have no memory of making such a pledge. It would have been utterly unlike me. Are you people flying a kite and trusting that at least some of the targets of your mailout will say Duh, silly me, fancy forgetting an important thing like that, and bung their credit card number or cheque in the mail?

Even if I take you at your word and assume that I did indeed, during some sort of major brain fade, make a $20 pledge of which I have no memory, we still have a problem.

I don't know where you got my name from -- no doubt some sold-on mailing list, a practice of which most poor suckers members of the populace are quite unaware, but you have made a terrible, terrible mistake in addressing me, most presumptuously, as Mrs Pavlov's Cat.

I know there is still a large section of the populace that believes that all adult women are currently married and wish to be known by their husband's names, and if they aren't and don't well then they're beneath consideration and hardly even people at all really, but if you want our money then you are probably going to have to change your tune.

I think it very likely that there are many, many women about who would agree with these sentiments, and if you want to raise the maximum amount of money for your charity then I would strongly advise you to remember that this is the 21st century, not the 19th.

For future reference, not that it will help as your charity is now already on my blacklist, here are some guidelines. As salutations go, I prefer Dear Pavlov's. If you cannot live without an honorific then you may address me as Ms Cat. If you object to Ms (in which case you are of no interest to me), there is always the option of Dr Cat. If you absolutely cannot live without addressing me as Mrs, I believe that as une divorcée I am still technically entitled to call myself Mrs Insert Surname of Child Husband Now But a Dim Memory Here.

Failing any of those, you may call me Comrade.

Yours most sincerely,

Pavlov's Cat (Ms)

PS: Injury to insult: you misspelt Pavlov's as well. Everybody does, but it's still a bad look.

PPS: Don't waste your time looking for an enclosure. There isn't one.


kate said...


A few women of my acquaintance immediately dismiss anything not addressed to them as Dr, because they always use it, and if the addresser hasn't then it's likely they got the address second-hand (or they weren't paying attention).

However, my sister spent many months explaining to the Which Bank that she was not, in fact, a Mr. Then she closed the account. You have to be firm with these people.

lauredhel said...

Yes yes yes. I can't tell you how many letters I've answered from medical injury lawyers, even female medical injury lawyers, with the greeting "Dear Sir," or "Dear Sirs,".

genevieve said...

Call me picky and churlish, but I get mad when the Epilepsy Foundation sends us donation pleas without realising that two family members have the condition - and when they call us to buy raffle tickets and treat us like Kind Strangers.
I put the last Christmas letter on the fridge, fully intending to give Jeremy (CEO) a blast sometime. I think they would prefer both my kids to have individual memberships. Perhaps we'd better do that, then their database won't get confused.

It is irritating though. Kinda depersonalising or something.

M-H said...

And don't get me started on the Dr's receptionists /support staff/allied health people. They always call me 'Mrs' even though I've asked countless times for either Ms or M-H. I will be Dr in time but have pretty much given up being able to use that. My partner (who prefers Dr) once had a tradey in to give her a quote. He stuffed around for ages and then asked when 'Dr W" would be arriving. He didn't get the job.

Ampersand Duck said...

clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap

It just took me six months and a number of nagging phone calls to finally succeed in cancelling my credit card. bastards.

Anonymous said...

Our phone number is listed in the book under my partner's name, so when they call and say "Hello Mrs Partner's name" I can immediately say, "Sorry, wrong number" and hang up. I also have a young sounding voice, so sometimes I get the "Is your mum or dad there?" "Uuuuuhhhm... No."

Similar topic, my partner and I have been together for nearly 10 years now, everytime someone finds out they make some comment about me having to wait so long for him to ask me to marry him. It just does not seem to occur to people, that I, as a female, may not be interested in going a ceremony which has little meaning for me... Imagine! A female who doesn't want to get married!! Whatever is the world coming to!

tigtog said...


That is all.

Ann O'Dyne said...

Comrad Pavlove!
your manifesto was magnifico.
The nature of charity these days, has absolutely NO CREDIBILITY.
All individuals are taken care of by pensions; research is taken care of by grants.
Yesterday when a collection can was thrust at me as I entered a supermarket, I pointed out to the collector that I qualified as one of those for whom the collection was being undertaken, yet had never been offered any assistance by said organisation.
He was gobsmacked.
Charity is a two-way street mate, but you are in it for the percentage are you not?

*goes off singing "The workers flag is deepest red ...."

Stephanie Trigg said...

When they phone and ask "Is that Mrs ...?" I either give them the full-on lecture (though without your eloquence), or say "I'll just go and get her" and walk away and leave the phone off the hook for a good half-hour.

ThirdCat said...

I'm going to do what Stephanie just said. That's genius.

Also, word verification: shunqo

meli said...

my first two initials are m r so i'm ms mr. it sometimes gets confusing.

Jennifer said...

I'm with Third cat - Stephanie's method is pure genius. I usually just hang up at that point.

In my corporate job, I often have suppliers buttering me up with invitations to Mrs Penguin. I never bother pointing out to them how counterproductive it is - perhaps I should.

lauredhel said...

I've told this before, but I'll tell it again...

[silence, click]
"Hello. Is Dr Lauredhel there?"
"Who's calling please?"
"I'm thingy suchandsuch from Diners Club."
"And you're calling about?"
"I am from Diners Club. I need to speak with Dr Lauredhel. Is he there?"

"Would you tell me what this is regarding?"
"It's about some information we sent. I really need to talk to Mr Lauredhel!"

"There's no one of that name here."


*caller clearly becoming increasingly uncomfortable*

"Oh. Is this the wrong number?"
"I don't think so. This is the Lauredhel household, but there is no Mr Lauredhel here."

"Oh, it's DOCTOR Lauredhel I'm looking for, yes?"


[gears turning]

*tremulous* "Is - Is - Is it a - female?"

"This is Dr Lauredhel."

[silence][can you actually hear a cringe?]

*gets back on script* "I'm just calling to follow up on some information we sent about blahblahblah insurance - "
"Is this about my account, or are you trying to sell me something?"
"It's about - I'm just following up on some information - "
"Is. This. About. My. Account. My current account."
"Um, no, it's-"


Anonymous said...

We have an unpronoucable name, so when they invariably stuff it up I know it is noone we know, and I say 'i don't want any thanks' and hang up.

I've found the do not call register great - we still get the charities, but no more mobile phone plans, wine delivery plans, roof restoration offers etc etc etc.


kate said...

I also leave them talking to thin air. Usually I put it down next to the radio. Quite a few Indian telemarketers have been introduced to Melbourne's public radio via my house. It is tricky if you forget to hang it up again later though. I accidentally left the phone off the hook most of yesterday.

Bernice said...

When feeling evil, I have been known to...

"Hello, is Mrs ..... there?"
"No, I'm afraid not."
"When will she be available?"
"Not soon I'm afraid. She's dead"

Mrs .... is of course my mother who is indeed dead. It appears it also then removes me from whatever list my ph. no. was on.

Susoz said...

I got such a call yesterday: "Is Mr S there?"
"Is Mrs S there?"
"No. Thank you".
Immediately hang up having told the entire truth and nothing but the truth.

JahTeh said...

When I took over my mother's finances I found that a lot of promised $25s had gone to charities that she didn't remember. Two had her credit card number and were taking this sum out monthly. Older people are just prey to these people.

Caroline said...

I was standing in a Pet shop in the local country town near to where I live. The youngish male shop assistant came up behind me, I was wearing jeans, a t-shirt, lipstick, long hair etc, and as I turned around he said-- "Can I help you sir?"

I laughed heartily at that one,(he didn't, which was weird). I can get used to being called 'madame', 'lovey', 'possums' (even), and 'that lady'. But sir? From a feminist perspective it was a tad confusing. (I really don't look like a bloke, especially from the rear.)

BlissHill said...

My partner says Australia gives so much overseas aid his taxes pay our charitable contributions.

We sold some raffle tickets around 6 years ago and were rung up and thanked profusely each year afterwards - but 'would we like to sell some more'. No thank you!

The 'do-not call' register works pretty well for us.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Yes, I was really just whining about Do Not Call because it makes exceptions. There are far fewer calls than there used to be; I'm just grumpy about the ones I still get, especially as the charities all seem to be working to the same schedule.

I don't use the academic title except (a) in an academic context, (b) when someone asks me 'Miss or Mrs?' (see 19th century etc) and (c) when someone has given me reason to try to intimidate them back. But I live in fear than one of these days I'll be tapped by a hyperventilating flight attendant at 30,000 feet and asked to perform an emergency tracheotomy with a wire coathanger and a plastic drinking straw.

nailpolishblues said...

I may have to try Stephanie's trick. I really don't like the implication that the person listed in the phone book with my initials is actually some bloke who pays the bills and I'm his little Mrs. It's me and they're mine and if I'm not addressed properly I tend to get a tiny bit annoyed with the idiot on the other end of the phone line.

Of course, there's always the old, 'I'm sorry, my mother doesn't live here'.

Greg said...

I like to use a different middle initial for anything I do sign up for, so I can track the sell-ons. If I start getting junk, the ones who sold my name lose my custom.

The Do-Not-Call works pretty well, except now I get door-knockers.

Cath said...

Dr Cat, I think I'm in love with you.

feral sparrowhawk said...

Besides seconding Cath (but you knew that already)I'd like to ask whether the charity in question really was a worthy cause - or perhaps I should say a particularly worthy one.

My sense is that the worst offenders in regards to sleazy techniques such as "you forgot the $20 you promised" are mostly charities that would be very low on my list of priorities anyway. This is comforting in what it says about the charities I do consider worthy, and I'm hoping for reinforcement.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Heh. If there's one thing I do love it's a nice compliment.

Alas, it was a very worthy cause. But good behaviour on the part of the organisation doesn't always correlate (is that the word I want?) with worthiness. I once nearly gave up giving blood, partly because some of the counter staff at the depot were horrible bitches and partly because I kept getting letters beginning 'You are now due to give a donation of blood'. Someone else must have written and pointed out that this was counterproductive, because they've now seen the light. Nothing to be done about the horrible bitches, but you can't have everything.

feral sparrowhawk said...

Can't say I agree with the blood donation letters, until they banned me (too long in the UK during the mad cow incubation period) I found them helpful reminders.

They're actually more relevant than money donation letters - people are only safe to donate after a reasonable gap, and the size of the gap varies (eg if you have haemochromatosis) so having a reminder when you're able to again can be quite useful.

Pavlov's Cat said...

No, no, it wasn't the letters as such -- I agree that they are useful reminders -- but the wording of the letters. Specifically 'You are now due to give a donation of blood', said to people who give not only their blood but also their time and tolerance of being mucked around a fair bit. And let's face it, it's not a pleasant process, especially now that you have to fill in three or four pages of very intimate questions every time you go. I'm happy to wear all of that, but not to be tersely told on top of it all that I am 'due' to give blood (or indeed anything else; by definition, a gift is not "due"), as if they were sending me a bill.

As I say, some disgruntled fellow donor has obviously got on their case about it, because the wording of the letters is now much less peremptory and more appreciative.

Moz said...

My approach to charity is to donate directly, either at their website or by visiting them with actual cash. From the research I've done both have a low "commission" rate, unlike the bottom-feeding professional collectors. A side effect of this is that I'm inclined to research the people I donate to.

For those with a little more money, it's often worth finding out what the "major donor" threshold is, as they get special treatment. Of the "we listen and obey" type when it comes to further solicitations. For TWS it's only $1500 or so, for Greenpeace it's $5000. best is Forest and Bird in NZ, where a lifetime membership is $800 and they send you their magazine and that's it. Yay!

Feminist Avatar said...

Not a telemarketer comment, but I once got stopped on the street by a charity collector (the type who collect bank details, not cash) and in my polite attempt to get him to f**k off, I said 'I can't make those sorts of decisions without consulting with my husband'. To which he responded, 'you need your husband's permission?'. Needless to say, I know longer felt the need to be polite.

To be fair, I get that I was playing the gender card and he was calling me on it, but it isn't going to endear me to the cause.

sexy11 said...