A solution I can support

Glenn Reynolds has suggested something like this before, as have I. And now, I submit, is the time:

Robocalls don’t just annoy you at a gas station or a doctor’s waiting room, places where time spent is usually pretty low quality anyway. They interrupt you at your home, or on your smartphone. The Federal Communications Commission says there are 2.4 billion robocalls a month, and it’s trying to do something. I have a solution of my own: Pay me.

Under my proposal, any incoming calls from people not on my contact list wouldn’t go through unless the caller paid me something. Twenty-five cents would probably be enough to discourage phone spammers, who make huge numbers of (mostly futile) calls. (Though I’d be willing to go higher. Maybe I could charge phone-sex rates: I’d be willing to listen to most anything from anyone for $3.99 plus $1.99 a minute.)

For the sake of simplicity, I would argue for $1. But the point is the same, regardless of the price point:

Of course, hardly anyone would be willing to pay me that much, or even 25 cents, to receive a call. Which is the point. If it’s not worth a quarter for them to call me, why is it worth my time to pick up?

Three decades ago, there was something called MCI Mail. Half a buck would get more-or-less guaranteed email delivery to anyone else on the network in a matter of minutes; for $1.50, they’d actually wrap up a snail-mail copy to anyone not on the network. It was easily worth my $70 a year to keep two mailboxes from MCI, one for myself and one for a 1980s analogue of SwiftOnSecurity. And there was never, ever any spam. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out why.


  1. McG »

    20 April 2017 · 8:40 am

    My carrier lets me maintain a permanent blocked-number list that now runs to a mere 80 or so. I’m surprised it’s not in the 200s.

    Yeah, I know — but I’ve only been with this carrier eight months. Maybe like most things it just hasn’t quite reached its growing season.

  2. Holly H »

    20 April 2017 · 9:13 am

    Love the idea of making them pay. Not likely to happen right now, since Congress is currently trending towards throwing our privacy rights out the window. It would be nice if we could just avoid answering any number we don’t recognize. But I recently answered an unknown number, and it turned out to be a utility company, poised to cut me off, due to an expired credit card. Sigh.

  3. Lorna »

    20 April 2017 · 9:37 am

    That’s actually a smart idea. We get spam and scam calls all the time and I agree, if someone was paying to call you, it would make them think twice that’s for sure!

    Raindrops of Sapphire

  4. fillyjonk »

    20 April 2017 · 9:58 am

    With my expertise, if I hung out a shingle (and lived in a place where consulting in my subject area was something people wanted), I could make $125 an hour, easy.

    I will admit I have been tempted to send a price-list of what my time is worth to all the edu-tech spammers (and others) who e-mail me wanting me to sit through their “webinar” (or whatever term for “barely disguised ad” they are using). I never have. But I’d like to. And I’d like to be paid for all the robocallers and others using my phone.

  5. Jay »

    20 April 2017 · 1:10 pm

    I’ve lately taken to just putting our house phone down on the table, and let the recording play on. (We get so few calls, it’s not as if someone else is trying to reach us.) After the recording plays out, someone comes on and says “Hello? Hello? Hello?”, and then hangs up, we hang up the phone. I figure it keeps their phone line tied up longer, and slows down the number of calls the phone spammers can make.

  6. Roger O Green »

    20 April 2017 · 2:53 pm

    I just don’t answer the phone anymore unless I know who it is!

  7. McG »

    20 April 2017 · 5:14 pm

    Getting an answering machine was downright emancipating.

  8. Holly H »

    21 April 2017 · 11:30 am

    I love Jay’s plan.

  9. ETat »

    22 April 2017 · 8:42 am

    I love Jay’s plan, too – except I don’t have a landline since…oh, 2006.
    And can’t afford not to answer my cell – since most of the calls from numbers I don’t recognize, and they are all work-related.

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