Special offers?

Increasingly when I answer the telephone, I am addressed by an unfamiliar female voice – the epitome of politeness – trying to offer me something. She knows my name, though our phone number isn’t listed in the directory. (This reminds me that I have to stop cheerily giving out my personal details to stores, as they are evidently bought and sold so easily.) She is also well-versed in getting a conversation going in these disaffecting times. This expert in presenting «gifts» (usually package holidays, insurance deals and credit cards) has also been trained in expressing surprise, as soon as I dare say I am not interested in any kind of «special offers.» «But it’s such a great deal,» she says. They have taught her to approach the average faceless citizen, the despairing employee who can be manipulated into reluctantly buying yet another credit card, transferring his debt to another bank or purchasing a vacation in installments. Evidently, many people regard telephone offers as gifts from some anonymous good fairy, and this is why the system gains momentum, becoming a veritable nuisance. They even call you in the early afternoon – a time of day which used to be strictly «family time» and not an appropriate hour for the peddling of dreams – dreams of affluence in a market where trade is down 40 percent this year. But the growing popularity of these telephone offers highlights the childish need we have – especially at Christmas – to be given the world…

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