September 5, 2002 at 12:56 PM CDT - Updated July 1 at 11:45 PM
Tired of those annoying telemarketing calls right in the middle of dinner? The TeleZapper claims to stop all computerized calls in their tracks, and zap your information from the telemarketing database.
Ruth Tinnin of Fruitland bought the TeleZapper, and agrees to help Amy Jacquin test it. Ruth is bothered by telemarketers -- up to half a dozen a day! That's even *after* she got on the Missouri no-call list. But Ruth saw the TeleZapper advertised, and rushed right out to buy it.
"It's a tiny little box, the size of the palm of your hand," she says as she shows off the TeleZapper. "Three wires run from it to the phone jack, the phone, and the power outlet."
Ruth didn't hesitate spending $50 on a gadget that promises to intercept computerized telemarketing calls, showing the telemarketing company that her phone number is no longer in service! The only way she can tell it's hooked up, is a quick "beep" each time she answers the phone.
"It always beeps, anytime anyone calls you," she says. "But your friends get used to that when they find out you're not recording their calls!"
But if the phone goes dead after the beep, Ruth knows it was a telemarketer. "And I didn't miss anything important, and I didn't have to offend anybody by hanging up on them!"
But maybe Ruth *did* miss something important! She regularly orders from the JC Penney catalog, her last order placed in May. Catalog Supervisor Brenda Renfroe shows us proof of the transaction on the computer.
"After about a week, I was in the mall and it dawned on me I haven't heard about my order," Ruth remembered. "So I went to check on it."
Her order *had* arrived... one day after it was placed. The Cape Girardeau store tried to notify Ruth, but records show her line was disconnected.
"It shows our internal dialer was unable to reach her," explained Brenda.
"I said what?!" exclaimed Ruth. "I got a little huffy there right at first. But when they were in back getting my order, I had time to think. I knew in the past when they called, it was obviously a taped message."
Ruth figured the TeleZapper read Penney's computerized call, and zapped it. Paperwork at Penneys shows their system tried to notify Ruth, but the call came back as "invalid." If that's the case, the TeleZapper works! So we tested the system, to make sure it's working. We clearly hear the recording, so there are no problems. Next, the catalog supervisor plugs Ruth's number into the system. But...
"The result, operator intercepted," Brenda reads off the computer screen. "A tone was detected. It didn't go through. The TeleZapper zapped it. It did not go through."
Back at Ruth's home, the phone disconnected after the beep. "I'm very happy with it," Ruth smiles. "Very happy with it. It's worth every dome."
This has big implications for customers waiting to hear about their catalog orders, or when their prescriptions are filled. Penneys is now the largest catalog retailer in the world. The Cape store wasn't aware of the potential TeleZapper problem until Heartland News informed managers. They're concerned enough about the TeleZapper affecting catalog business, they're presenting our findings to the corporate office. They will call manually if the computer fails... which the store manager says is a full-time job during the Christmas season already.
"But if a customer is looking for something on a specific day, they need it quickly, they may be a day late," Brenda adds.
So the TeleZapper does intercept computerized and recorded calls... hanging up before you even say hello. "I'd really rather not have to answer it at all, you know? You're still bothered," Ruth says, but that's the only flaw she can think of.
Some commercials make you think the TeleZapper actually removes your phone number from the computer database. It doesn't... and they could call manually... but most telemarketing companies won't. So it does reduce the number of sales calls. And it does prevent you from talking to salespeople. So overall, we give the $50 TeleZapper a B+.