Big Pharma called me, and now I'm pissed.

8 years ago

I have an unlisted number and I'm on the do-not-call list, so when the phone rings before I've had my cup of tea, I answer anyway. But who was on the other end? My buddy Big Pharma.

Big Pharma was played this morning by a gentleman with a strong southern accent, who wanted to know how I felt about Medicare and "the donut hole". Hearing I had no idea WTH he was talking about, his tone brightened appreciably, as he worked his way through his script. Did I know seniors were in trouble? Did I know Medicare part B required them to pay for part of their prescription costs, in what was known as "the donut hole"? Did I know he could connect me, RIGHT NOW, to tell my Senator (Tom Carper) that I wanted him to support seniors, and close the donut hole?

"Who are you?" I asked.

He introduced himself again, as Billy Bob, or whatever.

"No, I said, speaking slowly, because, as I said, I hadn't had my tea yet, "Who are you calling for? What is your company or organization?"

"I'm calling for Americaspharmaceuticalcompanies" he said.

"Is that a company name?" I asked.

"I don't know" he said.

"You must KNOW", I retorted. "When you get your check, someone's name is on the top of it. Whose?"

" I can give you the number," he said, reeling off a number in my area code.

"That's Senator Carper's number," I said. (Yes, I know my Senator's number by heart.)  "I want YOUR number."

"I don't have a number." he said. By phone, obviously.

"Never mind, let me talk to a supervisor."

He handed me off to Antony, the "supervisor". (At one time I worked in polling. I know that about 1/2 the time, the "supervisor" in a phone bank is just the person nearest who had a recent bathroom break.)

"How may I help you?" asked Antony smoothly.

"I want to know who you are. Who is calling me?"

"We're calling from 'Americaspharmaceuticalcompanies'. "

"Is that a company? Is it listed on the stock exchange? Where is the home office?"

"It's a grassroots organization ... of pharmaceutical companies" he said, demonstrating the charming disregard for logical connections that characterizes astroturfers everywhere.

"Where are you? Do you have a website?" I asked. One thing about not having my tea. I really stay on message.

"This is just the southeastern call center. We have call centers everywhere." he says proudly. 

"Where is the home office?" I say.

"That's in Washington."

"And the website? How is it listed?"

"We're at America's Pharmaceutical Companies.com" he says.

"All one word?"

"Yes."

"Thank you very much."

Next stop, Americaspharmaceuticalcompanies.com, which doesn't exist, but which Google insists is dba as Phrma.org. Takes me a trice and a half to scare the secretary into giving me to John, who will be happy to help me. John is not working for minimum wage.

"I was just called by 'the southeastern call center' to ask me to call my Senator to 'close the donut hole in Medicare Part B.' Is that from your organization? Sound familier?" 

"Yes, " John admits, "Is there a problem?"

"The problem is, I have an unlisted phone number, and I'm on the National Do Not Call registry, and I want to know why you're calling me this morning."

"Well, I don't exactly know," John says, "I'm in charge of website communications, and I could make a guess, but it would be only a guess. What can I do to make it better for you this morning? I used to work for Congress, (Color me stunned, ed. note) and it was my committee who passed the do not call legislation, and there were some exemptions in there for charitable organizations and so forth..."

"Your lobbying arm hardly qualifies as a charitable institution, does it?" (I actually said this, and fast. I was SO proud of myself.)

"Well, no." 

Neither of us mention that the politicians exempted themselves from do not call, and we both know they left a few little 'donut holes" in there for their buddies, too. Some things are better left unsaid.

"What is YOUR name again?" I ask.

" I'm John Tripp."

"Two 'p's?"

"Yes."

He got my name, etc, and he'll probably make a call down to the Southeastern call center, and maybe tell people to be a little more COOL when they're telling old people at home during the day that Big Pharma is standing up for their rights, and not to call THIS crazy lady again, and I promptly called my Senator, Senator Tom Carper, D. Delaware, and asked him to make a statement disavowing the pressure from the pharmaceutical lobby, because, honestly, Democrats in Congress had better start answering to We The People, and not to these guys.

I'm waiting to hear from you, publicly, Senator Carper. Tell them to take their way-beyond-push-polling advocacy and stuff it.

Pass a decent health-care reform bill with a public option.

Do your job. 

Because I've spent a long time "fired-up, ready to go" and I might just start SKIPPING my morning cup of heavily sugared tea. Consider yourself warned.

 

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