Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pay Back

As I worked late in my office, grading homework and getting ready for the next class, my office phone rang:

FSP: Hello?

Young Man (YM): Hello, Ms. FSP?

FSP: Yes.

YM: I'm calling from the University of X*, and I wanted to update you on some exciting things that are happening on campus this year. Are you interested in hearing about what's going on at your old school?
[* note: my present university, the site of my office, where I work now]

FSP: I'm not an alumnae. It's not my old school. You are calling me in my office at that very school right now.

YM: Uh oh. This is really going to throw off my spiel. Are you an employee?

FSP: Yes.

YM: What do you do?

FSP: I'm a professor.

YM: Uh oh. I was going to ask you for money. This call is part of the university's fund-raising campaign. It doesn't say here in my list that you work here.

FSP: But I do. I am grading right now.

YM: Well, can I give you my spiel anyway? I'm supposed to keep going unless you hang up on me.

FSP: Sure, go ahead, but I'm not going to give you money, so maybe you should call someone else and not waste your time talking to me.

YM: How about if I say that if you really cared about your students, you'd donate money so that they don't have to drop out of school because they can't afford it?

FSP: No, but nice try. Does the money really go to scholarships to help needy students with tuition?

YM: Well, no, actually the university prefers it if you just give money to an undesignated fund so that they can do what they want with it.

FSP: That's what I thought.

YM: So can I put you down for a $150 pledge? That's what everyone usually starts at.

FSP: No, but nice try again. Is it true that everyone starts with a $150 pledge?

YM: No.

FSP: Good night..


Susan B. Anthony said...

Hilarious! I especially like "Uh oh. This is really going to throw off my spiel." It reminds me of one call I got (back in the bad old days before the do-not-call list) from someone collecting for a police officers' fund. It went something like this:

Me: Hello?
Caller: Hello, I'm calling from the [whatever police officers' group]. Many people are aware that a police officer's job is a dangerous one. But maybe you didn't know this. Over [whatever] percent of police officers are injured in the line of duty!
Me (bored): Just terrible.
Caller: But maybe you didn't know this. [pause] Oops.
Me: [laughs]
Caller: [hangs up]

Funny thing is, I actually started feeling sympathetic to the guy when he lost his place in the script. Maybe if he'd stuck around I would have given him some money! On the other hand, maybe not. :)

Ianqui said...

How is it that he didn't know he was calling a university phone number? Or did he call your cell?

Female Science Professor said...

It was my campus phone. I figured that the callers didn't actually see the numbers they were calling -- that it was all automated -- but I don't know how these things work.

lost academic said...

I had a friend who worked for such a fund at my undergraduate university and it gets a little rote, calling people, especially when they don't pick up--it's easy to not notice the phone number you dial.

I think it would have been priceless were it actually a student you had in a class--moreso were you grading his work.

Come to think of it, if he'd been smart, he COULD have told you that you could have earmarked a donation to a fund that DID go only to such scholarships.

thm said...

I give to my undergrad school, but not my grad school, because for the most part I don't really care about the other parts of that institution any more than all of the tens of thousands of charities that I don't give to. (I do care aboutt he department I was in, but it doesn't need my charity money.)

But since my Ph.D. was conferred in 2002, someone at my grad school has decided that I'm a part of the "Class of 2002," so I get calls and emails about class giving and participation rates and class officers and reunions and so forth. Don't those development folks get it?

Doug Natelson said...

I had a similar call last week from Stanford. I'd somehow given their alumni office the slip when I moved from New Jersey seven years ago, and I guess they never cared enough to google me. Anyway, they had some freshman woman call me up, right at my kids' bedtime, and ask me for money. She would not take "no" for an answer, and was very obnoxious about it. I told her that it wasn't a convenient time to talk because I was literally sitting in a dark room with my older son putting him to bed, and she kept going with her spiel. I had to hang up on her. Someone needs to tell these geniuses that the hard sell approach turns off more donors than it brings in.

Female Science Professor said...

I got a call like that one night at my daughter's bedtime, and when I explained to the fund-raising caller why I couldn't talk at that moment, he told me that I needed to "reexamine my priorities". I don't usually hang up on these people, but this time I did.

B said...

I got a notice in the mail saying, thank you for your pledge of $X, per phone conversation date:XX, from a police agency. Only I was out of town that day and no one was home. How could an empty apartment agree to pay? I called and they said they would take care of it. But the nerve! I imagine an elderly person might be at risk and feel the need to pay even though they didn't agree too!

Ms.PhD said...

Laugh out loud funny post. Thanks.

lost clown said...

I too needed a laugh today. Thank you

Aaron said...

Deliciously funny! I especially liked how you kept calling him out on the misleading statements.

In some sense, the tactics of these fundraising programs makes me wish there was some kind of Truth In Fundraising law that prohibited them from saying such things. Of course, I also wish that fundraising was opt-in, rather than write-call-email-over-and-over-to-unsuccessfully-opt-out...!

Jane said...

"Someone needs to tell these geniuses that the hard sell approach turns off more donors than it brings in."

Why not you? It wouldn't take much more time to draft and send an email to this effect than it did to comment here, right?

I love email for exactly this reason. It's never been easier to give feedback to businesses and institutions on what I think they're doing wrong (and I tend to have a lot of thoughts on these matters).

Kate said...

I'm actually surprised he was that honest!
That call was absolutely hilarious!

The Urban Scientist said...

I like your page. I'm an abd student, so I really appreciate you funny and sobering stories. I even included your page as my personal blog of note.

Have a great day.

Candid Cool said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Candid Cool said...


I am enjoying reading your blog

azerion said...

amusing XD

Alina Chau said...

University funding and politic, can totally related to that ... we are fighting a battle at my old university against some higher up faculty trying to design the courses from a profitable perspective rather then educational perspective.

Greg said...

That's fantastic...

You can always pull the "Seinfeld routine"..

He asks the telemarketer if he can call him back and asks for his phone number.

Telemarketer: We don’t do that.

Jerry: I guess you don’t want people calling you at home.

Telemarketer: Umm, no.

Jerry: Well now you know how I feel. (Click)


The OE said...

This reminds me of when my alma mater called my mom asking if I was there on a weeknight during my last semester. Of course I wasn't there, I was in school! They didn't hesitate to ask her to donate to the class gift. I would, however, have considered this fair and equitable if they had asked if they could donate to my student loan payment.

fruity mama said...

Wonder if I can get that $150.00 back from my university? I needed a good laugh.

Lance said...


Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a call I got from my alma mater several years ago. The caller identified himself as a student in the College of Engineering. I said, "No kidding - what's your major?" "Agricultural Engineering," he replied. "Wow, what a coincidence - that's what I majored in." Funny thing, however. The school's ag engineering program was shut down just a few years after I graduated. When I called him on it, he admitted he just made the whole thing up and was actually a business school student. Needless to say, I did not make a donation.

fraternité said...

En Chile a eso le llamamos "vender la pomadada" !

Hugh said...

When I get calls from my alma mater asking for money, I have a standard question I ask the caller. How much money would (pretentious, conceited private university) need to have in order for them to have enough, so that money would be covered and they would never need to ask for any ever again? No phone flack has ever been able to answer my question. I once called the university president and asked him this question. He couldn't answer it either. I say if they have no sense of enough, they are a bottomless rathole and don't deserve any money and they have yet to get a nickel out of me.