This is going to be my worst rant of the year. I can feel it and it is definitely worth reading to the end. If you have ever been the target of assertive phone or other direct marketing, this post is for you. I hope to reach at least 10,000 potential buyers of real estate with my recent experience and I hope my readers will assist. Somehow, someone has gotten hold of my otherwise very private home telephone and fax numbers and my residential address and it is now part of Ayala Land, Inc.’s and associated brokerage and marketing companies or affiliates active “Sales Prospects” lists. They have bothered me at home after office hours, were unable to explain how they obtained the confidential information, they refused to remove my name and contact details from their sales lists after they were nicely requested to do so, and yesterday, they repeatedly left empty messages and tried again to fax me material regarding yet another Ayala real estate project in the works. I quickly found out how appropriate the Filipino term “pikon” can be when applied to salespeople given a dose of their own aggressive tactics, a little amusement in an otherwise serious, intrusive and offensive chain of events.
Over a week ago, a man representing himself to be from Ayala Land, called me at home on an unlisted number during a dinner party and said that he was calling on behalf of his “senior management” to extend a special invitation to attend an event at Fort Bonifacio for the new Serendra condominium project. This same man or others from his organization had also called several times in the previous days but refused to leave his name or number when asked by my staff. By chance, that evening, I actually answered the telephone myself. I would normally hang up on an introduction like he made, however, it so happens that I do personally and professionally know several senior managers at Ayala Land, Inc. and several of their Board members so I figured I would politely listen to what the caller had to say. Once he confirmed that I was Mr. Marketman, he extended a polite invitation to join his “senior managers” at the Serendra building site the following day, a Sunday (I believe it was Father’s Day). I very nicely asked who had given him my home telephone number and was it normal practice for them to call after office hours and on a weekend to boot and he repeated that “senior managers” had given him my telephone number. I responded that I needed to know who these people were specifically before I would entertain his call further. When asked if any of the Board members were the source of my personal details, the salesman stuttered, when asked if it was the CEO who gave my number, he could not confirm. Still not sure if this guy was for real or not, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, politely asked that my name be removed from Ayala’s marketing or sales lists and asked that I never again be disturbed at home at night or on a weekend on a private number. I made it clear that whilst I had been polite so far, I would immediately write a letter or call Ayala Land’s real “senior management” if I should ever receive unsolicited marketing calls from Ayala salespeople again. Since I was in the middle of a dinner party, I did not bother to write down his name or contact numbers which are probably still in the caller ID machines that I have hooked up to all of our home phones. I declined the invitation to see a condominium construction site on Father’s Day.
Let’s just say I have the patience for one intrusion, not more. Strike me once and I will turn the other cheek; strike me twice and you better be prepared for a strike back. Yesterday late afternoon, my facsimile phone at home, an even more private and unlisted number, began ringing incessantly. Because it has an answering machine and fax, people who are perhaps not fluent in English are unable to comprehend crystal clear instructions to “either leave a message or immediately switch to a fax send mode” that my machine will automatically accept. For some reason, the caller was unable to figure this out and left over 3 recorded messages that were 3 minutes long of fax tones. Finally, on about the 5th or so attempt, I picked up the phone and pressed a manual override for those with obvious difficulty following basic instructions in English and a fax proceeded to come in that was YET ANOTHER solicitation from a company named VALUE ASSETSCON CORPORATION, purporting to be part of Ayala Land Inc. Broker Circle. I stopped the fax after the first two pages because the second page was coming in unreadable jibberish. I read the first page which was basically a solicitation for another new Ayala Project near Subic Bay and they are going to offer club shares, seaside lots and villas. They asked that I fax them back should I be interested and the Property Specialist, a Ms. XYZ, gives me her mobile number and office numbers (please note, she gives these voluntarily unlike the manner in which my personal contact details have been obtained).
Here is where I get really pissed. Not only do the marketers have my unlisted phone number and have called it several times, often after office hours and on weekends, but now they apparently have my unlisted facsimile number as well and have called that number several times in a row and finally faxed a solicitation or offer letter. Worse, the letter very clearly indicates that they also have my home address details as well. Let me digress I a bit. My privacy is sacred. I do not go out of my way to play the Philippine social or business scene. I do not attend parties with the purpose of being seen or photographed and I am not a candidate for that bestseller tell all bitchy book and its potential sequel by Kitty Go called When Chic Hits the Fan. I do not give out my private numbers with abandon and I do not condone any sharing of my personal contact information unless I have been previously asked and have explicitly given my consent. To guard my privacy, I have unlisted numbers, all of which have caller ID’s hooked up to them so I know when people repeatedly call. I take other measures that I will keep to myself.So here are the critical issues as I see them:
1. How did the Ayala Sales Team or related brokerage firms get hold of highly private contact details that included my full name, two unlisted telephone numbers and a home address?
2. Is it appropriate behavior to represent yourself as calling on behalf of an unspecified and unnamed set of “senior managers” when you are specifically asked by a potential client to name those managers and are unable to do so?
3. Is it appropriate to repeatedly call potential clients at their homes, not leave messages or identify yourselves, call after hours and well into the evening, leave botched messages on answering machines, and fax unwanted solicitation letters?
4. Is it appropriate behavior to continue the above behavior when you have been very politely asked to remove one’s name from the list of potential sales prospects?
5. Is it acceptable to skirt responsibility by blithely stating that “I am only doing my job” and I don’t care where the information came from and will not bother to find out for an irate prospect?
What action did I take when the fax came in? I immediately called the number which sent the fax and demanded to know how they had obtained my home facsimile number. A person on the other end said they did not know and that Ms. XYZ had already left the office. I called Ms. XYZ’s cell phone (number voluntarily given to me in her fax) and demanded to know where they had obtained my private numbers and she answered that it was given to them by the Ayala Land Sales Department. Infuriated, I demanded that they remove my name from the marketing lists and that I receive verbal and written assurance that I would not be contacted at home again. To drive home my point, I faxed at least 20 pages of dribble to their fax number in bold pentel pen saying to this effect – “how would you like to receive crap like this? Do you think I would be interested to buy property now?” When I did not receive a reply, I decided to call the sales agent back on her cell phone. I asked that a full explanation about the source of my numbers be forwarded to me immediately. She only offered a “it’s okay sir, sorry nalang sir, okay na sir” to which I said “It is NOT OKAY, you must explain and REMOVE my data from your files”. Early this morning, I again called the agent’s cell phone repeatedly before 9 am again to give them a dose of their own medicine and she finally answered after several calls. Let’s just say “PIKON” is a very apt word. If you are going to dish it out, you better be able to take it on the receiving end. I was less than polite but at least I faxed and called numbers that THEY voluntarily gave me in their own correspondence. I asked for a full explanation by noon today or I would write directly to the President and CEO of Ayala Land. By the end of business today, there was no explanation, no call from Ms. XYZ or her boss. Instead, as I prepared an email to Ayala Land’s CEO I called XYZ’s office, was connected with her boss’s secretary and asked for her boss’s email address so I could copy him on my email to Ayala Land. She huffily stated that “this would be the last call they would entertain from me”… how’s that for putting off the beings that FIRST initiated this chain of events??? I am sending an email tonight to Ayala Land’s President and CEO, and at least two members of their Board of Directors.
What am I looking for? I am asking Ayala Land to issue an apology letter for all of the intrusive, after hours, unsolicited marketing calls and faxes that I have received. And in that letter, to clearly identify the source of my private contact information that has now been compromised and spread to several sales efforts for different projects of Ayala Land. If that source happens to be one where I have clearly not given my consent, I would ask that they take great pains to permanently erase my data from all of their marketing lists and ensure that I will not be contacted again by phone, facsimile, cellphone, answering machine, etc. regarding any of the properties they have on offer. I have always viewed Ayala Land and its related companies to be one of the best managed companies in the Philippines. It is unfortunate that they appear to have started a more aggressive, intrusive and potentially negative marketing campaign to sell some of their high-end real estate projects. I am most certainly not amused.