Why has making phone calls become creepy?
A quick bit of background.
I’m one of the founders of an adult sport and social club in Salt Lake City. We organize kickball, volleyball, dodgeball, and a lot of other leagues with “ball” in the title for about 5,000 adults each year. (Fun fact: My first word was “ball.”)
We also facilitate friendship by hosting happy hours, field days and once a year — an adult prom. The prom is an opportunity to get the most familiar faces from around the club together and celebrate. Celebrate our quirky corner of the city. Celebrate the time, energy and effort it takes to be a leader in our community. Celebrate each other.
This year, I won’t be in attendance. I wish I could be. It breaks my heart that I won’t be.
A small group of people planning the prom have run into a roadblock. They don’t want to make phone calls to the 100+ people who we would like to invite. They think it’s “creepy” and “weird” to get a phone call from somebody they haven’t received one from before. Most probably won’t even answer an unknown number, they say.
They have suggested we send an email instead.
I love them and respect them, but I think they’re wrong here.
Here’s a short email (ironic, yes) rant I wrote about why…
Why would a call be weird or creepy?
If someone called me (who I saw at previous events, is in a private group with me on Facebook, has sent me a mass email in the past) and identified themselves as someone who, both, plays in Beehive and is organizing a Beehive event, then graciously thanked me for participating this year and asked if I would like to attend an “adult prom” to celebrate people who played a lot (like me) — I would not find that weird or creepy.
I’d be flattered that I meant enough to be invited. That I meant enough to earn the time it takes for someone to make a personal phone call.
The larger issue here is that no one here wants to take responsibility for this not going well, losing money, not having their phone calls yield any acceptances. It scares people. That’s why they prefer not to talk with strangers if they can help it. Safer to call it weird and default to a mass email. It’s human and good for avoiding bruised egos. Not so good for planning an event or starting a revolution.
There has come a point in Beehive’s history where other people need to step up and grab the megaphone. We need to start asking them now so we can help train them to be ready to lead our sports, events, community in the coming years.
Beehive began because I stood up and made a SHIT TON of phone calls to strangers over a 4-day road trip while moving my life back to Utah. I probably made 250 phone calls a day. It’s the only month I’ve ever exceeded my minutes limit. Each call included the following: “Hi, I’m Dave. I care about this. Here’s why. Will you join?” People weren’t creeped out (okay a few were but that’s an unavoidable part of all the “this might not work” parts of life); they were looking for something to care about too. Recreational sports made sense within the narrative of their lives, so they showed up to play kickball. We treated them with respect and generosity when they arrived, so they showed up again…and again.
If anything, the phone calls have gotten a lot less creepy because I (or whoever) can say “Hi, I’m Dave. One of the leaders of Beehive Sports…” Now, at least we know for a fact that will mean something to them. It bears mentioning — a lot of something. The people on this invite list have given us a flat-screen TVs worth of adult sports fees this past year.
People do pick up their phone to unknown numbers. All the time. And if they don’t we can just leave the same version of what we would have said on their voicemail. If they listen and don’t call back. Guess what? They weren’t going to come anyway! We got the answer we came for.
Phone calls don’t scale very well. It takes time to make 100 of them. They can be awkward. And, they might not end how we had hoped. But if we want somebody to come celebrate there are very few other ways to show them we’d miss them if they didn’t show up.
Face to face interaction, hand written letters and, maybe, singing telegrams.
But, not email.