What do I do here?

As you all know, loads of people send me emails about missing persons and the Charley Project in general. (And as you all know, I am often lax in replying. Sorry…) In fact I’ve got a small group of you I call the Charley Project Irregulars, who make a habit of emailing me links to news articles and other information about MPs. I am extremely grateful for any scrap of information people send me. It makes my job that much easier.

Anyway, once in a great while, someone sends me an email asking me to call them. Usually they are a relative of an MP. In fact I can’t remember anytime when this request wasn’t from a relative. This doesn’t happen very often, maybe once or twice a year at most.

I used to call these people without giving it much thought, like nine or ten years ago. And I never ran into any problems as a result. In fact I had some very touching conversations. But now I hesitate to do it. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. The person might want to yell at me about something, and I’d rather get yelled at over email than over the phone.
  2. The person might ask me questions I’m not capable of answering, or ask me to do something I simply can’t do. Like, if they have a tip on a case and want me to do something about it. It is kind of awkward for me to explain that I can’t help them, and I’d rather do the explaining over email.
  3. The person might not be who they say they are.
  4. The person might be who they say they are, but they might also be crazy.

It is for the third and fourth reasons that I am most reluctant to telephone a stranger who writes me about Charley. I’ve already been doxxed once by a certain person who shall not be named, and while nothing terrible resulted from that, I don’t want to take the risk of my cell phone number being made public. It was creepy enough when a stranger called Michael’s mom and asked her to ask me to call him back in 2013, and that person was a law enforcement officer.

Anyway…I got another of those emails asking me to call the sender. She says she’d the daughter of a missing woman profiled on Charley.

How do you recommend I respond to this? I’ve been sitting on this email for four days and I don’t want her to think I’m going to ignore her completely.

10 thoughts on “What do I do here?

  1. Karen Klinesmith Weber December 14, 2015 / 4:38 pm

    I would send a reply back that you do all correspondence by email only due to privacy concerns. You aren’t entitled to call anyone. If they need to discuss something with you email is perfectly fine.

  2. Julie Konen December 14, 2015 / 4:55 pm

    I agree with the prior comment. If you really wanted to engage in a conversation over the phone, and after correspondence through email you felt comfortable talking over the phone, you could use an app (one I know offhand is TextFree) which allows you to make and receive calls for a small fee. This would help you remain anonymous as you can make the phone have any area code you want. And if something goes wrong, you can always block the caller or create a new number.

  3. Christy December 14, 2015 / 5:27 pm

    Honesty is the best policy; I would explain that you have had some uncomfortable experiences in the past and ask if this person describe their question or comment by email, at least as a first step.

  4. Lauren December 14, 2015 / 5:49 pm

    Maybe try something like this:
    “Due to time constraints, a limited number of cell phone minutes and a few unfortunate prior experiences I can no longer correspond by telephone. Is there something I can help you with by email?”

    Unfortunately, I have been in a similar situation with my job and people wanting me to call them on my own time. Each time I wish that I had not done it because it totally ends up as a hostage situation where I have to go ring my own door bell repeatedly just to get the person off the phone.

    You have to wonder why this person can’t say whatever it is that they need to say over email.

    • Meaghan December 14, 2015 / 5:53 pm

      “It totally ends up as a hostage situation where I have to go ring my own door bell repeatedly just to get the person off the phone.”

      That reminds me of a book I read, a memoir about a guy’s experience working customer service at Amazon in the nineties, their early days. Part of your job performance was judged by how long each call lasted: the shorter the calls, the higher your performance ratings, based on the idea that a good customer service rep would solve the problem quickly. Well, this guy learned to beat the system by just hanging up on people. He’d answer the phone: “Thank you for calling Amazon.com, how may I help you?” then immediately hang up. The customer would assume it was an accident and call back, and chances are would be assigned to another rep.

      • Lauren December 14, 2015 / 6:00 pm

        Haha, that’s funny! I wonder how long he lasted there.

      • Meaghan December 14, 2015 / 6:08 pm

        I wonder if Amazon still judges customer service representatives by how long the calls take. I certainly hope not. When I bricked my Fire last month, I spent 45 minutes on the phone with an excellent customer service lady who guided me through a bunch of processes to try to get it working again. We eventually conceded defeat and I had to get a replacement, but the customer service lady was top notch.

      • Lauren December 15, 2015 / 8:27 am

        Wow, 7 years! Thank you for the link. That looks like a good read. I will add it to my wish list.

  5. HennyLee December 14, 2015 / 6:35 pm

    I agree with the others … Be honest and explain you have an email only policy. You have no obligation to give out your personal information (I.e. Cell phone #) etc…

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