I was astounded to read a Twitter thread from a go-getter named John Plumstead, who harassed 58,408 people to get one or two deals. He can do this because there is no cost to harassing people. Let’s change that.
Plumstead’s business is finding property owners in financial distress and buying their properties for less than they’re worth.
Here’s how he does it (the “VAs” he mentions here are virtual assistants, low-paid offshore workers):
There’s more detail in the thread, including the tech he uses to make the calls and hold them until somebody answers (a power dialer), how he identifies people in trouble through public records, and how he efficiently qualifies the leads.
What is the true cost of this activity?
I’m not interested in the cost of the staff to do this or the technology or the calls themselves.
I’m interested in the cost to us, the public.
- Assume 55,000 calls that didn’t connect generated 15 seconds of annoyance each (who called me?). Total recipients’ time wasted: 229 hours.
- Assume 3,377 connections that weren’t leads generate 2 minutes of annoyance each. Total connections’ time wasted: 113 hours.
- Assume the recipients’ time is worth $20 an hour (these are property owners, not minimum wage workers).
Total cost to the targets of this activity: $6,840.
That’s $6,840 of our time that Plumstead has wasted. And that doesn’t account for the person who was called in the middle of their parent’s funeral, or helping their child with homework, or walking peacefully through a forest. There is a cost, hard to quantify but severe, to every contact he makes.
If Plumstead’s operation had to pay that $6,840, it would likely no longer be profitable.
What Plumstead is doing is not illegal. But even if you believe he is helping the one or two people he makes deals with, he is annoying 55,000 other people to do that.
Make communication inefficient
This activity is efficient. That is why Plumstead is bragging about it: to show you how damn efficient he is.
It’s also efficient to send mass emails.
This efficiency is why our communications channels are so noisy. Spam email. Junk texts. Robocalls. The cost of creating annoyance and sending it out into the world is tiny. It’s profitable to annoy if even a small proportion of recipients bite on your offer.
If every email cost a penny to send, instead of the 1/20th of a cent or less that it costs now, our inboxes would have a lot less crap in them. It wouldn’t cost us regular humans much (how many emails do you send a week?), but legitimate business email would be a lot less frequent and spam would be obsolete.
If every phone call from an operator like Plumstead cost a dime, he’d stop harassing you . . . and so would all the robocallers making it a hassle to use our phones.
If every text message . . . well, you get the idea.
We have made it far too efficient to reach people who have very little interest in being reached. It’s time to reverse that. Optimize communication for the recipients, not the senders, and we’d have a very different, far less spammy and noisy world to live in.