Joke's on ATA as Barry Publishes Number -- Again

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The American Teleservices Association became the butt of syndicated humor columnist Dave Barry's jokes again Oct. 5 when for the second time he printed the ATA's phone number and encouraged readers to call.


In a column titled "So what's their hang-up?" published in the Miami Herald, Barry ridiculed statements made by ATA officials about the economic effect the national no-call list would have on the telemarketing industry. The column also expressed mock displeasure that the ATA had been inconvenienced by another Barry piece published Aug. 31 in the Herald.


In that column, Barry printed the ATA's now-defunct toll-free number. In his Oct. 5 follow-up, he pretended to agonize over printing another ATA number -- for its administrative office in Indianapolis -- before publishing it anyway.


"But would it be right to reveal this?" Barry asked in the Oct. 5 column. "I mean, yes, you could call the ATA again. But the ATA surely doesn't WANT you to call again. It's inconvenient! And to insist on calling somebody who doesn't want to be called, even if you have the legal right to call, well, that's just plain rude. So I am taking the high road."


Barry wrote that he had received "approximately seven billion phone calls, letters and e-mails" about telemarketing since the Aug. 31 article. At the time of that article, ATA executive director Tim Searcy said it generated thousands of calls to the ATA's toll-free number.


The ATA eventually shut the number down. In his follow-up column, Barry quoted a DM News article in which Searcy stated that the ATA hadn't received a warning about Barry's Aug. 31 column and that the association had to assign a staffer to monitor voice mail messages.


"That's correct: The ATA received NO WARNING that it was going to get unwanted calls!" Barry wrote. "Not only that, but these unwanted calls were an INCONVENIENCE for the ATA, and WASTED THE ATA'S TIME! I just hope nobody interrupted the ATA's dinner."


ATA spokesman Dave Schemelia said the association was aware of Barry's latest column. He declined comment.


Calls to the ATA's administrative office, the phone number of which Barry published and which was listed on the ATA's Web site, went unanswered yesterday. After Barry's Aug. 31 article, the ATA's main number was answered by a voice recording that informed callers that due to "overwhelming positive response to recent media" the call could not be answered live.


Barry's column is published every Sunday in the Herald. It is also distributed by Tribune Media Services to hundreds of other newspapers nationwide, which typically print the column in the week following its publication in the Herald.


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