In the past week, I've been called by 10 "market research firms." I put the term in quotes because I suspect that the callers are really telemarketing companies calling to pre-qualify me. My guess is that their "research" questions are carefully designed to offer repeated opportunities for me to inadvertently give them permission to make a sales call.

So far, I've ended each call immediately by hanging up. So I haven't yet tested my suspicions about the callers' intentions. Still, I'm suspicious, and here's why.

I told one caller to "put me on your do-not-call list." She replied that, as a marketing research firm, her company was exempt from the do-not-call list. I thought her reply was telling. The exemption is, to me, beside the point. — beside my point, at least. Even before the national do-not-call list regulations were developed, some telemarketers would put me on their private do-not-call lists if I asked. And they would do it politely. So this "marketing research firm" could just as easily maintain a private do-not-call list. But she didn't say, "Yes, sir, I will put you on the list right away. I apologize for the inconvenience." She didn't say, "We don't have a do-not-call list." She said, "We're exempt," as if exemption were the issue, and as if my desire not to be called again didn't matter. If it waddles like a telemarketer and quacks like a telemarketer...

My other reason for being suspicious is that, before this week, I've been called by market research firms about three times a year. Now 10 of them call in a week. And I'm hearing similar reports from friends and relatives. Given my earlier predictions of increased sales calls in September, the timing of this increase in "market research" calls is too coincidental to be a coincidence.

I suddenly fear that my prediction of "four times as many telemarketing calls in September" was woefully rosy. Every telemarketer will create a subsidiary "market research firm" that will call to extract the slightest hint of permission, overriding your explicit request — which you made by registering with the national do-not-call list — that you do not want to be called.

Why are telemarketers are so eager to call people who have asked not to be called? At first glance, do-not-call registrants would seem to be low probability prospects. But perhaps the economics of telemarketing are such that even a low probability is high enough to create large profits.

Given that, I now predict that if the courts allow the national do-not-call list to proceed, you will receive more telemarketing calls in the future, not fewer. But the callers will all be "market research firms." And I predict that, because market research firms are exempt from the do-not-call regulations, and because they are not pressured by the threat of being regulated, the callers will be less polite when you ask them not to call.

I thought that the national do-not-call list was a good idea. I forgot the law of unintended consequences. And I forgot that telemarketers are far more adaptable than the U. S. bureaucracy. D'oh!