2007.15.07 Searching for Austin Graven

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY
Let’s have a show of hands, please. Has anyone else gotten a phone call from Austin Graven lately? Yeah, me, too. Lots of them, in fact. The timing is uncanny.
The call always seems to come 10 to 20 minutes before I return home, no matter when that might be. If it’s on a work day, my Caller ID will show Austin called at 5:15 to 5:45. If it’s my day off, the call will be right before I return home from the post office or grocery shopping. How does he always seem to know when I’m not home?
Since the number shown with the name had a Colorado Springs, Colo., area code, I wondered if it might be one of my long-lost (actually, I’ve never even met them) relatives from Colorado. Could I be heir to some huge fortune I was totally unaware of? No such luck, as it turns out.
I searched the internet and ended up on a site for disgruntled victims of telemarketers. It turns out the number belongs not to a person named Austin Graven, but to a telemarketing firm called Graven, Austin & Drake, Inc., specializing in magazine subscription sales.
I’m actually one of their lucky clients. The website I discovered had many complaints from people claiming they were called dozens of times each week and/or hung up on when they answered their phone. Others complained of constant pitches to buy or renew magazine subscriptions. That’s where I got on the list, I’m sure. Those “free” magazine subscriptions are coming back to haunt me, via telephone.
The site even had a map showing the locations of victims. For some reason the east and west coasts were nearly devoid of complainants, but the midwest and south were full of the annoyed. You can add your location to the map and, thanks to me, Fayette is now represented by a computer-generated pushpin.
Additionally, on a related subject, there’s the case of the former owners of my phone number. I wrote a couple of years ago of the joys of being verbally abused by people calling for the family who used to have my telephone number, but apparently moved without giving their new number to anyone.
After several months of aggravation, the number of calls eventually dropped off to a trickle, then stopped completely—or so I thought. A few weeks ago, I started to be bombarded by phone messages for the family once again.
I received one from a hospital for the female in the family that went on for nearly four minutes. I learned all about her upcoming surgery, her doctor’s name, her pre-op instructions, etc. I even found out she had been at the hospital in April. Too bad she never bothered to tell anybody she changed her number years ago. Luckily for her, I phoned the contact number the caller gave and left a message informing them they had a wrong number. I hope the surgery went well.
Then there was a call from the library for the family’s child, announcing that a book she had ordered had arrived. I now know something about their reading habits, too.
Finally, there was the collection call. This was from a Fulton County business, but showed up as “unknown caller” and the number as “(777) 777-7777” on my caller ID. I’d like to know how they pulled off that little trick.
The message, however, made it quite clear who was calling and that they expected a return call to their real number to talk about “the account.” Since I had nothing to fear from the business, I returned the message, hoping I could get removed from at least one phone list. It turned out to be a very productive call.
The person answering apologized, and offered to look through her records to see if she could match up the first names I provided and my phone number to anyone on her list. Not only did she find them, she also accidentally blurted out the last name. 
She promised to take my number off her list and I hung up and headed straight to my phone book, finally armed with a last name. Sure enough, there was their current number. After three years of dealing with their ill-mannered callers, I now had an advantage.
But what to do with the information? Obviously, I’m going to give their present phone number to anyone calling for the family, but should I stop there? Maybe call them repeatedly and ask for me? They’d deserve it, but I just had an even better idea. Maybe I should give their new number to Austin Graven and say they want to buy a magazine subscription.
  • Play Practice
    DRAMA—Fayette schools, in conjunction with the Opera House Theater program, will present two plays Friday night at the Fayette Opera House. From the left is Autumn Black, Wyatt Mitchell, Elizabeth Myers, Jonah Perdue, Sam Myers (in the back) and Lauren Dale. Other cast members are Brynn Balmer, Mason Maginn, Ashtyn Dominique, Stephanie Munguia and Sierra Munguia. Jason Stuckey serves as the technician and Trinity Leady is the backstage manager. The plays will be performed during the day Friday for students and for the public at 7 p.m. Friday.
  • Front.F.school
    PROGRESS continues on the agriculture classroom addition at Fayette High School. The project will add 2,900 square feet of space and include an overhead door that would allow equipment to be driven inside. The building should be ready for the start of school in August. Work on ball fields and a running track is also underway.
  • Front.rover
    CLEARING THE WAY—Road crossings in the area on the construction route of the Rover natural gas pipeline are marked with poles and flags as preliminary work nears. Ditches and field entry points are covered with thick planks in many areas to support equipment for tree clearing operations. Actual pipeline construction is progressing across Ohio toward a collecting station near Defiance. That segment of the project is expected to wrap up in July. The 42-inch line through Michigan and into Ontario is scheduled for completion in November. The line is projected to transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day.
  • Front.geese
    ON THE MOVE—Six goslings head out on manuevers with their parents in an area lake. Baby waterfowl are showing up in lakes and ponds throughout the area.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Face Paint
    FUN NIGHT FUN—Savanna Miles sits patiently while Abbie White works on a face paint design Friday during the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Gracie Snead watches the progress after having spent time in the chair. Abbie was one of several volunteer painters, each creating their own unique look. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.

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