- December 31, 2010
- Posted by: Seth Heyman
- Category: Business Law
How many of us want to reach through the phone and throttle the pasty-faced runt who called during Gossip Girl and tried to sell us a product that no one in his right mind would ever buy? Well, like it or not, these annoyances are responsible for the food you eat, the clothes you wear, and the very roof over your head, for they are the fuel that fires the engine of American commerce.
Prior to the 18th century, most people were either farmers or tradesmen- there was no opportunity to do anything else. The founders of this country had nothing but the most profound respect for the common man, and knew what people were capable of if given an opportunity to let their creativity and ingenuity flower.
That’s one of the reasons why they invented an economic system that makes it possible for anyone with a decent idea for a new product or service to make a living from it, and help others to do the same. Here are just a few of the thousands of products that American enterprise helped bring about in the century following the Declaration of Independence:
Swivel Chair: Invented by Thomas Jefferson in 1776
Bifocals: Invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1784
Cotton Gin: Invented by Eli Whitney in 1793
Coffee Maker: Invented by Benjamin Rumford in 1806
Circular Saw: Invented by Tabitha Babbitt in 1808
Dental Floss: Invented by Levi Spear Parmly in 1815
Graham Cracker: Invented by Sylvester Graham in 1829
Electric Doorbell: Invented by Joseph Henry in 1831
Sewing Machine: Invented by Walter Hunt in 1833
Wrench: Invented by Solymon Merrick in 1835
Ice Cream Maker: Invented by Nancy Johnson in 1843
Baseball: Invented by Alexander Cartwright in 1845
Doughnuts: Invented by Hanson Gregory in 1847
Clothespin: Invented by David M. Smith in 1853
Toilet Paper: Invented by Joseph Gayetty in 1857
Salt and Pepper Shakers: Invented by John Landis Mason in 1858
Vacuum Cleaner: Invented by Daniel Hess in 1860
Roller Skates: Invented by James Plimpton in 1863
Urinal: Invented by Andrew Rankin in 1866
Paper Bag: Invented by Margaret Knight in 1868
American Football: Invented by Walter Camp in 1869
Can Opener: Invented by William Lyman in 1870
Earmuffs: Invented by Chester Greenwood in 1873
Tattoo Machine: Invented by Thomas Edison in 1876
Not all of these products were earth-shattering game-changers, and not all of them made their inventors a fortune. It’s nevertheless safe to say, that in one way or another, countless thousands of people fed their families because of them. Factory workers, engineers, door-to-door salesmen, catalog printers, retail clerks, magazine publishers, exporters, lumberjacks, farmers, miners, cooks, and restaurateurs: all of them helped to make, transport, sell, or support these products.
The same goes for that debt consolidation program you were pitched over the phone. Someone invented that, or maybe they just copied someone else’s model, thinking they could do it as well if not better. Either way, they assembled a team of experts to put all of the pieces together. They bought equipment, rented office space, and hired salespeople and customer service representatives. The point is, this is a good thing. It keeps all of us fed and reasonably content.
Of course, there are a lot of con artists out there, taking advantage of consumers and the system, but there’s nothing new about that. State and federal governments have done their best to create a legal framework that protects vulnerable consumers from crooks while at the same time keeps the wheels of commerce turning. Take for example, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), and the Federal Do-Not-Call list created.
It’s not a perfect statute by any means, but it’s elegant in its simplicity: Just go to https://www.donotcall.gov/, and register your number. After your registration is processed, anyone who calls you with an unsolicited marketing message is breaking the law. You can file a complaint, or even sue them in small claims court.
So if you sell a product or service using telemarketing, take heart. As long as you aren’t breaking the law, in a very real sense, you’re part of what makes this country great. If you’re a consumer and you hate being called by telemarketers and haven’t placed your number on the DNC list, you have no right to complain. If you’ve registered your number and are still receiving calls (and haven’t given permission to whoever’s calling you), whoever it is will doubtless get caught eventually. In any event, be grateful for that call, and the country that made it possible.