I received the oddest phone call yesterday, a robocall from DirecTV (from whom we currently receive our television service). It went more or less exactly like this:

Hello, my name is Diane, and I’m with DirecTV. From time to time, we like to call our customers with information about our latest promotions and specials, but we cannot call you with these, as you’re on our do-not-call list. We’d like to offer you the opportunity to update your status with us; press 1 if you want to remove your listing on our do-not-call list, or press 3 if you want to stay on the list.

Does anyone else find this the slightest bit weird — receiving a call from a company which acknowledges that they shouldn’t be allowed to call you, and asking if you still want that to be the case? In any event, the phone call is in explicit violation of DirecTV’s own “Do Not Call Policy”, which in part reads:

DIRECTV’s Outbound Telesales Department is a department within DIRECTV that engages in telemarketing to existing DIRECTV customers. The Outbound Telesales Department will not call any DIRECTV customer who has communicated his or her desire not to be called.

Given that DirecTV was fined $5.35 million back in 2005 for violating the federal do-not-call registry, you’d think that the company would be exquisitely sensitive to the ways in which is decides to make marketing telephone calls. After receiving the call yesterday, I thought that perhaps DirecTV was being clever — regardless of whether I want calls from them or now, by calling me they couldn’t be violating the do-not-call law because I’m an established customer of theirs. Turns out that I was wrong, though — according to the FTC (see question #9), they must adhere to the wishes of any established customers who don’t want to receive marketing calls, or they face an $11,000 fine per call. Looks like it’s time to file a complaint.

Two updates: first, it looks like I wasn’t the only one to get the phone call; pity for them they stirred the Consumerist beast. Second, it looks like there’s a bug with the FTC do-not-call registry complaint form; if you, like pretty much every American, have a phone number that’ll expire off the registry soon and you update your listing, you’ll be unable to file any complaints for 31 days because the FTC system thinks yours is a totally new listing. That’s stupid.

There’s nothing earth-shattering or heretofore-unknown about this Business Week article lambasting the pathetic state of the airline industry, but imagine how awful it’d be if a major news magazine had the following to say about your job performance:

When Marion C. Blakey took over at the Federal Aviation Administration in 2002, she was determined to fix an air travel system battered by terrorism, antiquated technology, and the ever-turbulent finances of the airline industry. Five years later, as she prepares to step down on Sept. 13, it’s clear she failed. Almost everything about flying is worse than when she arrived. Greater are the risks, the passenger headaches, and the costs in lost productivity. Almost everyone has a horror story about missed connections, lost baggage, and wasted hours on the tarmac. More than 909,000 flights were late through June of this year, twice the level of 2002.

Note that I’ve flown enough in the past few years to know that everything said in that intro paragraph is true, so I’m not saying that BW is being unnecessarily mean — my only point is that when something like that is published about you, you know that your failure has been a fantastic one. Of course, Blakey is leaving the FAA to become the head of Aerospace Industries Association (the trade association representing the manufacturers of airplane equipment), so she’ll go from the position of massively failing to lead the FAA to the position of lobbying on behalf of an aerospace trade group. I find that interesting, if only because she spent five years showing that she was unable to advocate for the needs of American air travelers on a federal level, and now she’s being given another chance to do exactly that on behalf of private industry. What makes anyone think she’ll be more successful?

This is really, really cool: an animated NYC subway map, with the lines and stations appearing in the order in which they were built. It’s amazing to me that the West Side IRT — what are now known as the 1/2/3 lines — were built way before lines in lower Manhattan, at a time when lower Manhattan probably had a crushingly greater need for a subway line; it wasn’t until later that the IRT was extended down into the lower reaches of the island. (It’s also cool that two lines in Brooklyn started it all.)

The medical scientist in me loves that the world of web interface design has entered the land of evidence-based research — it justifies the web researcher in me.