Saturday, February 25, 2006
Reflections on my 30-hour telemarketing career.
When I walked into orientation at the telemarketing place on Monday morning, it hit me—this outfit's in the same building in which I had my first ever "real" (non-babysitting) job.
It was the hazy, crazy summer of '94. I was a naïve fifteen year-old—they were the owners and operators of Ashland's then-largest grocery store, Economart. It could have been a match made in heaven, had I been capable of counting out change and had they not been assholes. Between struggling to get hours off for mandatory marching band practices, and trying to keep angry WIC mamas from screaming at me for not letting them use their vouchers to buy Cocoa Puffs (I may have only been 15, but I wasn't stupid), it was a miracle that I lasted the three months that I did.
My employment with Advanced Data-Comm lasted approximately 1/22nd of that.
Yep, after less than a week, it's over. To cast things into even starker perspective—I've been on bus rides that lasted longer than I did at that job.
I'm no stranger to crappy jobs. Hell, I can even say that I've enjoyed most of my crappy jobs—despite the times I've gotten glued to floors, stunk of bleach, and nearly gotten crushed cinching down giant concrete pipes onto the backs of semi trailers, all of those jobs were, for me, tolerable. (And often worth sticking out for purely comedic purposes.) But this, oh my lord, THIS took things to a whole new level. From the moment the alarm went off in the morning until the moment I walked out of there at 4 PM, I was cringing. My stomach hurt. I was dizzy all day. Never have I had a job that gave me such a physical, visceral reaction, not even the ones where I inhaled paint fumes all day. Those just made me giggly. This one made me want to curl up in the fetal position and cry.
In order to trick myself into sticking it out all day, I'd start by saying, "Okay, I can do this until 10," then "Well, I suppose I can make it until noon, it's only two more hours," and so on. It got to the point where I kept a list at hand of how much I'd earn if I could just hang on for another hour. Really.
Why did it bother me so much? Part of it was external, part of it internal. It's pretty common knowledge that people aren't nice to telemarketers on the phone. Understandably so, to a point, because it is annoying to get pestered, especially in this age of the "Do Not Call" list & all. But seeing as I've always been a reasonably polite person who's never hung up on anybody, I had no idea how NASTY people are. I had one guy out in Jersey inform me that I was "scum," another tell me that he'd sue me for telling him that we were recording that conversation for training purposes (uh, maybe he could sue if I didn't tell him…), and many more whine and stamp their feet and moan like two year-olds rather than just telling me "no."
As for internal reasons—let's face it, I'm the sort of person that needs to work at something that seems like it's making some kind of "difference," even if it's just on an iddy-biddy scale. Even when I was, say, a housekeeper, at least I knew that if I did my job well it might make someone's vacation more fun, or make the motel develop a good reputation, that sort of thing. But this? Nobody wins at this, except the companies who hire the telemarketing agencies, and those telemarketing agencies themselves. The people calling you lose, and you lose. It's a closed-loop of suckiness. Doing this job made no one's life better, except for the people at the top who'd make more money. And to that, my internal compass said "Whoop-de-do."
There were some funny and profound moments that I'll remember, though, which I kept catalogued on yet another Post-It note:
--More than once, when put on hold, hearing Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called To Say I Love You," No Doubt's "Spiderwebs," and Blues Traveler's "Runaround," which just seemed so ironic
--Calling up a lot of manufacturing plants all day, and being genuinely surprised at how many were either out of business, being moved to Mexico/overseas, or who were undergoing massive layoffs.
--Calling a guy in Aurora, IL whose name was—no shit—Wayne Campbell ("Party time! Excellent!")
--Talking to people named Baboo, Eep, Joe Quimby, and Chiquita
--Calling a business named "Fag Bearings" in Joplin, Mizzoruh, which my friend Joshua has apparently been driving by & laughing at since he was a child
--Talking to a Mexican guy in Plano, Texas who had almost the exact same last name as my friend Shannon (Jurecki—I totally didn't see his Mexican accent coming! haha)
After this experience, suddenly working at the sweatshop—er, garment sewing company—in town ain't looking so bad. Or Goodwill. I really might have to look into that, if it means more mannequin heads to bond with Ladyhead.