The Karma of Telemarketing

Our cell phones don’t work in our apartment: poor reception, dropped calls, etc. We finally caved and got a landline. Before doing so, we called AT&T to see if they would give us a deal as it was their fault that we had to get a landline in the first place. No dice. We went with another carrier. The first phone call we get? You guessed it: AT&T. Caller ID allowed us to ignore it, but then, after a month of them calling, I decided, what the hell, they’re just going to keep calling. So, to Rachel’s chagrin, I answered it. The surprised gentleman on the other end, who doubtlessly gets silence or answering machines 90% of his attempts, greeted me enthusiastically, informed me the call would be recorded for training purposes, and “How can we get you to switch your landline back to AT&T?” “You can get my cell service to work in my apartment.” “Oh, um, I, um . . .” “And you can call back as soon as you’ve fixed it.” “Oh, Ok.” “Sound like a plan?” “Ok, thank you for your time.” He hung up on me. Ironic, no?

“You’re an asshole,” Rachel calls from the livingroom.

She wasn’t wrong. But how clever am I? It takes 20 minutes to get someone on the phone when you call to complain about your service, not to mention the maze of computerized options you have to navigate to reach an actual human. And here was one who called me! Why shouldn’t I take advantage of the situation. Yes: I realize this gentleman will not be able to help me. He is as low on the foodchain as you get at a company like AT&T. I don’t envy his position. That said, he is getting paid and he is a representative of the company.

I worked phonathon for a few semesters in college. I know it’s a shitty job. Hell, I quit and went for the preferable employment at the med school as a human guinea pig in MRI and PET scan studies. I got pumped full of a half-year’s worth of radiation in 8 hours with a needle in my arm rather than cold call alumni asking “Could you please give back to the school that already drained you of an astronomical amount of money?” And I hate needles. It was rare when I got a hold of a human being. When I did most of them gave trite “Stop calling”s, but an occasional one held a conversation. I think I successfully got 1 new pledge and a handful of renewals during my tenure there. I can’t imagine I made the university enough to make up how much they were paying me by the hour (which was on the order of $7 an hour). Sometimes they fed us . . . sandwiches and chips and cheap cookies . . . and soda . . . I think there were prizes . . . and some wiry guy with huge glasses who had been there for six years and had bought a $7000 engagement ring for a girl who later dumped him . . .

God that was  a depressing job.

Now I’m starting to feel bad for giving that AT&T guy a hard time!

But, look, I wasn’t a total jerk. I was joking with him. I was entertaining! Right? Something different? To break up the monotony . . . right?

Moral of the story: AT&T called again at 8am this morning. A very nice lady. I gave her the same spiel, asking if the gentleman last night had made a note in my file. “That takes 30 days.” Interesting. Why does it take 30 days to type “do not bother” next to a phone number? We used to just write it on a card. Maybe I misheard her. It was 8am. In her defense, I had overslept. Without AT&T, I might never have woken up. So thanks!

New commercially viable art project:
1) Start recording all phone calls with AT&T when they call asking to switch service. After they say, “This call may be recorded for training purposes,” respond with, “Great, this call will be recorded for commercial purposes.” Pause. Wait for response. Continue.
2) Follow basic script asking about what’s being done to improve cell phone service in apartment. Be super polite about it. See how long you can keep them on the phone. Confuse the shit out of them.
3) Eventually escalate and start asking for supervisors. Vary script appropriately.
4) Calculate how much money they are wasting on you. Laugh.
5) Compile data and recordings
6) Sell recordings to Verizon for brilliant ad campaign.


One thought on “The Karma of Telemarketing

  1. Look. It’s being done already in other artistic realms. A quote from my favorite tech blog:

    “Lesson to Verizon: Neon-spandexed globe-trotting hip-hop-ish superstars like M.I.A. should not be subjected to three-hour tech support calls, because her resulting song “I’m Down Like Your Internet Connection” is bound to become the new “shake it like a Polaroid picture.”

    The best part about “I’m Down Like Your Internet Connection”–which is due to appear on the British singer’s forthcoming followup to “Kala” this summer–is that she actually got Filipino Verizon workers to sing the hook. Says M.I.A.:

    I was having issues with my cable and wireless, and I was on the phone [with tech support] for three hours, and I thought, “Maybe this needs to be part of my music, could you just learn these lyrics and sing it down the phone to me?” Ten phone calls later, I have Internet that sticks and a song.

    Can’t. Wait.”

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