Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Worst Job I Ever Had

I've done some thankless work in my short working life. I've volunteered in middle schools, worked for elderly residents, and served the public through the court system. None of these jobs could, by any means, be considered glamorous. The worst job, however, was kinda sweet. I got to sit in an air conditioned office, was surrounded by friendly people, and talked on the phone for as long as I wanted. The bad part? I was a telemarketer. I worked for a fundraising organization for a school. I'd arrive to work before 6pm, gather my materials and clean off the workspace to get ready to call people.

The calling system was automated through a computer system. I only had to put on a pair of headphones with one of those boom microphones, click "call" and wait for someone to answer the phone. Each number would dial and ring until I either clicked "no answer" or "next call" or someone picked up. I'd listen to ringing telephone noise for five or six minutes sometimes until a human finally came on the line. Once in a while, I'd get a really long string of ringing and be startled when somebody said, "hello?" We were allowed to do homework while we were waiting for someone to pick up, but we were not allowed to read. I spent much of my time with my anatomy coloring book and a box of colored pencils. That's probably the reason I passed my anatomy class. To this day, the sound of a ringing phone drives me crazy.

I talked to a few interested people while making these calls. Every once in a while, though, I got a wacko on the other end. I called one lady, and she answered the phone normally, but after a few seconds, she broke into tears. "I've just been waiting by the phone for someone to call me. I really need someone to talk to." Umm... boss? We've got a hot one... I had no idea how to handle the situation, partly because I thought she was pulling my leg. My supervisor came over and tried to calm the woman down, but she eventually hung up. FYI: I've done this to a telemarketer since. ;)

The horse people were a tragic phone call. I reached a family who, at the time of my phone call, were putting down their horse out in the barn. Due to organization rules, I had to speak with an adult before I could get off the phone. The little girl that answered the phone was in tears, "My mommy is out in the barn making our horse go to sleep forever." My immediate instinct was to get off the phone and leave the family alone. My supervisor was standing right behind me, and the business recorded all phone calls for review. I had to talk to an adult. Twenty minutes later, a woman came on the line, furious that I'd interrupted their night. I felt horrible.

My "favorite" people were always the guys who answered any question with, "I don't know if I'll give you money tonight, baby... what are you wearing?" Answers like that were grounds for removing the number from our database. My responses varied. Once, I just answered the question, "jeans and a t-shirt," which was the truth. I answered, "if I say nothing, will you still give me money?" once or twice... and I don't think I got caught by the recordings either. Sadly, though, I didn't make money off of those louses. My best response (and most used) was, "Probably more than you'd like. Have a good night, Mr. So-and-So."

In all, I worked at this place for six weeks. During that time, I raised over five thousand dollars, had one of the top three fundraising scores consistently, and never missed a day of work. However, I also felt my self-esteem plummet from the names I was called, became depressed, and most of all, never wanted to talk on a telephone again. Those were a very long six weeks.

Hehehehe, I pity the telemarketers that get through to me... I know a LOT of good tricks.


auntie said...

worst jobs?

-Corn Dog Factory line worker
-Otter Pop Machine Operator
-Bottle Capping Machine Operator
-Lab Specimen PickUp/Delivery Driver
-Hotel Maid

Jeff said...

Shrimp picker in 6th grade. I make a whopping $5 for the whole day.

Dickey45 said...

1. Cannery worker for vegetables
2. Picking strawberries from ages 10-13 for 8 hours a day

Just curious, would you recommend cold calling folks for donations as a start up nonprofit? Not to contract with a company to do it but have the board members (volunteer) to volunteer to do it?

Jaggy said...

Wow, looks like you guys have had some thankless jobs too. So many people have told me they worked on farms picking things as teenagers to earn money for school clothes. Much of the older population in my own picked beans or berries for my grandparents at one time or another, and they're all convinced that should mean something to me.

I don't know much about cold calling people... our organization had permission from these people prior to our calls (though some still insisted on being removed from the list immediately upon our first call). Perhaps you should try simply asking for donations or sending out fliers announcing your intended call first.

Another thing to try is asking businesses for money, especially if they're in similar (but not competing) markets. If your business can help theirs, ask! The engineering schools at OSU do that and made quite a sum recently for their fair.

You could set up a booth at a convention and have a jar out for donations... or have a raffle so people feel like they might get something out of the deal.

My most successful fundraising effort was in high school: we just went door-to-door asking people for money. Not a lot, just one or two dollars. We made a tidy sum in a short few hours. :)