Opinion: Here’s your wake-up call

Lily Geiser | Staff Writer

Telemarketers are annoying, aren’t they?

They always seem to call at the most inconvenient times — can’t we just have a nice peaceful family dinner? And who even talks on the phone anymore? And I’m sure half of them are scams anyways. Or bots. Or scam bots.

Well, fun fact: Some of them are people too.

From June through November last year, I interned for a political campaign (cue the gasp of dismay). And I made a lot of calls. Like, an ungodly number of calls. Somedays I nearly lost my voice. So, having been on the other side, I can tell you that however much you hate getting our calls, we hate giving them even more.

Firstly, know that the person who called you probably isn’t using a smartphone. Can you even imagine? We’re back to the dark ages of flip phones and those weird, bulky desk phones with swirly cords that you have to plug in. So while you’re at home living the high life scrolling through Instagram, your caller is sitting in some dusty corner of an even dustier office, staring at a spreadsheet of names they don’t know and using a phone that hasn’t been acceptable since the early 2000s. And if they are using a phone that didn’t have to be obtained through time travel or dark magic, it’s probably their personal phone. And that means they get calls back.

Yeah, you thought you were the only one who got unwanted calls? Imagine the sinking feeling we get when we see an unknown number appear on our phone at eight in the evening from some poor unwitting soul. I started automatically answering calls by saying “Hello, did I call you earlier today?” and then launching into a speech that had been ingrained in my memory from repeating it for three hours straight. Several days a week. I scared my friend’s mom off once.

Next, please know that while you get an annoying call maybe once or twice a week, that person has called hundreds of people that day alone. They’ve seen it all. They already had a horribly awkward call where they asked for Charlotte and then waited two painful minutes for whoever actually answered the phone to track her down. They were on a call where they had to repeat themselves seven times to be heard by someone with either really bad reception or really bad hearing. They learned a new insult that day too. Or several. But mostly, they sat there as the phone rang, and then went to voicemail, and then they quietly hung up and dialled the next number, praying that no one would pick up.

And what is this person being paid for this mind-numbing work, you may ask? In my case, it was nothing. In many others, it’s minimum wage. These brave souls, who only want to sell you incredibly overpriced phone books or help you refinance the house you don’t own, are working for next to nothing. They are enduring the abuse of complete strangers, angry that they had to pause their movie for thirty seconds, for scraps. I could tell you some of the things I’ve been called, but it would almost certainly be censored by the school’s filters.

I’ve heard many people say that everyone should work as a waiter at least once, just so they know what it’s like. Well, I think that everyone should work as a telemarketer. Because there’s something strangely dehumanizing about a disembodied voice hundreds of miles away. Working even one hour on the other end of the line will certainly bring the humanity of that voice forcefully into your mind. But most of you won’t do that, so I only ask you this: The next time you get a call from an unknown number, pick it up. Ask the person on the other end how their day is going. I can promise you, it will absolutely blow their mind — they’ll remember you for the rest of the day as a hero.

And then politely decline when they ask for your Social Security number.

lgeiser.chronicle@gmail.com