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sucky summer jobs: #22 in a series

sucky summer jobs: #22 in a series

I tired of my job at the deli and wanted to move on to something more challenging. I needed to do something more worthwhile than slicing salami as a way to pay for my nighclubbing and drinking. Something that wouldn't leave me smelling like head cheese at the end of the day.

A friend of a friend of a cousin told me about this place that was hiring. It sounded an awful lot like a telemarketer job, which I would never do, but it was for a charity, and therefore didn't count as telemarketing. Right?

The first day of the training seminar proved that point. Our team leader stood up in front of us and told us we were not to call ourselves telemarketers. We were activists. We were paving the way for change. We were catalysts in the fight against drunk driving. We were the few, the proud, the people begging for money for a cause. I left the seminar feeling like I was doing something useful with my life. My naive ideals were soaring.

The second day, the altruism took a back seat to the sales pitch. Sales? I thought we were activists! Our team leader spoke in basketball metaphors for two hours; driving to the basket, blocking the shots, finally hitting the three-pointer with just seconds to go. When I left the seminar, I felt less like an activist and more like Dr. J.

The third and final day should have clued me in on what I was in for. Our fearless leader drilled us on the fine points of clinching the donation. Cite statistics. Make them feel bad. Tell them stories. She then handed out photocopied news clippings of horrid, tragic car accidents resulting from drunk driving. We were to tell our potential donors some of these stories if all else failed. If we had them in tears by the end of the call, we would be the superstars of the office. My stinging conscience was kicking my naive ideals in the head.

I figured I would give it two days tops. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Maybe, because this was a worthy cause and one people were very concerned about, I wouldn't have to make the hard sell. Sure! People would just give willingly! I would never have to utter a harsh word or tell a tragic story or make anyone cry. This would be a piece of cake, and my conscience would be left intact.

I was directed to a tiny room in the basement, where the walls were lined with little wooden cubicles. I was directed to my very own cubicle. On the desk was a phone and a kitchen timer. The wall I faced was lined with the same newspaper clippings that were passed out at the seminar. Those people in those stories, I was told, they are counting on you. They are watching you. I was told to set the timer at the beginning of each call, and that I was to keep each caller on the line for a minimum of one minute of soft selling. After one minute, I should start the hard sell. I was given a list of 100 numbers to start out with.

I noticed that the neighborhood I was given was a wealthy one. This made me feel a little better. At least these people had money to spare. Maybe I wouldn't have to reduce anyone to tears.

After a half hour, I didn't have any donations. Apparently, all the people on my list had housekeepers. And none of them spoke English. At least not to telemarketers. The team leader came over and looked at my tally sheet. She was not pleased. I explained the situation. I can't reach anyone who speaks English, I told her. And even if they did speak English, they would say that they are just the housekeepers, that I should call back.

"They're lying to you," she said.
"The housekeepers are lying?"
"They're not really the housekeepers, you idiot!" Her breath stunk like garlic pickles. I tried to move my head back from hers, but she leaned in on me until our foreheads were touching.
"Are you going to believe every inconsiderate person who comes on the line and tells you a reason why they can't give? Are you a sucker? Are you that naive? Let them know you know they're lying.! These people depend on you!"She pointed to the tragic news stories on the wall.
"But...but...."
"No buts. Tell them. Tell them if they don't give money, they will feel horrible next time something like this appears on the evening news. They will understand that. They will understand guilt. And trust me, they understand English."

I weighed my options. What was this job going to pay me anyhow? If I couldn't make a sale I would be bringing home less than minimum wage. It would barely pay for one night's admission to the club. I could go back to the deli. It wasn't so bad. The people were nice. I didn't have to make anyone cry in order to sell a pound of liverwurst.

I stood up and faced my leader. I told her I was done. This wasn't the job for me. Told her I'd rather smell like head cheese than spend another day with her poking and prodding my conscience. She didn't get the part about the head cheese. She probably didn't get the part about having a conscience, either.

12/10/02: To Instapundit readers: The comments on this archived post do not work. If you would like to comment, do it here. Thanks.

Comments

good for you. I answered an ad for a job once that turned out to be a telemarketing thing. I was desperate, but when the guy sprang the news on us - a room of 10 people who had answered the ambiguous ad, he left the room for 5 minutes to let people decide if they wanted to stay or leave. No one left, but after a minute or two I realized it didn't matter how desperate I was, I couldn't do it. So I left. It felt so good, and has felt good ever since.

Just today a telemarketer called trying to sell me life insurance. The only catch - I had to die on public transportation.

My worst job had to be a salesperson at Bakers shoe store. It wasn't bad enough I had to people complaining about how their bunyuns and corns were hurting, or that sign on the sale rack was misleading (it said up to 50% off), or how we never had size 13 in the styles she wanted, but some people actually expected me to help them get their shoes on. Yeah, sure lady, like I wanted to put my hands on your bunyun-ridden, wart-covered, funky corn-chip smelling foot with six toes. I didn't need the commission that bad.
I'd say, "Sorry, company policy doesn't allow me to do that. Why don't you have your friend here help you?"

Mothers Against Drunk Driving? don't get me started. this organization made such a negative mark on me that it ruined organized charities for me forever.

i got a phone call from MADD several years ago. after a long pitch, we got to the amount part. minimum donation: $20.00. i told the caller that i was not in a postion to give that amount, but i would be glad to give $10.00. soon after, i was deluged with paperwork - big , heavy mailings -, including a statement that i would have to honor my promise to donate $20.00. this was followed by numerous phone calls and even more mailings and a stern call from a "managing supervisor". they must have spent $50.00 in paper and postage and who knows how much in man-hours.

a bit later it was revealed that MADD was one of the worst offenders when it came to % of doantions actually used for the cause ( far more was spent on the fundraising than the fund giving). but no one had to tell me that.

it made me suspicious of any charitable organization and if anyone solicits money from me, i always ask what % actually goes to the cause. then i don;t give them anything. the only major group who does not use professional fundraisers are the DAV. they get my all, unless i take direct donating action on my own. even the salvation army uses professionals.

I have a standard rule with charity telemarketers: I tell them to please send me something in writing, on their company letterhead and I will check them out. If I find they are on the up and up, I will send them money.

This approach has been met with several hang ups and one "fuck you, I don't want your money, bitch!"

GOOD for you sister. They seemed like a shady crew of slimy rat bastards...basement and all! Bravo girl for making the clean break!

Caller I.D.

  • blink! * Holy CRAP!

Guys, guys, guys, I work for a non-profit healthcare organization. I can assure you that we don't fundraise like that, nor do most organizations, and I'm astounded that MADD does.

There is a database of non-profit organizations here: http://www.guidestar.org/index.jsp The Better Business Bureau also rates nonprofits here: http://www.give.org/

A lot of nonprofits are having problems right now because of September 11th -- as you know, our economy isn't great right now, and many people did their "giving for the year" to the Red Cross and other organizations that focused on helping the victims from 9/11. That doesn't leave much for the rest of the non-profits that fund medical research, support the arts, help the ecology, and so on.

My point is this: nonprofits in general could really use support right now. Please don't tar us all with the same brush -- there are resources that will help you give wisely, to foundations that will spend your money in a correct fashion.

(The nonprofit I work for, for the record, puts 79 cents of every dollar we receive toward support and research, 12 cents toward administrative costs, and nine cents toward fundraising.)

:: stepping off the soapbox now... ::

My official job title was "Dead Man" for just a couple of weekends one summer. Besides being a no-nothing dogsbody (fetching fresh tires, driving a van, etc.), my job was to stand under a big tank of explosive racing fuel and hold the cutoff valve of the fuel tank in a stock car pit area.

While I held that handle, racing fuel was able to flow from the tank to the nozzle feeding the hungry car. If I had run for my life or been blown sky-high in a nasty accident, however, I would have had to release the handle that allowed the dangerous racing fuel to continue flowing. I would, in short, have done my most important work by dying quickly.

give it up for integrity.

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