What Being a High School Telemarketer Taught Me about America & Life
“Hi, Mr. Lewis. I’m reaching out to save you hundreds of dollars on your long-distance bill.”
“Go f@#k yourself,” Mr. Lewis replied.
It was the early ’90s.
AT&T, MCI and Sprint were battling for landline subscribers. I believed deeply that Americans were paying too much for their long-distance telephone calls.
After seeing a job posting in my high school’s employment office, I joined the fight as a part-time telemarketer.
I worked four-hour shifts several nights a week, earning $7.50 an hour, convincing Americans to utter seven magical words: “Yes, I’d like to switch to Sprint.”
Our call center was located on the second floor of a Long Island office building that featured rows of cubicles assembled like a jigsaw puzzle to maximize space.
Each evening high school and college students, stay-at-home moms returning to the workforce, retired people supplementing their fixed income, and professional telemarketers for whom this job was part of a career filled the desks.
Our manager, a short man with endless enthusiasm for the telecommunications industry, handed out stacks of paper with the names and phone numbers of people located across the country.
Then, we started dialing.
I learned a lot about human nature and the great people of the United States of America through these calls.
Like, for example, Southerners really are friendlier than Northeasterners.
They answer the phone by saying “Good evening” and don’t immediately demand to know how you got their number. They never behave like the guy from New Jersey who asked, “Are you near a window?” and then encouraged me to jump through it.
The children in the South exude friendly formality, stating their family’s last name followed by the word “residence.” In contrast, when you hear a child’s voice on a phone call placed to the Northeast, the child sounds petrified. Soon a parent will be in the background screaming, “Who is it?!” and scolding the child for picking up the…