There is someone in my life who needs to die. I hate everything about her, and I can’t take it anymore.
She calls me all the time. She never has anything new to say. I don’t even know why she’s calling, but I know she’s a liar trying to play tricks on me. When I ask that she not call me anymore, it doesn’t matter. She calls again and again, from an endless supply of numbers.
Her name is Rachel, and the only other thing I know about her is that she’s a mellifluously voiced robot “from cardholder services.” Perhaps she’s called you also?
Rachel and I have had this one-sided telemarketing relationship for several years now. I cannot recall exactly when she first interrupted my workday with her drivel about a credit card I didn’t even have at the time, but she calls me more often than my grandparents. And she never even sends Home Depot gift cards.
‘Millions of calls’
Rachel from cardholder services is, of course, an example of illegal telemarketing. The calls are so obnoxious and widely known that the Federal Trade Commission answered the public’s “top three questions” about the calls in August:
The FTC has shut down more than a dozen of these “Card Services” companies — including one this past June and yet another in July. But there are lots of other companies, and new ones pop up often. Lots of boiler rooms in the U.S. and overseas use the exact same recorded message by Rachel and friends, running a scam to — supposedly — reduce your credit card interest rate. An active operation can make millions of calls — so that’s why Rachel is still calling you.
Embracing redneck vocal qualities
The outbound-telemarketing industry has changed in today’s digital world. The National Do Not Call Registry allowed the public to remove their phone numbers from the “leads” bought by telemarketing companies for direct marketing of products. Many of the calls people now receive are from companies that openly violate the DNC list. But it wasn’t always this way.
In high school, I spent a summer as a telemarketer for TCIM Services in Norman. It was a pretty miserable job, but I received a ton of life experience as a 17-year-old goober working 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the former Sound Warehouse building on Lindsey Street. Among other things, I learned that sometimes white people and black people get into big, racist brawls during office smoke breaks in the alley behind the building.
But I also learned to embrace a certain redneck stereotype for career success, specifically my innate ability to add a twang in my voice and a charm in my tone.
You see, at TCIM Services in 2002, telemarketers made a base hourly rate and then a commission off sales. Toward the end of my summer tenure, I was moved to “a new product line” across the floor, and I was seated next to a man in his 20s who lived in Noble, loved NASCAR and talked incessantly about the Camaro he was restoring.
For all of this man’s earthly limitations, he made close to $30 an hour in commissions because he used his hayseed persona to sweet-talk senior citizens on the phone and sell them GMAC Mortgage travel packages, which came with two free sports watches that the buyer could keep even upon canceling the travel package.
“They can’t ever cancel them things,” my sage colleague told me one day. It confirmed my suspicions about corporate America.
I asked him how he made 20 sales a day while some of us slogged along for five at best.
“The way I talk, these lonely ol’ folks eat it up,” he answered.
After we’d run out of things to talk about — namely, Dick Trickle jokes — I began to take notice of my cubicle neighbor’s Southern drawl, his smooth change in vocal tones, his willingness to laugh with the “consumer” and his strategic phrasing that made even me forget I was listening to the pitch of a salesman instead of the speech of a statesman. Eventually, I began to imitate him.
“Hi, ma’am, this is William Savage with TCIM Services, how you doin’ this afternoon? Well, that’s great to hear. I reckon summer’s comin’ up and you might be headin’ out on the road now, won’tcha?”
Over my final three weeks there, my sales and commissions went through the roof, just based on the brogue I sloppily employed.
All these years later, I still use that lesson when it suits my situation, and I’d give a buffalo nickel to hear it from a human telemarketer instead of computer-voiced Rachel with cardholder services.
Maybe, just maybe, if Rachel would employ a little twang, we could have a better relationship.
As it stands, I just want her to die.
(Correction: This story has been updated to correct a reference to the Federal Trade Commission.)