After teaching for more than 15 years at a Christian school, I was surprised to find myself unemployed and looking for work at 46. For months I applied to countless jobs, from supermarket cashier to editor. Most employers refused to hire me, stating I was overqualified.
I've never been particularly good at sales, but a mountain of financial responsibilities led me to answer with a resounding "yes" when I was asked if I wanted a position as a telephone sales representative.
I thought I knew what I was getting into. I figured most disgruntled customers would simply hang up, and we'd both be free to go about our business. While it's true that many people display courtesy even when they're not interested in the offer, some people actually respond with a string of curses that one would never expect to hear.
Once when I attempted to comply with a customer's request to be added to the "Do Not Call List," the man started yelling obscenities at me, calling me every vile name a woman could be called. I was shocked. Barely able to retain my composure, I completed the call as quickly as I could, complying with my company's requirements.
By the time I had disconnected, however, I was shaking all over and tears were streaming down my face. What had I done to deserve such a torrent of abuse? What kind of a person conducts himself in such a way that he totally demeans another human being for simply doing her job?
Last week, a co-worker's courteous greeting was met by an ugly expletive. This young woman was actually frightened by this man's rude and unnecessary response.
During that same shift, I had to endure a husband and wife tag-teaming in their verbal abuse. My apologies for interrupting their evening made absolutely no difference to this irate couple. The company I work for does not allow telephone representatives to hang up when customers become abusive. We must remain courteous at all times and close the call by wishing these nasty people a nice day.
I've pondered the reasons people would respond with outright cruelty. I certainly understand that a call from a telemarketer is often unwelcome and inconvenient. However, everyone retains the right to simply hang up the phone if they're not interested. The customer is always in complete control of the duration of the call. For the sake of every telemarketer, I'd like to stress that telemarketers must obey the requirements of the company for which they work. Failure to do so can result in termination.
In short, if a telemarketer doesn't state the company's standard closing, he could be fired.
I've wondered how belligerent people, who think it's perfectly acceptable to verbally abuse and belittle a telemarketer, would feel if they were subjected to a string of curses and name-calling as they did their job. They'd probably be very upset, and rightly so. No one deserves to be abused for doing his job.
The center at which I work averages a 10 percent turnover each week, and now I know why. Some people simply can't tolerate the unnecessary verbal abuse that's inflicted upon them. On the day I was called all those vile names, I didn't think I could finish my shift. I was upset and even a little afraid to say hello to the next customer, wondering how I'd be treated. But I did finish my shift, because I need my job and my paycheck.
Laura Neary, of Akron, is learning the hard way how difficult a telemarketing job can be.