Working Guy
June 12, 2007 4:07 AM   Subscribe

How did you make your peace with the job that you do?

Is it wrong of me to feel guilty for the work that I do? I’m a telecaller, and what my job basically entails is to call up a list of people and get some details from them about the company that they work for. Most of the people are obliging, but every once-in-awhile you get the really irate customers who like to vent as much as they can on you. And it’s at times like these that make me wonder if I’m doing the right thing. Not that I’m qualified to do anything else, but I would like to do something which didn’t involve harassing people, which is what this job feels like sometimes. Am I right to think of it in that way? Are there any other telecallers out there who feel the same way?

Pretty soon, I’m going to be pushed into the telesales department, where I’ll have to, and this is what my manager said “con” people into buying a package from us for x amount of money, out of which I will be earning a certain amount as incentive. Now don’t get me wrong, he’s not a bad fellow, my manager, but I hate it when people talk this way: the business way of talking, where you have to cut peoples pockets to earn money, and then brag about it. Which is what the people working in my office do—every time someone makes a sale—and the product is known to be faulty (it’s a job posting package where your resume will be posted on a certain website for a fee), someone shouts out that a sale has been made and everyone claps and cheers.

When I first joined the company, I couldn’t help but cringe when this happened, but I slowly started to get used to it, and started to see myself in the place of the sales agents who’d make the sale and earn all that money, and be applauded by everyone for doing such a good job. Pretty soon, I was making a list of my own, of things that I would buy, out of the incentive money that I would be earning. My conscience kept needling me for awhile, but I was successful in burying it away as deep as I could. Until today, or yesterday I should say, when I had the pleasure of talking to someone, or rather being verbally assaulted by a gentleman who had taken up my company’s service and had discovered what a fraud it was.

I’m still not sure where the fault lies, because I’m just a lowly worker who’s at the bottom of the company ladder, but it does feel as if this company is fleecing the people out of their money, and if I stay here, the same is going to be expected of me. The only problem is, like I mentioned, I’m not qualified to do anything else, but if this is the only job I can get—can anyone blame me for not wanting it? My mother says I’m making too much of a big deal out of it, that I shouldn’t think of it in the way I am—that it’s not me who’s cheating these people: it’s the company, but I know she’s not right. My mom’s just worried about me, and she doesn’t want me to lose another job on account of me thinking that the company’s not fair. (I’ve had two other jobs where I had the same inkling—one for GE Money, where we had to work for a store credit card, and the other was for Verizon—where I didn’t think that I was qualified enough, since I didn’t know much about computers.)
posted by hadjiboy to Work & Money (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Start looking for another job. If you've telephone and call centre skills and experience, customer services sounds like something you could do more happily: fixing people's problems rather than selling them shite. You'll still get the venters, but at least you'll be trying to help them and will know in yourself that you are trying to help rather than fleece them.

Working in sales if you're not cut out for it and you don't believe in the product is soul-destroying work. And if you're anything like me, you'll be crap at it.
posted by handee at 4:11 AM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you're not enjoying the work, get out. Life is too short to spend time making yourself feel miserable, for any reason.

I can see why you'd want to be the person making the sale - it's nice to have one's peers cheering them on and saying well done. But if you realise that this is going to make you feel bad, then it's time to leave. Find another job, any job. Any employer worth his salt will recognise the value of someone willing to work hard and learn how to do the job.

So, to answer your original question, in this particular instance, I think it's going to be very hard for you to find satisfaction in this job. And that's not a bad thing. It's a good thing to want to not rip people off. Only you can decide whether that's going to be worth it. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to change one's morals.
posted by Solomon at 4:27 AM on June 12, 2007

Is it wrong of me to feel guilty for the work that I do?

Frankly, yes it is. Your job is to annoy people until they spend. Yuck. Polish your resume and find yourself something you can be proud of. It will do you a world of good.
posted by caddis at 4:33 AM on June 12, 2007

Checking your morals at the door is pretty much par for the course in working for business. In your case it's really being thrown in your face. In other cases, people seem to find it pretty easy to just look the other way and feel fine about what they do. Face it, it's hard for a business to make money completely honestly and morally, when other competing businesses feel no such requirement. And we are all economically bound to having some job, if not one then another. So it's hard to feel completely good without having some kind of blinders on.

That said, look around for something else. Be creative.
posted by DarkForest at 4:51 AM on June 12, 2007

The only problem is, like I mentioned, I’m not qualified to do anything else.

Absolutely untrue, sir. You can do anything you want to do, you really can. You spend a lot of your life working, it really should be doing something you don't actively dislike. Decide what job you would LIKE to do, then start taking steps in that direction.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:56 AM on June 12, 2007

Good customer service skills are becoming increasingly rare. If you do have a good phone personality, then I'd take handee's advice and find a customer support position that will give you the satisfaction of helping people troubleshoot their issues. I've a hunch that you'll find it much more rewarding, and someone who's good at it can find other opportunities opening up within their new organization.
posted by malaprohibita at 4:59 AM on June 12, 2007

If it's not life or death, never do a job that violates your basic principles or integrity. It's not worth it in the long run. Self-respect is a hard thing to get, and harder to regain when you've lost it.

Any job where you are conning people into doing something that's against their best interests is a job you don't want.

posted by Malor at 5:34 AM on June 12, 2007

It sounds like "making peace" with this job would involve the death of a big chunk of your soul. I tried a telesales job once, fresh out of university, and lasted a week before walking out. It's life-destroying misery. I urge you to quit.
posted by WPW at 5:47 AM on June 12, 2007

Do something else... get some training and do something else.
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:52 AM on June 12, 2007

Yup. Sorry to not give you the answer you've explicitly stated you want -- "how did you make peace...?" -- but when you care enough to ask, you care enough to be doing something else.

It's not about what's good or right in some objective sense, but what feels right to you.
posted by dreamsign at 5:58 AM on June 12, 2007

If I got a resume from someone working telesales for a product I knew was a scam then that resume wouldn't even be considered. You need to move up in the world before you are trapped in only working for companies that will hire scammers. If your company only look at customers as immediate cash flow, then what do you think they think of you? There are lots of opportunities out there getting paid to do something you love. I have strict criterea for any job I would consider and I have always chosen the lesser pay/more fufilling option. (And for those that think I've been lucky to be able to choose I spent the first ten years of my career underpaid and overqualified due to the recession of the 90's)
posted by saucysault at 6:08 AM on June 12, 2007

I'm with those who say if you can *make* calls, you can *answer* them. I am so sick of the horrible customer service one gets over the phone from so many American companies, even when their call centers *are* in the US. I make a point of praising the good call center reps to their managers, it's such a big deal to me. You could be making people like me happy. On the other hand, no one likes being cold-called by salespeople. Selling is the bleeding edge of all business, and someone has to do it, but unless you believe in the product, it wears down the normal conscience after a while. Even when I worked as a salesman selling something my customers really wanted (and wanted me to help them buy), I often disliked selling stuff.

If you really do want to work in a call center making those calls, or feel you have to, do it for something or someone you truly believe is making the world a better place.
posted by spitbull at 6:49 AM on June 12, 2007

It's not clear to me if what you're selling is an ill-advised but legitimate service or an actual scam. If it's the former, I think you have to accept that you are selling people something that they want to buy, even if, in your thinking, they shouldn't buy it. Part of living in a capitalist society is accepting that people often make choices that run counter to their apparent interests. Whether you work for an organized crime syndicate or a charity, you will find that some people choose to pay/give your organization money when it seems like they have better things to spend it on. Maybe you're right, maybe they're right, but it's their choice, not yours. Instead of feeling guilty about this, focus on making good choices for yourself.

One of those choices might be finding another job, though, or moving into a different role. If you don't find the higher compensation of sales is worth how much less happy it makes you, move along to something else -- but make that comparison, rather than following some sort of "salespeople are evil" dogma.

(I'd also personally try sales for a predetermined period of time before making a decision, since it can take a while for things to come together, but that's just me.)
posted by backupjesus at 7:02 AM on June 12, 2007

spitbull has it. If your spoken English is good enough to make calls, then you are certainly qualified to answer calls. I am sure the company gives you training on the product.

I forget what religion you are (Muslim?) but one pillar of Buddhism is that your work must be ethical. I am sure Islam has a similar outlook.
posted by desjardins at 7:11 AM on June 12, 2007

"I was making a list of my own, of things that I would buy, out of the incentive money that I would be earning."

Don't buy a damn thing. Save every penny until you can afford some space for yourself. Having capital at hand will do that. Having a bunch of objects

I work in Investment Banking and have been fortunate enough to never get caught up in the lifestyle. Instead I've acquired capital and can pretty much do anything I like including quiting a job that sucks. Once you start consuming it's difficult to stop; I know Managing Directors pulling in a quarter of a million before bonuses who hit up Graduate Trainees for lunch money the week before payday(1).


(1) Graduate Trainees don't know any better. None of us will lend them lunch money, but a young impressionable graduate?
posted by Mutant at 7:17 AM on June 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

whoops! don't know what happened there

...Having a bunch of objects will prove to be nothing but a burden.
posted by Mutant at 7:19 AM on June 12, 2007

Rent Glengarry Glen Ross, watch it and then see how you feel...
posted by gene_machine at 7:32 AM on June 12, 2007

The only problem is, like I mentioned, I’m not qualified to do anything else

Bullshit. Even in the narrowest interpretation, you've got call center experience. Seek out a customer service or technical support gig, if you want to make a gentle transfer that keeps the phone skillset but ditches the sales stuff.

I've never met anyone who Got Used To sales; most folks seem to be either wired for it or not, and that can be the difference between digesting your own stomach vs. feeling okay at the end of the day. Convincing yourself that you shouldn't feel guilty or bad about a job that makes you feel guilty or bad is going to be a rough trip. Start looking elsewhere.
posted by cortex at 7:37 AM on June 12, 2007

I try not to be judgemental, but I think it's pretty much accepted that people who 'con' other people are bad for humanity.

I do everything I can to make life miserable for telemarketers, and I encourage everyone I know to do the same, as telemarketers are people whose job it is to take advantage of the foolish, lonely and elderly.

You can get a job at an inbound center, and either take orders, or even be trained to help with customer service problems, such as computers or other devices.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:08 AM on June 12, 2007

First, I believe that just about everyone should try a sales job at least once. It teaches you alot about the mechanics and psychology of the sales process, which is frankly present to some extent or another in just about EVERY human interaction. As you're discovering, it also teaches you alot about yourself - you own personal morality, and your own assessment about what you will/will not do to make a living.

The bottom line with sales is that it's a skill set and a process. Regardless of what the product is, or how good it is, the sales process is still the same. So if you can learn to successfully sell this product, you can probably sell anything, including ethical and good products. (use your power wisely, grasshopper!)

I'm 100% tech geek/nerd, but at one point I had the opportunity to sell hardware in my field of specialty, and I took it. The product was essentially good, and there was little flim-flamming going on, so there wasn't a morality issue for me. I learned alot, had a good sales mentor, and my sales numbers weren't stellar, but I did OK for myself and my employer, and most of my clients were happy.

I also had to sell my services when i had my own web shop 10 years ago.

So my advice is to decide how far you're prepared to go with this job and company. If you decide that you want to get out, then make a plan for how you'll find and go to another job, and do it. And take with you all the useful stuff you've learned about sales and marketing.
posted by Artful Codger at 9:00 AM on June 12, 2007

I usually try and go easy but I (stupidly) left my phone right beside my bed and was woken up at 9 this morning. (Waaahhhh? You uhhhuhmm? Ummm?)

You can totally get another job. For example, right now one of my friends is working in Yellowstone National Park... The pay is not fantastic, but the cost of living (dorms and company meal plan) is dirt cheap and she has fantastic surroundings. Depending on what you're willing to do (she's working front desk at a hotel) you don't really need any qualifications, just the ability to speak clearly, smile, and wear a "darkly coloured turtleneck".
posted by anaelith at 9:13 AM on June 12, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice; it's good to know that so many of you share the same sentiment as me. I was reading this thread with my mother and explaining to her how Metafilter works, and this was probably the best way I could've.
I think I'm going to start looking for a new job from tomorrow, and will try and do the best that I can at my current one. We don't bother people as such--but business establishments, although that doesn't make it any less ethical I'm assuming.
backupjesus, its the former (ill advised but legimate service), but I'm not totally sure how much of the latter, if any, there could be (scam).
posted by hadjiboy at 10:47 AM on June 12, 2007

If you can do that, you can work for a cause you are comfortable with, like a non-profit or charitable organization. They do phone solicitations as well.
posted by callmejay at 11:24 AM on June 12, 2007

When you find the right job for you (and you will) you will come home from work proud of what you've done with your day rather than having to 'make peace' with it.

Good luck!
posted by happyturtle at 12:20 PM on June 12, 2007

As everyone else has recommended, start looking for something else now. You have good phone skills, and there are more people in the working world who hate working phones that those who don't mind it, so you have an edge. Lots of companies haven't switched to voice mail or automated phone systems because they like that "personal" touch, so check the classifieds for receptionist or front desk positions. Hotels always need night auditors - you answer the phones during the night, and tally up the receipts to make sure everything balances (you can easily learn to work a 10-key calculator if you don't already know how).

My husband worked for a short time at a big box electronics store. We needed some fast $$ because we were being forced to move at short notice, so he took this position as a second job. He is very personable, so was very good at convincing customers to purchase the extended service contract (which is where salesmen make their big commisions). However, it ate away at him, because the store was in an economically depressed neighborhood, and the folks could just barely afford the product they were buying. He knew he was selling them something they didn't really need, but they bought it because they trusted him. He was making good money, but was miserable and plagued with guilt every night after work. He finally said he didn't have the stomach to be a salesman, and quit.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:39 PM on June 12, 2007

As many have pointed out, you already have a nice skill-set, ie: talking to people on phone. Bonus point: you have a moral compass.
I see that you are in AP. Your skills are very much in demand right now in BPO, customer-service (voice/non-voice) etc...all over. I am in Bangalore, and seriously if you pick up Wednesday's Times Ascent (ie: TimesOfIndia's career supplement on Wed)'ll see tons of jobs where you can see yourself working without compromosing on yr values. From what I know there should be a a lot of IT-BPO-ITES jobs going around in Hyderabad as well. (not so sure abt 2nd-tier cities in AP). So yeah, seconding all those who advised about moving out to a new job. Who knows maybe you can even earn more than what you are earning currently. FYI: entry-level BPO-ITES jobs are paying as much as 15-20K+ per month (I am not in that field, so it's 2ndhand info) with pretty much the only qualifications required is to be a graduate.

I also noticed that you mention in your profile as a student. If your job is just something on the side to keep some cash flowing in, I would advise to first focus on completing your studies (atleast a grad) with good scores. Completing yr graduation will open up a window of opportunities for you.

My email is in my profile . So if you want to discuss more on IT/Bangalore, feel free to ping me.

All the Best!
And yeah, good to find someone from India :-)
posted by forwebsites at 3:36 AM on June 13, 2007

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