What Working in a Call Center Taught Me About Politics and People

September 28, 2019

 

I work in a call center. Without going into specifics for job security reasons, I'll just say that I process loans. I have been at my job for ten years and handle over ten thousand calls per year. When I sit back and think about that I realize that adds up to over a million phone calls I have taken and people I have helped. That gives me some satisfaction - but honestly working in a call center sucks. People seem to talk too much - and it's usually things you don't want to hear. 

 

Talking to that many people I think I get an insiders view of the current political climate. I see incomes, debts, all sorts of personal information - and I get plenty of people who think that the friendly sounding girl on the other side of the phone is the perfect person to tell all sorts of things.

 

Of course, I can't comment or like or disagree. My job requires that I stay neutral and keep any conversation to a limited selection of topics like the weather. But that doesn't mean I don't have people tell me their political opinions, or say things that give me an opinion on our current political environment. Here is a few things I have learned about people and politics while working in a call center. 

 

 

Liberals are Way More Vocal in their Beliefs

 

Since Donald Trump has been President I have had exactly 2 callers who expressed their support for the president. One was an old guy who said he hopes we finally return to a nation of morality and religion. Though the religious convictions of Donald Trump are up for debate, the guy was really nice and polite about it all. The other Trump supporter was a guy who said "thank goodness we have a good president". 

 

On the other hand, I get a liberal caller every week or so who has something bad to say about the president. Usually it's something like "if we can get this guy out of office". I think that's awfully presumptive. Who said I agree with you? How do you know I didn't vote for him? I'm not offended by their opinion, everyone has one, but it seems like sharing your voting beliefs with a stranger on the phone was a poor choice. 

 

 

People are Entitled Brats

 

I take at least a call a day where the first words out of someones mouth is "I'm going to need a manager". That's before someone has even given me a chance to solve the problem. More than I have ever seen, people are big baby's with a "can I speak to a manager mindset".

 

Most often they didn't get their way when speaking to the last rep. So they call back and try again, but this time they just try to steamroll their way to a manger by copping an attitude with whomever answers the phone. The thinking is I'll just bully my way to the top and demand what I want. The thing is, believe me lady, if I could give you what you want, I would. I don't want to send this call to my manager and be late to break. I just can't give you free stuff, or big discounts, or approve you when your qualifications don't meet the basic requirements. 

 

Since you can't cater to their every whim, they throw a tantrum. It's pretty obvious that we live in a culture where people are just used to getting what they want, and when they don't it's a shock. It's like the people I talk to have never been told no, or faced any sort of adversity. I even had a single mom call me once wondering where a big check was. When I told her we issued it to her and her husband long ago and it was cashed - she told me that they had divorced. I asked if she was married at the time, and she said yes, but that she needed the money. I empathized with her situation but let her know we couldn't just pay twice. She then replied "well why not?! I'm a single mom and need that money you should!". 

 

What is even worse is that when you work in a call center, even if it's not your fault that the customer is angry, those manager escalations count against you. Sure, it may not reflect in your numbers but managers hate to be bothered by these customers and hold a little grudge against you that the call was sent their way.  

 

 

People Are Over Educated 

 

I hate to say that there is such a thing as too much education, but I am starting to wonder. Nearly everyone I talk to has a college degree. That's great. But most of them have advanced degrees or multiple degrees. It's as if people have become afraid to step out into the real world and work. You would be surprised at how many people live at home, drive their parents cars and are still on their parents insurance, with virtually no income. 

 

The downside of this 'stay in college forever' mindset is that many people now have such specific abilities that they can't get a job. Their skills and qualifications are so narrow and focused that no job exists for them. So they complain that they can't get a job and go back to school for another degree. If for some reason they do start working, they do so begrudgingly because they feel that the role is beneath their qualifications and can't cover the lifestyle they are used to or expected. 

 

I also get people who like to rub their education in your face, saying things like "I don't expect a person in your position to understand". Hey lady, I went to college as well. I just didn't stay there until I was 35 years old. 

 

 

Education Has Made People Afraid to Take Risks

 

Rather than earn their bachelors and then 'testing the waters' to see where their interests lie and their career takes them, more people than ever are staying in school well into their 30's and relying on parents to support them. Sadly, many of these parents are struggling to stay afloat but don't have the heart to tell their full grown kids 'no' or 'get out'. It creates friction in some households, but many parents are eternal optimists and understandably just want to support their kids so that they achieve success. 

 

The problem is that their kids are afraid to take risks. Rather than get a job and develop skills related to that career, they fantasize about a perfect job and hold out for that - settling for nothing less. I talk to plenty of wealthy people with advanced degrees, but what I noticed is that most of these highly successful people are ones who had years of work experience and later earned their advanced degree to fine tune their career prospects. In other words, they took the time to explore (and fail) before settling on what they wanted to focus on. 

 

The number one trait of wealthy people that I encounter is failure. Getting fired from a job that wasn't the right match for their skills, a business that went under, or as one guy told me - he lost everything he had by investing in commodities. Many wealthy people have worked in several different fields, learning all they could, then applied those ideas to a new business or company. What all these successful people did was learn from their mistakes and failures, then regroup and come out even stronger later. They never backed away from a challenge or were afraid to take risks. 

 

 

Student Loan Debt is a Major Problem

 

The downside of all that education is the loan debt. It limits your purchasing power later. Even if you are behind on loans or just not paying them, I have to calculate a minimum monthly payment into any loan qualification. So now a lot of borrowers just don't qualify. The long term impact is that the home industry will stagnate since no one qualifies to purchase a house.

 

I also notice that a lot of people just don't get the concept of purchasing power or what you could call actual income. Say you have a $70k income but pay $500 per month in student loans, your best case scenario is $64k a year take home (before taxes of course). A truck driver can make that and not have the big student loan bills. Not to mention that those higher paying, college degree oriented jobs are in big cities with higher costs of living overall.

 

A truck driver, a mechanic, or a person who works a more blue collar job can find a job in more rural places. The cost of living makes him much better off, with more disposable income, than the college educated person trying to makes ends meet in a big city. 

 

 

There is No Pride in Hard Work

 

Along with the college degree and entitled mindset people just don't want to work hard in the sense of paying their dues. They expect to start at the top with a big house, BMW, and all the trimmings. Rather than get a job, work hard, earn a promotion and work your way up the ladder, they just want to start out as CEO.

 

Some of the over-educated are victim of this, thinking that their PHD has earned them the right to all those things, even though they may have never worked a day in their life. But it's also a problem with immigrants. Quite often they have been Americans for a short time but have a large house, luxury cars, etc. yet will complain about the immigration system or blame the President. Like really? You are in a foreign country and have as much or more as those who have worked for years and you're complaining? 

 

I spoke with a lady from Eastern Europe who told me about Trump's 'unethical treatment' of immigrants. She had been here a few years, owned a car, a house, and had a job which paid as much as mine did. Doesn't sound like you were treated unethically, so what are you talking about? A lot of my coworkers ride the bus. 

 

 

Immigration is Broken

 

Along with my last point, I have to say that the immigration system is broken. There's so little appreciation for the opportunity to come to the United States. For example, Spanish speakers make zero effort to speak the language. It use to be that when I had a Spanish caller, they would ask for a translator (my company has a translator for every language you can imagine) and I would reply in my limited Spanish "one minute please." It's my way of showing that customer service connection and setting them at ease.

 

These Spanish callers would always reply with a thank you. It has not been that way in a long time. Now when I say one minute there's just a silence on the other end until the translator comes on the line. It's just sorta assumed now that if you don't speak the language - we, as Americans, will accommodate you. I wonder if it's like that anywhere else in the world? 

 

The attitude is widespread. What I notice is that a lot of Middle Eastern immigrants will refuse the translators and hope to get you to do what they want by pretending to not understand. Nearly every Middle Eastern immigrant I speak to is quite affluent with the luxury cars and homes, speaking broken English. Tell them a price or rate they don't like and it's "I don't understand" and suddenly they want a translator. I often wonder how they immigrated and managed to do so well so quickly. Could I immigrate to their country and start at the top of the heap? 

 

European immigrants have too much pride to ask for a translator, they just speak their broken English and if you offer a translator, they refuse. I guess you can give them credit for trying - but I know they are not always getting what I am telling them. On the other hand, African immigrants are the best. They are the first to apologize that they don't understand. If I say I don't understand what they are telling me, they will apologize that they are hard to understand. I always go out of my way to help them - it seems like they are truly appreciative of the opportunity this country offers. 

 

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