I’m always interested in seeing how call centres are represented in works of fiction. So far I’ve come across several novels based around call centres, or at least featuring a call centre and this short series is intended to be a look at some of the characters found within them and to explore what they tell us about the call centre….
Book: Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen
Name: Boyd Shreave (a.k.a. Boyd Eisenhower)
Employer: Relentless Inc (USA)
A telemarketing company based in a converted B52 hangar in Texas the main business of Relentless Inc is calling people across the United States to offer them a “unique” real estate opportunity located near the Suwannee river . Operating between 5pm and midnight Relentless call middle-income residential addresses across the country beginning with the east coast and ending with the west coast. The fifty four workers on the shift sit in padded cubicles and rattle through a photocopied sales script. Thanks to the “onerous” calling quotas there is little interaction between them helping to make it a “dreary and soulless job” not made any better by the minimum wage plus commission pay.
Boyd’s Call-Centre Journey:
Boyd came to work in the call centre ostensibly because his voice doesn’t match his face. Aged thirty-five his various careers in sales have largely ended in failure thanks to Boyd’s unfortunate ability to make people feel uncomfortable with his appearance which is described thus:
..their was an air of sour arrogance about him – a slant to one thin reddish eyebrow that hinted at impatience, if not outright disdain; a slump of the shoulders that suggested the weight of excruciating boredom; a wormish curl of the upper lip that was often perceived as a sneer of condescension or, worse, a parody of Elvis.
Boyd however, has the telephone voice of an angel and at the suggestion of one former employer made the switch to the call centre where he has been for six-months and where “for the first time in his life he could honestly claim to be semi-competent at his job”. Nevertheless Boyd, who uses the moniker Boyd Eisenhower, has grown tired of the environment at Relentless, with the only thing keeping him going being an affair with a colleague, a six-foot blonde, who goes by the name of Eugenie Fonda.
Finest Call Center moment:
Responding to being dubbed a “professional pest” by someone he called by snarling “Go screw yourself, you dried up old skank”
Worst call centre moment:
Having the above call being listened in to and being promptly fired.
What does the character represent:
Outbound sales calls are the most reviled side of the call-centre industry so it’s unsurprising that Boyd is presented as a bit of a villain, even if we do feel a little sorry for the working conditions he has to endure. In the call centre among my usual calls I’d receive the occasional business-to business sales call from a person asking to speak to “the person responsible for ordering shelves” or some such thing to which I’d politely take down their details before chucking them in the basket for one of the supervisors to then file in the bin. I’d always feel sorry for the person who called as it must be one of the worst jobs in the world, as no matter how hard my job was at times at least the majority of people I spoke to were quite happy to speak to me and usually grateful for my help. Having to deal with rejection and abuse all day everyday must be so hard, near impossible. Inbound seems like paradise in comparison.