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The turnover rate in these call centers is extremely high because any new worker who has any perceptive ability quickly seeks employment elsewhere. Thefts among co-workers along the aisles is rampant. Anything left on a desktop while we walked away from our cubicles was likely to be gone upon our return, especially cell phones or calculators, but even petty stuff like pens and books. And we were issued no keys with which to lock or cabinet drawers. I wouldn't have anticipated that personal reading glasses would be a target, but they turned out to a main object of theft, including my own glasses. The supposedly competing co-workers imagine that they're sabatoging a rep's sales numbers by stealing glasses and forcing their victims to try and read computer screens without them. I became acquainted with one guy who'd had his glasses ripped off and he couldn't afford to replace them. His difficulty seeing the work screens eventually caused enough errors for management to terminate him for "incompetence." This was real third world style survival-of-the-fittest concentration camp desperation. Within weeks of being clued in on the scene in these pits, only the dumber reps stay on the job. So you're left with a load of malleable saps as co-workers. The result is what I can only call the New Nuremberg Defense. Lemme 'splain...

There's a guy I once saw on TV whose 20-year career consisted of lobbying the halls of congress on behalf of tobacco companies. This man's job was to make the case that cigarettes don't harm your health. When a disgusted journalist cornered the tobacco lobbyist and ask him why he misleads people into ruining their health, the weasel's mouse-like reply was, "I'm just tryin' to pay my rent."

It's called the New Nuremberg Defense:

"Mr. Hess, why did you send so many victims to the gas chambers?"

"I was just doing my job, just following orders, just payin' my rent…"

The problem is our society's system of inequality. We've been brain-trained with delusions about merit. Look at the people who're answering phones in the call center. When you call AT&T, you're speaking mostly with unskilled inner-city victims of a disgusting class system. When these workers reach the boiler rooms in that AT&T dungeon, the "close ratio" from their number of sales consumes them - it becomes a new identity that they believe they "merit." Their high close-ratio score feeds the urge to consider themselves special. In the face of what is plainly rigged competition, they'll deny that the call center database is skewed in favor of selected reps. They insist that they get sales because of their own special skill. It's the "perkiness" of their tone of voice, it's their attitude of having "assumed the sale" that persuades some millionaire who was calling in to order a Blackberry anyway, to order it from Mr. AT&T Alpha Salesman. Anyone who comes along and says, "But your sales are all rigged by management to reach a pre-determined close ratio that they decide they want you to have" - Mr. Alpha Sales goes blank as he removes your words from his head. He'll deny that his pay is based on a rigged system that discriminates against other workers, and insist that he makes more sales than them because he has special talents on the phone.

His "reward" for going along with this scam is a chance to be promoted to supervisor. And on the basis of what these "supervisors" say, employees are fired routinely. In New York State, when anyone with the label "supervisor" fires a worker, the State prohibits the worker from being eligible for public assistance for 90 days. If another employer won't hire you, you go homeless. Is it any wonder we hear so much news of guys with guns blowing away the workplace? Ponder no more the reasons why these attacks happen. They're actually state-sponsored, and in my opinion, instigated by AT&T.

Sales agents are expected to sit amidst reps that the managers decide they like and then watch these favored workers be paid much more for doing the same work. All of the difficult calls coming in for complex data-plans are surgically routed over to the disliked rep. Next, managers flood the disliked rep with calls from the ghetto so that this rep's number of sales plummets. That agent ends up working five times as harder as the favored employee next to him, while taking home five times less pay. What really turns on these dominator managers is rubbing the unfairness blatantly in-your-face to provoke their prey to say something about it, and then fire them "with cause." New York State then steps in and "officially" blames the employee by cutting off that worker's access to any assistance funds when the fired employee can't find another job (state-sponsored/instigated homelessness/terrorism).


If managers route to your phone line all calls from the South Bronx (where apparently few people have credit cards), your lack of sales is then blamed on you. You didn't bewitch a potential customer with your up-sell voodoo. A supervisor takes you aside into a cubicle and plays a recording of the call during which management will "interpret" every statement you make on the phone as a reason that the homeless caller from the South Bronx didn't buy something from you. "So what if the caller is on welfare and has no credit," huffs the manager, "if you're a good seller you can persuade them to find the money somewhere! It's up to you to take charge of the call and charm that homeless guy with your confidence so he knows he wants to buy your product…blah, blah, blah…"

It's a real theater-of-the-absurd psycho drama "offered" to employees whom the managers don't like. If you aren't able to get another job right away, your stay in this place could easily show up in the papers as another workplace massacre. The situation would be comical if it weren't for all the phone reps I saw who were desperate to conform with the scam because they're one paycheck away from being homeless themselves. And the crime rates in these places isn't funny at all. Uppermost in most of the thoughts of staff is visualizing one of the victimized fired co-workers re-appearing on the call center floor with a semi--automatic. It was something of a daily expectation we all lived with, a risk similar to being on the streets of Baghdad. Why I haven't recieved a Purple Heart for the psychological tortures I endured at AT&T is just another example of gaming the system to favor criminal corporations. I too should have access to a GI Bill to fund an education in how to cook the books for stacked databases at AT&T (and keep it secret like all those I.T. zombie nerds do).

After management causes a rep's sales-rate to crash, the supervisor steps in and now demands that the rep read the call center script verbatim during calls, which is pretty much a guarantee that most customers will hang up within a minute. At the same time, all around me are ghetto-slang guys who've never even seen the script. They'll sit there and tell some billionaire in Bellaire who calls in for a Treo, "I's be gonna gives to you a mails-in reeebs-bates so yous kin gits yer moneys backs, but lemme ax' my suppy [supervisor] homeboy firs'…"

The millionaire from Bellaire has called in to make a quick purchase, what does he care that AT&T hires illiterate idiots to take phone orders? Meanwhile I'm talking with a customer for an hour about the infinite complexities of Blackberry plans and for the entire day I have a single sale.

"I's be fixin' to ax' my suppy fer a raised"

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