I was at work the other day when I got a call from one of our sales agents. I work in a local office that oversees the region where I live for a business that is multinational, and our customer service line is a typical call center based in the US. I didn’t catch the agent’s name, so I’m going to call her Phoenix.
Anyway, Phoenix calls me from the customer service line to inform me that a customer from my region called her in a rage because he wanted to complete his transaction with one of our smaller business locations outside of his appointment and outside of their business hours. Phoenix had reasonably suggested that he go to one of our other locations that was still open, but he had an absolute meltdown at this and hung up. At this part in the story, I’m thinking, yeah, that’s fairly typical. Just a few hours earlier I had had a customer scream “Oh you little bitch” at me before hanging up the phone. That’s how it goes, I guess.
Phoenix says, “He called me some things I’d rather not repeat…but I’m not able to put notes in his customer file, so can you put them in?” I assure her that I can and that I totally get it. Customers are brutal. You guys, customer service is brutal. Ya’ll treat us like shit. Please try and stop if you are the kind of person who thinks calling a complete stranger a bitch on the phone because something went south with your order is acceptable treatment of another human being. Anyway.
Phoenix gets real quiet and says in a hollow voice, “Well, whatever. I’m dead inside anyway from this job.” And that’s when I realize that I’m not commiserating at this point. I actually need to listen.
My job is pretty ugly, to be honest. Like all companies, mine promises things it can’t always keep and operates from terms that aren’t entirely clear, and when the customers get screwed over we get the heat. So I’m nodding along with Phoenix, saying oh yeah, we get that too.
She admits to me that the guy told her she was a fucking cunt, a stupid cunt, fuck fuckity fuck fuck fuck before he hung up. And keep in mind that her solution to his problem was entirely reasonable, and he had showed up outside of his agreed upon time at a business that had long since closed, in a rage because how dare they set their own hours at HIS inconvenience?
Fuck, bitch, cunt. Yeah, ugly, but we hear it a lot. I live in a low income area well known for its chop shops and drugs. When someone acts this way, I’m not surprised. But then Phoenix tells me about something I don’t ever have to deal with.
She says, “People call and scream at me for being from ‘some center in India’ and ‘stealing our jobs’ just because I work in a call center.”
I say, “…Do…do you tell them you’re working out of Arizona?”
She says, “They don’t believe me when I tell them. Apparently my voice sounds ‘too much like a recording.'”
Wow. Admittedly, her customer service voice was on point, but holy shit.
People are calling and attacking her just because they think she might be from somewhere foreign.
She had nothing but a standard American accent and people still thought she was from India. Just because she works in a call center. All it took for this customer service agent to get abuse was just the idea that she might be a foreigner, with nothing else to signify this. Not her voice, her accent, her actual location. Just the possibility.
WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT SAY ABOUT US, YOU GUYS?
That’s right. Arizona is in India now. Apparently you can’t work in America without Americans getting shitty with you for “stealing their jobs.” If you work in a call center and somebody calls you for help with their order, fuck you, because how dare you steal jobs from Muricans?!! And then when you tell them Arizona is in the United States, they don’t believe you? Because why else would you be answering the phone?
What the actual fuck?
Phoenix sounded so hollow as she told me all the abuse she puts up with, and I had no idea that that was what it was like. In a local office, I don’t get that abuse. I get the usual shittiness, but no one has ever accused me of being from another country and stealing their jobs. (You guys do know that corporations are sending those jobs away to increase their profit, right? The same corporations everyone wants to aggressively deregulate so they can do more of that kind of thing? Just checking.)
I was really scared at the end of that call. I know that ugliness exists and has gotten even worse in the last few months, but it made me terrified of how easily people will open fire on others with next to no information. At this point, she doesn’t even need to be in an Indian call center to be the target of that aggression, does she? No, these angry callers just want someone to take their hatred out on and customer service agents are ideal, faceless targets. Keep in mind, this person came under fire for having a voice that sounds too perfectly American. People are so distrustful now that even that will set them off? Wow.
Hatred is inexcusable. Treating people like this is inexcusable. If Phoenix is anything like me, quitting isn’t really an option. She has bills to pay in a country that is increasingly shutting down avenues for most people to reach success and stability, and besides, where would she go? Where would I go?
I’m going to guess that if you are reading this, you are probably not the kind of person to fly off the handle at a service worker. But if you are, please think about what you’re doing when you scream obscenities and make threats and degrade the person on the phone. Why are you doing that? Because you can?
Because it’s more legal than the kind of open aggression and violence we see on the streets?
Because service workers “deserve abuse” for taking such a shitty job instead of Making Something of Themselves™? (So that when they do you can blame them for the mountains of debt they’re now in for their college degrees?)
Because voices on a phone aren’t real people? Because you’re frustrated at a company and have no one else to take it out on besides their underpaid and badly unappreciated part time staff?
Stop. Because now, even though I drink every night when I come home and go to each shift with a knot in my stomach, I have to worry about whether Phoenix even made it home at all that night.