Who works in call centres? Gnomes? Aliens? Small Indian men who call themselves John but are really called Raj? What really goes on, what is life in a call centre really like? And what is it about telesales that makes us so very angry? Whether it is people trying to sell us something or people just wanting to complete a survey, there is something about speaking to a customer advisor on the phone that makes us extremely mad.

Call centre man


Let us explore some examples where it is perfectly reasonable to get angry.

1. “That girl kicked my cat.” …SO mad.

2. “I cannot believe the shiny Pokemon card he gave me was a fake.” … SO mad.

3. “That pigeon looked at me.” (By now you should all know how I feel about pigeons).

4. “This man called me and tried to sell me double glazed windows. I TOTALLY FLIPPED OUT AT HIM…” Umm… Really?

Really? Did you now? You flipped out? A man tried to sell you windows, so you decided to become a telephone gangstuh and go ape on his ass? A slow clap for you, my friend.

Okay, so you don’t need double glazed windows, you already have them. So what, he lied about his real name (Baljit) and gave you just a slightly more western name (Edward). Does it then give you the right to go ape dooda bananas on him and proceed to tell him what a terrible person he is? Please do not answer that, it is a rhetorical question.

There are certain things we condemn in face to face contact. Rudeness, attitude and racism being just some of them. But we suddenly become very comfortable with all three over the phone. How would I know, I hear you ask? Well here’s the thing… I work in a call centre! Inbound calls if you must know. Being brown, I know I’m only fulfilling the stereotype, but believe me, there are plenty of white people here. It’s magical. And though many of the customers are charming, well mannered and a delight to assist, there are those who evidently fall into the category of telephone gangster.

Why? I do not know. But there is something about speaking to a sales assistant over the phone that drives people to act as though their mothers raised them to be feral dogs. Some of my special conversations are as follows.

Customer: “Thank you so much for your help dear, you’ve been wonderful. I’m so sick of talking to these INDIANS and PAKISTANIS, it’s nice to finally talk to someone English.”

Me: “Hmm..” (This usually means, shut the fudge up. Evidently, she did not recieve the hidden message).

Customer: “I mean really. I wish they would all just bloody well go home.”

Now at this point, I had an important decision to make. I could either hold my tongue (and my job), which would be a moral travesty, or I could completely lose my temper (and my job), and give her the “my people drive you around in taxis, without us, you would NOT be over charged for travelling short distances by car. Nor would you be able to buy things from a cornershop, NOR would there be such thing as ‘the Great British Curry'” speech, in my extremely non-Asian, West London accent. I chose to need neither and instead, in my sweetest possible voice, simply stated: “Oh. Well I’m Pakistani.” I’m sure she heard the smile in my voice, and spluttered incoherently for 20 seconds, before abruptly hanging up the phone.

This is an example of racism over the phone. Next example? Rudeness/ignorance.

Customer: “Thank you so much darling, what did you say your name was?”

Me: “Farsa.”

Customer: “Martha?”

Me: “No, Farsa. Far-sa.”

Customer: “I see, Martha. That’s a very old fashioned name!”

Me: “Yes. Yes it is.”

At times like these, I simply give up. The customer knows my name is not Martha, but is forcing the name on me. I am left with no option but to become christened as Martha. I have also had Sandra, Sally, and Brenda. How any of those sound remotely similar to Farsa, I have no idea. But I have slowly lost the will to live correct them.

The point I am trying to make is, guys, give these people a break. They are providing a service, albeit in an accent slightly different to yours. You may not want the items they happen to sell, you may not like the fact that they chose you of all people, to sell the items to. But stop being so damn mean! They (we) are humans. Well, most of them anyway.