Working at a Call Center

On my fourth day of work at a Call center Ra’Shae was humiliated, screamed at and fired. I was shocked, teary eyed and wanted to sue Centrinex call center for Ra’shae but everyone casually made calls and so did I. (SMH)

The job is terrible; incompetent managers, few breaks, and lots of punishments. Each employee is required to make 250 calls per shift. There are three floors in the Centrinex call center building. The walls are grey. The cubicles are grey and each one is strategically placed end to end to maximize the amount of people. There is a lingering smell of a construction site porta potty, but are the office bathrooms. The pay is minimum wage.

Each department has a different payday loan. For the uninformed a payday loan is what white people set up in low-income neighborhoods to lend money to poor Black people at extremely high interest rates. The highest I’ve seen is 125%. My job is to call individuals who haven’t made a payment on their loan. So far I’ve heard stories of homelessness, death of a main income provider, imprisonment and hungry children but mostly voicemail answering machines. Usually after the first week the “customers” block our number. Most interest rates are between 50% and 95%. For example, individuals who take out a 2,000-dollar loan end up paying back 5,000 dollars before they’ve paid off there loan. Many file for bankruptcy.

Each cubicle is equipped with an office phone, a headset and a call list. This job consists of poor Black people, calling poor Black people to pay off their high interest loan making rich white people more wealth. The only white person in my department is the Supervisor. Kristina’s job is to make sure we all reach are 250 call minimum for the day. Every hour Kristina calls out how many calls each person in the department has made.

“Ra’Shae, one hundred and twenty seven! Dial faster Ra’shae!”

“Chuck, one hundred! What the fuck are you doing over there? Sleeping?”

“Phillip, one hundred and one. I’ll give you a pass this time because you’re new.”

“Gabriel, one hundred and fifty”

“Hillary, one hundred and sixty”

“De’shuan, ninety!? Meet me in the office.”

When Kristina isn’t screeching out are call numbers she is in the parking lot chatting, smoking weed, or drinking with the other supervisors.

There is one perk of the job, the people. There is Chuck one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. His name is Charles but everyone calls him Chuck because he reminds us of Charles Barkley. In Malcolm X’s autobiography, Malcolm works as a dishwasher in New York City and Red Fox works as a dishwasher in the same restaurant before he becomes a famous comedian. Red Fox makes the job fun. Chuck reminded me of that page. When I’m monotonously making calls inching closer and closer to 250, I look out of my cubicle over at Chuck and ask him a couple questions to distract myself. His responses usually have me drooping over laughing trying to quiet myself.

Chuck sits directly next to me. He is 23 years old, has chocolate skin, a short fade and stands about five feet seven inches. Today chuck is wearing Jordan foamposites, skinny jeans and a grey Kansas City Royals t-shirt. On the first day chuck explains to me that he loves his customers and how I will need to care about each and every one of them if I am going to work here. At first, I thought he was joking, so I smiled and looked away but as I peeked back Chuck had a stern look on his face. Chuck has a faded tattoo on his neck that reads “Jamia.” But has a two-year-old daughter with a woman named Shantel. Shantel works one department down and often stops by briefly. Shantel, Chuck’s baby mama, is seven months pregnant. If you ask Chuck how many children he has, he will say two daughters with one on the way, which confused me the first time he mentioned it but decided not to leave the topic alone.

Chuck will go on tangents about life when Victoria is in the parking lot smoking. I just sit back and ask questions. Chuck jokes about how he’s a player, and how he’s been with over a hundred girls but then randomly will get very serious. He works two jobs, this one at the call center from 8:30am to 5:00pm, and then he does lawn work from 5:30pm to 9:00pm six days a week.

As I try to snoop into Chuck’s life, the questions I ask become more personal. Chuck reluctantly admits that his youngest daughter is not his biological daughter. He says that the “fake ass nigga” who doesn’t take care of her left so he provides for the baby. He brags to me that he spends 1,500 dollars a month on his daughters. “I like to be fresh and I like my kids fresh, cause that’s the type of father I am” Chucks boasts. Then Chuck’s mood will promptly change to thoughtful and kind as he conveys his feelings for men who don’t take care of their children. Chuck quiets his tone, looks down and away from me and says, “How could I ever look my daughters in the eyes, just turn my back and not provide.” I ask him about child support and he laughs and says he pays triple what child support would be if Shantel put him on it. He has been with Shantel since her baby was 2 months old and has been providing for the baby like it’s his ever since. He pulls out his phone and shows me a video on his Facebook of his the daughters playing together. He goes on to tell me that his daughter is smart; she can even spell “distinction.” Chuck spells out the word letter by letter in a baby’s voice “D. I. S. T. I. N.” I jokingly ask him why he stopped? And if he could even spell it? Everyone LOL’s, probably only because I am new. I think inside my head, that I am so corny.

On the fourth day of working at the Centrinex call center, Victoria walks over to Ra’shae’s cubicle and screams at the top of her lunges in front of the entire office that Ra’shae has been sleeping on the floor in the office. Victoria yells, “pack up your shit and get your homeless ass the fuck out.” Ra’shae calmly packs her belongings and walks out. Victoria belts out that she smells like shit as the door closes behind her. I clocked out at 5:00pm and cry in my car for 25 minutes before starting my parents car and driving home.

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