Life at a Call Center 2: What if she were your Mom?
Ever since my column entitled, “Life at a Call Center,” came out in Panorama Magazine, I have been getting heartwrenching e-mails from call center agents. Their response only underscores the need for the Department of Labor and Employment to set up a special unit dedicated to promoting safety and health standards in the BPO industry and setting up voluntary arbitration mechanisms specifically for the industry.
One of the letters I received came from a 52-year old woman. Pending permission for me to print her real name, let’s keep her identity under wraps for the meantime. Meanwhile, I call on other “insiders” to share their own experiences of life at a call center with Our Times. Hopefully, this would enlighten government that the industry’s success should not be used as a shield against workers’ rights and humane treatment for their employees.
MS. SUSAN OPLE
Philippine PANORAMA Magazine
The Manila Bulletin
Dear Ms. Susan,
I read your article on Our Times of the Panorama dated May 18, 2008 and felt the need to share my experience with the call center industry. I hope this would interest you. I also hope this may enlighten the minds of those people of my age as to what they might possibly encounter when they join the call center industry.
I am now 52 years old turning 53 in July. I have a husband 14 years my senior and has 3 children ages 24, 18 and 16. My eldest, a girl, works with a call center company at the HR Department. She used to be call agent after graduating from college. My second child is a boy now in 3rd year college and my youngest, also a boy, will be 4th year high this school year. I am a college graduate, my last employment was with a prestigious bank as a secretary to a Senior Officer. I resigned in 1983.
Sometime in 2004, I decided I should take advantage of the “equal opportunities” the call center industry has been offering. I went to a Job Fair at the Malacanang grounds. I was called up and interviewed at home by one of the companies I submitted my resume to. I was scheduled for a test the following day in Makati and luckily I passed. I chose the Alabang site because it is near my place in Las Pinas.
I was hired on November 16, 2004 and signed a contract to receive P12,500 basic pay and P1,500 food and transportation allowance.
Having no idea what to expect in the industry and in dire need of money to help out financially, I started training. My co-trainees were the ages of my children except for one who was then 54 years old. I said to myself it’s alright, I am a good person, anyway. But on day one, I heard some guys talk out loud in the vernacular “why are those here (pointing at me and the other old trainee), aren’t they suppose to stay at home and take care of their grandchildren?” I said to myself I shouldn’t be so sensitive. Different personalities, I assured myself.
At the training, we were always asked to form into teams of 5 members. There, we will make a name for our team, draw and color the team name and list some things the trainor ask for. Kid’s stuff. We were provided with huge paper, crayolas, pen markers, and not enough space to work. EVERYONE SHOULD WORK. These young guys and girls take their positions, some work on the floor, others on the table. It was OK with me. I work on the floor, too. There were times that I think it was even fun. We had different kinds of games. But one game that made me make a second thought about working for this industry was the “spell the word with your ass”. I felt so humiliated for myself.
Not that these kids are really disrespectful, not all of them, though, but they just don’t have patience with older co-trainees. I had friends there, but the others were just spoiled brats who show disrespect. They laugh at you at times, and blame you to the face when you make mistakes. Everything we did was a teamwork. In between these games, we did the Trainings.
Some trainers, although I couldn’t blame them, are impatient. They are used to the pace of these young people. Having no computer classes in my time, I self studied at home with my kids as my coaches and trainers. I am not as efficient as them but I do well. And the active brains of these young kids are maybe a mile away from mine.
I passed the two trainings I undergone, the Communications and Culture Training and the Products and Services Training and was ready for the Transition period in Alabang where we have to take actual calls from customers in the US. But almost every morning when I ride the bus to go home, my tears fall. I silently cry in the bus. I felt so violated by some of my young co-trainees and my trainer who sometimes smashes my computer monitor just to show me where the answers to the drills were. And being embarrassed in front of the entire group of trainees is not new to me. I said to myself if not only for the need to work to earn money, I wouldn’t be feeling this way. I am sure my kids would not be doing such disrespect to elders. I never expected there were kids who were like this. I was never violated like this in my entire life. Despite, I was thankful I overcame the difficulties and passed the training.
At the transition period, there were other trainers. Even worst trainers. They shout at almost all of us. They command, they do not train! They always say they wouldn’t be getting as much as they are getting now if they did not experience the same before, so it’s our time to get the same dose of it. They even call the Transition period “hell week”.
Much as I would like to stay and go through, my blood pressure rose to 200 I could already feel my ears pulsating on my headset. They were rattling us, they were embarrassing us, they were practically shouting at us. One of my co-trainees who never smoke went out that night and smoked for the first time because he was put on a stand and was embarrassed and pressured all the way. Trainers always say they are getting us used to the irate customers and we have to be ready.
I did not finish the Transition Period. I asked my husband to fetch me from the company at 2:30am. I didn’t even want to look back at the building. I was shaking and crying on the way home. I told one of the trainers I had my blood pressure checked and it was over 200 so I had to go home.
I filed my resignation thru FAX on January 4. I was just one step away from taking calls on my own on the floor, in my booth, but PRESSURE forced me to resign.
I purposely did not include the name of the company where I trained. If you would want the name, I could be reached thru email and my cel no. More power to you and thank you.
ALIAS – MRS. Q