"The tricks call centres use to get your money, from someone who used to work in one."

You’re standing at the kitchen bench cooking a stir fry after an especially long day when the phone rings. The number is unfamiliar, but local, so you answer.

It’s me, your worst nightmare, calling from a call centre to beg for your hard-earned money.

As someone who had been on the other end of the charity phone call, I could understand the sound of disappointment and frustration in the voice on the other end of the phone.

“I know,” I thought.

“I don’t want to talk to you either.”

Sometimes, once registering who was calling, there would be excuses.

“Sorry my husband just got home, I’ll put him on,” one woman said, as I heard her husband yell from the other room, “I don’t want to speak to her either!”. It was all very subtle.

Others were not so kind as to make an excuse, and would respond with blatant abuse with a lot of F-bombs. I would accidentally hang up. Whoops.

Yet I would turn up to the shifts for money, despite the dread I would feel as the phone rang, hoping the person wouldn’t pick up. There were many techniques we used to encourage donations to the varied charities that we were calling for.

Here’s what they were:

1. Relatable conversation.

The number one rule for beginning a conversation with someone on the calling list was to build rapport aka make them like you. There were many ways we might do this, but we were encouraged to find common ground and make it feel like a casual chat. On one specific occasion I had a woman tell me she used to work in a call centre, and that she would chat with me for a while even though she couldn’t afford to donate. I WAS IMMENSELY GRATEFUL.

2. Choose a charity specific to that person.

One thing we were meant to figure out during this candid chat, was which charity we would end up asking for money for. If they mentioned their occupation, we might find a related charity, if they mentioned a loved one was sick, we would find a charity for that too. it was an awful process, and the transition was terrifying. It went from a casual chat to “While I have you on the phone, I’m wondering whether you’d be interested in donating to XYZ”, which was so often met with an “Oh, that’s what this call is about.” I let so many people down.


3. Ask at least three times.

This rule was perhaps the most difficult to manage, and since the rule was written down our manager would listen in on our conversations to track whether or not we were actually asking. The first time, we were told to ask for a monthly sum of X. If they declined, we would reduce the amount per month. Eventually, if they hadn’t hung up on us, we would ask for a one off donation of $5.

4. Ensure them it’s safe to give their credit card details over the phone.

One common excuse we often got was “Sorry! I’m not comfortable giving my credit card details over the phone!” but of course we had to ensure them how safe it was. It was, actually, a very safe and secure process, but we knew that the person on the other end didn’t care, they just didn’t want to give us any money.

If you’re wondering whether I felt guilty doing this job, the answer is a searing yes.

In fact, I developed a very healthy coping mechanism in which I took a Pad Thai and a Kit-Kat to work, and bribed myself with meals throughout the shift.

Just one more hour until my Kit-Kat, just one more person letting me know they are bankrupt and having to ask them one more time for money.

Moral of the story? Be kind to the person on the other end of the phone. They have not chosen to manipulate you in this terrible way, and they appreciate your excuses, not your abuse.

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