Telemarketing: The Bottom Rung

In the fall of 1996, while between theatre directing gigs, I was employed by a telemarketing call centre in Toronto to sell long distance phone packages to small businesses over the phone. During my eight month tour of duty I was indoctrinated into the high pressure world of telephone sales and the fight for survival in that wild and woolly call centre. It was an opportunity to meet and study the people who worked in those ridiculously stressful jobs which I equated with a military unit. The pressure was intense. You had to make 150 to 200 cold calls per day. You had to get at least three sales a day, five days a week, for a total of 15 sales a week to get your commission. If you fell short, if you got 14 sales, you didn’t get your commission. It was all or nothing. In order to hit your 15 sales there was pressure to slam (con a customer by switching their telephone service without their knowledge or authorization). The experience provided the framework for much my new novel, A Matter of Will, providing the reader with a behind-the-scenes look at the world of telemarketing fraud as seen through the eyes of Will Crosswell, an out of work actor, and the men employed by a fictitious long distance phone company provider in the mid-nineties. A Matter of Will unfolds at a time when internet sales, cell phone long distance, and the new long distance providers like Telus and Fido were still on the horizon. The characters in the book are bound up in a dysfunctional brotherhood of isolation and competitive one-upmanship. They are Darwin’s apes battling for survival in an old technology world on the verge of extinction.  They are weeds at the bottom rung of the Great Chain of Being. And so they hustle onward – bantering, zinging, barbing, and jabbing away at each other, held in time and place by the nature of their unrelenting, repetitious telemarketing jobs. Telemarketing calls are one of society’s most irritating pet peeves. Who hasn’t received an annoying telemarketing phone call right in the middle of their dinner? Telemarketing replaced the door-to-door salesmen of the fifties. Why? You can’t shoot someone over the phone. Telemarketing is criticized as unethical due to the high-pressure sales and slamming techniques used during unsolicited calls. Because of the volume of complaints against the telemarketing industry, the American Government responded with increased protection for consumers and regulations for telemarketers. The Telephone Commission Protection Act, enacted in 1991, stated that telemarketers had to abide by a series of rules to stop fraudulent practice and slamming. The CRTC followed suit a few years later. Even despite the regulations, unscrupulous telemarketing companies did not comply with the laws. And the slamming continued. Jump to twenty-seven years later. Time: the present. In a January 23rd, 2018 news article, CBC announced that its investigation of the sales practices of major telemarketing companies has prompted growing calls to hold a public inquiry. On the heels of more allegations of wrongdoing inside the industry, dozens of telecom workers contacted Go Public, revealing intense pressure to upsell customers. The CRTC responded by saying that examining sales practices of Canada’s telemarketers doesn’t fall under its mandate. In wake of the CBC’s recent investigative report, sadly, nothing has really changed in the tele-sales industry… only the technology. By Rod Carley      

Latitude 46 Publishing Launches 5 New Books

To hear radio interviews with each author visit By: CBC Sudbury This past week, a Sudbury-based publishing company celebrated the launch of five new books. Latitude 46 Publishing focuses on northern Ontario authors and stories. CBC Morning North host Markus Schwabe sat down with each author.

A Matter of Will by Rod Carley

North Bay director, playwright, actor and author Rod Carley said the main character Will Crosswell is a composite of many people he’s met in his life.
Rod Carley

Rod Carley is the author of A Matter of Will. (Roger Corriveau/CBC)

The novel tells the story of Crosswell’s time at acting school in the 1970s. Carley said Crosswell is “like a wolf in wolf’s clothing.” “He goes from one theatrical mishap to one other relationship mishap, a series of mishaps over and over again,” he said. “Finally, his fiance dumps him and he’s forced to take a job on the bottom rung of the great chain of being … he’s a telemarketer. And all that goes bust.” Crosswell eventually hits rock bottom and ends up in AA Carley said. After that, the story takes a twist when Crosswell meets an unconventional minister and eventually enrols in divinity school.

Wolf Man by Suzanne Charron

In the early 1920s, a man named Joe Laflamme moved to Gogama, Ont. to transport lumber.
Suzanne Charron

Suzanne Charron is the author of Wolf Man. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

He was born in Quebec and had lost many of his sled dogs. While out trapping, Laflamme caught a wolf and decided to create his new pack. “He went about not only working with his wolves … as he was a showman, he also showed off his wolves,” author Suzanne Charron said. “He did carnivals and sportsman shows.” Charron extensively researched Laflamme and eventually wrote about him. This is the second edition of her book.  

Wazzat by Roger Nash

In the 1970s, Canadian poet Al Purdy once told Sudbury’s Roger Nash that good poetry should surprise the reader. “What I’m trying to do when I’m writing is identify my own sense of ‘wazzat’ of wonder of the world around me, in Sudbury in particular,” Nash said.
Roger Nash

Roger Nash is the author of Wazzat. (Roger Corriveau/CBC)

Nash’s latest novel is a collection of verbal snapshots of experiences people can have in Sudbury. “About what it is like to cross a frozen lake at 40 below,” he said. “Poems about gulls shifting in huge conferences from lake to lake, amongst our 300 lakes to have their important meetings which I assume gulls have.” This is Nash’s 19th book.

River of Fire: Conflict and Survival Along the Seal River by Hap Wilson

What’s it like to be a river guide on one of Canada’s most dangerous whitewater rivers? Hap Wilson’s book recounts his experience as a guide on the Manitoba river. “There were several wildfires burning in northern Manitoba,” he said. “After a few days, we ended up confronting a fire the size of Prince Edward Island.” The crew had to avoid the fire which was jumping back and forth across the river. Wilson said they also had to wrap wet bandanas on their faces to be able to breathe.
Hap Wilson

Hap Wilson is the author of River of Fire: Conflict and Survival Along the Seal River. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

The trip was extra challenging Wilson said, as one person on it was mildly sociopathic, and was putting the group in danger. The person lead the group into a life-threatening situation while navigating the boat. “I had to make a decision whether or not to take this person’s life because of the situation we were in,” Wilson said. “Having been faced with that ultimatum, you know, you can’t shake those things off.” Wilson wouldn’t tell CBC News what happened, but said he explains it in his book.

Surviving Stutthof: My father’s memories behind the Death Gate by Liisa Kovala

Growing up, Liisa Kovala knew her father had experienced something during World War II, but said she didn’t really understand what had happened until she got older. She eventually learned about her father’s time in Stutthof, a concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. Kovala said it took a long time for her father to open up, but he eventually told her harrowing details of grueling work, starvation diets and abuse.
Liisa Kovala

Liisa Kovala is the author of Surviving Stuffhof: My father’s memories behind the Death Gate. (Roger Corriveau/CBC)

“There’s so many times when I thought ‘how could he have survived any of this?'” Kovala said. “There’s so many moments where he just shouldn’t have survived.”