What's it like being a telemarketer?

I’m interested as to what your job is like. Why’d you take it? Do people really say mean and/or strange things to mess with your head/get you to go away?

And non-telemarketers – please don’t scare them away by being mean to them. I’m curious as to what their job is really like.

I’ve never been a telemarketer, but I have done telephone pollings. Now, I worked for a VERY reputable academic organization – but people don’t care, they hate you just the same for calling at dinner time.

Basically, it’s very dispiriting, people hollering at you and asking where you got their number (we had sample taken from Bellcore – includes unlisted numbers because they generate it randomly). Because we were asking about political issues, sometimes people would really want to share their views. That was nice.

Basically, very exhausting being hated for a living.

I was a telemarketer for a week once, and it was one of the worst jobs I ever had. We were selling magazine subscription packages and encouraged to go the “hard sell” route- not taking no for an answer, keeping them on the line at all costs, etc…
We had a big script to work from, with a list of pre-written responses for nearly anything the person on the other end might say. The supervisors not only tape recorded our calls, but listened in at random and would occasionally pull one of us into the office and berate us for “going off the script”. It was demoralizing- the name calling, 'where did you get my #?", etc…was terrible. Of course, I thought the whole thing was a scam just as much as the people I was calling. The things one will do when ya need a paycheck…

I also was a telemarketer for a week. I couldn’t find a job the summer I moved out to CO, so my wife and I took it in desperation. We were selling coupons to a local restaurant; we called during the day, so interrupting dinner wasn’t an issue. My wife lasted precisely one day, and was asked out once. Like I said, I lasted 1 week. I talked with one woman who was skinning hot dogs for her 2 year old, apparantly he would eat nothing else.

Basically, it sucked. Ours was a reasonable deal, if you ate at that restaurant a lot. Some people were annoyed at us just for calling. Usually, I would just have a nice conversation with some bored housewife. The hard sell guys usually got stiffed at the door. (The person would agree just to get them off the phone, but then wouldn’t pay for the coupons.) We got paid on commission, and I only sold one set of coupons. I left as soon as I found another job.

I’m a telefundraiser. My job is a little different than telemarketing, because I’m not cold-calling – the people I call are already members of or at least have previously donated to the organization that I’m calling for. I’ve been doing it for three months, and I like it quite a bit more than I thought I would.


  1. I can choose my own schedule.
  2. The better I do, the better I get paid.
  3. Casual environment.
  4. I have a bit of a performance instinct, and every call is a new performance.


  1. Can be repetitive.
  2. Unbridled resentment from the world at large.
  3. If you have a bad day on the phones, you barely make squat.

I do have my eye out for other work, but my thinking is that I would find something part-time that’s a little more stable while continuing the telefundraising gig part-time.

The true suckers in the game are the the callers. They are promised good money and given false estimates of success. Then when they finally realize they’ve been scammed they quit and forfeit even the meager commissions they earned, because they won’t be “fully processed” until after the quit date.
So, they worked their butts off for nothing and the scamming owner got by paying 1/2 what he owes.

I’d like to know from those who work or have worked as telemarketers: what’s the typical ratio of calls made to sales? In other words, how many calls do you usually have to make before you get someone who agrees to buy the product/service, make a donation, participate in the survey, etc.?

I worked as a telemarketer for about four weeks (maybe less) last summer. I took the job because I figured that I could take a little bit of heat, because it paid fairly well for a summer college-kid job, because the office was really close to my house, because they said I could wear jeans to work, and because if I liked it I could’ve continued at a different office when I went back to school.

I hated it. There wasn’t just a little bit of heat; people would personally insult me, curse at me, and just generally act like jackasses. I’ve been told to “drop dead” and worse. The suckiest thing was when people would insult my intelligence based solely upon my job. Due to company policy, I couldn’t respond to them the way that I wanted to (which would be a gentle correction of their misconceptions).

I never had anyone mess with my head, save for a pair of 13 year-old males who thought it would be funny to quote random lines from “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective” into the phone instead of answering the question “is ______ there?” They thought they were hilarious. I thought they were dumb.

At the company I worked for, there was a tremendous pressure to perform. Due to a stupid form that I had to sign, I can’t give out specifics, lest I get in trouble. I can say, however, that I was formally disciplined for not completing a sale to a man who didn’t understand English, and therefore had no idea what I was saying. He was just saying “Yes” and “Okay” to everything, even the questions that didn’t merit that kind of response. They thought I should have taken the sale; I thought it was dishonest. This was a major factor in my deciding to quit.

The worst thing, though, were the freakin’ Telezappers, which the computer didn’t seem to filter out. I was wearing a crappy headset, and had the volume turned up to ten. That high-pitched beep frickin’ hurt.

As to whether people actually buy things, and how often they do so–it isn’t all that often. I got maybe 7 or 8 sales in three weeks on the floor. Some people could get 1 out of 10 or 20 people to buy–those were the people who really pushed the product. We were supposed to get one sale per hour–that never happened.

Interesting side note, though–I got called by the company that I worked for the other day. (Actually, they called my mom, but whatever). They hung up when I said, “I’m not interested. Thank you for your time. If I have any questions about this call, I’ll be sure to call the toll free number at 1-800-555-1212.” Except I used the actual number. Hopefully, I made some poor TSR laugh.

Wasn’t there something in the OP about not being mean? Just checking.

I believe the OP meant saying things like “U Suck! If you’re a telemarketer, I hope you go straight to hell!” etc etc etc. not discussing real-world scams that employers are wont to pull.

Well, I certainly don’t like being called a sucker.

Well, if you worked 3 weeks and never got paid, wouldn’t you be a sucker? If this has never happened to you, then you are not a sucker. See?

That post was not criticizing an inherent problem with telemarketing as a job… just a bad situation that can arise.

Being a telemarketer is very hard; both mentally and emotionally.

First job out of college, when no one else would hire me. I lasted 6 months. First couple of weeks were great - good money, air conditioning. Not bad…

Then I started listening to the people I called. You have to have a really tough skin to do this day in and day out. Which I don’t. Top that with trying to help the people on the phone instead of reaching my quota. That got me fired.

But now I’m on the other side of the phone. I answer a toll-free number about environmental issues. And I also get every call that couldn’t be answered by any other agency. I had to deal with a haunting last week. (But I’m always nice to telemarketers!)

Good Luck, Snooooopy. You must work awfully hard.

I was a telepoller for four mounths during the summer. The turn over rate was incredable, in my training group of 8 I was the only person to last more the a week.

Its awful at first, you feel so annoying and scummy, but then you begin to like bugging people trying to eat dinner. In a way I felt like i was getting my revenge on society for not offering me any decent jobs. It was always funny when some azzhole spends 20 minutes yelling at you and threatening to sue for wasteing time when he could have just hung up on me when i said “hello”.

People use to shout this all this bs about “do not call lists” and “FCC regualtions” and I’d love to tell them it didnt apply to me. The madder someone got, the more interesting my day was. It was kind of like being the devil. I’d love to get to talk to crazy people; they were the best. Since crazy people have a lot of free time I got a whole lot of crazies. I was accused a number of times of being part of some vast (insert political ideology) conspiracy. There was some truth to it, we were accused of push polling for the G.W. Bush and other Republicans ( I’d even do it for communists if they paid me ).

They let me read books ( I read the lord of the rings almost entirely at work) as I worked and I got to talk as much as I want as long as I kept calling people ( there are a whole lot of no-answers, often times I could spend 20 minutes reading before i had to talk to anyone). I got to meet a lot of interesting people at work. You had to be soical or the job would be too depressing. I made friends with devout muslims, lesbians, grandmas, pot heads, as well as other college students because I sat next to them . I learned a lot about other peoples life.

I did feel bad when we would call someone about three or four times everyday or call after 9. But the bonuses I got for them made it worth it. Overall it was a good experiance, It made me much less shy on the phone, I can talk to anyone anwhere about anything for as long as I have to. I have much thicker skin now. Plus I got a couple more dollars an hour that I would have gotten elsewhere, and I didnt have to wait tables.