Like sleeping wolf, I was once employed as a telephone solicitor. I worked for a local construction company which specialized in windows and siding. I knew what I was doing was telemarketing, no matter how much my superiors tried to make it seem like I was doing someone a favor by calling people randomly, but I didn't mind it so much at first. After all, I was making $8/hour plus commission (more on that later) with the only training necessary being an occasional 5 minute pep talk I'd receive from my boss.

When I began working there, I was enthusiastic. Jeff, my boss, made it seem as if these people we were calling were either previous customers or had expressed an earlier interest in our company's services (no and no), and I felt confident that I'd be able to start pulling in "leads" from the get-go. My incentive was that, according to Jeff, I'd be receiving a small percentage of the profit generated by the lead I had gotten. Something along the lines of if someone got $10,000 worth of work, I'd be getting $100 cash.

I took a seat in an open cubicle, surrounded by the stereotypical dregs of society (unhappy mothers in old stretch pants and ratty white t-shirts, smelly old men with facial hair who reak perpetually of booze and body odor, and other teenagers).

If memory serves, the script began something like, "Hi, this is Adam from (name withheld), can you hear me okay?" I always thought that first line was very carefully worded and chosen. We were instructed only to say the company's name, not "construction" or "windows and siding". So, in my evaluation, my credentials were vague enough to keep someone from hanging up in case it was an important call, and then i hit them with a rather innocuous question, one that refusing to answer over the phone is almost unheard of (unless, of course, my headset was muted, and they couldn't hear me).

I worked at this company for a little over two months, taking their hourly pay and never once getting a commission. If you got a lead, and then inquired into when you'd receive your commission, they'd invariably tell you that the lead "fell through".

I became rapidly dissatisfied with interrupting people's lives to ask when they last had their roof fixed or windows done, but stuck with it for the easy money. However, I started to hate myself for being that annoying voice on the other end of the telephone; pretending to know and care about you only long enough to hear a "yes".

And then I learned this company's horrible, horrible secret. Firstly, my boss was a full-blown cocaine addict, complete with the manic-depressive behavior and constant association with strippers in one way or another. Secondly and more importantly, I learned what they were REALLY doing.

I had begun to notice (and so did the people I called) that not only were some people getting calls many times a week from us, but all the calls were restricted to neighborhoods known notoriously for housing primarily non-whites and for being less than "cozy" (e.g., you lock your car doors when you reach the borders of these towns). I began to overhear things spoken between other employees and my superiors, and sooner or later, I pieced it all together.

We called these people, most of whom were probably poor or close to it (some would inform me of this as a way to get off the phone), and convinced them they needed a free estimate on the condition of their home. Then, we'd send people over to give them the estimate. Invariably, the homeowners weren't able to afford the work that was "absolutely necessary" on their precious little homes, so my company would kindly set them up with another company which would provide them with a loan. These companies were in cahoots, and I guess they'd fast-talk these poor people into signing documents or something, but one way or another, the payments would cripple these people, and they'd be forced to surrender their homes to the loan company. And that's how they went about their business.

Of course, I was only a teenager then, and didn't have any hard evidence to bring this up to anyone, let alone know where to begin and with who, so I just quit. And so did my friends who I had referred there to aid them in their quest for beer and cigarette money. A few months after, the company disappeared.

I try to forget about my time spent with them, as I'm not proud of any of the money I earned or anything I did while I was there. I feel dirty for having worked there. I just pray that I was a really shitty telemarketer, and that no one was ever really convinced of what I was saying to them, and that no one ever suffered because of me.