“Service representatives answer the questions and complaints of people who call the business office. They are there to soothe furious customers, always responding courteously, even to the most vicious abuse. ‘Women are good at that,’ the manager of our office once said — and indeed the company hires only female service representatives. But there is a second function they must perform: demanding payment from customers whose bills are overdue, and denying service to those who can’t pay. For this reason, management turns to the college-educated middle class — the sector least likely to have experienced poverty and thus feel empathetic with the poor.
“Since my interviewer decided that I did not quite fulfill the company image of a service representative, I was hired under two conditions: 1) that I buy ‘several good business outfits’ before reporting to work and 2) that I accept $20 a week less than everyone else because I didn’t go to college. As I left, she leaned out the door and called after me, ‘Lose some weight!’ — a portentous beginning to my year and a half at the telephone company.”
Where are they now?
Seth Gitell is the former press secretary to Mayor Menino. Tim Sandler is a producer for NBC’s “Nightline.” Enzo DiMatteo writes for Now Magazine in Toronto. Francis Davis is the author of Jazz and Its Discontents: A Francis Davis Reader. R.D. Rosen is one of the authors of Bad President.
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