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Putting The Witch In Switchboard

, , , , | Right | September 17, 2021

I work as a telephone operator for an external switchboard company. We provide telephone and scheduling services for a number of companies who, for various reasons, do not have their own telephone operators.

Many of our clients are small, one-person contracting firms, where the owner is out all day and doesn’t have time to answer the phone. Most of them are in male-dominated fields, and people who call them and reach me assume they are talking to “the girl in the office.”

Every company has its own policy for how they want us to handle cold callers; the most common is to instruct them to send an email or to take a message. Telemarketers can be pretty aggressive when they don’t get their way:

Me: “Welcome to [Company]. How can I help you?”

Cold Caller: “I want to speak to the owner.”

Me: “He’s not in the office right now. Can I take a message?”

Cold Caller: “No, just put me through to him right now; it’s urgent.”

Me: “I can take a message and ask him to call you back. May I have your name and what this is referring to?”

Cold Caller: “No, just put me through already. He’s going to want to talk to me.”

Me: “Sir, the owner is probably standing on a roof somewhere right now. It’s not safe for him to answer his phone. I can take a message or you can send him an email.”

Cold Caller: “That’s ridiculous. I’m about to save him a lot of money. He’ll be so mad that you won’t put me through. Do you like your job?”

This client is one of my favourites because he’s always appreciative of our services and frequently thanks us for doing such a good job. His customers are also very nice and understanding of the fact that they can’t always reach him, so I know that this guy is not legit. Therefore, I decide to use the magic words: “company policy”.

Me: “I can’t put you through. For safety reasons, it’s company policy not to call the owner when he’s on a job.”

Cold Caller: “That’s ridiculous. It’s just because you’re a girl that you won’t put me through. Let me talk to a man, instead.”

Me: “There are no men available to take your call right now. You may leave a message or send an email.”

Cold Caller: “Do you know what? If you’d been a man, you would’ve put me through! I hate women; you’re all switchboard witches!'”

Me: “If I’d been a man and put you through, I still would’ve broken company policy. Have a good day.” *Click*

From then on, my colleagues and I proudly referred to ourselves as “switchboard witches” when we were talking to each other.