Friday, July 16, 2010

My Illustrious Career...Part Twenty-two

In 1991 I began working at an answering service place, they
were fairly well-known in the Valley, I think this was in
Canoga Park, and the company was called 800-Direct.

'Answering service' is a pretty generic term, what we really
did was answer the phones in response to various ads that
played on TV, or took orders from magazines.

If you ever were watching TV in the middle of the night, and
saw one of those info-mercials come up where they say "Call
Now and have your credit card ready!"...I was the person
who may have taken that call! Our phones were hooked up to a
computer, and when someone called in, they went through the
computer, and a message would pop up on our screen giving us a
ready-made script to read that was tailor-made depending on
what phone number they called.

Our script would have us say, for example:
"Thank you for calling to order the Franklin Mint Coin, may I
take your order?"
"Thank you for calling to donate to Care International..."
"Thank you for ordering such-and-such CD or movie..."
You get the point.
Then we would collect their name, address, credit card number,

I worked the week-ends and the overnight shift. On a slow night,
we would be sitting around reading, when suddenly all the
phones would light up. We would nod to each other, saying,
"Yep, they must have just ran one of the ads on TV!"

We also got calls from people ordering stuff from magazines...
Joseph A. Bank, Barnes & Noble, What On Earth, Cracker Barrel,
Crabtree & Evelyn etc., as well as turning on certain cable
channels for their TV's.

Once in a while I got a call from someone well-known or someone
who was semi-famous...I talked to Gil Garcetti, who was the DA of
LA at the time, and we knew him pretty well from the local news.

I also talked to Alex Trebeck's sister...she was quite a hoot
as I recall. A very nice woman, we had a great chat.

Here is a little hint...these catalogue ordering places make
a large portion of their profits on what they charge you for
'shipping and handling'. For a plastic gizmo that weighs a
few ounces, they could charge you ten bucks for 'shipping',
when in reality, the fastest first-class you can possibly get
at the post office would only cost you about a buck.

Getting a 'free life-time supply' of Sham-Wow still makes them probably only costs them a dollar or two to make and
send you a new rag, and since they say 'Just pay Shipping and
Handling', they can charge you ten dollars, and they still make
a profit.

Not that you can do anything about this, but it kind of annoys
me that they can just randomly 'make up' anything they want to
so they can charge you a fee for something.

I left this job somewhere in 1992 to work for someone my bride
knew who had his own clothing embroidery factory. But this gig
at 800-Direct will be re-visited a few years later, as we
shall see. Isn't the anticipation just KILLING you?

Peace be with you.


  1. OH! I liked hearing about this one! I have always been fascinated with infomercials! Yes, the anticipation IS killing me. If I paid shipping and handling could I please get the next installment rushed to my home???

  2. Yep, pretty funny, BB.
    That is why these companies don't mind when you buy something and send it back for a refund. They STILL charge you 'shipping & handling' for receiving it AND sending it back.
    "Just pay shipping!"
    What a crock.

  3. funny you mention Sham husband was so intrigued he bought it at the CVS and let's just say it did no better than brawny paper towels. I know the scam on ordering over the is all about shipping and handling. I hope people were nice at least.

  4. They were mostly nice, Susie. But one time, it was right before Easter, and we serviced the Honeybaked ham calls...people would call in to order a ham delivered for Easter. And when Easter came..(I was working that day) we got tons of calls because of non-deliveries!
    The hardest part was, I felt REALLY REALLLY bad for these poor folk...and they were mad and yelling at us, but it was not our fault and we could do nothing about it!
    I could perfectly understand their anger...they had no dinner ready for their Easter! And the company did not provide us with a direct phone number that we could give to the customers! That is one reason why I quit.

  5. What haven't you done?
    Very interesting. Even on this as mainstream as Ebay, much money is made in shipping and handling....
    great post Joe!

  6. Well, let's see, Pat:
    I haven't been a pro ball player yet, nor have I been a doctor or lawyer, or a professional fisherman. I guess I have a ways to go!

  7. Another interesting job. I'm so impressed by your entire experience after having so many jobs.
    Loved this post, Joe.
    Have a lovely weekend!
    B :)

  8. I can see how this job could provide interesting blog fodder, for a good while!

  9. Hi Joe,
    Mmm.. I think It's a very nice and interesting job...
    I love the post
    Looking forward for the next post.
    And thanks for sharing your delightful thought and experience here.


  10. Oh, I once worked a job like that. I have so many stories. Although, I doubt any will match what is going to happen in this one...

  11. I think you should give us some of these stories, Cheesy...