fairness by pyritefortune

13 Feb

By the time she heard the click as the line went dead, Fran was already taking a breath and waiting for the connection beep. The autodialer only forwarded calls which had been answered already, to save time wasted listening to ringtones. But that meant the customer was usually most of the way through their hello by the time she was connected, leaving precious little time to gather her wits and muster the necessary ingratiating tone before launching into the script.

“Good morning my name is Joan, I’m calling from AcornCare, we specialise in services to promote…”Click.  Beep. “Good morning my name is Joan, I’m calling from AcornCare, we specialise in services to promote independent living, may I ask if I’m speaking to Mrs Logan? Did you know Mrs Logan that 90% of retired people like yourself say they would prefer to continue living in their own homes as they become older, and yet our research shows 70% of people forced to move into residential care could have stayed at home if they had access to the right support? Yes Mrs Logan, we at AcornCare have a range of specialist services designed to help provide that support, with a suite of care packages which adapt flexibly to your changing needs. Everything from a range of specially designed kitchen utensils to make life easy around the home, through to…”

Fran marched on through the familiar sales patter, scattered with leading questions, insidious seeds of doubt about the recipient’s failing health and examples plucked from the platinum package paired seamlessly with prices from the economy deal. The poor old bird clearly didn’t understand the tiered pricing structure, but then she wasn’t supposed to. All Fran needed to do was get her to say yes to a salesman visiting ‘in the comfort of her own home’ to talk her through the plans, and that was another small slice of commission and a step nearer to the next bonus threshold.

People she met tended to recoil when they heard where she worked, as though they might sully their consciences just sharing air with her.  And then there were the well-meaning few who would feel morally obliged to play at being non-judgemental, but would eventually find some way to slip in a question along the lines of “Don’t you think, though, that perhaps it isn’t very fair on the pensioners…?”. As if they expected her to reply “Well gosh, I always thought I was doing the grannies a favour selling them useless care packages at inflated prices, but now you mention it perhaps it could be considered rather unfair and I will give up forthwith”.

Fran was tempted to ask them how they felt about the fairness of the look in her daughter’s eyes when she had to break the news that they couldn’t afford the new skates, or the school trip ticket, or even the ice cream at the park. The fairness of seeing her shuffle off to school in the shoes that pinched, or the coat with the fraying hem. How about the fairness of Steve abandoning the pair of them to waltz off with a new floozie, without leaving so much as a forwarding address for his debt demands, let alone any maintenance payments.

“Good morning my name is Joan, I’m calling from AcornCare, we specialise in services to promote independent living, may I ask if I’m speaking to Mr Briggs?” She clamped her mind shut against the torrent of abuse, and waited for the inevitable bang of the receiver hitting the cradle. It used to upset her, but over time you become de-sensitised, inured to the reflexive hatred like static from a badly-tuned radio. Using another name helped; people could swear all they liked at Joan, not least because Fran didn’t particularly warm to her either.

“Good morning my name is Joan, I’m calling from AcornCare, we specialise in services to promote independent living, may I ask if I’m speaking to Mrs Smith? Ah, I see. May I ask if you are a family member Lucinda? No longer at the property, yes.” Fran rolled her eyes at the dead lead, and cursed the shoddy database the company used.  “May I ask if anyone in your household is approaching retirement…”  She heard the phone being snatched from Lucinda’s hand, and a male voice came on the line, hurling abuse alternately at Joan and the absent Mrs Smith, who had evidently filled her lonely days filling in any ‘consumer survey’ she could find.

Fran froze, heart in mouth. That voice. It had to be. Completely unmistakable. As the receiver jolted home, she hit the customer response tab to delay the autodialer, and began to fill in the details. She removed Mrs Smith’s name from the contact details, and typed in ‘Steve Williams’. Then ran down the list of information leaflets and free sample tick boxes, contemplatively. Hernia trusses, irritable bowel syndrome, erectile dysfunction, flatulence cures, incontinence pads… She grinned, and wondered what the floozie would make of that.

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