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When I started at the ad magazine, I did outbound calling, where the object was to identify items which had sold (company revenue, and a slice of it for me!) or, failing that, get the client to renew his ad.  Not surprisingly, most of the time I got voicemail, and often the client hadn’t read the manual:

[Prerecorded VM lady] “The party you have dialed,…”
[Clueless client] “Hi, you’ve reached Jane and John!  Leave a message!”
[VM lady] “… is not available.”

Then there’s the Sprint lady.  I’m not sure what flew up her nose, but the recorded voice from Sprint just SNARLS out the digits: “The number you have dialed, 5! 0! 8! 9! 4! 6!…”  Jeez, chill, SprintHilda.

Others make full use of a free-form outgoing message.  There’s one guy out there with a 2-minute prayer on his OGM, and while I don’t doubt the sincerity of his multiple blessings on callers, I wish he’d cut to the chase and leave the Holy Trinity out of it.

My favorite OGM, even though I fell for it every time, was the Ferris Bueller wannabe.  His pickup was complete with the sleepy “Hello?”, the precisely timed pauses, several uncannily appropriate responses and then the kicker: “Don’tcha just hate when voicemails do that?”

Occasionally I’d reach a warm body, and the reactions ranged from hangups to lonely people telling their life stories.  I’ve switched to inbound calls now, but we reps are all in the same room, and at any given moment we can usually hear an outbound rep protesting, “No, I’m from The Classifieds.  The Classifieds?  The Classifieds Magazine.  No – ma’am – you placed an ad with us?  No, I work at The Classifieds…”

The brevity award goes to a client who picked up and shouted, “NOT SOLD!”  (I hadn’t counted on caller ID.)  Well all righty then!  At least those two words and a hangup boosted my calls-per-hour stats, partially compensating for Father Frank’s interminable blessings.

Doing inbound, I get warm bodies all the time now, with the exception of a few persistent faxes.  The easiest way for us to access a client’s account is by his phone number.  One would think that it’d be easy to get a number from a client, and one would be wrong.  Much of the problem is unconscious – they know the number, so they blurt it as quickly as possible, letting their volume fall off during the last 4 digits.  Hispanic callers can be a challenge (I took French), but so funny: “Fie oh ay, tree nye sebbeng…”  Some callers act stunned when I ask for their number and release it with excruciating concentration, as though they’re giving birth.  Quite a few start with 1 (“1-978-…”), and way too many leave off the area code.  Then when I ask for the area code, almost without fail they give me their… zip code.

The strangest phone number phenomenon is regional.  We’re all convinced they’re putting something in the water in Fall River (excuse me: “Fah Rivvah”).  For some reason, almost every caller from that general area gives an aberrant reading on his number (“508-55-
56-78-9”).  Usually the area code is intact, but we’ve had pauses in those, too.  It’s frustrating because at least half of the calls come in from cellphones, so when one of those FahRivvahrites gives a 2-digit exchange, I always think the cellphone blanked on a digit.

If you’re with me so far, once we get into the client’s account, the real fun begins.  The ads can paint a picture:

Ford Taurus, $800.  Lost lic, nd $ for DUI case.
LG DOG HOUSE.  2×4 construc.  Shingled rf, wht vinyl siding.  Built to last.  Brand new.  Our dog won’t use it.  $125.  [The dog in question was an adult Golden, and she absolutely refused to enter the dog house.  I felt so bad for our client – he obviously built it with love and care.  No good deed goes unpunished :> ]

Other ads just scream “Deal of the Century”:

Pile of cast iron steam radiators.  Best offer.
WOLF TRAP, sz 4X.  Works, but great for cabin or game rm.  [Hey kids!  C’mon down!]

Mea culpa

I know, I know, let he [sic] who is without sin cast the first stone.  We definitely mess up sometimes, and what comes out of our mouths often isn’t quite what was intended.  Overheard in the teleservices room:

“Your ad will run through the end of this evening.”  [We’re a weekly publication; she meant to say the end of this month.]
“Did you shave the dragon before you ate him?”  [Yup, a bearded dragon.  The client had joked that he wasn’t sold, they had him for dinner.]
“Snowmoboarding boots”
“…and you know why?  Because I don’t give a rat’s Hello, may I speak to John?…”

And we’ve been known to fatfinger the input.  Gems found while proofreading:

Ono-smoker.  [Hey, leave your opinions at the door!  This typo is related to my infamous “pooprtunity”.]
Humidors in the “Construction Trucks & Equipment” category… with an incorrect phone number.
1976 Pontiac in “Special Events”.  [Maybe it was, for one lucky couple on prom night.]
Xneox.  [Xenon?  Anyway, this looks like what a Dr. Seuss character says when he sneezes.]
Health quar.  [This error got the guy a free renewal.  When you’re selling puppies, “health quarantine” gives a far different impression than “health guarantee”.]
FORD UP NOSE.  [Chevy in ear?  Dodge Ram up butt?  This is my all-time favorite heading, and it actually made it to print.  It helps to know that we abbreviate “pickup” as PU, and that the ad was in the “Truck Parts & Accessories” section, but it kills me anyway.]

Caller quotes

You wanna buy it?  [So funny I forgot to laugh.]
Can I change the price?  [Hey, it’s your ad.  You can change anything but the actual item you’re selling.]
We have to lower the price every time we renew, right?  [Um, no.  We have rules, but not cruel ones.]
[“So your heading is ‘2001 SUBARU FORESTER L’.  How do you want to describe it?”]  “2001 Subaru Forester L…”  [Glad you cleared that up for us.]
I picked up a copy of Horsepower [our biweekly color mag limited to items with engines], and the ad for my canoe isn’t in it.
[“That change will be reflected in the May 1 issue.”]  When will that come out?

Wretched excess

Htd turn signal.  [I don’t know about you, but I never had one freeze up.]

It’s a New England thing

Vivita lens.  [Will it fit my Minolter?]
5-draw file cab w/petitions.  [So is there a partition I can sign mandating the correct spelling of “drawer”?]

Dept. of Redundancy Dept.

Hanging chandelier & wall sconces.  [As opposed to the floor models.]
Sitting armchair.  [I hate the stand-up kind.]
Outdoor shed.  [Good, because I don’t have space for it in my living room.]
Baby bassinet.  [The adult ones are so unwieldy.]
ABS brakes.  [And here I was thinking you meant ABS headlights.]

Say what?

In our copious free time between calls, heh, we enter ads which have been sent by fax, e-mail, snail-mail and the web.  In our clients’ own words:

2005 STS chrome tires have gd tread left.  [Them chrome tires is scarce as hens’ teeth, but dang, they’s purty.]
2 pr alum crotches.  [I’ve never even seen one.]
[Boat with] Porti-Party.
Pecan ducks.
Rod island railing.  [We have a winnah!  Take that, “rod iron” and “rot iron”.]
8″ Fisher plow.  [Shall we file that under Tonka Truck Accessories?]
2 cain armchairs.  [But I’m not abel to sit in them.]
Uses std 115 house plug.  [Remind me not to have you rewire my house.]
The 2 banks are in immacuble shape.  [Incredulate!]
Almost roadworthy.  Drive now, restore later!  [Repent at leisure, behind bars!]
BLOW-UP DOLL. …slightly used.  [This is icky on so many levels.  I have to wonder, though: does she have an aluminum crotch?]
1 owner, used 3 times.  [You just keep on usin’ me… until you use me up.]
2 owners, always garaged.  [May I put you on hold while I call the authorities?]
The stroller was used for my twins who were born in 2004 so it is new.  [Where’d you park your DeLorean?]


OK, so maybe I do know where SprintHilda got her attitude.

6 Responses to “classifrieds”

  1. Steph Says:

    Yez, this is great! I hope they pay you appropriately, but the giggles and guffaws are an absolute benefit that the magazine should add to their written compensation package….

  2. Yez Says:

    The inadvertent humor is definitely a huge perk.  The other reps found out that I was keeping a list of “celebrity” clients (sound-alike names), so the buzz in the room is often punctuated with exclamations like, “Leslie! Robert Goulet!”

    Almost every call is fun, though.  The magazine is well-loved (50 years and going strong, with a unique business model), and the clients trust us to present their items well.  We’re allowed to chat, within reason, so I think a lot of clients enjoy calling in :-)

    I think they pay well, for teleservices, and we have comfy, well-lit workstations.  The benefits rock, and I like every single person who works there!

  3. Suebob Says:

    Check this radio show out – it is all about classifieds and very funny –

    I used to set type. My favorite typo was for a place called “Old West Cinnamon Rolls.” But I typed “Old Wet Cinnamon Rolls.” Yum.

  4. Yez Says:

    I bookmarked it – the full download would probably take too long to listen to right now, but I might be able to get to it on Sunday (packed schedule this week!).  I know I’m going to love it  :-D

    It must’ve been fun (yet mind-numbing) to set type.  {{{Applause!}}} for Old Wet Cinnamon Rolls!  I’m not above eating those, actually, after they’ve been transformed by a toaster oven into Ancient, Desiccated & Tough Cinnamon Rolls.

    “Pooprtunity”, luckily, was caught before it hit the company president’s desk.  That was back in the days of typewriters and carbon paper, so I had to type the letter over again.  *Sigh*  Privately I think of that typo as alternate slang for “bio-break” :>

  5. guinness girl Says:

    I have never had the pooprtunity to see or even hear of aluminum crotches before! Lucky you!

    Blow up doll, used???!?!?!? EWWWWW.

  6. Lara (formerly Guinness Girl) Says:

    Yez, where’d you go! I just wanted to let you know you are missed!

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