Insider view on phone psychic operations

by Caleb Reading

All efficiency, she matter-of-factly handed me a sheaf of papers. There was no discussion of whether or not I was suited for the job. I didn’t have to qualify or prove my ability in any way. She never asked if I had psychic abilities, or even if I believed in a psychic’s ability to foretell the future. I would do it, if I was so inclined, and I could continue if I followed a few simple guidelines.

The papers listed the rules of the business (no call-waiting on your phone, no explicit discussion of sex, no putting someone on hold), and then my new boss drew up the guidelines of a typical call.

Athe heart of each conversation are the 22 cards of the tarot deck; each of the cards is assigned an arbitrary number. A “psychic” puts a caller at ease, as much as possible, then asks for seven numbers between zero and 21, each one corresponding to a specific card.
[. . .]
Money and sex are two fairly consistent threads throughout the interpretations of the deck, with a sub-theme of addiction (drugs, alcohol, sex, tobacco) providing a negative area of discussion. But most–about 80 percent–of the cards are optimistic; wealth and happiness are the most common upshot.

Typically, each description ends with a leading question, something designed to elicit callers to speak about themselves, and card No. 3 is no different: “Do you know which one (female or money) it is?”
[. . .]
The goal here is to keep the caller on the line for an average of 19 minutes. This isn’t particularly easy because the first three minutes are free, so many callers hope to get a lot of information without paying. There are a fair number of hang-up clicks as the first three minutes draw to a close. That brings down the average length of your calls. To counter the three-minute giveaway, I was told to ask each caller for his or her name, address, and e-mail address, so that “we can send you a free, personalized tarot card in the mail.” I assume some advertising must go along with that gift. I was also required to give out the company’s 900 number, together with my personal five-digit ID number, so that the customer could call back “in case we get disconnected.” All of that, of course, takes up most of the free three minutes.
[. . .]
For this nonsense, the caller paid a whopping $4.99 a minute. So a call of 19 minutes (minus three free ones) costs a substantial $80. I was told to remind callers at the end of the conversation, “This call is for entertainment purposes only,” but how could I remind someone I’d just talked to for one-third of an hour that they’d been had, and good?