Phone-banking with an accent

A cute story, written up in the San Francisco weekly “Beyond Chron,” got sent my way today by my cousin. The story features my aunt (SM commenter “Yo Dad’s” sister). Here is how the story, written by a Barack Obama precinct captain, begins:

Barack Obama is no longer the icon of this presidential election. He has been quietly replaced by a widowed Indian immigrant mother from Fleetwood, Pennsylvania … at least for me. This is how that happened…

A couple of weeks before the Pennsylvania primary, one of Mrs. Trivedi’s doctor sons (the one in D.C.) wanted to travel back home to help with the election. She decided to help too. And one day, about a week before the election she walked into the office without me noticing.

I was then startled by a quiet voice.

“Hello, I’m Mrs. Trivedi and I’m here to help you.” (Seriously, that’s what she said.)

I smiled, introduced myself, and then showed her how to use the phone and she went at it. She completed several dozen calls and dutifully checked the appropriate boxes on the tracking sheets and then went home. [Link]

My first ever job (just before high school) was as a telemarketer. Despite the fact that the cause I was telemarketing for was a good one, the rejection was constant and demoralizing. At the end of each day I felt worthless. My boss just said, “stick to the script, it’s proven to work.” No, not in all cases. My aunt had it much worse as she read the Obama script:

She was back the next day, but the campaign had changed to a longer “persuasion” script, and by the time Mrs. Trivedi got through it, a whole lot of people had already hung up.

“It’s my accent,” she said.

It seemed that way to me too, and it bothered me. I knew the reaction of the people she was calling. While it wasn’t really racism, it just seemed a little too much like it. [Link]

So how did things turn out? Well, the script was flipped. This time, instead of summarizing, I am going to ask you all to click on the story and read what happened for yourselves.

25 thoughts on “Phone-banking with an accent

  1. Abhi, that’s really your Aunt? Very neat, and great that she has become a source of inspiration. I loved this story, saw it a few weeks ago when it was shared among us SAFO types.

  2. In my student job as a market research interviewer, it always helped to tell the respondent I was calling locally they were more willing to talk to you and forgive a few mispronunciations.

  3. Abhi: Thanks for posting this. It would sure make my Sis happy. She is couple of years older to me, but I can vouch for her tenacity (stubborness – as I know, growing up with her back home) and dignity. BHO our future POTUS should thank millions like her for the efforts they are putting in.

  4. abhi,

    Please answer this question for me. Sepia Mutiny claims to be non-partisan, but every single day I see, an “Obama is God” post with some convoluted Indian connection. Do you have to hide behind this indian connection, to showcase your support for Obama and still claim to support no candidate. Either be a man, and say you support obama or just stop innundating SM with these bs posts.

    chicago out

  5. Sepia Mutiny claims to be non-partisan, but every single day I see, an “Obama is God” post with some convoluted Indian connection. Do you have to hide behind this indian connection

    who is “Sepia Mutiny”? is he cute?

  6. Nice one, Abhi. Your aunt is great, and this would be a good story no matter who the candidate was (though I’m glad it was a Democrat).

    I think that alone should refute brown noser’s point. The “indian connection” is obvious to anyone who isn’t caught up in angrily trying to enforce their own arbitrary notion of fairness upon a group blog.

  7. Please answer this question for me. Sepia Mutiny claims to be non-partisan, but every single day I see, an “Obama is God” post with some convoluted Indian connection. Do you have to hide behind this indian connection, to showcase your support for Obama and still claim to support no candidate.

    Yeah, I don’t think there is anything wrong in endorsing a candidate.

    The more this blog tries to sound neutral, the more it resembles Bill’O-Reilly or Fox News calling themselves “Fair and Balanced”. :-)

  8. The more this blog tries to sound neutral

    as a reader, this is my reading of the bloggers on sm who make political posts: ennis – obamaniac, thought he hid it, but clear as day for the longest time; vinod – right wing libertarian, doesn’t make an effort to hide it, and has posted about obama’s anti-outsourcing rhetoric; abhi – fairly obviously leans dem, probably supported hillary, but mostly his posts are about process.

    further, also recall that amardeep posted promptly when obama painted hillary in brownface with his xenophobic d-punjab smear, even though i think amardeep leans pro-obama.

    so, two points: (a) i really don’t think posts on this blog are discussed for a days in a star-chamber editorial board which approves them for content, tone, and message; so, there isn’t a “this blog” that has “an opinion”, and (b) don’t confuse the opinions and leanings of commenters with bloggers.

  9. borg,

    In all the examples you quoted, do you wonder why there was not a single instance of supporting Mccain / Republican point of view?.

  10. do you wonder why there was not a single instance of supporting Mccain / Republican point of view?

    please read my post before commenting. if you still don’t find the “single instance”, reread. repeat until done.

  11. Sorry, I couldn’t find any instance of supporting Mccain’s policies. Ron Paul is more of a Libertarian than Mccain. Anyways, let’s stop diverting the discussion. It’s just my humble opinion that it is not wrong to endorse / pick a particular candidate.

  12. My Dad (still accented, after all these years) worked the phones for Obama in Texas. My family joked that the (rural, white) recipients of those calls are going to think Obama’s outsourced his phone banks to India!

    His script wasn’t all that persuasive, I suppose. Mom stayed a Hillary Clinton supporter. No Obama-Shobama for her.

    (Dad’s last man-crush was on The Saviour of the Nation, Generalissimo Pervez Musharraf. Doesn’t auger well…)

  13. Thanks for making me tear up, Abhi! What an inspiring story that teaches us to keep going, that this is our country, too.

  14. A friend send my brother this article and he passed it on to me. It’s great how many people of all backgrounds have found this story both sweet and inspirational. I will be sure to pass along the lovely comments to Mrs. Trivedi…my mother.

  15. I will be sure to pass along the lovely comments to Mrs. Trivedi…my mother.

    Props to your mom, it’s pretty inspirational when someone will step out of their expected role and takes the initiative to follow through with their beliefs.

  16. In all the examples you quoted, do you wonder why there was not a single instance of supporting Mccain / Republican point of view?

    I’m sorry, please educate me. Where in this post do I write about Obama’s view or policies or endorse them? What I do is find the brown angle in a political story and write about it. In this case the brown angle was related to me! I find a brown angle in a story and also use it to air my own personal opinions. I also look for the brown angle in non-political stories. Nobody on this site has ever claimed to be non-partisan (is there such a thing?). However, SM never endorses a candidate. If you send me stories about McCain where there is a brown angle (and it is as interesting as my last two posts that mentioned Obama) you can bet I’ll want to write up that story into a post. If Huma Abedin ends up working for McCain then all you will see is McCain posts from me. I’m really quite disappointed that a long time reader like you hasn’t figured out the code for what I turn into a post.

  17. Seriously? This story is so cute. If I wasn’t already voting for Obama, I would ask your auntie to call me because I would totally be swayed.

  18. Sweet story.

    But I have to seriously wonder about somebody who would blame hangups on a phone bank/telemarketer on racism (even going as far to hint about former KKK activity in their locale). Seriously, this guy needs to get out more in the world and experience diversity.

    That is the very nature of their work. Nobody wants to hear them call and interrupt their dinner. If her hangup percentage was higher because of her accent, maybe it’s because people couldn’t understand her. I’m sorry that’s the nature of talking on the phone, just as if you were to slur, stutter or start talking in Martian, people are not going to wait around while their kids are screaming and flinging spaghetti on the walls.