Q: How long did you take car accident phone calls for an insurance company?
A: I did it for six months. It was the first place that got back to me after I graduated from college. I know lots of people who’ve been unemployed and had trouble finding jobs so I jumped on it.
I didn’t realize it was going to be third shift until I got to the interview.
Q: What are the hours for third shift?
A: I would get there at 8 p.m. and leave at 6:30 in the morning.
Q: What was the job like?
A: Sometimes people would call from the scene of an accident; sometimes people would call weeks later or years later. Our job was just to take down the information. We had a list of things we’d ask, like what color is your car, your name, address.
We were the national call center for this insurance company. It definitely opened my eyes to how a call center works—to how little they actually know. They really know almost nothing.
Q: It must not have been good if people were calling from the scene of an accident…
A: There were tough ones. There was one guy who’d just been mugged by the side of the road, and his car was stolen. He said, “I don’t care about the car, but my phone was in there, and the last pictures of my girlfriend before she died were on that phone.”
Q: I imagine you got a variety of people calling in.
A: It was all over the spectrum—people who were angry or sad. Sometimes you’d get the nicest people. One guy called to say his RV was on fire. He sounded so calm. It was funny how calm he was.
One guy—he’d been driving his truck down his in-laws’ dirt driveway. He was about to hit a tree and he swerved out of the way of the tree and into his in-laws’ house. He felt so bad. I was telling him not to be too hard on himself.
You could be empathetic but you couldn’t say, “It’ll be covered” because technically then they’d have to cover it.
Q: Did most callers say that the accident wasn’t their fault?
Sometimes stories would start that it was the other person’s fault, then sometimes they’d rethink their story while they were telling it, like maybe I was actually at fault.
After four or five months I could hear someone’s voice and tell how the call was going to go.
Q: Could you ever tell that someone was lying to you?
A: Some liars were easier to spot than others. People would call in with what are termed as “hypotheticals”; they would say something like, “If I were to have about an 8” scratch on the left side of my car would it be covered? Would my deductible go up if I claimed it?" and it was absolutely clear that it was something that had really happened.
In that case, we were supposed to just get enough information to fill out the claim WITHOUT their consent, which I really did not like to do. Probably my biggest rebellion at that job was intentionally misspelling and jumbling names and numbers when dealing with those calls so that the customers wouldn’t have to deal with a claim that they didn’t want to make.
I got in trouble for inaccurate information a couple of times, but if my superiors knew I was doing it on purpose, they didn’t let on.
We also frequently got prank callers who wanted to fill out bogus claims. Those were actually kind of fun because they didn’t mean anything, and I would always try to play them as straight as possible no matter what the caller was saying.
One time I submitted a claim for Tits Magee who got into an accident with a great white shark while driving to Australia. There was some rear left quarter-panel damage, and fishsticks stolen out of the trunk. I figured if some kid’s idea of fun is to prank call an insurance company at 3 in the morning and I’ve got no other real calls waiting, who am I to stop them?
Q: Were there callers who didn’t speak English?
A: Yes. We had a translation service we could call.
Once there was a French ambassador who was flirting with the translator and complimenting her French. His car had been broken into and they had taken his bonbons that his wife had sent him from France. He was upset but he said what he really wanted was his bonbons.
You could get good translators and bad translators. It could be awkward. Twice I had to ask if they could hang up so I could get another translator. I had to do it—this could affect people’s lives.
Q: Did any perverts ever call the number?
A: Yes. The one I had was lewd. What was impressive was that he had to wait through all of the phone menus to talk to me. The call started how you normally start but then I heard this tapping noise on the phone.
Q: Oh god.
A: Yeah, but we got all kinds of calls from people with bad connections, so it wasn’t too strange at first. And it would be worse to be rude to someone who is a real customer than to be too kind to a pervert.
He asked me if I could hear the noise. Then he said something I won’t repeat.
A: I had a friend who worked at a library at the time, and she’d get these calls—people would give her a call number for a book with a lewd title. She would look it up and they’d be in the library so they could see her reaction when she read the title.
Q: Nice. What made you quit the job?
A: I didn’t want to do it anymore, so I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything lined up so it wasn’t that smart. But I found something pretty quick.
Now I work at an ice cream store and I never have to tell people that they’re stranded in the airport because we forgot to send them a rental car.