REPOST: What it was like to work at DialAmerica in Pittsburgh and why I stopped working there

I worked at DialAmerica in Pittsburgh starting in January 2018. I am tagging this article so people can search for it and find it. I have read the Glassdoor reviews and put one in myself but I feel that a slightly more detailed review might be helpful for those who might be curious.

I heard that DialAmerica will hire anyone. Is this true? I don’t think so, but almost anyone. I say this because I believe they will indeed hire anyone but they’ll eliminate people who do not pass the initial criminal background check.

How do I know? I’ll get to that in a bit. First of all….

How I got hired

“DialAmerica will hire anyone,” said my friend. “Anyone at all.” He said he knew someone who worked there, or had. Should I trust him? I didn’t know him too well, but I knew he’d seen the darker side of life. We’d met at a soup kitchen, and we’d seen each other around now and then a number of times since. I decided I would check out DialAmerica and see if they were hiring.

I checked on Indeed and Glassdoor. Sure enough, reviewers verified that DialAmerica would hire anyone, that the interview was a piece of cake.   I decided to give it a try. I’d been trying to find a job for a very long time. Even the local supermarket had turned me down, and I have a master’s degree. Age discrimination  and being overqualified is a bitch-and-a-half. (If you haven’t gotten to that point already, you will get there.)

I’ve worked in CSR before. I don’t mind it. Workplaces vary and pay varies, too. Most places are decent. How bad could DialAmerica really be?

Those were my famous last words….

I applied online and got a call the very next day. I interviewed on a Friday, mid-morning. It was the end of December.

The way they have it set up in Pittsburgh is that the entire office suite there is in an ugly, sprawling office park in Green Tree off the Parkway, seven minutes’ drive from Downtown in Building 2. Downstairs on the ground floor is a gym, but it’s a super small gym and not well kept up. I went there a lot to use the treadmill, though, while I was working at DialAmerica. I didn’t mind the grunginess too much. The showers were the pits but actually I was barely thinking about that. Every day, I worried about work during my morning run, and that wrecked the run…almost.

The DialAmerica Suite is on the second floor. I think partly they’re also on the first floor, too, but for the interview you have to go to the second floor, turn into the glass doors by the elevator which is where you’ll find their HR office. You see a receptionist area off to the right. You will see a waiting area. I hear some people have to wait a while, so bring something to read. I don’t recall waiting very long.

I was called in by Matt, who was the person who interviewed me. He was smug as could be. I admit I sweet-talked my way through the interview, telling him what he wanted to hear without lying…too much. It was “easy” as interviews go, especially since I had worked as a CSR in the past. I did not say how long ago in the past, and I acted sooooo sweet that he must have completely forgotten to ask for dates, or he was afraid to because of my age (at the time, 59).

Dress in business casual for the interview, that is, not a suit and tie but just under that level of “business.” A nice shirt and nice slacks for a guy, and for a gal it’s tougher but maybe leggings and a nice sweater in winter, or a skirt in summer. I wore a skirt that was too awkward out in the snow, but that didn’t matter. I wore an impressive-looking scarf that likely made me look more dressed up than I really was. My clothes came from the local thrift shop. Don’t wear those spaghetti straps to an interview! Don’t ask. Just don’t.

I think right then and there they had us fill out forms and do mini-tryouts. It wasn’t hard. Do your best. I think everyone passes. So long as you can use a mouse and type a little.

When you are in the interview they’ll ask you what times you can work. Be sure to tell them clearly and be firm. If you can’t work a certain day, say so and be very clear about this. I say this because if you aren’t clear right then and there, you will be scheduled to work on days and times that you are unavailable. State exact times from the start. Expect six-hour shifts and expect to work five days a week. Don’t expect two days off in a row, even if you ask for it. And expect them to change your hours on you in a few weeks no matter what you set up to begin with anyway, such as days to evenings, to weekends, even times you’re totally unable to show up. Or expect them to make excuses for not having work, like saying they ran out of leads, or the client fired DialAmerica. If you are totally caught off guard and cannot change your hours to suit their whim, expect them to get rid of you. Sorry….

I noticed that they hire very fast! I interviewed with HR, did the tryouts, and was out of there fairly quickly. Before I even had a chance to take my phone off Airplane Mode I had received a confirmation from them and job offer. According to my calendar, the interview was at 1:30 and I was hired at 3 or 3:30. They  left a message and also emailed me. I received the call while I was at the bus stop on the corner. The bus had not even arrived yet!

If I recall correctly, the sequence of events was as follows: Applied Wednesday. Contacted Thursday. Interviewed Friday midday and accepted immediately. Started training Tuesday, January 2nd after the three-day weekend.

The training started right away, January 2nd. This was a Tuesday since the 1st was New Year’s. We were trained Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. There were perhaps eight of us, maybe nine. Some of them were chummy with each other, or maybe even cliquish to start. I didn’t say much about that, just tried to get through the day.

The trainer was nice. I liked her. She wasn’t the regular trainer, she said. I liked that she was upbeat and had a decent sense of humor. After a few days i kept telling myself that I couldn’t believe how well everything was going for me at my new job. Then, I had to remind myself that this was only the training. Don’t I always do well in school-like situations? I do. I can’t help it. I’m smart. I hadn’t yet started my work days. I have a history of hating the workplace, hating being bossed around, taking orders, following stupid policies. I reminded myself that this wasn’t real-life. This training was only the fun school part. The terrible work part I always hate had yet to come.

Yes, you will be paid for the training. The pay is $8 an hour at the Pittsburgh office, by the way. (Some of the workers are very competitive about the pay scale and are always trying to get the incentive.)

Me? Sure, I wanted the incentive, too, but mostly I wanted to make it through the day. My first day on the regular work week happened to be my birthday. My 60th. Right away, my supervisor picked on me horribly. It was utter Hell, worse than I could have imagined. I mean that with a capital H. Hell. I actually had to stop the supervisor and tell her, “Hey, it’s my birthday. Will you please treat me nicely?” because she was so cruel. She did not stop, but continued to harass me.

This is what happened. I have no clue why she chose me to pick on, but she decided to pick on me for whatever reason. Maybe because I was the nearest person. Or because I am older and have a master’s degree. She and the other supervisor just wouldn’t quit. I couldn’t take it anymore. They both repeatedly gaslighted me. I didn’t want them hovering over me like a vultures and I had to tell them to stop.

One example of the gaslighting was when my supervisor needled me repeatedly, jeered at me, and then, claimed she was “showing me opportunities for improvement.” This was total gaslighting and total bullshit. But I am sure she wrote it all up as “tried to encourage worker.”

They are strict about cell phones. You will need to keep your phone locked up while you are at work and do not expect to ever be able to take a call. If you’re on break in the break room you can. Only then, and they demand that you take very very short breaks. So pretty much you can’t use your phone. At one point I had to schedule a vet appointment for my dog. It was hard because just making the call used up too much break time. I can’t imagine what the parents among us were going through.

As for the breaks….I didn’t even have enough time to eat. I found I was shoving food in. I hated that. I hated the pressure. I resorted to granola bars. It got worse and worse as time went on.

I am not entirely certain but I think I witnessed them eliminate someone during the training. This is why. I had to think on this one a bit.

I realize now that there’s no way to do a background check on all potential candidates during the super-fast hiring process. I think what happened was that they did the background check after we were hired.

Even before the training started, even before we had entered the training room and were sitting (some fidgeting nervously, I noted) outside the personnel office, I saw them “call in” someone, which, if you ever work there is never a good sign. You don’t want to be “called in.” Avoid it and you’re good.

Of course, they called in this person before we’d even started because they’d found something….I suspected as much. This was after the weekend and prior to our training, January 2nd. I watched and wondered why. After a few minutes the person walked out of that office slightly flushed and smirking. I knew it on the spot. What else could be?

Knowing what I know now, I’m sure they planned on letting the worker go, but didn’t tell her that. They claimed they “had to discuss it,” those smug, arrogant higher-ups there, but that was a bunch of bull. They let this person attend one day of training for the sake of dangling a torture carrot and then I never saw her return. When another trainee inquired about the conspicuous empty chair, our trainer gave us some bullshit line about a “scheduling conflict.” I sure knew better! They had let her go.

I believe in Ban the Box, and I believe in giving everyone a chance. Considering what a shitty workplace it was, considering the low pay, they really should have let her stay. She seemed highly intelligent and capable.

Let’s face the facts here. They will hire anyone, right? This means they could easily let anyone go on a whim and find any other sucker off the street. If you got hired, you’re a sucker just like I was. They do not value their workers at all and don’t give a poop if they let you go. Of course not! They’ll find some other desperate sucker to fill your place in a jiffy. This is how such places operate. You’re meat in a factory and they grind you up and spit you out.

If you want to keep your job there, don’t question their bullying tactics and don’t complain about anything! Smile and accept the low pay, accept the crappy break room and the smelly bathroom, milk the job to pay the bills while you quietly look for another job if you can find one! Yes, I know jobs are scarce around here!

They treat their workers like disposable pieces of trash this in the name of great “family owned” company culture. What the heck is “family-owned”? I didn’t see any family there, did you? Where was the diaper-changing station and quarters for the retired in-laws? Maybe “family-owned” and “we hire from within” really means nepotism…only that’s not such a nice word, is it? But I suspect that’s the case.

When you start out they make you e-sign a bunch of paperwork. I should have printed the papers out or made screenshots, since some I had to sign from home. They did allow us to print these out, but some, of course, they didn’t want us carrying out of there so we had to sign the papers in-house. For obvious reasons.

I guarantee the paperwork is all fluff, all lies, policies they don’t even follow, but you won’t find that out till later.  Very soon later. I will discuss a bit  in more detail later here. Just sign the papers and chuckle to yourself. Pat yourself on the back. You have a job and this paperwork is not there to protect workers, but to protect DialAmerica, that is, it’s how they cover their arses.

One is “We don’t tolerate harassment here.” Here they mention any sort of racism, bullying, or sexual contact.  Their “no harassment” policy is the first policy they break, and they do it on a daily basis. They WILL harass, belittle, and bully their workers. I noted this almost immediately after I finished training. They’ll scold you and repeatedly insult you and shame you in the name of “giving workers opportunity to improve.”

I never learned why my supervisor picked on me from the very beginning, but that’s what happened. She deliberate needled me till I broke on the very first day. Then, she continued to do this, day after day. After that, it was hard to keep my composure, but I did my best. All in all, I began to dread work every single day. She denied this totally, denied that she was treating me badly at all, but I think they all knew that she was.

Another thing they do, which I consider harassment, is overly monitor you by physically hovering over you like vultures. Or they’ll verbally criticize your work and interrupt while you are on the phone with a customer. When this occurred, almost every time, the interruptions were completely unnecessary. I was interrupted with the question, “Did you read the disclosure?” when I had indeed read the disclosure. This was harassment toward me, on two levels. 1. I was discredited repeatedly as a worker when in fact my work was up to standard (monitoring validated this). 2. The flow of my work was disrupted unnecessarily by these interruptions by supervisors who repeatedly “hovered” over me. The customers could hear their scolding, I imagine.

I witnessed them “hover” very closely over a worker younger than me for a lengthy period of time. I was horrified! How dare they discredit this worker and treat this person so disrespectfully! This isn’t kindergarten! I was relieved when the worker did not return. Ever. Dear worker, if you are reading this, be glad you left that place behind. If DialAmerica fired you, they did you a favor, but I suspect you were completely disgusted, and I don’t blame you. I knew they didn’t see you as a worthy human being. You are better off working somewhere where you are truly valued for who you are.

You can never ever make a phone call and if you do, you won’t have a private moment to make the call anyway. This is not time to call your ex and have a heated discussion about his drug habit. This is not time to call your kid’s teacher or day care center, either. You will never be allowed that. Sorry!

I was trying to figure out a workaround so I schedule my dog, Puzzle, at the vet, call the optician to pick up my glasses, and so on. I truly felt sorry for parents because I knew it was hard for them not to be able to receive phone calls all day.

They sent out a threatening email saying we had to take shorter breaks. Oh please. Pee faster? I’m peeing as fast as I can. Shall I get technical here? The ladies’ bathroom always smelled really terrible (I’m warning you here, it really did and everyone complained). Eat faster, too, because breaks had to be shorter and shorter. I heard workers and even supervisors complaining about indigestion. Maybe if they’d given us time to chew our food, people would have felt better.

I started hating going to work. I felt that every day that supervisor was going to bitch and nag at me. I hated that she “assigned” a seat for me right near her, every time I came into work, just so she could harass me worse than she harassed the other workers. I started a new tactic. Ignore her bullying and just concentrate on working. I was being paid at least.

One day, I was on the phone with a customer who complained about me directly to me. I explained to him that I could barely see the computer screen and that my employer did not give me accommodations. The customer, god bless him, said, “You can get the Commission for the Blind in there to do the accommodations for free. Tell them.” (I was lucky that this particular call was not heard by the supervisors.)

One day I was in a meeting with the supervisors and I heard one of the supervisors whispering to the other, “She’s blind.” I was disgusted that they whispered this so loudly that I could hear, obviously gross disrespect, but then, I had an idea….

If they perceive me as blind, then, even though I am not blind (not if the blindness can be corrected by surgery), I am still covered under the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Since they’d blown it totally in this tiny whispered statement, I realized in a flash that if I were ever fired, I could sue for discrimination.

In a bold move, and knowing they thought I was blind, I told them, “The Commission for the Blind can set up accommodations so I can see. They’ll do this for free.”

Immediately, I could see panic in the supervisor’s eyes. Perhaps since they thought of me as blind, they didn’t realize I could see their faces, see their wide-eyed looks of bewilderment at my comment about the Commission. “Oh no,” they said, “we can’t let the Commission for the Blind in here. They’ll find out our company secrets.” Those were the supervisors’ words exactly. I might not have seen very well, but yes, I heard them!

What company secrets are that terrible that they can’t be known about? What were they hiding? That the accessibility of the building wasn’t up to par? Were they afraid of a citation? The implication was that having the Commission in there would put customer credit card numbers at risk. But this was baloney since anyone they hire off the street has access to sensitive information as it is. I think they had something more sinister to hide, but I will never know.

I noticed that one worker, at least one, never worked. She yapped all day with another worker. I was never sure if the other worker, a male, was a willing participant or not. The yapping woman got seriously on my nerves. Couldn’t she sit down for a second? She kept popping up out of her seat. We weren’t actually allowed to do that. We were supposed to remain seated. She, however, seemed to have special privileges. No one seemed to care that she was bouncing around like a hyena and yapping constantly. I saw her yapping and bouncing for about a half hour. Was she even taking calls? If so, she wasn’t looking at her computer screen, didn’t sound like a CSR but sounded rather like she was flirting with her coworker nonstop, and the supervisor did not care. Why wasn’t she reprimanded like they did to me, for far less serious infractions? I suppose some there are privileged. This is what family-run business means. Favoritism. Inside, I wanted her to shut up so badly. I felt like I needed earplugs to block out her obnoxious voice.

One day, that other worker wasn’t there. I felt relaxed because the supervisor was getting up a lot, not hovering over me as she usually did. Likely I relaxed too much, but honestly, the place was so oppressive that comic relief was sorely necessary and welcome.

The other supervisor handed me a cup of coffee. I didn’t even have to get up from my seat. I couldn’t believe how good that coffee smelled, since we don’t have it in the break room. I said, “Thank you, Slave.”

Now, you have to realize what was truly behind what I said, which I never admitted to the bosses. I felt like a damn slave in that place. I couldn’t stand the way I was being treated, so disrespectfully, harassed daily, feeling like I had to walk on eggshells. So when I used the word “slave” it certainly had nothing to do with the pre-Civil War era, nor anything to do with the American South. It had a lot to do with the shitty work conditions I was working under. But I had to keep that to myself.

That I know of, I was written up for racism.  Why? Because the bullying supervisor decided to twist my words around. She delighted in doing so. I even apologized, and she refused to accept my apology. Rudely refused.

They had me now. They claimed they knew damn well I had no racist intent. However, they sided with the bullying supervisor, since she was determined to get me out of there.

Then, suddenly, they ran out of leads for HomeServe, the client I was working for. We were asked to switch to evenings. We were told we had to. I could not, because my last bus leaves at 8:12 from Wood Street. I was firm. I said “I cannot work past 7pm.” I didn’t say why.

That I know of, they got rid of all the workers who could not switch to evenings. I am not sure what happened to HomeServe, if DialAmerica still has them as clients or not.

HomeServe is a really bad product. It’s for homeowners, supposed insurance for hot water heater, furnace, etc. Don’t get it!  The service sucks very badly, they do not repair on time, if they repair at all, and the contract is full of loopholes. I hated trying to deal with the complaints, knowing that this HomeServe company was bad to begin with. I hated upselling. I admit, I succeeded in upselling quite a bit, but each time, I cringed.

It was down to very few now working for HomeServe. The others were training for SiriusXM. I was stuck in that office with just the supervisor. No one else. So now, she could bully me all she wanted.

However, this was  what happened on Wednesday, January 24. I got into work and they asked me to put myself in “coaching” mode. Don’t be fooled. They had me closely monitored all day. I didn’t know it, but they were looking for mistakes, combing through what I was doing and also, I suspect that offline comments were also recorded. Too bad, they didn’t get the satisfaction of finding anything wrong, no basis to fire me, but I know they had to get rid of me. They had no work for daytime workers, and that supervisor was determined to see me outa there. This was the only day of all the days I worked there that I was in “coaching mode.” Interesting.

The next day, before I even started my work day, I was “called in.” Uh oh. This time, they had me meet outside of the workplace, in the personnel office. The two assholes, Matt and the other one, begins with D (can’t recall his name, was it Evan? Devan?) were there. They didn’t even bother sitting down. They told me I was fired. For what they admitted to me, right then, was not racism. It was ableism on their part, and I bet they didn’t know what the word meant. They just wanted me gone. They wanted me to walk out of there immediately, but my lunch and belongings were in the workplace, so I had to return to get them.

I think they were afraid I would “talk” to the other workers, that I would say something, leak out what assholes they were.

I did not show emotion. With a big smile, I handed back my key card and wished them good day.

That night, at my Toastmasters meeting, I was scheduled to give a speech. I quickly revised my speech during the bus ride home and later, gave about the best Toastmasters speech I have ever given. The topic? Pretty much “Take this Job and Shove It.” Afterward, I got a rousing round of applause.

I was glad to be out of there. I didn’t want any more monitoring and recording. I knew as a fact that their “policy” on No Disparaging Comments was not even legal. So now I totally enjoyed bashing what was now my former workplace.

Now, months later, I have a new job that pays far better and I even get to work at home now. I don’t have to dress in “business casual” nor deal with bullies anymore. I even got cataract surgery. Now, I’m not blind, or, rather, “blind” anymore. I am happy that I will not have to deal with discrimination at my new job like I experienced at DialAmerica.

If you can deal with crappy work culture and maybe enjoy participating in the belittling, you might be a good fit at DialAmerica Pittsburgh. Very few workplaces are quite as bad as they are. They will hire you, but you very well may not want to stick around.

Addendum: Today at work I was called a “hidden gem.” See? It wasn’t me after all! It was DialAmerica’s crappy work culture.

Moral of the story: If you hate your job, it doesn’t mean you “can’t work.” Even if you are fired, it doesn’t mean you’re “incapable.” It means the work culture sucked, or it means it was a very bad match. Keep searching. Keep looking for something better. Remember, it is not your problem, it is their problem.

I wish I had known this years ago, too. Go where they appreciate you. Don’t stay where it sucks.

Feedback and comments welcome!