OMAHA – Call center technician Tonya Brantley recently came to the realization that she might be the last remaining employee at former payphone giant 1-800-COLLECT’s home office.
Brantley, who started the job in 1997 at the height of the collect call bubble, says she was drawn to the position because she was a big fan of company spokesman, Carrot Top. It wasn’t until later that she found out Carrot Top was actually the spokesman for rival 1-800-CALL-ATT.
“I was the only one left in the call center” Brantley stated when asked about her status as the only remaining employee. “After they implemented an automated HR system and outsourced the accounting department it was just me and my former boss Chuck [Patansky] here on site.”
When asked what happened to Chuck, John said she wasn’t quite sure, as the Patansky family stopped accepting her calls. Tonya has attempted to reach out to other employees on an old company contact list she found. Most of the numbers were no longer in service.
It wasn’t always life in the call center for Tonya. Through the summer of 2004, Brantley was one of many chosen for a company-sponsored plan to handcuff employees to payphones to prevent their removal. The plan was quickly scrapped when the company realized that customers were even more reluctant to use payphones with protesters shackled to them.
Brantley spends most of her days thinking of ways to keep the company afloat. “I make sure that all calls coming in and out of the office are 1-800-COLLECT,” she said. “I’m not sure if it’s a net gain for us financially. The accounting firm refused to accept the charges on any of my calls.”
She also attempted to launch an initiative to bring the industry into the 21st century by setting up a collect service for texting. The program ultimately failed due to Brantley’s lack of knowledge of the underlying technology of text messaging and the 1-800-COLLECT platform. “Most of my friends tell me that this is a dead-end job” Brantley said. “I’m starting to think they are right. Even if I deserved a promotion there is no one left to give it. I haven’t seen anyone in here in years.”
As to how long she will continue to work at the company, Brantley said she would keep on working as long as the checks kept coming in, though she wanted to stress that she was not entirely sure they would or who would continue to give them.