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What’s it like at Pell and Bales? April 15, 2009

Posted by callcentreworker in charity calls, strike, trade union.
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– What work is done at P+B?

Pell and Bales run a call centre that mainly, although not exclusively, makes calls on behalf of Not-For-Profit organisations. In the main, we raise funds on the telephone for charities, although P&B have been known to have contracts with commercial clients. Although P&B have a number of competitors, if you have been called by a charity, it is most likely that the call came from a Pell and Bales employee.
– What are working conditions like?

Pressure seems to dominate. Like an other call centre or contact centre – every day workers at Pell and Bales (commonly referred to as callers) are expected to meet targets: there are targets for pledges (usually a Paperless Direct Debit, where the caller has not only got agreement for a supporter to help with a regular donation, they have got obtained their bank details so that the gift has been set up straight away), there are also average value targets, targets on contacts (ie- potential donors / supporters that have said either yes or no). Calls are listened in to by Campaign Managers and coaches (and at times the clients) so it can feel like someone’s breathing down your neck. The whole workplace seems to be ruled by numbers, have you got enough PDDs, have you got enough contacts, have you made enough dial attempts, is the average value high enough? A more recent stick to beat us with has been “wrap/ not available” more commonly known as “unproductive time”. The technology now adds up how long you are not calling so you’re effectively being tracked for time spent in the toilet, getting a coffee, taking a breath between calls,etc. This is unnecessary – managers could always tell if you were skiving by the amount of contacts and dial attempts you make. At first, managers would be telling people that they couldn’t go above 25%, then it was 20% and now they have stated that callers should not have no more than 15% “wrap/ not available”. This causes problems on difficult campaigns where there are lots of “hard nos”, people slamming the phone down on callers, etc. Managers will tell callers that they need to keep the numbers of contacts down but then it becomes impossible to keep down “wrap/ not available” at the same time.

Account managers are obviously harsh on the campaign managers about all these scores and this pressure and stress is transferred to the callers.

If you are not meeting the desired targets, you can be put on “performance management”, where they will monitor you for a number of shifts which could result in a disciplinary for incapability.

As most callers are on flexible or zero hours contracts, another alternative for them is to just cut your hours.

If you are on probation (and in most cases an agency worker, they won’t even bother with that, they’ll just sack you if they feel that you won’t make the grade).

There are petty rules in the call centre – managers have a conduct-tracker for which they note down infringements of such rules as not having coats on the back of chairs, eating in the call centre, reading non-campaign related material whilst calling, not sitting in the correct area for the campaign. Although this will depend on who your manager is and whether you get on with them.

Three mentions on a conduct-tracker and you are on a disciplinary.

Callers are also appraised every 6 months and whether they go up to the next level and get a pay rise will depend on results and mostly the quality of the calls. This is a major issue that the union has been taking up, as it’s a system that lacks consistency. It can be very difficult to get a pay increase this way if you have mostly been on difficult and very “cold” campaigns. There has also been a lack of consistency in how different calls are scored – and this affects callers pay.
– What level of organisation is there?

Pell and Bales have 5 sites, the one in Bedford and the two in Central London have been going for some time. A call centre was opened in Kingston in 2007 and another in Brighton was opened in 2008.

In Bedford, after a vigorous campaign, the GPMU won recognition around 8 or 9 years ago, the union was de-recognised quite soon after.

In London, at our peak, the CWU had 120 members of the union late last year. With the high turnover (which until recently was 50 new callers a month), this has now gone down to just over 90, which mainly consists of callers, but many of the campaign managers and coaches have also been won to joining the union and there are a few members in the back office.

This is still quite a feat, there had been some attempts to build a union in Pell and Bales in London, but it was not until 2006 that there was a more earnest and sustained campaign.

On many occasions, we have been able to show that we can defend members adequately at disciplinary and grievance hearings.

In June 2008, Pell and Bales members set up its own constituency section of the 4000-strong CWU Capital branch, having our own section committee. The problem of working in a place with a high turnover and a pressurised environment meant that the Vice-Chair and 3 of the committee members have since left the company.

There have been meetings between CWU national and local officials and the Chief Executive, but we have yet to win union recognition, which has made it harder to operate as a structured force in the workplace.

We have monthly meetings and have a decent core of activists, but this needs to be built on and given more structure.

– What disputes have there been?

In London, the first union campaign in 2006 we ran was over pay. We were aware that it was a long-term goal, but it could not be ignored that callers in Bedford were better paid than callers in London since pay was cut for new entrants in 2004. We were also worse off than other workers in other Not-For-Profit call centres, despite Pell and Bales being the most successful. There were also workers paid below the London Living Wage. We had a petition that was successful and drew people into the union, a film showing introduced by director Ken Loach, a Pay Rise party, badge wearing days.

In 2008, management awarded the first pay increases to London callers in 6 years. Apart from workers on probation and workers that joined before the pay cut in 2004, all rates were increased by £1 per hour. This meant that for the vast majority, the London Living Wage of £7.45 had been achieved and the increases amounted to 15% at most.

Following that, the newly-elected Section Secretary Pat Carmody was dismissed for an article for a four sentence article reporting a meeting to defend a colleague who had been suspended (and later sacked).

This was seen as an attack on the union.

Emergency meetings in his defence drew more than 30 Pell and Bales workers. Protests involving Pell and Bales workers and workers from other unions such as Unite members at Shelter and other charities, RMT, PCS and UCU members were called at his hearings.

An Early Day Motion in supporting Pat and the right to organise was signed by more than 40 MPs and he was re-instated on appeal.

The union also led a campaign that won the re-instatement of another union activist earlier this year. More recently, we were involved in a campaign to defend the jobs of callers seconded to coaching and management positions, who were given a week’s notice that those secondments would end and that they would have to reapply for their old jobs on fixed hours and worsened pay and conditions. Management acted very swiftly and decisively and caused much resentment and confusion, but our response was not sufficient to beat this particular attack back, but lessons have been learnt to prepare workers for further attacks.


– What does this show for other workers/what is its importance?

Significantly, the relative and continuing success of the union campaign at Pell and Bales shows that contrary to popular belief, including the trade union movement, it is possible to organise young casual workers on flexible hours with little or no tradition.

A core of activists have sought to make the union relevant to people and have always worked to involve more people.

The bread-and-butter issues that we campaign around come from callers and we meet and discuss how we campaign around each issue.

We have also encouraged a vision that is wider than just the call-centre itself.

The film showing of Bread and Roses with Ken Loach created a wider debate about the role of trade unions.

We hosted a well-attended meeting in 2007 with other trade union activists from the local area to discuss the union’s link with the Labour Party.

We raised money and leafleted for the Love Music Hate Racism carnival in 2008.

This year, we have had guest speakers from the campaign to defend a sacked union activist who was involved in the Justice for Cleaners campaign at SOAS and the occupation by Unite members at Visteon in Enfield.

We have been imaginative in the way that we have sought to win people to the union, whilst not forgetting that the main task is that we involve workers in getting organised to improve the quality of their working lives.

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Comments»

1. Anon - July 28, 2009

I worked at P&B in 2008. The tactics employed by ‘campaign managers’ were immoral. In my opinion, the campaigns that P&B were running completely undermined the support already shown to the charities and certainly did MORE HARM THAN GOOD.

It may be a cost-effective way of fundraising (because of how little callers get paid) but, in terms of a sustainable fundraising approach, it is certainly a flawed strategy.

2. Anon - December 7, 2009

The performance management strategy is very often not proportionate and campaign managers often refer to the ‘…tall order…’ of hitting contact targets and not to worry. Then you find you may one of several people laid off for the rest of the week or month in some cases woth no work. It has to be cost effective for the charity client, but to the unfair detriment of the skilled callers.

3. Rosemary - February 19, 2010

I work there now and mostly it is a relaxed place to work! Yes we have targets but the atmosphere is mainly positive and encouraging, and nobody is allowed to make you feel pressured. We of course are not allowed to make the supporters feel pressured, either!
I agree that the call monitoring is sometimes a bit unhelpful – they can mark you down for not showing empathy, even if you thought you were, and it is very hard to measure an abstract value, so of course the results are not always fair, but everyone tries their best.

4. anon - March 1, 2010

I went on a Training session with P&B in 2008 and i didn’t like the tactics they used, it was a disgrace, i wasn’t succesful in securing a position and looking back i’m glad i didn’t get in because one tactic that was used is that if somebody couldn’t afford £2 a month as them for a one off donation of £25 which is the same thing as £2 a month, or if somebody says they have been made redundant, it can mean that they would have had a massive payout.
I didn’t get picked because they claim i wasn’t confident enough..Wrong..I wasn’t ruthless to enough to take liberties and ask for more. I am a target driven person in other ways but not like that. Oh and also when you have a training session you get paid for it regardless, it took them nearly 3 months to pay me.

5. anon - March 3, 2010

if you find yourself working full time here then you need to seriously reappraise you life, its fine doing the minimum hours for extra beer money, but full time you’ll feel like topping yourself

6. Booths Please! - May 7, 2010

I met my husband in 1996 at P&B. We were both students working there to pay our way though studying. In those days it was just phones on tables in booths with a ‘night manager’ hovering around. Even back then, when the company was a much smaller operation I couldn’t deal with its left-wing, inclusive values with regards to clients and campaigns yet they treated the callers with such distain. I thought the place was run by a bunch of champagne socialists back then!

The 1997 election campaign was the final nail in the coffin for me, Tony Blair came to the call centre in Farringdon and a few selected star callers were connected to Blairite party members and the rest of us were talking into unconnected phones, told not to turn round and look as the future PM walked behind us.

Mind you, if it wasn;t for P&B I wouldn’t have me my husband and have the two wonderful children that we have..so I can vouch for it only on a place to meet like-minded, potential partners!

7. Messenger - August 24, 2010

I am a full-time mature student and was offered an interview through NL Recruitment who are the agency acting for this outfit.

I was keen on the opportunity but just couldnt accept the agency terms which were £5.80 per hour. Coming from a recruitment background I just know that they will be charging the client £12 per hour for your services – the recruiters make more money out of you working than you do on contract! Always try to get hired direct.

I think I read somewhere in the contract that you wouldnt get paid for training if you didnt complete 25 hours there or something (bet the recruiter still gets paid).

Take it from me coming as an ex-recruiter, blow out the recruiter, identify where you want to work and apply direct.

8. KAF - September 24, 2010

I’m currently trying to get them to return my calls, as I completed their 2 day training last weekend (Saturday and SUNDAY!) so that I can get some shifts.
So far I am out of pocket to the tune of £81.20 training pay and the cost of a weekly travel card. I was promised I could start immediately.

Their receptionist is terribly rude and unhelpful too. At this point I’m about ready to give up on them and will tell everyone who will listen about my experiences.

9. John - October 12, 2010

I have an interview today and after reading that I am not going!

10. Fat chance I'm divulging that! - October 27, 2010

Quite frankly, I’m sure kidney stones are more enjoyable than P&B. To quote Rosemary:

“Nobody is allowed to make you feel pressured. We of course are not allowed to make the supporters feel pressured, either!”

OK. So I take it you spend most of your time at work asleep, or in some kind of hallucinatory state then?

11. Sarah - October 31, 2010

Pell and Bales is an absolute joke and a con, dont work there. The person who trains you is a joke, she tries to be all entusiastic but shes crap. They target the elderly as they are the most vunerable and they keep pressuring them to give money!! The job is crap and the girl who trains you is so happy clappy, what a joke she is! They ask for ridiculous amounts of money and ask for peoples credit card details over the phone! The company is a con and as you can see from the other comments, they obviously agree too!!

12. Iain - December 7, 2010

Worked there TWICE while waiting for better opportunities to come along. I’ve promised I will not return for a third stint. It was purely target-based, formulaic, at times we were discouraged from asking the donor if they even had a few minutes to spare, as it would offer them an opportunity to back out of the call.

13. Sammy Browne - December 8, 2010

I worked for p&b in 2006. It helped me with a few cash problems I was having. Met some cool people. Kept my head down and got on with it. Then I was told about GoGen, which apparently was started up by ex p&b staff. They are in Dalston and pay nearly twice as much. They are just as stringent with targets, but for the amount they pay, you are quiet willing to grin and bare it. Bottom line is, if you want extra cash, there are places like p&b that will give you some pocket money, but I dont think I could consider it as a f/t career.

James - March 21, 2011

Sorry to hear that, I Worked there about a year ago. Do you know if the Bedford branch is still open?

14. John - December 9, 2010

Looks like they are closing down now. All sites are going except one. have been working for them a bit and is even worse place to be now. Don’t join a sinking ship – there are others about who care for their employees and have managers in the call centre who know what they are doing

15. Rob Brown - January 3, 2011

Pell and Bales is one of the best places to work for students wanting a part time job.

Of ourse you feel pressured, because it is a job. Is it exessive, not at all. It is interesting that almost all the commenters here seem to be failed employees.

Anon - June 5, 2011

Seriously, do you know anything about how to actually communicate with people – and then read a P&B script?

yeah, thought not…

16. Kerry - January 14, 2011

Pell and Bales is a horrible place to work. They are raising money for great causes such as Barnardos and NSPCC but they patronise and manipulate people into giving them money/more money/re-activate their donation. A lot of the people they ring are elderly and should not be harassed into giving money. Callers are told to ‘trust the ask structure’ which means ‘don’t take no for an answer’.
The training tells you to try your hardest when asking for money, to ‘warm them up’ – patronise them and make insincere chit chat.
About 1/3 of the people I have spoken to get very annoyed with how many times charities ask them for money and i know that’s how they function but there should be a limit on how many phonecalls people get.
Also, the people in scheduling are very rude and don’t phone you back when you leave a voicemail.

Mariah - January 18, 2011

You might want to get some more work experience before you leave a comment like this. Charity is – despite the good cause – a business. Of course you are supposed to get the best result out of every call you make. There is no difference whether you sell some computer kit over the phone or ask for charity donations.
You might have also heard about people that are really busy in their job, maybe think about it why they do not call you back especially as you are not even able to see the company as a business.

Jason Williams - July 14, 2011

hahahaha – ok, you talk about it being a job – well it is the job of scheduling to answer the phone and to call people back to schedule peoples shifts – THEY DONT ANSWER THEIR PHONE – if you want to book an extra shift or cancel a shift you can forget it, they don’t answer!

Can you tell me any other business that does not answer their phone? Any other business that will not get back to you? No, because as a business they are interested in….business.

This company is a joke.

Charity is a business – well it is especially in this case since about a third of the money goes into the shareholders bank accounts. Thats right, about a 3rd of the money, given by little old ladies who can hardly afford it goes into the bank accounts of greedy fat businessmen.

Why do the charities allow this?

and if a person says they cannot afford to give any more money, why is is necessary to then ring them around 6-10 more times over the following weeks to ask them again and again and again????

Harassment is what it is, deceitful, and disgusting.

17. Maria - January 16, 2011

Rant coming up…

I ‘lasted’ here about a month and a half, would have gone in the second week but I wanted to get my training pay (2 long and tiring days out of my life!). Training is thorough and prepares you well for the job but by the end of it you feel brainwashed and patronised, this is due to the trainer (Alex) who at first managed to get me excited about the job but towards the end I felt as if I was back in primary school- so patronising! Once I started the job it seemed ok, a bit repetitive but thought I could cope until the probation was supposed to end in January. I was assigned one of the harder charities- royal national institute for blind people, which I was actually fairly passionate about after we had the briefing. Once I got on the phones, I realised everyone I was calling was sensitive about the topic of blindness as they knew someone or are blind themselves. Most people were old aged pensioners and living off a small pension. I followed the 3 asks structure in the first 2 weeks but this did more damage than good- I had people call me insensitive and as one old gentleman put it ‘a pressurising bint’ which after 3 hours of abuse made my eyes water. But I don’t blame these people- they tell me they can’t afford it, and the reasons why, but we have to keep asking until they say no 3 times! The monitoring is sooo ridiculous; you get little sheets with score ratings for every little aspect of the call and an overall percentage at the end. The worst part is, every ‘coach’ wants something different from you, one wants to hear you chat to them for a bit the other says it’s a waste of charities money. One will say be understanding, emphasize with their situation- the other will say ‘how can you say you understand if you have never been in that situation yourself?’ (this was when I said I understand to a lady who said she could not afford to donate regularly as she was paying for her sister’s bills as well). The company has no understanding of language and communication- something I do as my degree so I find it difficult to follow a script that I know has no chance of succeeding. The constant targets- not just for the amount of donations but for the amount of minutes you stay on the phone- so if I go to unavailable mode it starts counting the seconds and that goes on display at the end of the week for everyone in the centre to see. I found with so much talking I had to drink lots of water which made me go to the toilet a lot so my unavailable time was more than the 5 minute maximum. They pretend that they care about your well being etc etc but they only care about targets. They don’t actually care about the charities at ALL. I was under the impression that I was a ‘representative’ for the charity and even if they couldn’t do a regular donation I was spreading the word and leaving them with a good impression but when a person says they can’t do a donation at the moment but would like to do one later on so if I sent them a form they will think about it- the supervisors say “don’t bother its a waste of paper and it doesn’t count towards our targets”. The little team talks after the refreshment break are also a little demoralising- they reveal how many regular donations everyone gets so if you haven’t got any you feel really low even though the whole thing is based on chance- whether the recipient can afford it or not.

The place will drive you mad. The staff that work there (as callers) are so lovely and friendly and that is the only thing I will miss about the place. Even if you think £7 an hour pay is good, if you are recruited through NL they will take 4% of it, and the first week of calling you get paid min. wage so really if you think you can’t cope in such a pressurized, brutal environment there is no point!

18. Anon - January 18, 2011

The PCs you work on are really old and always faulty but the Campaign managers are mostly nice. ( but talk to you like children in a classroom to get you to log in on time ( which is never appealing!) The administration is crap though and if you try to call them to book hours you never get through… the pay is not great though better than minim wage – however evening rate should be higher. Not many people make it past the probation which is 13 week ( youwill start off in a clssroom of about 24 people and by week 12 there are only 2 of you left!). the shifts are crap also no mornings unless you are really amazing, and shifts in evening finish at 9pm so screw up your night and eating patterns. Not a bad place to work as you meet some nice people but don’t do more than 3 full days a week as you call so many people you end up wanting to top yourself especially if they are old as you have to go through the 3 ask structure and even when someone says they have been made redundant you have to bager them… Makes you a little hard nosed and uncaring as in the early days i heard a few ‘ i’m sorry my partner/dad/mum has just died I can’t speak to you now’ which really shocked me and after a while you just carry on, which is not normal!! Ideal for freelancers, actors and students but anyone else don’t bother as you end up feeling like you are 19 again and question your sanity – however if in need of cash as lost job or extra ontop of normal hours, its ideal…

19. sam - January 23, 2011

err i got an interview there in the morning my friend worked there and said it was alrite but im not sure what to think now i guess ill give it a go and if its shit ill just quit

20. Alec Padrow - February 3, 2011

I think of Pell & Bales and want to touch myself. It’s that damn good.

21. Sam - February 3, 2011

Are you serious? where exactly do you work where you dont have to meet any targets or have people pushing you forwards trying to get success from you? I have been a section manager at a job before and if i found out one of my staff members was doing nothing for 20% of their shift every shift, i’d fire them on the spot.

The nature of the job hardly makes you feel warm and fuzzy, but the job IS asking people for money. Of course target people most likely to say yes, and of course try your absolute hardest to get a result – otherwise you’ll never get anything, thats common sense. and of course the chairty pay p&b more than p&b pay you, otherwise how would they pay line rental and still make a profit?

Aside from the holding out on paying comments which fair enough is a bad show from them, get real people – its meant to be part time work for most people and we’re living in a world with more workers than jobs. They can afford to push for the best workers and if you want a job, either try your hardest to meet their goals however unfair they seem to you or try and find a job in a different field where shits apparently smell of roses. Good luck with that

Jason Williams - July 14, 2011

so you admit that it stinks and you just can’t find a decent job.

If the company should pay you then they should pay you.

There is no two ways about that.

What you are saying is that you should ‘get real’ and put up with being shit on?

22. Sam - February 3, 2011

Oh and Kerry? if 1/3 of the people you call get angry with you, your calling wrong because no-one i’ve spoken to gets more than one or 2 per 100-150 calls

23. sara - March 3, 2011

I second kerrys comment; pell and bales is a horrible place. I work at the london office and it just always seems to be so pressured. Its a soul sucking job and I guess the main reason people do it is the flexibility. I am a student so I need a job where I can change my shifts if necessary but I cannot wait to leave and just find another job!
The ‘icebreaker’ is usually rubbish, most people don’t even want to sit there listening to you patronising them and of course they get impatient. Its not fair asking someone to upgrade their donation when they’ve been kind enough to donate in the first place! Especially when someone is donating quite a large sum of money per month and you usually have to ask them to double it…it just seem so unfair.
When i signed up with the agency to work for P&B I was told that there is NO cold calling, but surprise surprise when I got past training and got the job, the first campaign I was on involved cold calling! Its just a horrible, mind numbing, soul sucking job and if it wasn’t for the fact that I desperately need some funds, I would be out of there by now!

Jason Williams - July 14, 2011

Everyone that works there hates it. Most people leave quickly, those that stay are just better at grinning and baring it and need the money and flexibility more.

Nobody enjoys it.

There is a lot of talk of soul sucking and how immoral it is and people get annoyed with how it is run very often.

MANY people on the phones say explicitly that they keep receiving phone calls and that if they receive any more then they will cancel their subscription. They say they don’t like to be asked to increase and will do it themselves if they think they can.

It often does more harm than good for this reason and will put people off donating to charities in the future as they will know that they will be hounded by phone calls if they give their details to charities – this is not a good situation.

I had a call once where i was being listened to and this old gent was saying about how he just has a state pension and he doesnt know how he is going to pay his heating bills and how he is in poor health and that he had about 5 different charities that he was still donating to!!! I had nothing but respect for the man who had so little and was still willing to give so much to charities, i asked him once if he wanted to give and then didnt push the matter as it would be immoral to do so.

The campaign manager was listening in and just said in a cold unfeeling voice: ‘ive heard a lot worse than that’ and said that I should still push for a donation.

These people don’t have souls.

24. Ben - March 4, 2011

Just an aweful place… working there made me depressed, and I was one of the people that could do well at fundraising… gaining level 2 pay after probation. Now earning much less but so much happier.

25. Argartu - March 8, 2011

I’ve worked at Pell & Bales Brighton since the 18th of January, and it’s certainly not the best place in the world to work. However, if you’re a student looking for part-time work that you can fit around college/uni, I can’t knock it. Flexible hours and morally questionable work is something no student can pass on.

26. loz - March 18, 2011

I have to say I don’t agree that Pell and Bales is a terrible place to work, I worked there in 2010 for a few months when I first moved to London, and I met some great people, and at no time felt pressured. Of course there are targets to be met, and that does come with pressure! The charities have expectations of pell and bales as they need a return on their outlay to employ a call centre so the emphasis is placed on making the best call you can rather than hounding people for money. I will admit the 3 asks is the only thing that I could not cope with, especially if a person was unemployed or retired, but I suppose these organisations are a necessary evil. I was never asked to take credit card details – only bank details as these can not be misused.

Jason Williams - July 14, 2011

well there are many campaigns where credit card details ARE taken!

27. the doctor - April 9, 2011

pell and bales,
What can i say!
Long boring job trained by young uninterested people for beer money!!
i dont agree with calling the same people over and over again!
and targeting elderly people for money with this three asks for money!!
Sceduling is a joke as 90% of the time is an answerphone.
And best of all i had to wait nearly two months for my training pay beacause they claim i didnt do enough hours the first week then make a mistake and realised i did 12hours!!
great work for students and for people who have no shame asking for 10 a month off of 90 year old women!

28. CF - April 11, 2011

I would rather stab myself in the eye than go back to Pell and Bales. I hated every single minute of it, and would have to give myself a pep talk to even make myself go in.
I worked in the London branch last year from May to September. You need a thick skin, and absolutely no scrupples to work there long term. Oh and be a competitive person as you are under pressure to perform. The ‘helpful’ mentors are there of course listening to, sorry spying on you, and giving ‘tips’.

Anon - June 5, 2011

Agree about the “call coaches”. I had two “feedback” sessions within one day across two shifts from two different coaches – with totally different and utterly contradictory results. Not only is the coaching distracting and intrusive, it is also completely and utterly useless, inefficient and counter-productive. (like so much at P&B)

29. Fred bloggs - April 12, 2011

I work for Pell and Bales Bedford for over 7 years, but they decided to sack me, because i had depression, they could of made me redundant.In December we told that Bedford could be closing, and I Sacked in January, in the middle of the 3 months consertation period, so lost out on redundancy pay, I raised a lot of money for that company, when i was well, and always got fantastic results, this is how they treat people, but in the process of getting legal help!!!

30. Brain Drain - April 21, 2011

Interesting, I’m there at P&B the moment, I’ve only just started, not sure how long I’ll last to be honest but I’ll try :D, the targets sound rather hard to keep up :O, I can already see what a lot of people here are saying, I would say also though to be fair that the same could be said about most call centers, the one where I used to work prior to trying P&B was also dreadful, arguably even worse.

Most of these sort of companies are target driven and the telesales people are the lowest down on the pecking order so to speak so we are the ones that get whipped the most although I do understand that managers and supervisors are also under pressure from the people above them and so on and so on, I’ve seen plenty of managers etc also getting dismissed because they have failed to get the staff under them producing results, I reckon that there are loads of telemarketing companies that are in BIG trouble at the moment financially, many have company status’s that show they are close to bankruptcy if you check out Companies House records.

This is partially due to the whole industry having such a bad reputation and also because people generally have less money to spend at the moment, so getting a call from someone over the phone asking for money for whatever reason is the last thing that many people need, so the only way that telesales companies can survive is by putting the telesales people under even more pressure to make loads and loads of calls, hit DMC targets etc, in the hope that it results in more sales being made, I reckon this is actually counterproductive for the industry in general and resulting really in too many people getting too many calls and getting frankly sick of these sort of telephone calls, the industry itself is far too crowded, I’ll see how things go at P&B, as has been said there are some nice, friendly and intelligent people working here as well as some less pleasant ones, potentially it could be a good company to work for but I can see how it could and may already have been damaged by bad apples, again, just like in any company.

Many thanks

31. BrainDrain - May 5, 2011

Been there for a few weeks now, as I mentioned in my last post which seems to have disappeared :O I have seen for myself a lot of what has been said about the P&B office culture etc and agree on the whole, there are also some good things about the company as well which I like to be fair and acknowledge, it is a shame about the bad parts because it could be a very nice company potentially, there are some very friendly and likable people there, especially amongst the call center staff, on the management level and going up I’m not so sure but I suppose it varies in the same way on that level too, it’s funny really because on the one hand I can’t exactly say that P&B is a horrible place to work at the moment but on the other hand I do have some serious concerns about some aspects of it so I’m still rather in two minds about it all, I’ll see what the coming weeks will bring if I last.

I’m still on probation, perhaps it will get tougher and I may start to get the ugly face of it if my results are not good enough, I’ve often had this in other companies too so I’m no stranger to it, it’s hard to tell with some who are in high positions in a company because they can be such good actors and can pretend to be nice at certain times and then switch, I’ve seen this happen before, we’ll see where this goes, hope P&B might prove to be different, time will tell, thanks.

32. Anon - June 5, 2011

I worked for P&B briefly in 2008 at the Old Street office, as an agency employee from NL recruitment in Holborn. I have to agree with the excessive number of targets used, and the insistence on PDDs made it extremely stressful. Many times I had great conversations with customers who were ready and willing to donate to charities they cared about but understandably didn’t want to give their card details to someone who called them out of the blue.

I saw it get a lot of people down, and the approach of management to staff feedback was completely obstructionist and counter-productive. I think the involvement of P&B obviously did succeed in raising donations for the charities concerned, but I think this was at the expense of goodwill and trust between charity and supporter.

In my last week, knowing I was throwing in the towel, I actually had a pleasant time with the pressure being ignored, just building relationships on behalf of the charity I was representing, with supporters who really did appreciate that. In real terms I probably did more good, and indirectly raised more money, for those organisation that last week than in the rest of time there than I did in months of “campaigning”.

Note to P&B: Let your workers use their own initiative to talk *TO* supporters, not *AT* them. And let people choose their campaigns. People will get better results working with something they genuinely are passionate about. Better for them in terms of morale – better for the client in terms of results.

33. anon4cec - June 27, 2011

Don’t listen to anyone here other than me. This job is shite. You’ll hate yourself after a couple of months.

34. Nozzle - July 13, 2011

Pell & Bales is an awful place to work. They have absoultely no consideration for their supporters circumstances. I got fired because I wouldn’t ask a woman for enough money because she needed to spend it on her disabled sister. Ironic how this kind of defeats the whole purpose of charity.

Brain Drain - July 27, 2011

That is very disturbing Nozzle, the fact that you have been fired for doing what is really only the right and decent thing but most of all what really disturbs me is the attitude of the charities themselves because let’s face it, P&B is just a call center at the end of the day that we work for, and bad as they are we can’t expect much morality and principle coming from people who are running a call center, however, who do P&B answer to??, who’s idea is “the three asks”??, well, the charities themselves of course, they are the ones that tell P&B to covertly pressurize supporters in this way, so it’s their fault, they must know how P&B work and not only are they condoning it they are behind it.

35. me - June 27, 2013

I find it mildly amusing that as a telephone fund raiser and self appointed communication gurus that their backoffice admin staff fail to utilize in dealing with staff, with a mix of ill concealed contempt or blank eyed apathy

36. Ms Secret - June 28, 2013

I’ m about to attend my induction / training course for two days starting tomorrow. Reading most of the posts on here, I am somewhat sceptical now about working for this organisation. I’ve already attended their office in Old Street to register my details with them and carry out a pre-telephone screening to confirm if i am suitable, which i passed. Now I have to attend training in which you are also assessed on the first day and may no go through if you dont make the grade….oh and you don’t get paid for the first day of training!!!

I originally applied for the role in hope of earning some extra money to cover bills and maybe meeting some friendly faces but I am now having doubts already and if i should even attend training.

I will however stick it out and see what happens. I will continue to blog here and keep you all updated on life @ P&B.

37. SoniaB - July 7, 2013

I’ve worked in P&B recently. I am a mystery shopper for charity’s. I gave my review for work but this is my review for my opinion.
It was probably the worst company i’ve worked with. First I thought – why is everyone saying working in a call centre is soul-less jobs? Well the Call centre wasn’t but Pell&Bales rules was!
The training is awfully long & useless once you start working. It’s 2 long days of useless powerpoints and role plays, and an assessment in the end to test if you can speak to the other person on the phone confidently. It’s not that hard, but knowing that everything is being monitored and recorded – you’re being listened to makes it nerve racking. The second day of training, you get paid (by your agency’s) and then they tell you the reality but in a positive way apparently.
They work by campaigns. Each campaign is a charity run by a manager. They have this rule – 3 asks. You have to carry on asking even the person on the other line swears at you, says NO rudely. Because you’re asking them for money like £10 a month then when you ask again you’re asking £5 a month then again at £3 a month with this sad story about someone in trouble in the otherside of the world when the donater already gave SO much money already to the charity. Just seems like the charity keeps begging the same people. It’s not inspiring them, it’s like a con asking people for money saying £3 would go to a survival pack.
I am sure if it was a charity – then you wouldn’t get paid for the job. And their scripts are fully annoying too. It’s all fake.
After you make several phone calls – you get checked with the manager, they play back your records and criticise you voice when you’re not perfect.
& they want you to learn that asking very old people for their pension money is okay, because they are vunerable – the most vunerable and most likely to give you money and you’d want to because of your targets too. and each script has a response so you can reply to their ‘excuse’ straight away.
And true – you have to be fully soul-less to work there, because it’s dead. People are really in their old world, and just there for easy finance until they make a way out.
There’s so much things i’m forgetting to say – but I wanted everyone else to know not about call centres – but about Pells & Bales especially.
I truly found it stressful with the amount of pressure to stay at targets and managers barking in your ear to get everything right. Make sure you don’t make a mistake.
they say they have party’s – the last thing you want to do is mingle with people there, it’s not worth a minute. I run out as soon as I can.
It’s not charity, It should be fraud.

38. Sophie - August 1, 2013

Pell & Bales deserve retribution for the way they treat their staff. Was admitted to me that only 30% of what people give to charity goes to the charity. Pell & Bales take the rest ! Horrible place to work, the embarassment of calling up people that you know don’t want to talk and having to patronize them. You have to carry on and bore them to death. These are people that are quite happy to donate to charity and have done so before but are put off in the first two sentences by the pathetic script that often doesn’t make any sense. Awful, patronizing campaign managers. All of them say different things, utter mindfuck. Is complete chance whether someone donates or not yet it’s always your fault if they don’t.

It’s completely immoral despite supposedly being on behalf of charity which is the most ironic. Toilet breaks are monitored and put down as wrap and pointed out as unproductive time. Throat hurts like hell after just an hour let alone a whole day. Everytime the dotted circle goes round there’s a feeling of dread as you know you’re going to piss someone off and be sworn abuse at. Don’t blame them though. Also get rants from people who are annoyed at the chosen charity, try to reason with them to help them change their views. Often works and their opinion is sometimes changed but you get accused of wasting time cos you haven’t had a direct debit payment. The way that the managers want you to be is more like selling someone TVs essentially !

Last straw for me was when I was put on The RNIB campaign. All pensioners with no money. One guy was completely blind himself and told me that he couldn’t afford to buy audio books. This is what I would have been trying to get a donation for. I refused to ask him for the money but he really enjoyed the conversation and said that I had made his day. All the campaign manager had to say was there was no reason why I couldn’t have asked for a donation. I said this was just plain wrong and immoral, was further patronized. Will never be returning to that place again.

39. FitzpadN - November 29, 2013

All these companies are the same. I work in one in Dunfermline and they are vile. They can’t keep their staff, the management always bitch about everyone and they only care about one client. Money grabbing arseholes.

40. A - February 15, 2014

I only lasted three weeks because it was too far away to commute to. I was glad because I just couldn’t bring myself to pester people that much. Most of my colleagues were OK, but I wasn’t even on target.

Probably wouldn’t have lasted long anyway.

41. Dave - March 8, 2014

Don’t work at GoGen in Dalston whatever you do. Some (though not all) of the supervisors are some of the most patronizing, condescending specimens I’ve ever had the misfortune of examining. Real nasty one called Kay. She literally shakes your seat, pokes you in the shoulder and talks to you like you’re a dog (as I assume that’s the way she feels about herself). Quit during the 1st shift and just walked out. There was negative reinforcement everywhere in that building. The supervisors try to deflect all their inner bullshit onto you. If you do end up there as a last resort for a quick paycheck, as I did, just remember: they’re gonna be there a lot longer than you, and they know it, and they’re angry about it. Funny to note though, it had been raining all day and right when I quit and walked out of there the Sun reappeared and the rain stopped. Beautiful that.

42. JSC - August 23, 2014

Thank goodness somebody has bothered to state the facts about working for Pell and Bales.
I worked for this company during 2008 as an agency employee from NL Recruitment. They advertise through Gumtree with promising blurb aimed at creative people, students and second jobbers promoting fun and flexibility, but in my actual experience it was anything but. I have to admit it was the worst job I have undertaken in my life: pressure to fulfil targets was intense, the corporate culture aimed at everyone on their books (of whom many were creative types) was draconian and reeked of pettiness and I clearly remember one caller at Old Street – a ceramic artist – who appeared to be soulless and trapped into the routine of making calls, just to pay her bills. No matter of praise from the campaign manager could boost this caller’s spirits: the poor woman looked like one of the living dead and that was a wake up call for myself to get out of there as soon as I could. To be faced with loads of irate contacts – many of whom are signed up via street fundraisers and then have their contact details issued to P&B months later – was depressing.

After three months of working there on probation and discovering much about how charities use this cold calling arrangement I can honestly say my attitude towards them – particularly the major organisations – has radically changed. I personally would not donate my support if this is the level they stoop to for the sake of securing funding. If anyone wishes to give a regular gift according to their means then surely this can be arranged via the charity’s website instead of covertly using both P&B’s workers and their misled prospects. Such an option was becoming available back in 2008 and thus naturally discouraged as part of the “three asks,” however I consider this to be the best approach to take.

Not surprisingly I was dismissed after my probation period because I failed to secure the required targets. In hindsight this was a tremendous blessing. I witnessed one student walking out because he couldn’t handle the constant “no’s” any more. Good for him. In my case I felt as though I had been released from the grip of a slavemaster controlling every single move made, every toilet break, every bite made for lunch or dinner…

Now that I have discovered this blog post and read through all the responses it seems that I am not alone in my misgivings. The company (and the telesales industry) certainly has gathered a bad rep six years on after my time there.

I can only hope that anyone who wishes to work for P&B or telesales in general reads this first to get the facts and then decide whether to go ahead or not, I unfortunately found out the hard way but I have a greater understanding now as to how P&B and their clients work.


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