You've Likely Talked to Their Employees, Without Knowing It

ProPublica looks at Arise Virtual Solutions, which provides at-home customer service reps to firms
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 6, 2020 8:11 AM CDT
Updated Oct 10, 2020 10:00 AM CDT
You've Likely Talked to Their Employees, Without Knowing It
   (Getty/Chainarong Prasertthai)

You might not have heard the name Arise Virtual Solutions, but ProPublica points out there's a good chance you've spoken to one of their employees—sorry, "agents"—without realizing it. You may have thought you were talking to a rep from Comcast, or Airbnb, or Disney, or some other major company that contracts with Arise. Instead, you were speaking with an Arise agent—most of whom are women and people of color—working from home, perhaps with a YouTube video playing in the background to mimic background call-center noise. A notable part of the arrangement is that these agents essentially have to pay to work. The story looks at the example of one woman who shelled out $1,500 for home equipment, including headsets and a phone line dedicated to Arise.

Then she had to pay for her own Arise background check, her introductory training, and a certification course to provide customer service for AT&T, which took 44 unpaid days. And then, "after finally getting a chance to sign up for hours and do work for which she would be paid (except for her time spent waiting for technical support, or researching customer issues, or huddling with supervisors), Tami Pendergraft spent three weeks fielding telephone calls from AT&T customers, after which she received a single paycheck. For $96.12." The story takes a deep dive into how Arise operates—agents aren't employees but independent contractors and thus are "cheap" and "disposable"—and the legal challenges that have sprung up. It also notes that the pandemic is creating a boom in the industry of at-home customer service. (Read it in full here.)

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