An anonymous contributor to the website, http://mostembarrassingmoment.com, shares her experiences as a professional tarot card reader.
I wanted to make a little extra money with a part-time job, preferably something I could do at home. While looking through the Help Wanted ads in the local paper, I ran across an ad for a psychic network and decided to give them a call.
I left my phone number and within a few hours a woman named Sally returned my call. I explained to her I had no psychic ability whatsoever. She said it did not matter. She told me this was very easy but I would need three things: a deck of Tarot cards, a book called “Tarot in 10 minutes” and a book on astrology. She asked me to call her back as soon as I had them. I was a bit nervous about the whole thing, but she comforted me, explaining that she had been doing this for quite a few years already and all it involved was talking to people.
I really had no idea what to expect, but I did get the two books and the cards the next day. While staring at the cards, I waited for some psychic feeling to come over me. But there was nothing, my mind was blank.
I waited two days before I called Sally back. I asked her how in the world I would be able to do this. She explained that I just had to look at the cards. She lived only a few blocks away from me, so she decided to come over, help me fill out the employment papers and show me her psychic routine.
We sat down in the kitchen and she spread out the paperwork on the table. Along with the contract there were papers that contained promotional text and disclaimers I had to memorise. I was going to have to say these things before and after every psychic call I took.
It was a lot to remember, but my mind was still on the fact that I had no clue how to read Tarot cards. I asked her if she could please give me a reading, but when she looked at the cards she said, “Oh no… these cards are terrible!”
I was a bit startled. Did Sally feel a bad aura around them? I was just about to ask when she said, “You bought the wrong cards! These are real Tarot cards. I guess it’s my fault. I forgot to mention that you should buy the beginners’ cards. Those are the ones I have. They have the meaning of each card printed right on them.”
Finally I began to understand how this all worked. Sally, the seasoned psychic professional, had no idea how to read Tarot cards either.
I asked her how, after such a long time of giving psychic readings she could not know what each card meant. She told me the cards are really just a crutch. The whole point is to make up stuff that sounds interesting so that people will stay on the phone for as long as possible. Some so-called psychics make up stuff about diseases to scare the callers. Others just shuffle a bunch of beginners’ Tarot cards and read the text. The trick is to get as much information out of the callers as possible and trying to figure out what they want to hear.
I was starting to get a bad feeling about all this, but I needed the money, and she made the whole thing sound fun, so I signed the contract and told her that I would get the beginners’ deck the following day.
Each card had several meanings written on them. All I had to do was grab a few cards, place them next to each other, and read a couple of words from each card to form sentences. It was like a preschool grammar game.
The dreaded day came when Sally called to give me my extension number. These psychic networks have a computerised system that forwards calls to the phones of their so-called psychic employees. A “psychic” has to call the automated network system and enter his or her extension number. When customers call the 900 number, their calls are automatically rerouted to the “psychics” who are currently logged into the system. Sally reminded me if one of my callers asked, I had to pretend to be located in a big psychic office somewhere down in Florida. I was not allowed to tell anyone that I was just sitting at home.
The whole thing was a big money machine. Whenever I called the phone system, I’d get a menu where I could log in, log out, or listen to a motivational message. There was nothing spiritual or psychic about this. He would just yell excitedly about how much money the system had earned the previous day, that we were all doing an excellent job, and that we should try even harder today to keep people on the phone even longer.
All “psychic” employees were paid on a sliding scale. The longer your average calls are, the more you get paid. The phone company had a rule that allowed paid 900 calls to last no longer than 59 minutes. After that time the call would automatically be disconnected. The psychic phone system had a little warning beep after 58 minutes so the psychic would have enough time to rattle down the disclaimer, and to convince the caller to call right back. Sally had told me that for legal reasons I had to finish every call with the words “This was for entertainment purposes only.” What a thing to say after someone had just spent 59 minutes on a 900 number which cost $4.99 per minute!
I had set up a desk in a quiet room. I had two dogs that barked a lot… It would have been hard to explain to a caller what my dogs were doing with me in an office in Florida. I had picked out a few beginners’ Tarot cards that sounded interesting, and bookmarked my astrology book so I wouldn’t have to search for the correct pages in the middle of a reading. I had the disclaimer and promotional texts stapled on the wall. And right there in front of me I had a bottle of antacid with a glass of water for my nervous stomach. I was ready for my first call.
The only problem was I was too nervous to log on. I sat there for at least three hours with the biggest knot in my stomach. I would have sat there all day, but my husband stopped home for lunch and asked me how I was doing.
I told him I couldn’t do this and he looked at me like I was crazy. “Just pick up the phone,” he said. “Just do the first call… I didn’t spend all that money on cards and books for nothing. At least give it a try!”
Finally I called and logged myself in. As soon as I hung up from the automated service, the phone rang.
I picked up and read my opening speech. Then I had to read the promotional text about the psychic newsletter and try to get the caller’s mailing address. We “psychics” would get bonus money for each mailing address we could get.
Most callers gave me their address. Later I found out the company would randomly stuff five Tarot cards into envelopes and mail them to these addresses. The cards were accompanied by a letter that said something like: “Important! We must speak to you about something big that is going to happen in your life very soon! Call our 900 number and let our trained psychic professionals tell you about the meaning of your five personal Tarot cards.”
The letter sounded important and very urgent. I had a few calls from people near to tears, thinking something terrible was about to happen to them. Even people who didn’t really believe that these five cards had any significance felt compelled to call. When I found out about this cheap trick, I stopped asking people for their addresses.
My first caller was a young guy. I asked if there was a specific topic he had questions about. He said “no.” My mind was blank.
I laid out my beginners’ cards while explaining to him what I was doing. Sally had told me that you have to keep talking at all times. Silence makes the caller realise how much money the call costs. I gave him a very brief and bad reading by looking at the cards and my astrology book. It was too general. I didn’t ask enough questions and basically all I did was read him his horoscope. The only good thing I can say is that the call lasted less than four minutes, so at least the poor guy didn’t waste too much money. After he hung up I logged myself out of the system. I just couldn’t stomach another call right then.
Hours later I gave it another try. The phone rang and after my opening speech I again asked if there were any topics that she would like to start with. She was a very nice woman and she said, “yes. My love life.” For some reason I felt comfortable with her and I started off by asking her if she was married. She said “no,” so I replied “but there is someone special you’re thinking about.”
“Yes,” she giggled. I asked her to think of that person as I shuffled the cards. I told her to let everything leave her mind and just concentrate on that one special person. Then as I laid out the cards I started reading them. The longer the call lasted, the more comfortable I got. As we talked, I found myself moving away from the cards and talking to her like we were old friends. I also found myself telling her things that she sometimes was surprised to hear because they were true.
Logic, Not Psychic Powers
I guess to her it really seemed like I had some sort of psychic powers, but sometimes when you talk to someone you just know things without being told. The word is logic! Of course there was “someone in her life.” Otherwise she wouldn’t have called a psychic hotline to ask questions about her love life!
Anyway, that reading went very well and I lost track of time. We had a nice talk which lasted 59 minutes.
After a few calls I realized how harmful these psychic lines can be. Eighty per cent of the calls I received were not just people calling for fun. They were people with questions concerning their health and other serious problems. And these poor people relied on the advice of so-called psychics like me to make major decisions in their lives.
A few times I felt like I had helped, but I spent a lot of time wondering what happened after many of my calls. How did things turn out?
One day I had a call from a woman who was very afraid because she had just spoken 59 minutes with another psychic and been disconnected. He had told her she had a virus, and had asked her if she had been feeling under the weather, felt tired, and not 100 per cent okay.
Now come on, how often can you say you feel 100 per cent? So of course this so-called psychic had scared the living daylights out of her. I tried to calm her down and told her the truth: “Some psychics will say anything to keep you on the line. No one always feels in tip top shape. And if you really feel bad you should visit a doctor. Don’t let a phone call scare you into thinking that you have some terrible disease.”
The people working for these psychic hotlines are not psychics. They’re out to make money. It’s just a job to them. And having this job means you have to throw your conscience away. Anyone who has an ounce of decency in them would never be able to do this to people. You actually get paid to lie to people. And the more interesting the lies are the more money you make. These so-called psychics play with your fears and hopes. They feel if they say something to scare you, you will stay on the phone longer.
I’m not proud of having done this, and of course I quit after a short while. I’m sharing what I have learned to warn you. Don’t fall for this nonsense!