Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Phony Psychics

It should be old news to anyone reading this site on a regular basis that telephone psychics are some of the biggest fakes around. Performing a real psychic reading over the phone for someone you know well is difficult enough, but for complete strangers paying by the minute? Forget it.

Just in case anyone is still on the fence about the possibility that a commercial phone psychic is likely to be for real, this article posted over the weekend at Salon should be required reading. As it turns out, "psychic hotlines" don't even cast around looking for psychics, but rather for actors to play them on the phone.

"Phone actors wanted. Work from home. Make your own hours."

Could it be true? Or was this some sort of telemarketing scheme? I called the number. A friendly man assured me that this was completely legit.

"You've heard of the Psychic Friends Network, haven't you?" he asked. "This is just like that."

Yes, I had seen the commercials. My brothers and I mocked the company's spokeswoman Dionne Warwick. When we were little kids, our parents took us to one of her performances at a Lake Tahoe hotel. She sang a few songs, coughed and asked for water. It was a short show, and my parents were disappointed they had wasted money on it.

"The thing is, I'm not sure that I'm psychic," I confessed. There were times I suspected things were going to happen before they did. But did knowing my family was going to throw me a surprise party for my 15th birthday count as mystic instinct?

"That's OK," he said. "We'll give you everything you need for the job."

And just like that, the author was on her way to being hired.


She explains that the company trained her to do basic card readings without even much instruction about what the cards meant. The goal was not to predict the future, but to shower the clients with as much positive information as possible to keep them on the phone regardless of the cards drawn. In fact, she turned out to not be particularly good at the job, simply because she didn't relish faking people out as much as some of her colleagues.

But I began to realize why I got rejected from the theater program in college. My role-playing skills sucked. This job came more easily to others. My friend Russ, a talented actor, worked for another psychic hotline. He thoroughly enjoyed perpetrating a fraud. He told me that he started each call by saying that he just drank a vial of lamb's blood to give him fortune-telling superpowers.

"You can't be serious. Does that really work?"

"Some idiots believe me," he said. "But most people just think I'm funny, and we wind up having a nice talk."

And, presumably, an expensive one to boot. Without any real psychic insight at all. One of the problems with a society in which most people don't really believe in paranormal powers is companies like this one, who figure that since it's all fake anyway it doesn't really matter who they hire as long as they sound good on the phone. But I have to say, I'll take that any day in exchange for the freedom to write about magick without having to worry about being hunted by angry mobs.

And yes, I take full responsibility for the terrible pun that is the title of this article. I just couldn't resist.

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9 comments:

Donald Michael Kraig said...

I've actually read this same type of story several times. Nothing new about it.

However, I would respectfully suggest that because one or several groups are bad does not mean all are bad.

For example, check out California Psychics. They do multiple interviews and full background checks. People I know who have been giving amazing readings for decades were not allowed to be a part of this organization.

They also have a large, full-time support staff to help direct clients to appropriate readers and handle complaints. If a reader gets too many complaints they're fired.

Yep. Some phone psychics are phrauds. There are others who are not.

Full disclosure: my fiancé works as an editor for their web site.

Ananael Qaa said...

Well, I'm not ruling out the possibility that some of these organizations could be legit - maybe the company your fiance works for is an exception. Statistically speaking, though, from everything I've seen the vast majority are not, and that makes for a lot of fakes however you slice it.

Even if some of these places do employ genuine psychics, I also have a hard time believing that you would get a better reading over the phone than you would from someone you're seeing in person. Psychic talent isn't so rare that the only way to talk to the best is to call one of these hotlines, and over the phone the magical link is not very strong.

A.M. said...

Unfortunately, people who work as psychics are an easy target. That most of us are women, and poor women to boot, is no doubt part of the fun for haters. We don't have the power or the voice to hit back in any meaningful way.

I work as a psychic, and I routinely do accurate psychic readings for complete strangers. That's the job. I don't claim to know how it works, but we're all magicians here, so that should come as no surprise.

Yes, the psychics who work on telephone lines are often frauds, not very skilled, or just starting out. I was a member of the latter group once, so I know that phone psychics don't ever see that $2.99/minute -- the company collects that. I got about $13/hour, which is terrible pay for the amount of energy it costs to do readings.

I guess what I'm saying is that it's a complex world out there, and this article doesn't begin to touch on what it's really about.

Ananael Qaa said...

@A.M: That was another point that was mentioned in the article but which I didn't go into - many of the organizations who do this are quite exploitative toward their employees, who make only a tiny fraction of what the company charges for readings.

I don't blame the individuals working for these places - most of them are just trying to get by and it's not like anybody gets rich working for a psychic hotline. I blame the companies who are recruiting actors because they figure psychic powers are bullshit anyway so why bother trying to find the genuine article.

Donald Michael Kraig said...

Well, I don't know the percentage of good phone psychics vs. fakes/frauds. It is likely that there are a bunch of fakes out there. In my opinion, before going to ANY reader, a person should do some "due diligence" and check the reader and his/her reputation out.

While personally I believe I give excellent Tarot readings, I choose not to do so over the phone. In my experience, giving a reading establishes a triune link between the reader, client, and the Divine. Not having a direct visual and kinesthetic link between myself and the client makes this increasingly challenging. Not even video-chat resolves this for me. However, this may be MY issue and not one of others.

So it may well be true that a person can get a better reading in person than via phone. But sometimes, a person doesn't need a better reading, the person just needs am accurate reading. At 3:00 a.m. seeing someone in person may not be possible.

Still, the best solution, IMO, is learning a reading system for yourself. Depending upon a reader, no matter the reader's accuracy or quality, still leaves you dependent rather than self-empowered.

Ananael Qaa said...

@DMK: No argument there. I find connections over the phone more difficult to work with as well. In an emergency it may be better than nothing, but in person the reading is going to be better still. And the best approach is always going to be to learn to do it for yourself.

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Yuri Romanov said...

Getting your readings from telephone psychics is really convenient. However, you should also be aware of whom to consult. You should first research the psychic or the company if it has good feedback or a reputable one.

psychicjim said...

Focus on the good, not the bad or the phony. This philosophy has always stood me well, it has never let me down.

there ARE good and real phone psychics that will give you a good psychic reading!