Always Be Closing: Experiencing and theorizing time and wage in a UK call center

Frederick H. Pitts


This paper draws upon the author’s own working experience of the everyday organizational life in a home improvements telesales unit. It uses this autoethnographic experience to support a theorization of the organization of work-time in call centers and the specific ways in which the wage serves to assist the manipulation of working hours. In so doing, it applies to the autoethnographic account some conceptual tools provided by Marx’s Capital, in order to explore the ways in which time is organized in the pursuit of surplus-value in the call-center working environment. It is shown that flexible working arrangements and zero-hour contracts are used to extend working time under the auspices of a pay framework based around commission and performance-linked piece wages. The paper combines theory and the autoethnographic experience of everyday organizational life, using the work of E. P. Thompson to ruminate upon and understand the relationship between the two.


Call centers; telesales; work-time; wages; Marx; autoethnography

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