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In Business, What is a Boiler Room?

Because the telemarketers perform high pressure sales jobs in less-than-desirable office space, many people refer to the workspace as a boiler room.
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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 December 2014
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Certain unscrupulous telemarketing operations are often run from cramped, low-rent office spaces with little more than desks, laptop computers and phone banks. Employees of such companies are expected to make unsolicited phone calls, also known ascold calling, to potential customers in the local area. Quite often the product or service being sold over the phone is a fraudulent stock option or a membership in a local police or firefighters benevolent association. Because the telemarketers perform high pressure sales jobs in less-than-desirable office space, many people refer to the workspace as a boiler room.

A boiler room is generally a movable feast in business circles. Owners of these telemarketing firms rarely stay in one location for more than a few months, and may even have to pack up overnight if a formal complaint about their operation is lodged. This is why many boiler room operations may actually be based out of office basements, private homes or even hotel rooms. As long as the boiler room operators can obtain local telephone service and basic utilities, the quality of the space is a secondary consideration.

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Employees who work in a boiler room may be encouraged to use dishonest sales tactics and high pressure techniques to reach a quota. They may be working "in association" with a recognized brokerage firm, for example, and have an extremely good investment opportunity to share with preferred customers. In many cases, the preferred customer is often elderly, or a retired investor. A boiler room stockbroker does not stop at the first rejection, however. He or she is allowed to berate the potential client for passing up such a lucrative investment, or use other strong language as intimidation.

Quite often the stock option or investment opportunity pitched by the boiler room telemarketer is either fraudulent or highly speculative. The victim is not given an opportunity to examine a prospectus or verify any other claims made by the caller. The decision to invest in the proposal must be made by the end of the phone call, with little time for consideration. Many times these high pressure sales tactics end with a sudden disconnection, but the boiler room operators only need a few completed transactions to cover their expenses and realize some profit. A boiler room telemarketer may make several hundred cold calls a day, but only needs a handful of closings to meet his or her quota.

A boiler room telemarketing operation can be considered legal in many jurisdictions as long as the owners possess proper business licenses. It is not uncommon to see advertisements for telemarketing jobs posted on college campuses and in local newspapers. Magazine subscription renewals and local charitable organization fundraisers are often handled through fairly reputable boiler room operations. More unscrupulous boiler room operations, however, employ seasoned telemarketers who are quite familiar with high pressure tactics and aggressive cold calling methods. These operations may appear suddenly in a new location and be gone just as quickly. A boiler room is no place for social introverts, to say the least.

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