Pat Martin is a New Zealand tarot card reader and founder of the first professional organization for 900-line readers, the 0900 Information Providers' Association of New Zealand, Inc. (0900 IPANZ). Inspired by unethical readers/lines who bring the entire business into disrepute, Pat created the professional society to maintain ethics and standards in the psychic pay-per-call industry. The organization provides New Zealand readers with support and industry information, developed a code of ethics for readers, acts as a watchdog, and seeks to organize debt collection, training, and services (See Pat's Why We Need a Professional Organization).
Pat is also owner of two 900 lines in New Zealand: Pentacles, Live Psychic Readings and The Crystal Circle. We recently talked to Pat about her lines, her ethics, and 0900 IPANZ.
[tarot900] First things first, what prompted your journey into tarot and how long have you been a professional reader?
[Pat] Like most things I do in life, I fell into it backwards by mistake while researching a children's book on magic. So I'm a bit of a late starter. I've only been reading professionally for about five and a half years. Working the lines is something of a baptism by fire - a phone worker sometimes does more readings in a day than most "traditional" readers would do in a month.
[tarot900] When did you get the idea to work for a 900 line? Did you work for other NZ lines before you started your own?
[Pat] My daughter saw a small ad in a local paper advertising for 900 readers. She more or less bullied me into giving it a go. She thought I'd be great - based on the one reading I'd done for her! At that stage I'd done all of two readings for other people - they really shouldn't have employed me at all, which got me thinking about the ethics of the industry as a whole. I worked for them for about six months, loving the work but getting more and more disillusioned with the things I was seeing and hearing, before quitting to start my own line.
[tarot900] What makes your line different from all the others?
[Pat] I wanted to have a line where the callers would be treated as I would wish to be when I called a line, and the workers would be treated as I wanted to be when I was just an employee. I wanted them to be adequately paid, well supported, and with the freedom to work according to their own consciences. My line is different because although at the end of the day I'm the "boss" (my colleagues say that they've seen the boss's job and they don't want it!) the line functions like a cooperative. The team and therefore the shifts stay as stable as possible, so each worker can build up their own circle of clients. We do not rely on new business. 90-95% plus of our business comes from repeats and referrals.
We put out a free monthly monthly Newsletter to clients, which makes them feel valued and gives us the opportunity to educate them in how to use our services better. The spin off from this is very few bad debts - which in turn makes the business more profitable, which feeds back to the readers via their pay packets. We are also able to charge a lot less than some of our competitors. Best of all, I can sleep nights!
[tarot900] Can you describe to us what it was like to create your own line? Successes? Challenges?
[Pat] It was really scary!!! The real challenge was sitting out those first months when business was slow, praying that my workers would stick with it, and that I'd eventually get to a point where we were all making some money! I can't say we've been an instant success, but we're still here when so many have folded, and starting to make a better living. It's a real thrill when people give us great feedback, and to meet people who recognize our logo.
[tarot900] How did you go about gathering readers? How many did you start out with and how many do you now have?
[Pat] My first readers were my co-workers on the old line. One by one they quit to join me. I still have two of my original three workers. There are six of us now plus a couple who do fill-in work. I am always being rung up by readers who want to work for me, but regretfully I have no room for them as I do not want to grow too big and lose those very qualities which are making us successful. My workers only quit if they move out of town or if their circumstances change dramatically.
[tarot900] Are you making money? How has your line benefited your readers?
[Pat] I am making money now. I wasn't making much at first, but it's now a decent living. I don't aspire to caviar and champagne but I do appreciate the bread and jam! The line has benefited the readers because they love their work - they are dealing with nice people all day. They are supported both personally and professionally. We are learning all the time and share our resources a lot. In short, we are all friends. I am uncomfortable with claiming that my line is better than others - it IS different, and we and our clients like it that way.
[tarot900] How did the idea of 0900 IPANZ get started? What challenges did you face in the beginning?
[Pat] The idea for it started when I was working for the other line. I saw things happening that I didn't like (e.g., being instructed to keep clients talking, getting addresses for dubious mail outs, etc) and I was hearing tales from clients about things that they should never have been told over the phone - death predictions, financial scams and the like. So I wrote to every 900 line I could find floating the idea of the Association and volunteering to start the ball rolling.
Some people were apathetic, some were hostile, but many of the smaller lines responded with enthusiasm. The real challenges have been with communications, due to geographical spread, and the bane of all organizations - getting people for the Committee. Unfortunately, the smaller lines have been hit hardest by the economic down turn. We have lost a lot of members who have had to shut their doors.
[tarot900] How has this organization benefited NZ readers?
[Pat] Readers have benefited because they can compare notes on problem clients ("have you had a call from so and so?"), they can get hints for dealing with difficult situations (e.g., what to do if a caller wants Lotto numbers) and when they're feeling down or depressed, there's always someone they can call ("Have you had any calls this morning? Business is SOOOO slow....")
[tarot900] What's ahead for 0900 IPANZ? What is your vision?
[Pat] My vision for the 0900 IPANZ is to see the idea spread internationally. Imagine if each country has its own version of it, and there was an international umbrella group embracing us all! But on a more pragmatic note, I'd like to see a few more bums on seats - more members - more people on the Committee, and me not having to shove things along quite so hard.
[tarot900] What do you predict for the future of the 900 line industry? Trends to watch? Challenges?
[Pat] The Internet is probably the biggest challenge to us, especially as it becomes more interactive. I see the 900 industry going the way of a lot of other areas - fewer, bigger companies, leaving opportunities for niche markets for the smaller player as the big companies get more and more impersonal. My worry is that the industry as a whole will shoot itself in the foot through unethical practices - hence the idea of the 0900 IPANZ in the first place.