“Butterball Turkey Talkline, may I help you?”
Marjorie Klindera has delivered that line over 200 times every Thanksgiving for 35 years.
“The year I started on the line was the first year we had computers to keep track of our callers and what they were asking,” said Klindera. “Before that they were doing it manually and they had a rolodex with some information. But we had it all on computer the year I began.”
The talkline has come a long way since then. They started offering advice to novice turkey-cookers via social media. And this year, you can even get guidance from Marjorie and others by saying “ask butterball” to Alexa-enabled devices.
“If folks are like me in the kitchen, I have my Echo in my kitchen so that I can just yell out my question and if my hands are doing dishes, if my hands are in the turkey, I don’t have to worry about washing my hands, going over and looking something up or calling somebody,” said Bill Nolan, another talkline operator.
Nolan is in just his second year on the Turkey Talkline, but he’s already familiar with the most common questions.
“We see a pattern that emerges depending on when it is. Early in the season people call and say ‘how big of a turkey should I buy?’, said Nolan. “Then as we progress through, it’ll be closer to crunch-time, ‘how do I cook it’, ‘how long does it take?’ Then it evolves into leftovers – ‘what do I do with the leftovers?’ We even get questions like ‘I don’t know what to serve with it.’ And we’re here to talk about turkey but we do have those resources available on the website.”
Turkey Talkline operators work throughout November and December and in eight-hour shifts on Thanksgiving itself. But they do their best to put the call center into the holiday spirit.
“One thing we do is we have meals for the staff all week long, and of course they’re turkey meals,” said Sue Smith, co-director of the Butterball Turkey Talkline. “And we have the staff make them because they’re all food experts. We do a turkey chili one day, we do barbecue pulled turkey sandwiches one day, so it’s really fun.”
And it’s always nice to feel appreciation on a day that’s all about just that.
“People are so thankful that we’re here to help them,” said Klindera. “It makes it really special for us too. They’re so relieved that they’ve gotten what they think are the right answers.”
Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.
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