With two dozen would-be “master psychics” seated before her, Faith Groves told of a troubled 19-year-old mother of four who had been one of her first callers at the Psychic Readers Network.
Groves said she had been a little uneasy about the young woman spending $3.99 a minute to talk to her, but the feeling quickly passed. Sooner or later, she reasoned, the woman would benefit from the call.
Besides, what really mattered was the money.
“It’s my job to keep them on the line. That’s how I get paid,” Groves said. “I would rather see somebody take $150 and spend it on a telephone call than spend it on alcohol and drugs.”
Groves, 46, is president of Mystik Magik L.L.C., which owns Mystik Magik New Age Book Store in a strip mall.
This is where 25 people who answered classified ads seeking “general office” help at $12 to $16.80 per hour spent a recent afternoon, perched on chairs and molded-plastic patio furniture while Groves conducted a two-hour orientation session.
They ranged in age from early 20s to the high side of 50, slightly more women than men. Only a couple raised their hands when Groves asked if anyone had experience reading tarot cards.
The session focused not on psychic ability but on $3.99-a-minute telephone time and how to increase earning power by keeping callers on the line.
“You can make a lot of money,” said Groves, who told the prospective psychics that they could earn 15-30 cents per minute, depending on the length and frequency of their calls.
All that was required in return was 6-1/2 hours of classroom training, a deck of tarot cards, a manual and a phone line - and the discipline needed to crank out the minutes.
The longer the calls and the greater the total minutes logged, the higher the pay rate. To start at a rate of 20 cents a minute, the new psychics must log their first 1,200 minutes in the Mystik Magic “phone room,” a bank of 14 cubicles in an unadorned back room of the book store.
Groves reminded the prospective psychics that they would be “readers,” not professional counselors, and she told them to hang up on children and callers who try to discuss incest, rape and molestation.
Virtually all other calls are fair game, Groves said, even those from callers the psychics can’t understand.
She spoke of her own experience with an elderly Louisiana resident of Cajun descent, a delightful woman whose language was incomprehensible to Groves.
“I listened to this lady talk for 20 minutes on the telephone,” Groves said. “She laughed and had a ball, and I listened and laughed along with her. When it was all over with, I couldn’t begin to tell you what this woman said. I didn’t have a clue.”
By Groves’ estimation, the Psychic Readers Network has pulled in nearly a half-billion dollars so far this year. In October alone, she said, the network billed for 8 million minutes at $3.99 each - nearly $32 million.