Taking Butterball hotline calls a tradition in itself for call center veteran

Carol Miller has saved Thanksgiving for countless families for more than three decades

Image Courtesy of Butterball—Image Courtesy of Butterball
Butterball Turkey Talk-Line Supervisor and 33-year veteran of the phone line Carol Miller is seen here in a handout photo from Butterball.

RALEIGH —— “I had a lady tell me once, ‘Turkeys have a lot more personality than a pork chop.’ And I have to agree with her.”And if there’s someone who knows turkey, it’s Carol Miller. Miller has worked with the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line for 33 years, helping families avert Thanksgiving disasters by giving tips to make the centerpiece of their holiday gathering a success.

And don’t let her hear you call Thanksgiving simply another meal. “Thanksgiving is not a meal, it’s a feast —— you want a generous serving,” Miller said.

That’s often part of an answer to one of the more frequent hotline questions Miller gets this time of year: How much turkey do I need to buy?”

The one that we give out, and we give it out because from helping so many people for so many years, we do hear that people want leftovers,” Miller said. “They want turkey sandwiches and things for a few days after Thanksgiving. Or they want to send those little foil packets home with all their guests with turkey and stuffing inside. … So if you factor both those in, it sounds like a lot but we suggest a pound and a half per person.”When you call the hotline, it’s easy to envision Butterball — which sells more than a billion pounds of turkey a year — giving out the home number of their experts, who then talk you through the process while roasting their own holiday bird.In fact, the call center in suburban Chicago — which is open Nov. 1 and keeps going until Christmas Eve — is filled with professionals, all taking calls at 1-800-Butterball.

“We’re in a big, open facility that’s about a little bit bigger than a basketball court, maybe two, and everybody’s sitting at their desks with their headphones on,” Miller said.Butterball of course offers tips on its website, butterball.com, but also added text support this year at 1-844-877-3456.

Miller herself has a degree in home economics, while others in the center are dietitians, chefs or from other fields related to food preparation. Regardless of background, they all takes classes — affectionately called Butterball University — to be prepared for any situation a caller might present.”I cannot tell you how many people we talk to when they’re walking through the grocery store when they’re out searching,” Miller said. “You help them get the turkey, you help them get the pan, you find the stuffing cubes they need and what they need for stuffing. You are there with their grocery cart, their Butterball turkey, picking up everything for Thanksgiving.”

The busiest day for calls is Thanksgiving Day, when people have last-minute questions or a crisis on their hands.Having manned the phones for more than three decades, Miller herself has had to adjust her own Thanksgiving. But whether it’s splitting her shift at the call center to eat at home and “skipping out before dishes” to return to the Talk-Line or her annual week-after Thanksgiving with her immediate family, taking calls and helping others has become a tradition in itself.

“I consider that I spend my Thanksgiving with this great, big Butterball family,” Miller said. “I spend it with my family-family. And then I get to spend it with all these families across the country.”And you can hear in the background, when you give them the OK that the turkey is done sometimes you get a round of applause. So you’re also spending Thanksgiving with all these families that you talk to, so it’s fun. … It’s my Thanksgiving.”