23 Dec 2003

"Thank you for calling Call Centre Confidential. Our lines are now closed and will reopen on Monday the fifth of January. Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all of our customers. Never forget - your call is important to us."

Yeah. Right.

All the best - see you in 2004.

22 Dec 2003

Put a Needle on It

The Team Manager do was on Friday. I’d love to regale you all with insightful observations of my colleagues but I can’t as I missed most of it.

I always feel a little guilty leaving the office when the operators are still busy on the phones. I could feel the sneering looks burning into my back as we left.

We had a meal in one of those expensive café bars where they try to pass off a slice of meat on top of a bed of mashed potato, in the dead centre of a big plate, as food.

The meagre offering did little to line my stomach and within an hour I was smiling like the joker with black teeth. Call Centre Tony looked like he’d been drinking from a broken jam jar when we started at each other. It was a familiar argument; one of the great debates of our age:

Kylie verses Dannii.

We both accept that the two together would be something magical; bigger than the sum of their parts. However, separate them and the arguments start:

“Dannii is the ugly sister. The screaming skull.” Tony insisted. Pointing his finger at me in a threatening manner.

“Bollocks. She’s got her knockers, but I think she has a couple of outstanding features that put her ahead of Kylie.” I said.

Brenda’s honking laugh was ringing in my ears as I made a dash to the toilet.

It was when I got there that I realised how drunk I was. I stuck my head down the toilet bowl.

The restaurant manager woke me several hours later. I was clutching the toilet bowl and had the pattern of floor tile impressed on my cheek. He looked at me nervously as if I was a junkie who had over-dosed.

He was relieved when I grinned and managed to say “Red … Red … Wine.”

He was a Kylie man too.

19 Dec 2003

Two in a bush

“What are you doing?”

Barney, the Big Gay Bear, who sits on my right hand, caught John Three cutting off a customer in mid conversation.

“You can’t do that!” Barney was outraged.

“Well I said this morning that if another joker asks for a ‘partridge in a pear tree’ I’d cut them off. I’m not paid to take rubbish like that for seven hours a day.” John said.

Barney reached for his well thumbed copy of The-Catalogue-that-Cannot-Be-Named-For-Keeping-My-Job-Reasons and pointed to the Christmas collection:

“A great gift for your ‘True Love’. This partridge in a pear tree is a charming ornament that will make an attractive addition to your festive decoration. Plays three tunes: “God Bless Ye Merry Gentlemen”, “Jingle Bells” and, “The 12 days of Christmas”. Requires one AA battery (not supplied).”

Every home should have one.

18 Dec 2003

Always the Bridesmaid

My in-box is stuffed with messages from well wishers. Thank you. They almost out number the invites I have been getting to see Paris Hilton having a shag. Almost (I'm a Trusthouse Forte man myself).

It's great to get the 'Highly Commended' recognition in The Guardian Blog Awards. When I started this in February little did I realise that, by the end of the year, it'd come second only to a thinking-man's version of the 'Razzle Reader's Letters Page' in a national competition.

I'm not bitter.

To new readers: Welcome to my team. To older readers: Thanks and sorry, its a repeat:

Meet My Team

You’ll need to meet my team to understand my daily life. They are the strangest collection of odd-balls you are likely to meet. When we walk through the office, I feel I should have a ball balancing on the end of my nose: the circus has come to town.

Barney (The Polar Bear) – Barney doesn’t get his nickname from sucking on Fox’s Mints – if you know what I mean - he belongs to a gay sub-group of fat, fairy blokes with silver hair and doesn’t care who knows about it. He is like a camp santa and used to be big in Tetra Pak.

Brian (The Hills Have Eyes) - He looks at me through his jam jar glasses as though he wants to stalk me. He tells me everything. He once took his sock off to show me his corns.

Simon (Bo Selecta) - Craig David looky-likey. He wears a bob hat (sans bob) from Farnworth market and is a piss-head. He’s never here on Mondays. I had to ‘file note’ him once for inappropriate behaviour: he wore a ‘rape mask’ on a dress-down day.

Susan (Tizzy) – Gets into a flap about everything. The ultimate drama queen. Everything is a ‘nightmare’ and has a strange relationship with her cat. She had three weeks off after the ‘rape mask’ incident.

I have four John’s on my team. Whenever I say “John” their heads bob above the pens like Prairie Dogs.

John One - (Thrush) I call him thrush because he is an irritating cunt. He has to have the last word in every conversation. If he can’t think of anything to say in Team Meetings, he repeats what the last person said, as if it is a new idea. I would do 15 for this guy.

John Two - (John Doe) John Doe writes lists about everything. I like him, even though he is really odd, and has no sense of humour, but I like the challenge of finding the “All Time Top 5 Bus Stations you have ever visited.” He writes really, really small like the killer in the film SEVEN. He uses the same piece of A4 file paper, to write notes on, that he was given when he started, four years ago.

John Three - (Moomin Papa) People say he’s a morman, but I’m not sure. He thinks that The Call Centre is a conspiracy planned against him. Everything that happens happens to make his life more miserable. He is probably right.

John Four – John Four is, strictly speaking, not called John. Joan is so hard of hearing that she answers to John.

Tingle Bells

It was a mistake to hold the ‘department do’ on a ‘school night’. I suppose they thought that it would encourage people to stay sober – not a chance.

The team body-popped into the office today like those zombies shuffling behind Michael Jackson in Thriller.

Tizzy has been ill. She threw up and missed the bin. I sprang into action immediately: “Please get a cleaner here ‘asap’” (I actually said asap – what have become?)

The cleaners refused to help. Apparently it’s not in their contract to clean.

Call Centre Tony showed some intiative and discreetly got the hoover out of the cupboard and hovered it up.

I can expect a witch-hunt when they come to empty that baby. Ah well – it’s Christmas.

Ian had been in his element last night, impressing the ladies with his Jingle Bells tie: “Press up to me and see what happens.” A tinny sound played: ting ting ting, ting ting ting, tingle ting ting ting…

It was awful. It was enough to get him a passport into Pat’s panties but little else and by the end of the night he was wearing them on his head while playing air-guitar; it was like he was massaging an invisible anaconda.

17 Dec 2003

If the cap fits …

At the end of yesterday’s meeting, Bernard handed out the hats to the people who he thought best represented the characteristics of de Bono’s different modes of thinking:

Janice was red because she works with her emotions,
Brenda was yellow with her positive outlook,
Ian was green because of his creative taste (in ties),
Tony was black in view of the cynicism he demonstrated,
I was white because I am neutral and the black had already gone.

I tried explaining the theory to the team. Thrush was interested, “Thinking in different ways can be very powerful. Very powerful.”

Tizzy was curious: “De Bono – isn’t he in U2?”

Barney, the Big Gay Bear, smirked: “Who wears the brown hat?”

16 Dec 2003

The Prat in a Hat

“I’m thinking warm thoughts. I’m thinking feelings. I’m thinking ‘Red Hat’.” Bernard was wearing a Santa hat with pig-tails, “I want YOU to think good thoughts. I want you to express the way that you feel.”

He’s been on a course and I think he has taken Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats a bit too literally, because he has been switching hats like Worzel Gumidge with an identity crisis. His annual ‘drains up’ takes place every year prior to the Christmas do and it allows us all to indulge in the same old lip service. It is supposed to make us reflect on our achievements during the year so we can learn, and move on.

We were surrounded by crayons and a large roll of brown paper and he invited us to create a ‘rich picture’ to describe our achievements during the year. “What have been the highlights for you as an individual.”

I pondered for a while. Time was running out so I drew a computer.

“Ahhh. Interesting.” Bernard did an on-the-spot analysis: “You see technology as our greatest success.”

Not really. My highlight of the year was getting Tony’s cast-off 17 inch monitor to replace my crummy 12 incher.

When Bernard uttered the phrase “What has NOT gone well this year?” we could hardly contain ourselves. Rolf Harris would have been proud of our sprawling stream of consciousness where we criticised everything from communication to the canteen.

Bernard was taken a back by our apparent unhappiness. “Well, I did want to have real, red hat, drains up.”

“And you got a colonic irrigation.” Tony quipped.

Bernard made him wear the black hat for the rest of the meeting.

14 Dec 2003

The Hierarchy of Dos

Its been bedlam over the last week, hence the dearth of posts, however things have started to quieten down as the deadline for Christmas deliveries has now passed.

You may have heard of “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs”, a theory that attempts to illustrate the stages of human motivation. I wish propose a new theoretical approach to Call Centre hierarchies based upon the activity of Christmas dos. I call it “Wrapstar’s 4 Ages of Call Centre Christmas Dos’:


The Team do is the lowest of all Christmas Celebrations. Lets face it, these people would never be together if it was not due to some conspiracy of fate and poor local employment prospects. No one wants to organise it. No one really wants to go. It usually ends up being a baguette and half a stella-shandy at lunch time.

True to form, Thrush was on form at this year’s do: “I haven’t pulled a cracker since last Christmas. Geddit. PULLED a cracker. A cracker…”


The department dos attract the party animals and subsequently end up being like Sodom and Gomorrah. I’ve been to department dos that look like they have been painted by Hieronymus Bosch but with cracker hats and Ben Sherman shirts.

Team Manager

As a ‘Middle Manager’ it is a statutory requirement that you attend the Team and Department do, but you can’t enjoy it because you’ll be cornered by some drunken part-timer who wants to have a career chat: “I love working for you. Every one thinks that you are great.”

On the other-hand, Team Manager dos are a chance to let your hair down with your peers. Inevitably it descends into sex chats: “If your life depended on it who would you sleep with out of Alison the post woman or Ten Tonne Bess from Janice’s team?” The Team Manager do for this year takes place this coming Friday.

Heads of Area

Partners are invited to these dos and usually involve seeing a show and a nice meal afterwards to discuss golf and cars. The small talk is so small it’s almost tiny.

8 Dec 2003

Who’s been eating my porridge?

Barney, the Big Gay Bear, likes to tell Tizzy about his exploits in great detail. I think that she thinks that his stories of cruising Teddy picnics and cottage full of bear-chasers sound quite sweet; like goldilocks in leather.

“Where’s the Christmas do?” He asked.

“The Burton Hall. You know near Asda.”

Barney started grinning and giggling to himself. “I have had some fun in the toilets in the Asda car-park on a Sunday morning.”

Reason 22 to shop at Morrisons.

7 Dec 2003

Argie Barji

I was in yesterday, on my day off, for no extra money to put up Christmas decorations to surprise Bernard, the Call Centre Operations manager. Brenda has been planning it for days, “I want to get the ‘wow factor’ when he walks in the office.”

She didn’t turn up. She left it to Janice, Tony and I.

For who’s benefit is all this for?

I often ask this question to myself at times like this. I suppose the text-book response is ‘The Customer’. I expect Mrs Norris of Bath couldn’t give a flying figgy pudding if we Christmas decorations or not; she just wants her reusable DVD wipes in time to entertain her guests at Christmas.

Is it for the benefit of the staff that I am clambering over desks and swinging from post to post with only a swivel chair saving me from certain death? What possible pleasure can they get from golden streamers and plastic Santas?

Ultimately, Brenda has it right, Bernard is going to get the most from the idea that the Team Manager’s have pulled together to “make the Call Centre come alive” to “motivate the staff.”

Once we had finished, we sat back and admired our work, “It looks like our local tandori.” Tony said.

There’s been nervousness around the place since the latest news of call centres moving to India. “I heard that they work 14 hours a day, 6 days a week, without a break, for the price of a chicken tikka masala.” I overheard Tizzy talking to one of the temps earlier in the week.

“Well most of them are graduates and they are TRAINED to speak in different British accents. They can get extra pay for every accent they master.” Greg, the Artful Dodger chipped in.

“What like, if you can a brummy accent you get an extra samsosa every week?” Simon, the Craig David looky-likey, asked.


“Can you imagine if they introduced that in this call centre? I can’t understand a word those people from Birmingham say.” Tizzy said, looking worried.

The Plague-Carrier, another one of the temps, joined in. “As Mike Harding once said: Brummies don’t talk, they sing, and if you haven’t got the words, yer buggered.”

They all had a go at a Birmingham accent. It sounded like an episode of Crossroads sponsored by Bobby Davro.

4 Dec 2003

Making Plans for Nigel

“Sooty’s coming back.” Call Centre Tony came over to the team.

I was wide-eyed, frazzled and mithered by a thousand questions. My headset was out of its velvet-lined box and in the middle of dealing with a complaint about the ‘Chocolate Biscuit Rack’ from the catalogue – Hob Nobs don’t fit on it apparently – “What?” I replied with a hint of irritation, I wasn’t in the mood for Tony today.

“Sooty’s back into the fold and we need to give him a good home-coming son. The time he came to the eighties day dressed as Austin Powers is probably the happiest day of my life.” Tony said with a wide smirk. “He’s coming back and we will be able to terrorise him.”

Sooty was Tony’s name for Nigel – who used to have Brenda’s job before he was moved out of the way by Bernard – he had a big Yorkshire Ripper beard on his security pass, hence Sooty (Peter Sutcliffe).

I was distracted. Greg, one of the temps, was dropping off to sleep in the middle of a call. He was working as a glass-collector in the evenings at a local pub. The pro-plus was wearing off.

Tony continued: “Do you remember the abuse we used to give him whenever he attempted to bollock us. He hadn’t the nerve to do it in his own name so used to say ‘Bernard is unhappy with your sales performance’. I’d say, ‘tell him to stick it up his arse, and stick MiniMe up there with it, Austin.’ He never knew what to say.”

“Greg!” I shouted over, ignoring Tony.

Greg leapt into the air and said, “Sorry, are these dead mate?”

3 Dec 2003

Firing Blanks

A little brass boy holding his willy sits, pride of place, on my desk. A famous Belgian, apparently, it’s a trophy from Zoe (My Boyfriend Is A Twat) for winning ‘The Blogger of the week’ vote a few weeks ago.

I’m proud of it, but I daren’t say where it has come from. There’s only Fag Ash Lil and Call Centre Tony who know about the blog and I intend to keep it that way following the scare story on Blogspot:

“If you end up getting yourself fired for blogging, deep down you must have really wanted out of that job. If that's the case, keep blogging. With your newfound status as one of only a handful of people in the world who have been "fired for blogging," you should be able to grab some headlines. Fan those flames! You could wind up on Oprah with a million dollar book deal. Theoretically.”

Optimistic advice from Blogger.

Knowing my luck I’d end up on Trashy Trisha, and have to undergo a DNA test for some cracker-spawn I have never seen before, ever, in my life, honest.

1 Dec 2003


One of the new temps is a plague-carrier. His nose dripped onto the keyboard earlier today. He keeps sneezing and saying to customers, “sorry about that. Where was I? I have decimal places in all the wrong places.”

I suppose I should be happy that he is making the effort.

At the other extreme, I have Simon, the Craig David looky-likey, who is off work at the drop of his hat: “It fell off my head and hit my toe sir.”