27 May 2003

Big Bro. Taking over the show.

The Call Centre is impenetrable to the outside world. I like to think of it as a protective dome that war, famine and pestilence does not reach.

In my 11 year history of working here I can only think of a handful of news events that have reached me while I was working.

As a rule, all of the events involve sudden death: 9/11, Dunblane, John Smith’s heart attack when he was having a bath, and Jill Dando’s assassination as she returned home from shopping.

There is one exception. When Nasty Nick was chucked out of the first house because, gasp, horror – he wanted to win, it spread through The Call Centre like chlamydia on an 18-30’s holiday. I remember Katherine from accounts bursting into the smoke hut shouting: “They’ve turned off the cameras coz someone as been murdered!”

It would have been around the water cooler; but we haven’t got one.

Today’s Big Brother Favourite: Sissy because she looks like a hybrid of Carrie, Sonia and Mrs Overall.

24 May 2003

Natural High

We’ve reached the end of the Tantazia leads and the appointment book has been handed over to Steve.

I’m waiting for the fall out when he realises that his 600 watt bulbs are going to glow for no one.

Ah well.

Call Centre Tony came over and congratulated me on the campaign and the effort I’d put in. He used his mock sincerity, and I don’t quite know what he was he was up to, but he made me smile: “Well that’s the last you’ll see of Steve, ol’ pontoon eyes…”

“Pontoon eyes?” I replied.

“Yeah. One sticks while the other twists. Are you having that one son?”

I have been invited to 'the do' - I don't want to go - but I do want see what Stu Francis looks like these days ...

22 May 2003

Bring it on

Finally, we had some success with the campaign. We are officially at the dregs of the leads now. There should be no hope with the people we are calling, but Brian (The Hills Have Eyes) managed to contact an old people’s home filled with sun-worshiping geriatrics. The have made a block booking for the next three months.

Steve, the owner-manager of Tantazia, phones every day to find out how many sun bed appointments have been made: “I know you can’t tell me exactly – but please can you give me a ball-point figure.”

I haven’t the heart to tell him how bad it has been so far, I haven’t managed his expectations very well, and indeed I have been building the sales up too much.

I told Steve about the block booking with the old folks home but he didn’t seem that impressed: “I’ll never get rid of the smell of old ladies’ piss.”

21 May 2003

The Singing Detective

Janice is starting to peel. She is leaving flakes of skin everywhere she goes.

It reminds me of the time I tried to convince my mum I couldn’t go to school because I had leprosy. I covered myself with jam and cornflakes and shook the cat’s bell. It didn’t work. She pulled my nose until it hurt: “There’s nothing coming off – it’s not leprosy – it must be acne. Get to school!”

Janice’s skin has gone patchy. She’s like a map of Bolton town centre – only not as useful.

20 May 2003

Life’s a Beach

Brownie points a go go today.

To give the Tantazia telesales campaign a boost in the final days I have had a ‘Beach Party’ theme day: we dressed down in shorts and Miami shirts and wore knotted handkerchiefs on our head. I had ‘Golden Brown’ by The Stranglers playing on a loop to motivate the team.

I had send John Two home for coming to work in speedo swimming trunks as he was distracting members of Janice’s team; or it would be more accurate to say: his member was distracting Janice.

I was determined to get the first sale of the campaign and it did not take long before the beach party worked its magic.

Barney launched himself out of his deck chair in a state of animated excitement. He was still attached to his headset when he went hurtling towards the appointment’s diary.

“Well let me check the diary … eemm … yes I think we can fit you in.” I rushed over to him and scribbled on a post it: “DON’T FORGET STU FRANCIS”

“I’ve booked that for you.” Barney stuck his thumbs up. “Well as a treat, we’d also like to invite you to a celebrity event this Saturday: free wine and all the Pringles you can eat and you can meet a local celebrity… yes … there’s no charge Mr Wainwright.”

I went cold.

When Barney came off the call I asked tentatively: “This Mr Wainwright, was he Irish by any chance?”

He didn’t need to answer; I could see Bernard in his office smiling to himself.

I’d been Mystery Shopped again!

19 May 2003

Hot Gossip

Recorded on the Tantazia campaign today:

Customer: “Sorry love I can’t use those stand and tan machines. I went on one for 7 weeks before my holiday to Costa de la Luz last year and it did a great job. But it was my husband who noticed the problem: I’d been holding up my boobs while it was doing the business and it left me with hand prints on my tits.”

No appointments have been made.

18 May 2003

Stand and Deliver

Tantazia have got a celebrity event scheduled for the grand launch of their new ‘Stand and Tan’ unit, (It is some kind of capsule that you stand in naked, while it blows hot air over your body. It sounds horrible.)

It is to take place next Saturday evening and there is free wine and twiglets for invited guests. Due to the poor sales we have experienced so far, Steve, the owner manager of Tantazia, has said we can give out invitations to customers who are willing to sign up for a month’s worth of appointments.

I didn’t want to argue with Steve. He is a big bloke with eyes that look like they are jealous of each other. He mixes his metaphors too: “Well you haven’t done well yet, but we can draw a line under the carpet, and hope that this week you can get something.”
“Who is the celebrity?” I asked.

“A local person who has made it big.”

“Really!” My mind ran through the local celebrities: Peter Kay, Sara Cox, Vernon Kay, Badly Drawn Boy, at worse, Fred Dibnah, TV Steeplejack.

“Its Stu Francis – he is a mate of my brother.” He said proudly.

Stu ‘I could crush a grape’ Francis has not been a celebrity since 1981 when he was the host of kid’s TV favourite Crackerjack, and even then he wouldn’t have made it to the bush tucker trial.

“But, nothing is confirmed yet, so keep it under your belt eh?”

Oh! I could wrestle an Action Man!

16 May 2003

Don't have nightmares ...

We haven’t managed to get a single appointment all week – unless you include the one we got from Tizzy’s mum.

I swapped my complimentary Tantazia vouchers with Janice in exchange for a ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer mouse mat.”

Today she has come to work in a right state: she fell asleep on one of the beds and she has got burnt. She has had to wear a paper vest so every time she walks past she rustles.

With her burnt face and green contacts in she looks like Freddy Krugar – only not as pretty.

14 May 2003

Courtesy Call

This was recorded today on the ‘Tantazia’ campaign:

“Hello I’m phoning from Tantazia and I have some great news for Marion Wragg. Is she available?”

“No she isn’t cock. What is it you are selling?”

“I’m not REALLY selling – I’m offering a reduction on Sun appointments for Marion.”

“I don’t think she’d be interested.”

“Can I ask why?”

“We bloody cremated her three weeks ago.”

I guess she won’t be needing the “after-sun” package either then …

13 May 2003

ABC Always Be Closing

Tantazia sun-bed campaign.

Two days in, 456 calls and not a single appointment booked.

Listening to the team on the phone, I can see where things are going wrong, so today I created some snazzy laminates to help the team sell the Sun Bed appointments.

Flirt. (Maintain the Valuing Dignity Policy: “You too could look like a Baywatch Babe” is probably ok. “I’ll come over and check your white bits.” Is over the line.)

DON’T: Get into conversations about melanoma.

DON’T: Compare the experience of being in a Tan Bed as “like being in a Breville sandwich maker”.

It is HOT to say: “You can look as good as Catherine Zeta Jones.” But NOT “In Two days you’ll be as brown as David Dickinson.”

DON’T: Discuss the “Tantazia Web Cam Incident” – the case has not yet gone to court – nothing has been proven.

11 May 2003

Bear Bash

Barney has been in a state of euphoria all day. There was a bear bash yesterday and he has had a shag-fest with the nation’s cubby chasers. He had a story to tell:

“Talk about coitus interuptus. I was on the canal and the next thing I knew, a barge run aground, and I was there – head to foot in leather - dragging it up the tow path to help them out, like a bleedin’ shire horse.”

Thrush missed the point: “Oh I have been on a cruise up the canal. It is all part of the fun, going up and down in the lock.”

“Chance would have been a fine thing. I never thought I’d be humping a barge at the canal.” Said Barney.

Meanwhile I have been preparing for the big Launch of the Tantazia – Sun Bed campaign. I have been reading up about the beauty business to get some background: I never realised what a bikini line was until today – I thought it was something you took to the beach to hang up your wet swimming costume. It isn’t, apparently.

9 May 2003

You need brass balls …

I have volunteered to take the leads for a new product on my team. Every so often when things are slack, The Call Centre takes telesales campaigns from local businesses. We have sold Cat Meat and Time Share Cottages in Morecambe in the past; it is soul destroying endurance work that usually doubles the absence on my team.

But, Bernard has been turning on the heat due to my team’s poor performance and this is an opportunity for me to save my skin. He has started to use the phrase ‘Performance Management’, a euphemism that means: “I want to sack you. You twat”.

He can’t look me in the eye.

It was time to stick my neck out. The new leads appeared in an envelope, scented of patchouli, like a rocker’s crotch, I ripped it open: Tantazia – The complete Tanning solution – 15% reduction on membership.

Burn baby burn.

8 May 2003

If you are there, pick up …

We have a book in which we capture some of the best answermachines we contact when we are doing telesales. Here is a selection of some of my favourites:

1) “This is Davina, you are live on my answer machine – do not swear – the people nominated to be out of the house are: us two – so leave a message.

2) (Glum tone – on the verge of manic depressive) … You know what to do …

3) (Little Girl’s Voice) Knock Knock
(Mum) Who’s there?
(Little Girl) Lever
(Proud Mum) Lever who?
(Little annoying brat) Lever a message after the tone

4) (‘Message in a bottle’ played by blowing across the top of milk bottles) Leave an sos for the world … after the tone….

5) There is 15 ‘Mission Impossible’ messages registered every single day – sorry of you have one – but it is true.

6) (In a dirty old man’s voice.) You’re through to ‘Sniff My Sausage’. If you enjoy the odour of pig based products then please leave a message after the tone …

Get a life.

7 May 2003

Mystery Shopper

“But Mr Wainwright. But. BUT.” Tizzy was dealing with an awkward customer. Her tone got more and more desperate. “Well if you LET me speak … yes … but … MR WAINWRIGHT!”

I took my headset from its velvet-lined box and plugged in to listen remotely. I recognised the voice right away. The phoney Irish accent gave it away. I discreetly turned towards Bernard, the boss’ office and it confirmed my suspicions: the blinds were shut. Every so often, when he gets bored, Bernard rings The Call Centre and pretends to be an awkward customer.

His Irish accent is always a dead give away because it is something between Ian Paisley and Terry Wogan – with a bit of Billy Connelly thrown in for good measure. I held up a post it note to Tizzy: “Put him on hold.”

Using a prearranged signal, I instructed Call Centre Tony to snap into action and provide covering fire. He dashed into Bernard’s office to distract him with his favourite subject: call performance.

Tizzy returned to “Mr Wainwright” who suddenly had a change of heart and hung up. Shaking, Tizzy said, “What a nasty, nasty man.”

Nasty. But thankfully, easily distracted.

6 May 2003


I had to pull Joan aside today. We went into the stationery cupboard. The I.T. department had advised that she had been attempting to access porn on the Internet.

Apparently, she had misheard Tizzy when suggested that she should look on GOOGLE. Instead she put in “GOBBLE” and it brought up 1222345 suggestions.

It was a bit of a blow.

5 May 2003

Ready Salted

On my lunch break, I read in the paper that a new survey has discovered that Britain eats more savoury snacks than Italy, Germany, Spain and France put together.

They say it as if it is a bad thing.

Why knock something that we do well? We like eating crisps and we are good at it. Nowhere else in the rest of Europe can you get such a plethora of flavours, such as: Sour Cream and Jalepeno, Thai Sweet Chilli, Marmite, Baked Beans and, my favourite, Prawn Cocktail.

It’s no wonder that the Europeans don’t eat as many crisps – they don’t know what they are missing – leave them to their snail, horse and baby cows trapped from daylight – we’ll carry on with our little packets of pleasure, thank you very much.

(American readers – Crisps are the name for chips. Chips are ‘French Fries’ – the French don’t like them either.)

2 May 2003

Green Fingers

I was off-site today. I am the GREEN GOBLIN representative for our office and every month I make a long drive to our site in Birmingham. I had to sit in the traffic for hours and did not get chance to press the pedal to the metal in the big throbbing car I had hired for the journey.

The GREEN GOBLIN meetings are hosted by The Ron Tiki Man – a full time ‘recycling consultant’ employed by The Call Centre to advise us on how to reduce our waste – he is a lovable eccentric with a Lenny the Lion beard and an embroidered ‘ethnic’ hat.

When I entered the room, a cd was playing. Pan Pipe versions of Andrew Lloyd Webber classics. The usual suspects were there: Brenda, Glasgow office, honks like a sea lion when she laughs; Wendy from HR ruthlessly efficient and insists on everything being ‘documented’; and Terry from Belfast who talks about football as if it matters: “Your lot did us a favour this weekend.”

Ron Tiki man mumbled through his set piece about emissions and his missions. I sat back and admired the great air-conditioning they had in Birmingham. It was so cool in the room, that I got joggers’ nipple walking across to the buffet table after the presentation.

The buffet was vegan. Sun Dried tomatoes. SUN Dried tomatoes. They were ok for tomatoes that had been deliberately dried … in the sun.

When I got back:

I photocopied and laminated 150 signs saying “THINK BEFORE YOU PRINT” for the office.

Ron Tiki Man’s 350 pages, “Call Centre Ecology” report was sent for recycling (unread).

I adapted a plastic cup into a penholder by using coloured felt tips.

Being a GREEN GOBLIN is great. I feel like I am doing my bit for the next generation.

1 May 2003

Son of Glendower (corrected)

In a spare moment today I did some blog browsing. My diary has been blog-rolled here and there and I have received some reviews. The reviewers have accused me of being both “lavatorial” and “Welsh”.

I’m off for a leek.