31 Aug 2003

Hay Lads Hay!

“But Sir!” Simon, the Craig David looky-likey, has been protesting at the new scripts we have been using, “they don’t make any sense.”

“Well we have to follow them I’m afraid.” I said forlornly, I could understand the team’s complaints. Can you imagine, sitting at home, the phone rings, and you are exposed to this rubbish? For example:

“In accordance with regulatory requirements, pertaining to the sale of goods via telephony, I am obliged to advise you that the £10 complimentary voucher is subject to written terms and conditions that are available on request. There is no obligation to purchase. I will be retaining your address details, but no further information, a copy of the files held relating to this call are available if you submit a stamped self addressed envelope. This call may be recorded for training and monitoring requirements.”

I got on the phone to Mary and let her know that the scripts were hard to work with. “Well, you need to stick to them or we’ll face fines and possible closure. When it comes to hay lads hay we need to be water-tight.” She said.

“But, since we have started saying this stuff we haven’t sold anything.” I said.

“Tough. I have consumer law to worry about.”

That was it.

John Doe, the anal retentive on my team, was also struggling with the new convoluted script. Out of the whole team I thought that he would be the one who could deal with it. “In the words of Harrison Ford to George Lucas “You can type this shit, but you can’t say it!””

I’ll try that line on Mary when I next call.

27 Aug 2003

Who dares …

The sales stream is a group of self-appointed elite who have clandestine meetings in the boardroom. Fuelled by coffee and bourbon biscuits they plot future initiatives that impact on all facets of The Call Centre.

I came away from yesterday’s meeting slightly addled by the detail that they apply to everything. My days of playing fast and lose are over. Thanks to Bernard and his desire to develop me and push me out of my ‘comfort zone’ I have to suffer anal retentive like Mary: “I think “ringing” is less polite than “calling”, yet “making a call” is more accurate, but cumbersome, please can I have your thoughts?”

I had none. I grinned inanely.

As a result of the meeting I have picked up a new area of responsibility. Bernard wants to improve the ‘Adviser Communication’ and wishes to introduce an intranet forum and instant messenging.

At the head of the sales stream is Mutley (Ian) so called because he answers every question with a breathy, “Yep. Yep. Yep.”

He slithered over to me after the meeting, munching on a pink wafer biscuit, “Good to have you on board. I think you’ll add a lot to this group because I hear that you are very “grass-roots” and we need someone like you on the team.”

Mary was listening. “I wouldn’t say “grassroots”, I think “Man of the People” is more accurate.”

I love Mary. She incites violence and adoration to equal degrees, like a boxer who is into small print.

26 Aug 2003

A Script for a Jester’s Tear

In a bid to raise my profile, I have joined ‘The Sales Stream’, an elite group of people from across the Call Centre who are dangerously close to disappearing up their arses.

They work closely with Mary, the compliance officer, who thinks that consumer rights mean that customers should be bored within an inch of their lives just in case they might be persuaded into buying something that they might want.

Every week ‘The Sales Stream’ meet to discuss the latest sales scripts and discuss them to death. Mary said, “Mmmm. I’m not sure. In this script you claim “The Drum – Drum Hearing Aid could improve your hearing”. If you say “could” it implies that it “could” improve your hearing.”

“It COULD improve your hearing.” I said giving the line the emphasis that I think illustrated the point.

“Mmmm. MAYBE it could improve your hearing.” Mary suggested.

I could smash Mary’s head in. Maybe.

23 Aug 2003

Wankstas Paradise

Barney, the Big Gay Bear, on my team, was going on and on about Euro-pride today. He is in the parade through Manchester in a Bungo outfit handing out gummi bears to the crowd.

I wasn’t listening because despite my better wishes I kept going over and over the appraisal in my head.

Aloof. Cynical. Fuck ‘em. Fuck ‘em.

Something in me wanted to prove them wrong, but something was also saying Fuck ‘em.

Brenda kept looking at me with a tight smile that you give to people who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness: “I don’t know what to say – sorry.”

Janice has had content buzz. Tony has switched back to his management guru mode and has stopped having lunch with me (he’ll be back).

My Wankerdaq portfolio has gone through the roof.

“You look tired.” Barney interrupted his story to express concern.

“I’m ok.” I replied. “I didn’t sleep last night, I had a lot on my mind, I was tossing all night.”

“Well, I hope I’ll be doing the same all through the weekend!”

21 Aug 2003

If you can’t make it, Fake It!

It was my appraisal with Bernard today.

“How do you like your feedback? Do you like it on the chin, or wrapped up in cotton wool?” He asked. It sounded like something he had read in one of his management books.

“On the chin.” I replied.

He picked up a scrap of paper and began to read from it. Each word was delivered with dramatic emphasis. “The job’s mine. I can piss all over this task. A lot of lip service to keep BERNARDO happy.”

They were notes that I had made at the selection event for the office manager position. I assumed that they had been long forgotten. Instead they had been saved until they could inflict the maximum damage: my pay review.

The words still hung in the air. Brenda was there too, for some reason, she looked tight lipped and serious. Bernard dropped the paper dismissively.

“What can I do with you? Janice has drive, ambition, ability and delivery. Tony is sharp thinking, inspirational and, despite being rough round the edges, driven for success. I don’t know about you … capable … intelligent … but cynical, lacking drive and an aloofness.”

I could feel my head drooping with shame.

He continued, “You may think you are better than this. You may think “there must be more to life than this”. If I thought that you had drive and ability, I would say that you were wasted in The Call Centre. But, you haven’t, so get over it. You’ve got a job. Life ain’t that bad.”

I suppose it is too late to ask for the ‘wrapped in cotton wool’ version.

19 Aug 2003

Cut out the middle man

I had my headset out of its velvet-lined box today and was taking some calls. It reminded me of the good old days, before I was a manager, fielding calls from complaining, unhappy customers, with my usual charming rapport: “you are through to the wrong department, let me put you through to our accounts line.”

On the Drum-Drum line we often get calls from a Minicom operator. They are people who act as the interpreter between a deaf person and a hearing person. Usually they speak like Stephen Hawking because they think they are a Speak and Spell ™ machine, but without the personality.

Today I met the exception. A scouse woman came on: “Hello love. I’m on a minicom, you know the score, I’ve got a moaning owd trout on the other end.”

I didn’t know how to respond, so just mumbled in the right places.

“Good grief love, you better brace yourself, she’s got a right cob on. I don’t know how you put up with this lot all day. I really don’t …”

Can you manage what havoc she could cause at the United Nations?

18 Aug 2003


The half yearly appraisal deadline looms, I cannot put it off any longer, I need to do Thrush’s appraisal. I call John One ‘Thrush’ because he is an irritating cunt, and his ability to get under the skin is no better illustrated than when he attends his appraisals.

I dread it every six months, because it’s the same every time: he folds his arms across his chest and stares at me like he is delivering some kind of Jedi mind-trick; “these are not the droids you’re looking for …”

He has this way of agreeing with everything I say but disagreeing at the same time by repeating things back to me arse about face, for example, while smiling: “Yes you’re right. I am a bit of a loner and don’t mix with the team. I can work on my own initiative.”

He’s like an itch that you can’t scratch.

14 Aug 2003

The Pet Shop Boy

There was a riot going on in the office today. Bernard and Brenda were away, so it was time to play. I climbed into the stock cupboard and found the dusty length of drainpipe and sock full of dried peas on the end of a piece of string, that was lurking at the back under a pile of paper.

Mental Mickey, a Team Manager who left to join a Bank Call Centre based in Durham, used to play this game every day throughout the summer. The idea is to drop the sock on the string through the drainpipe and the ‘players’ attempt to hit it with a rolled up newspaper before it is pulled back up the pipe.

The official name is ‘Sock the Sock’ but the ‘street’ name is ‘Twat the Rat’.

Barney was swinging a rolled up copy of Attitude above his head.

Tizzy was giddy, “Quick Barney, the little mouse is about to disappear up your chute.”

“Who do you think I am? Richard Gere?” He said bringing down the magazine.

Hole in one.

12 Aug 2003

See here

I had my headset out of its velvet-lined box again today. I was monitoring the help-line for Drum-Drum, a Hearing Aid company, who quote a number on their warranty documents.

The calls usually blend with the others, but there has a recent spate of complaints, as there is a manufacturing fault that causes the Model 6 to pick up radio messages. In certain regions of the country, the Model 6 has been tuning into a Taxi Company. We have decided to isolate the calls, so they have been directed to my team this week.

I don’t think that it was a good idea putting Joan on the line. All the calls went along the same lines:


Joan: (talking to Barney, in the background) muffle mumble



C: I keep hearing voices …


C: Pardon?

J: Eh?

C: What did you say?

J: Excuse me?

And so on.

11 Aug 2003

Walter Mitty Type Character

I am beginning to think that I made a big mistake telling Tony about the blog. He has been round to a friend’s house and read it from beginning to end. He keeps phoning me from his desk with questions: “Do you get any people asking what Call Centre Tony looks like? If you did, and they were women, would you tell me? Write more stuff with me in it because, I’m not being funny, they are the only good bits.”

Yeah. Whatever.

I went on another health kick this week. I have cut out weekday drinking.

Every time I close my eyes I can see the cans of Stella in the fridge.

The phone rings, its Tony, “What does blog stand for?”

If I have one little drink tonight it might not be so bad.

8 Aug 2003

Pig in a Poke

Cathy Gilroy relented and allowed us to have a dress down day. What’s more we were allowed to wear “summer casuals” in view of the hot weather.

Call Centre Tony looked ridiculous in three-quarter length pants with sandals and socks. “Tony. I agree with what you were saying yesterday – people should get 15 years for looking how you look.” I said.

He growled, but agreed to go to the pub at lunchtime.

When we got there it was packed. I was handed a ticket for my chip butty and we sat outside.

I tried desperately to prevent Tony picking up where we left off on Thursday. There was still an atmosphere between us. I decided that I could win him back round by revealing a secret. “Tony I have been writing an on-line diary about my daily life in the Call Centre.”

“Who the fuck would want to read anything about working in the Call Centre, its fucking boring, nothing happens.” He said, un-phased, drinking his pint.

An old woman came out, a chip butty in her hand, sucking on her false teeth, “Sixty nine! Anyone order a sixty nine.”

Maybe he has a point.

7 Aug 2003

Daily Constitutional

“Let me finish my sentence …” I said in vain.

In his canteen confessional booth, Call Centre Tony was on a rant. He went from criminals to asylum seekers within a blink of an eye, and back again, “I’d put the lot of them in jail for 15 years. There are no excuses. If you want a video – buy your own – don’t rob an old woman. Throw away the key on the lot of them. You’re on crack? Not interested. It’s your own look out. Stay out of my house. Come anywhere near my stereo and I should have the right to stove your head in. There is NO excuse. None.” His finger was jabbing at me as he spoke.

We only usually get this heated when we are discussing the relative merits of the Minogue sisters.

I went back to my desk a bit exhausted from the argument.

I took out my headset from its velvet-lined box and plugged myself in for the afternoon. I chalked another day into my diary and looked out to watch people enjoying the sunshine on benches outside the local bar.

Let me finish my sentence.

6 Aug 2003

For the love of Fatima

This time, there were no Pringles or preamble, we were called into Bernard’s office and the new staff communication video started straight away.

The video had “Nobody Does It Better,” played as an instrumental in the super-market style, playing over the top of images of out-of-copyright athletic events: Daley Thompson and Steve Ovett running behind Seb Coe. Over the top of these grainy images were words that faded in and out: “Desire,” “Determination” and “Dedication”.

Cut to Cathy Gilroy, the senior manager, giving a key-note speech at the managers conference, looking like a glamorous version of Mrs Doubtfire. There was something about desire, delivery and de-something else.

Cut to our office.

We cheered. Bernard said, “I hope that they have got my good side errrrmmm!”

There was a slow motion shot of Barney, the big bear on my team, getting animated while on a call. The music got loader as he waved his arms around like a happy camper in all senses of the word.

Cut to Bernard talking about determination, dedication and detoxing. Of course there was something in there about his pre-cognitive Call Centre too, but I still didn’t understand it…

More athletes.

The end.

We clapped and nodded to each other. Bernard said, “Well what do you think of that then.”

Brenda smiled and started to sing, “Nobody does it better …”

Tony carried on, “Makes me feel sad for the rest.”

Janice grinned, joining in, continued, “Bernard … you’re the best.”

They all then looked at me for a reaction. I was too busy thinking that a bloke on the 1st floor is the spitting image of Fatima Whitbread.

4 Aug 2003

Communication let me down

Bernard looked like the cat that got the cream. Pleased as punch. He was like a dog with a tin dick.

He called all the Team Managers into his office. “I have got the new staff communication video. It is excellent and delivers some key messages in new and interesting way.”

We nodded to each other in mock agreement.

“I want you guys to see the premier performance. I don’t have a red carpet, or a dress like Liz Hurley, errrrm! But, I have got some non-alcoholic bucks fizz, some savoury snacks and some serviettes so we can enjoy the presentation.”

We sat in front of his new plasma screen, ready to be impressed. “Ladies and Gentlemen. Prepare for the 2003 Staff Communication, “Precontact – The Future of Call Centre Communication.”

He pushed the shiny DVD disk into his iMac.

The screen went blue.

It came up with “Input AV Channel,” in green characters.

“Ladies and gentlemen … YOUR future.” Bernard said boldly.

The screen flickered to a dead channel and blasted out white noise.

Tony and Bernard spent about an hour plugging and un-plugging the leads from the iMac; changing the connections in the back of the plasma screen; fiddling about with the preferences of the computer and then ringing the help desk who offered a 24 hour call-out promise. “Same time tomorrow then guys. Normal service will be resumed ermmmm!”

At least the Pringles took my mind off the fizzy sweets for an hour.

2 Aug 2003

Children of a lesser sod

If fizzy dummys are like heroin, then fizzy cola-bottles are hill billy heroin, because they are meaner, more addictive and swell in your stomach like cavity wall insulation.

I thought that I would ‘do’ Joan today. I found somewhere out of the way, after all Joan can whisper over three fields. I needed to find somewhere private and soundproofed.

“So, Joan. It has been an interesting 6 months. I have done your appraisal wheel and it tells me that you are still level 2 … what do you have to say about that?” I asked.


“Your Customer Rapport skills are let down by your ‘Active Listening’ …”


Good grief.

1 Aug 2003


“I love how you do this. I think it is wonderful. It’s like you are a mind reader or something.” Susan (Tizzy) said at the start of her appraisal meeting.

“What do you mean?” I started to arrange the wheel on the desk and unfurl her statistics in front of her.

“I have had my cards read, and this is exactly the same, you fiddle about with that wheel and tell me things I didn’t know were going to happen.”

I laughed. “It’s not like I can see dead people or anything.”

“Well its funny you should say that, because I have a lady who follows me, I’m very spiritual, the woman who did my cards said so!” She got all wide-eyed and excited like Sue Pollard with a tyhroid problem. “She said that an old lady follows me everywhere, her name has an ‘e’ in it and she has a connection to a black dog." She paused while she gasped for air. "I wracked my head for days and days thinking who it could be, then I realised who it was – Sandra the woman who worked in the DOG and Duck pub on BLACKburn road.” She said conclusively.

“Where does the ‘e’ come in?” I asked.

“Someone spiked her gin and tonic. She got loved-up a bit then keeled over with an heart-attack.”

I wonder if I need to order an extra headset?