31 Jan 2004

The Final Solution

In a bid to make sure that the Call Centre looks its absolute best for the visitors from The Catalogue That Cannot Be Named, Bernard has issued a secret instruction to Brenda.

She looked doe-eyed and pathetic as she obeyed his orders. “Hi Honey.” She moved in close.

Her bottom lip stuck out.

Clearly, she wanted me to ask what was wrong with her; I tried hard to resist, but I got drawn in. She whispered a response so I had to get closer to hear. She sighed and whispered and continued to look pathetic as she told me Bernard’s latest plan.

He wants to get the ugly people out of the office at the time of the visit. Brenda was clutching a list that included Fido, with his excessive facial hair, and Big Bess, with her excessive excess, from Janice’s team. What’s more, she wants ME to call them to a meeting for the duration of the visit. Do you think they are trying to tell me something?

She left the list and left me feeling sorry for HER because she had tell me.

Ah well, even Hitler had to start somewhere.

29 Jan 2004

Eye for an Eye

Visitors from The Catalogue That Cannot Be Named (for keeping my job reasons) are coming to the call centre to see the front-line. Bernard has sent a memo insisting that the ‘House-Keeping Policy’ is enforced and that there is a big clear up.

The gnome was damaged by the fall. Its eyes are designed to scare cats off your lawn (don’t worry, I won’t reprise the “it will put the willies up any pussy” line … whoops). One of the eyes has fallen out.

“I wonder if it’s only half as scary to cats now that it has lost some of its magic powers.” John Doe considered.

We fashioned an eye patch out of an old head-set muff and a length of string.

Brenda was conducting the cleaners as they swept through the office. “Why does that hoover smell of sick?” She complained. “And, where the hell has that sausage come from?”

I kept my head down.

28 Jan 2004

There’s A Riot Goin’ On


Bernard was out of the office. Brenda had taken Janice to a meeting. Ian … Ian … was doing whatever Ian does …

Call Centre Tony and I decided to have a bit of fun.

We ransacked Fido’s desk and found a collection of meat products: half eaten chops, spare ribs and a chicken drum sticks. There were some interesting sausages in there too. A Cumberland pinwheel had gone hard, but it made a great Frisbee, and in no time it was flying from one end of the office to the other.

The sausage-disk skimmed past Barney (The Big Gay Bear) and Thrush as they were taking orders on the phone, and knocked the scary gnome off its spot.

Barney was unshaken by the noise around him and continued talking to his customer. “Sorry about that sir. A flying sausage has just knocked off our team mascot.”

It can get boring working in a call centre.

27 Jan 2004

Nice Nuts

I’m keen to put my recent efforts at becoming a ‘made’ Team Manager to one side.

I’m going to draw a line underneath the episode and move on.


Being ‘made’ certainly has its advantages – long lunches, a Teflon like ability to avoid responsibility, nicer coffee from Bernard’s new latte machine – but it turns people into tossers.

Maybe I don’t have the correct linage to be ‘made’. Maybe I can’t be arsed. Who knows?

I thought it would be novel, as a Team Manager, to get an understanding of what my team do. I took my headset out of its velvet-lined box and plugged into Tizzy’s phone and sat with her while she took calls.

She was all of a fluster with me next to her. A customer was complaining about the ‘Squirrel-proof bird-feeder’ and seeking compensation for damage to his roof and car as he claims that the device actually attracts, rather than repels the little critters.

“Our loft is a mess. The Christmas decorations have been torn to shreds. Have you seen what a squirrel looks like when it has gone to sleep next to a Mondeo fan belt? No? It’s not a pretty sight.”

Some call it the ‘compensation culture’. I call it ‘clutching at straws’.

26 Jan 2004

Belle de Jour – (Diary of a Call (Centre) Girl)

Janveir 26, Mardi.

I think I’m in love.

A cleaning company has been brought in to rescue the dirty keyboards condemned by Mary in her report. If beauty can be held in a maroon polo shirt, then the woman who cleaned my desk is the very image of perfection.

A black curl kissed her porcelain cheek as she briskly brushed the keyboard as if it was a washboard. Her long, latex covered fingers gingerly pulled a matted string of pubes, bogeys and crumbs from behind the CTRL key.

Me: Ugh. That looks awful.

She: I’ve seen much worse.

I love it when she talks QWERTY.

22 Jan 2004

I want to ride my Bicycle …

21 days into the New Year. 21 days into the new regime. 21 days at trying to be a ‘made’ manager.

I can’t be arsed any more.

I’ve started to talk to the team again.

Tizzy brought in a sponsor form. Her boyfriend is off doing a bike ride across Europe. She was clearly proud, but her tone became serious when she considered, “I’m concerned about his gonads. I read in Cosmo that bike seats cause infertility as they are so uncomfortable.”

Barney, the Big Gay Bear, stroked his silvery chin beard. “I don’t know. When I was younger I could sit on a chopper for hours.”

21 Jan 2004

This thing of ours

Mary’s report is filled with some ridiculous recommendations. She ‘s invented some great tongue twisters that will make the team compliant, but will turn each of them into Ronnie Barker on acid.

A suggested script: “…preventative procedures to protect your postage and packing price …” isn’t quite “Peter picked a piece of pickled pepper” but it’s as near as damn it.

Brenda and I went through the report with a fine-tooth comb. She laughed (Honk, Honk, Honk), she flapped, she looked concerned and she spilt coffee on it.

In the report, she has condemned three PCs due to dirty keyboards.

“We need to see her before Bernard gets to it. We need to work out this bad blood between us. We need to have a sit down.” I said.

“A sit down?” she replied.

Maybe I’ve taken this Sopranos thing too far.

20 Jan 2004

Red Tape

Mary managed a half-smile today. She’d finished her compliance assessment of my team.

The report landed with a thud on my desk. “There you go. You have two working days to respond to this prior to it being submitted to Bernard.” Her face looked like it was going to break; she managed to hold the smile more than a second.

I flicked though the report. It’s colour coded. Filled with pie charts and graphs. There’s a load of things in red.

“I liked your memo about the toner cartridges by the way.”


19 Jan 2004

Bark at the Moon

I caught someone eating sausages today.

Fido, on Janice’s team, thought he could get away with a sneaky sausage between calls. He had twenty of them wrapped up in a napkin in his top drawer.

“I’m on the Atkins.” He protested.

Oh, that’s ok then.

We name him Fido because of his big, bushy, brown beard. I confiscated the offending bangers and sent an e-mail circular reminding everyone of the eating policy.

He came over as he was leaving. “I hold my hands up boss. It won’t happen again.”

He had hair on his palms.

Perhaps my mother’s warnings were right. I can feel another New Year’s resolution coming on …

16 Jan 2004

Get Melfi on the phone

It’s no wonder that Tony Soprano is seeing a psychologist. I spent the night wracked with guilt over the message I’d sent to the team.

I’ve become the kind of man I always hated.

“You look terrible.” Barney, the Big Gay Bear, who sits on my right hand, was concerned.

“I didn’t sleep well.” I paused, bit my lip in contemplation and said, “Barney…”


“Have the team been talking about my memo?”

“Oh that. Nobody pays any attention to memos from the managers. You’ve been on one all week – are you ok? You should take a break if you have been tossing all night.” Barney grinned.

Bleedin’ hell – here am I, trying to redefine my image, grow in stature and power - the team think I’m under the weather and have sympathy for me.

Va fa napole!

15 Jan 2004

E s Are Good

I am in the flow of these pointless memos now. I have stopped talking to my team. When they speak to me, I am referring them to their mailbox, then sending an instant message.

I am beginning to master the art of ‘the thinly veiled threat’, which is the mainstay of all Team Manager communication.

“Well done. We were the top of the table this week. Our wrap-time has gone down. Our sales are up.

I am concerned at the log on times. This must improve. You know who you are.”

I’d never actually speak in this way. Putting things in e-mail seems to give me a licence to be a bastard.

Tony Soprano would be proud of me.

14 Jan 2004

How green is my valley

The next round of pay appraisals are due shortly, so I need to engage in some last minute ‘lip service’ to ensure that I have something to talk about in the meeting with my manager Bernard, the Head of Call Centre Operations. The last one was disastrous (it is covered in the archives in August I think if you can be arsed trawling through them.)

In my bid to become a ‘made’ Team Manager, I have been taking advice from my consiglieri Brenda on how to get my button. “You have come a long way. You do the work, but you need to ‘play the game’ more, and increase your profile. Pop your head round Bernard’s door now and again. You do things with your team – document it – you’ll have something to present during your appraisal.”

You see. It isn’t enough that you do what you are supposed to do; you have to act like a tosser too.

I realise where I have been going wrong. I actually talk to people. I should do what everyone else does – sit at my PC, firing memos at people all day.

Ian will be my role model, as a ‘made’ manager, he manages to send out memos that appear to say something important but do not commit anybody to anything.

I sat at my PC, snapped my fingers, and produced the following:

“As this site’s Green Goblin, responsible for ecological sustainability, I have produced an analysis of the use of toner cartridges in the Call Centre in 2003. Copies are published on all staff notice boards and hard copies have been circulated separately (further copies are available on request.)

Let’s make sure that we put this important issue on the front-burner in 2004.”

Bingo. I think I’ll order that ivory* back-scratcher straight away.

* Ivory EFFECT.

13 Jan 2004

The Fiddler on the Roof


There’s one of the aerials sitting on the top of my PC; they’re awful, like a cereal bowl on a lamp-stand.

I had a little smile to myself when I thought about Rod Hull, Emu’s other half, who fell off his roof when trying to fix his TV antenna. An internal aerial could have saved his life and rescued him from a legacy of sick jokes.

(My favourite: What were Rod Hull’s last words?
“Quick Emu, grab hold of that gutter.” – you can have that one.)

Mary has been sat in the corner of the office all day, listening to calls, and shaking her head. She called me over. “Listen to this.”

I put on the headset and listened attentively to the call. It was John Doe taking an order for a CD cabinet. The more I listened the less I could hear. I couldn’t work out what the problem was, but I still shook my head in disapproval and tutted. It sounded like a perfectly reasonable call.

Mary referred to her spiral-bound notebook. “He didn’t use the customer’s name. He didn’t check the order numbers back to the customer. He said that the CD case was beech. It isn’t.”

“It isn’t?” I said.

“It’s beech EFFECT. There’s a difference.” She continued. “When he said the number of CD s it could hold, he didn’t qualify it.”

“He didn’t.”

“He should have said, ‘It could POTENTIALLY hold 78 CD s.’” She closed her notebook. “It’s little wonder that we are getting complaints. The operators are making bold claims about the products that we cannot substantiate.”

I didn’t think that it was a good time to mention the potential life-saving quality of the indoor aerial.

12 Jan 2004



“I don’t think that that is appropriate, given the present circumstances.” Mary (aka Cottonmouth), the compliance officer, descended on my team today to conduct spot-checks on calls. She was pointing at the Victoria Beckham slogan. I quickly put it away in my desk.

The Call Centre has been inundated with complaints about items from The Catalogue That Cannot Be Named (fro keeping my job reasons). Believe it or not, some customers thought that the novelty, internal, television aerial, in the shape of a satellite dish, would give them a full sky package for the princely sum of £4.99.

An internal investigation has been ordered as a solicitor has successfully argued that the ariel had been mis-sold by one of our operators and Bernard, the head of the Call Centre, has agreed to provide her with a 12 month sky contract to get the solicitor off our back.

There’s something about Mary. To coin a phrase from Shakespeare, “Her eyes drop millstones while others drop tears.” The only difference is Mary would check the millstones to ensure that they complied with the 1968 Flour Refining Act.

There’s something about Mary that makes me want to get her approval. If I wanted to be ‘made’ she was one of the people that I needed to get on my side.

She handed me one of the ariels. “I’m going to be here for a few days,” she said, “listening to some of your calls.”

“That’s great. You can be sure of a good reception.” I held up the dish.

She glared at me.

There’s something about Mary.

9 Jan 2004


“New Year. New start.” Brenda said as she tidied her desk area. She’s the office manager, my consiglieri, my self-appointed life coach, and she loves her laminated ‘affirmations’. Where the laminates don’t reach, she covers the space with desk novelties. “I’ve got a some great new toys.” She said as she carefully packed away her nodding Jack Osbourne and Kung Foo Hamster. They were carefully replaced with a Homer Simpson clock and Ozzy Osbourne in the shape of a rubber duck.

Brenda stands too close when she speaks, so you get the effect of a magnet meeting the same pole. She moved closer. I backed away. She moved closer. I backed away until I reached a point where I was limbo-leaning backwards.

“I want you to have this,” she insisted, her eyes were bulging with excitement, “It will help you reach your goals.”

Honk. Honk. Honk.

It was one of her slogan-laminates. I pinned it to the wall of my cubicle, it said: “I want to be more famous than Ariel Automatic. – Victoria Beckham.”

Barney, the Big Gay Bear, did jazz hands, as camp as Butlins, “I want to be more famous than Fairy liquid. Zigger, zig – gar!”

I didn’t take him on. I was thinking about Ozzy in the shape of a duck.

Can you imagine THAT floating past your navel?

8 Jan 2004

That's the wonder of Woolworths

I’m thinking of taking up smoking for the New Year. It bucks the trend for New Year’s resolutions but the advantages seem to out-weigh the ‘potential threats’.

I promised myself that I could have one indulgence this year to compensate for the lack of lager and kebabs in my diet. I’d initially considered buying one of those penis enlargement patches I keep being offered by XXXYJaa63, just to see what happens, but the method of payment seems really complicated and I think that sticking a plaster on the end of your willy doesn’t really count as an extension.

Smoking seems to be the healthy option, and it will get me out of the office for a while, when I join The Smoke Club.

Fag Ash Lil, one of the few of my colleagues who know of this blog, seems to invest smoking with such passion and energy that it’s hard not to admire the activity and her dedication to the cause. She has written about The Smoke Club for Call Centre Confidential so she was interested to hear that the daily readership has increased by 500% in the last month. “I worry that someone who works with us – someone high up – will read the blog. One guy has suggested that I am ‘savage’ and should review my archives with a lawyer.” I confided.

Lil took a long puff on her ‘bennie’, sucking her face in so hard that it nearly collapsed, before exhaling calmly. “Listen cock, if you asked everyone from here to Penrith, and you found someone who knew what a bleedin’ blog was, never mind yours, I’ll show my arse in Woolies window.”

You see, they don’t put that on the packets: “Warning. Smoking gives you a sense of perspective.”

7 Jan 2004

All over your … BOINK!

I’ve made several New Year resolutions, including:

More exercise,
More dieting,
More tolerance.

As a starting point, I’ve wiped my Wankerdaq list clean: everyone who annoyed me in 2003 is going to have a second chance.

Janice has revived the defunct slimming club, bought new batteries for the dodgy scales and set up a complicated spreadsheet to track our progress.

For years, I’ve tried to convince myself that I’d reached maximum skin capacity and it was impossible for my belly to get any bigger. Turkey, stuffing and Stella Atois have destroyed that theory over the holidays.

I had a packed lunch of slightly out-of-date hummus on dry pitta-bread. I already feel better.

Simon, the Craig David looky-likey got his mum to call in as he had a "cold" which could be “terminal” according to the family doctor.

I can see my empty portfolio building up already.

6 Jan 2004

Lowering the Tone

“Where’s that coming from?” Janice was on the warpath. It seems that the entire Team Manager team has started the year with renewed vigour.

A mobile phone was ringing somewhere in the distance. She looked up from her desk and surveyed the area with her ‘don’t it make my brown eyes blue’ contact lenses.

“Where’s that coming from?” She marched over to my desk.

“I dunno. It sounds like an ice cream van.” I replied.

“If it is, I’ll have a ninety nine.” Barney, The Big Gay Bear, quipped.

She ignored him. She was deadly serious. She tracked it down to the Gents toilets so stood at the door, arms crossed, for twenty minutes stalking her prey.

Eventually, Ian emerged from the loos, wearing a Pink Panther tie, oblivious to the commotion he caused. He shrugged, “I was trying to find a new tone for my phone,” then walked away.

Ian is a ‘made’ manager.

‘Made’ managers can sit on the toilet, playing with their ring for twenty minutes, without any repercussions.

5 Jan 2004

Bada Bing!

Returning to work, the Christmas decorations are limp and out of place, so Call Centre Tony quickly pulled them down, boxed them up, and put them where we’ll be unable to locate them in December. The strands of tinsel in each corner of the office will be taped to the ceiling for the rest of the year.

It’s traditional at this time of the year for me to get more focused and determined to progress in my career – don’t worry, it won’t last long – the first knock back I get, I’ll be back to normal.

Over the holiday period, I have been consulting my favourite management guru, Tony Soprano. 2004 is the year I want my button, and become a ‘made’ Team Manager.

‘Made’ Team Managers are untouchable.

‘Made’ Team Managers have worked out the system. They know that if you under-perform they’ll have their arse kicked. If they over-perform, everyone will get suspicious and suspect that they are on the fiddle, so they’ll get their arse kicked. If they coast somewhere in the middle, they’ll get the feedback, “you need a good kick up the arse.”

‘Made’ Team Managers know that the trick is to forget customers, forget the staff, play the game, and keep the boss happy.

‘Made’ Team Managers are the ones who eat four course meals at their desks while everyone else gets a bollocking for as much as sucking on a polo mint.