27 Feb 2004


I'm Wrapstar, Team Manager in the Call Centre, and this is going to be the longest day of my life...


Check the register. Spend 20 minutes trying to find the pen with a really fine point so all the marks are the same.

I discover some mint imperials in my drawer that I'd forgotten about. There's some important documents in there too that I thought I'd sorted out ages ago. I place them, mints and all, in my in-tray, and pledge to work on them later.


I have the first cup of coffee of the day. I ponder at the machine speculating about Ian's theory: the higher the number, the more disgusting the drink; ox-tail soup is 100 and water is 1.


Open in-box. Delete all messages from Nigel about Call Performance - if its bad I'll hear about it soon enough - if it's good, it will make no difference.


First call from Call Centre Tony mithering me about lunch, under the pretext of it being good time-management: "Book it in or book it out, son."


Another coffee. I can now tackle the issues of the day.


Call Centre Tony comes to my desk: "Are you ready for a nose-bag?"


In the Canteen Confessional with Tony for 10 minutes longer than I intended. He is like a snooze-button on my alarm clock: "Just another 5 minutes, then we'll go back."


Arrange my desk to do some call reviews. I'm way behind my target. I get my head-set out of its velvet-lined box, position my pen with the really fine tip and suck on a slightly fluffy mint as I switch on the system, ready to listen.


Fag Ash Lil visits. She has a carrier bag filled with patches and gum that she has bought off her friend Kathy, who has given up giving up smoking. Lil isn't quitting; she wants the stash to supplement her habit. She reckons that she can have a 24 hour intake using the patches and gum.


Shuffle through some paper work.

Barney, the Big Gay Bear, starts a 'between call debate' about Carry On films. The team are surprised when I cite 'Carry On Abroad' as my favourite.


Call from Sooty - why has my Wrap Time increased in the last hour? I make up something about 'complex queries'. I bring the 'Carry On' debate to a close.


Another coffee. It starts to taste like hot dog sausage brine.


Toilet break. I smuggle in a copy of PRIVATE EYE.


I decide to actually DO a call review.


The Call Monitoring system is broken. I decide to look up funny names in the customer database instead. I found Ned Flanders the other day.


Start to wind down by having a hot chocolate 'for a change' (number 15). Meet Ian at the machine and he bores me by talking about football formations.


Put the important document back in my drawer with a sticky note on it saying 'Important'.



Best thing is ... they pay me for this.

26 Feb 2004

The Sooty Show

Bernard could barely conceal his boredom as Nigel presented the latest spreadsheet he had created. It has taken two meetings for him to explain what we needed to do. It was turning into a spreadsheet equivalent to a test match.

He held his finger in a the air, “This could be the greatest revolution that the Call Centre has ever seen: a real-time assessment of Team Manager productivity that responds to the skill match on a reactive basis.”

Bernard snatched a biscuit.

“What’s a ‘Cum Time’?” Janice asked.

“I couldn’t fit cumulative in the space.” Nigel said.

Thank goodness he cleared that one up.

25 Feb 2004

Tempus Fugit

One of the useless-useful tasks that Bernard has created for Nigel (Sooty) is to provide an assessment of how Team Managers spend their time: “Time is money. How are we using the budget? Are we using the eighty – twenty?”

He tried to explain the spreadsheet that he had created and needed us to complete on a daily basis. Put simply, he wants us to keep a record of what we are doing hour by hour.

He took the best part of an hour to explain it. Not only could he bore the hind legs off a donkey, he could see off the front ones while he was at it and he aw, he aw, he ought to know better (sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Call Centre Tony was livid. “So you’re telling me I have to fill in a taco-graph to tell you every time I have had a slash in the day – what are you going to do? Fit a cafetière so I don’t need to leave my desk?”

“Catheter.” Sooty said.

“Pardon?” Tony was raging.

“A cafetière makes coffee. A catheter collects urine.”

“And like you Nigel – it takes the piss.” With that, Tony left the room.

24 Feb 2004

Give it some stick, Mick!

Tizzy was squealing with delight today. She interrupted the morning focus session with an announcement: “I’ve got some stick insects. They are soooooo cute. I’ve named them Kerry and Jordan.”

Apparently she had been badgering her boyfriend for some after she saw them on “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.”

“Are you going to eat them?” Thrush asked. “Like Jenny Bond, she was VERY good, she ate them like they were Matchmakers; she kept a good old English stiff upper lip, not like Jordan …”

“No. Her lips are far from stiff.” Barney, The Big Gay Bear, suggested.

“I find them very more-ish” Tizzy said.

“What? Stick insects?” I said.

“No. Matchmakers.”

23 Feb 2004


I’m back.

I have been working in this Call Centre for over a decade. Every day is much like the last. Boring. Dull. Despite the impression I create in this blog, nothing really happens.

It seems to wait until I am on holiday.

Call Centre Tony has applied for a job in Credit Control and could end up knocking on doors, “Just call me ‘Septic Knuckles’”.

Bernard has adopted a new management Guru. On his office wall he has a full-length photograph of him shaking hands with Sam Allardyce at a corporate event. Big Sam looks very uncomfortable.

The Catalogue That Cannot Be Named has been successful in taking over a Door-to-Door Catalogue That Cannot be Named.

Brenda has taken great delight in bombarding my mailbox with a ‘heads up’ about the appraisals of my team members. I’m way behind everyone else and Bernard wants them finished quickly. Honk. Honk.

Tony reckons Ian’s shagging Janice.

Simon, the Craig David looky-likey has had the week off sick due to another bout of RSI of the jaw. Wendy from HR has been on my case saying that she is concerned that his specially designed mouth-piece has not been ordered.

Tizzy has lost her ‘little grey book’ with all of her contact numbers in and has asked for counselling.

Sooty has sent a dozen pointless spreadsheets he wants completing before the end of the week as Bernard has asked him to ‘shadow’ me.

This time last week I was in Cyprus, drinking Long Island Ice tea, getting slowly bladdered.

A month’s rain fell in one day. I didn’t care.

A pigeon shat on me as I looked at Turkey across the green-line. I didn’t care.

Iraq was only 45 minutes way by Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, or spud-gun, depending on who you believe; I didn’t care.

Now it seems I’m back to the war zone. I'm a solipsist - get me out of here.

14 Feb 2004

Viva Margate

Appraisal's are due. Sooty wants to introduce a new initiative. Ian is screwing down the rest of the capos to improve the results.

What do I care? This time next week the only descision I will need to make is whether I have a lager or a pina colada at the pool-side. The only calls I need to worry about are the calls of nature.

"Thank you for calling Call Centre Confidential, I'm off until the 23rd of Feb., so stay on hold listening to Eye Level played on pan-pipes until I get back!"

Toodle pip!

13 Feb 2004

Fag End

The gnome with the scary eyes has come out of hiding, complete with its eye-patch, and stares at me menacingly. It was put away in case it offended the visitors and it was only today that we noticed its absence.

The team spent the day trying to complete John Doe’s list of ‘People with Eye-Patches’:

Pete Burn
Captain Pugwash
Daryl Hannah in KILL BILL

I didn’t join in. I was too busy rushing around like a blue-arsed fly trying to tie up the lose ends before I go on holiday. I don’t know why I bother. No matter how much I cover my bases and prepare contingency, I’ll still get slagged off for missing something.

I asked Fag Ash Lil if she would cover my absence from the blog with some insights from The Smoke Club.

Lil is a dedicated smoker.

She goes into the Smoke Hut AND stands with the lingerers (who leave their dimps at the doorway) to make sure that she gets every possible angle of the latest gossip.

She is presently studying at night school so she can ignore the warnings on her imported cigarettes in a different language.

She pulled her face. Her eyebrows knotted together. She carefully contemplated my suggestion, before saying, “I can’t be arsed.”

Looks like I’ll have to shut down for a week then.

12 Feb 2004

Speed Humps

Ian was with Call Centre Tony at the Canteen Confessional again today.

Ian’s laddishness makes me uncomfortable at times. He is like a walking-talking issue of Loaded and Call Centre Tony encourages him. They try an out do each other relating stories of football violence. Its like the scene in Jaws where Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfrus are comparing scars:

“I was wind-milling down United road when this City fan …” etc.

“You think that is a story? Well - listen to mine… “etc.

Today he was more contemplative, more sensitive and exposed his vulnerabilities. Last night he went to a speed-dating evening at a local club. “I need a bit of companionship. It was great having good times with women but I need to settle down.”

He described how the evening was organised and how he had to score each of the forty women he met during a ‘three minute horning’. The women were asking questions about his hobbies and interests in quick fire bursts.

“Give us an example of what you asked.” Call Centre Tony said.

“I asked what I ask when I meet a new lady - Pink or brown?”

Pink or brown … he truly is the last of the red hot lovers.

11 Feb 2004

Tape Head

Janice’s incompatibility with new technology is legendary. She submitted a request for a new ‘cup-holder’ when the CD drawer of her PC snapped.

Today she turned up with a Tesco carrier bag filled with a videotape collection of Barbara Taylor Bradford mini series.

“I’m going to a video conference.” She said.

Ian stroked his Kermit the Frog tie and said calmly, “It’s a miracle of modern communication technology and not a bleedin’ bring and buy sale.”

10 Feb 2004

Stupid Cupid

A few days left until Valentine’s Day and Ian is moping around the office like a lost dog. He hangs around the women trying to look cool in a Desperate Dan tie. He says that he is going on some speed-dating mission tonight to cure his love sickness.

Meanwhile, the calls have been coming in fast and furious for some pre-Valentine gifts:

Customer: “Do those chin-gyms really work? My wife is starting to look at me over a wall of pancakes.”

Tizzy: “They come with a money back guarantee.”

Customer: “I’ll have two then. And a packet of dashboard wipes too please.”

Who said romance was dead?

9 Feb 2004

Hair today …

I joined Ian and Call Centre Tony in his Canteen Confessional today. They were mid-conversation, so I had to listen carefully to pick up the pieces. They were discussing … how may I put this?

Bush trimming.

I don’t mean topiary or some new diet video from the President of the USA (I would pay to see that!), I mean ‘hair-dressing below stairs.’

If you haven’t caught up yet, ask your mum.

Ian was as smarmy as usual. “I like a girl who looks after herself.” He had mayonnaise on his chin – he always does, even when he hasn’t eaten it – and ketchup on his C3-PO tie.

Tony smiled. “My wife asked for a Brazilian and ended up with a Bermuda triangle.” They snorted and laughed spitting lettuce across the table. “At least she didn’t have Police Woman.”

“A Police Woman?” Ian asked.

“Cun – Stubble!”

I didn’t finish my beef sandwich.

5 Feb 2004

Izzy wizzy Let’s Get Busy

Sooty’s back.

Call Centre Tony has named Nigel ‘Sooty’ (pronounced ‘Sutty’) because he looks like Peter Sutcliffe. The Yorkshire Ripper, on his security pass. The beard went sometime in the past, now he is a sweet, sweet, fatherly person who can not only bore a glass eye to sleep but could solve the insomnia of a bag of marbles while he was at it.

He was a manager in the Call Centre, running the office day-to-day, acting as an under-boss for Bernard, but he was so ineffective that he was put into ‘project’ limbo. Working on projects is the equivalent to a witness protection scheme; former managers and big wigs are stripped of their stripes and given a set of post-it notes and a new identity.

Nigel was originally sent away to prevent devastating effects of the Millennium bug.

(A moment’s silence please, in respect for all the people who managed to have a twelve month junket on that baby.)

Since then he has done a headset audit; developed an voice response IVR that was abandoned after a week due to customer complaints; he developed an automated telesales message that was abandoned when the legislation changed and he was sent to Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction.

I made up the last one.

If Blair can, so can I.

4 Feb 2004

The Ugly Bug Ball

It was the day of the visit so I herded the ugly squad into a room in the accounts department away from the Call Centre. I needed to keep them occupied while Call Centre Tony was chaperoning the suits from The Catalogue That Cannot Be Named.

Fido and Bess were exchanging dieting tips. He was horrified to learn that he was eating too many sausages on the Atkins. “I figured that it was meat so it would count. It turns out that there are too many carbs in a sausage. Can you believe it?”

Bess nodded and sucked her teeth loudly.

I didn’t really have anything planned. I intended to default to the usual Team Manager rule of thumb:

Fill as many sheets of flip chart paper as possible with nonsense.

I gave them free reign. I gave them the opportunity to create a Utopia: “If you were in control of the Call Centre – what would it look like.”

I diligently captured their vision of a Brave New World, resting my tongue unconsciously on my bottom lip, writing on the paper with a pen that didn’t work: “Better choice of meat in the canteen,” “Bigger Staplers”, “More Car Parking”, and so on.

“Stick your tongue in.” I turned round. It was Bess, smiling and sucking her teeth.

An offer I could not refuse.

3 Feb 2004

Roll out the Red Carpet

Bernard is leaving nothing to chance with the forthcoming visit from the suits from the Catalogue That Cannot Be Named. He has asked Call Centre Tony to prepare an itinerary and to host the event. He is in his element. “I’m good at this. I’m a talker you see. Not a thinker.”

In addition to making sure that the non-Aryans are out of the way, Bernard has asked that the Wall Boards are ‘sexed up’ to present the call performance in the best possible light.

Tony was experimenting with the Wall Board messages. For three hours today it had the message:

“We’ll Come”

This visit promises to reach a ‘sexed up’ climax that none of us are prepared for …

2 Feb 2004

The Dodgy Dossier

Bernard, the Head of the Call Centre, has finally got round to reading the damning report on my team’s compliance with Mary’s un-written standards.

I was called into his office to discuss the findings, prepared to answer searching questions and challenging requests for action. When I got there he was trimming his nostril with what looked like a stainless steel vibrator.

“I’ll come back if you like.” I said.

“No. No. Come in. I got it for Christmas from the catalogue. I thought I’d treat myself.” He said. “I’ll trim my ears too so I can hear what you have to say about this lot eeerrrmmm!”

His tone was jokey so I relaxed until I saw the scrawl he had made on the report. The familiar scribbles and squiggled question marks were all over his copy.

“Now.” He slumped into his chair and hooked himself round the desk in that strange way he adopts prior to delivering a management tutorial. He started crowing away like a cross between Charlie the cat and the teacher in Charlie Brown. I switched off.

“Failure is not a person. It’s an event … move on … draw a line in the sand … etc. etc.”

I blame the BBC.

Bernard’s Bullshit Commentary.