29 Apr 2004

Lord of The Flies

The Discussion Session is designed to replicate a team meeting without the biscuits and the distractions about last night's Eastenders. The difference between these meetings and the real thing is they are conducted under the gaze of ‘observers’ and the participants have the knowledge that they need to jump through hoops.

Everybody knows that they are being watched. Everyone knows that they have to ‘score’ points. Nobody wants to stick their neck out too far.

“You are a group of five, call centre, Team Managers who have been left stranded on a desert island… In 15 minutes you need to decide, who stays, who goes and an action plan of quick wins.”

Candidate One: (Snort, Snigger) OK, that seems straight forward enough. I suppose we need to start thinking about what skills we all have…

Two: Do you not think that we should appoint a timekeeper?

Three, Four and Five: Yes. Yes.(Mutter, mutter, something about “Keeping on track”)

One: Yes … err …

Three: Yes. And do we need to assign tasks?

Five picks up the laminate. Reads it over and over and writes notes for the rest of the session.

One: So …

Four: Should I take notes on the flip?

One: So ...

Three: Five minutes.

One: So ...

Four: Should we use different colour pens?

Repeat until the will to live has all but disappeared.

Robinson Crusoe would have been okay, if only he’d found a flip chart and some pens.

28 Apr 2004

Eeeny Meany Miney Mo

“Studies have shown that Assessment Centres are 4% better than using a pin to select your management team.” Bernard addressed the assessors in today’s debrief. “The state we are in, I need that margin.”

Janice, Ian, Tony and I looked at each other, not sure whether or not we were being insulted.

Bernard went on to explain the ‘role plays’ he had devised and what we should look for from each candidate.

It doesn’t require a great deal of skill to be a Team Manager. All you need is common sense and a sense of fair play.

Assessment Centres were devised by an HR guru who enjoyed pulling the legs off flies when he was a kid. It’s a cruel process. The combination of role-plays and personality tests favours actors, mountebanks, charlatans, bull-shitters and pathological liars.

The last qualities that an Assessment Centre is able to assess are common sense and the candidates’ humanity.

Those that have mastered the art of the Assessment Centre have mastered the art of life itself.

27 Apr 2004

We can rebuild him … We have the technology…

“I’ve been asked to join the Assessment Centre to find a replacement for you. I’m going to be an assessor.” I told Call Centre Tony at the canteen confessional today.

He looked a little hurt.

“I have never been on the other side. I feel like a game-keeper turned poacher.” I continued.

“Have you got some Wally? I need a Wipsnade.” Tony said.

I looked at him a little puzzled.

“Whalley Range – Change. Wipsnade Zoo – Brew. Rev up, son.”

How are we going to replace him?

26 Apr 2004

Belle de Jour (Diary of A Call Centre Girl) Part Three

It has been a while, but she was here today – the angel of my ‘orison – the keyboard cleaner. The girl with a kiss curl on her cheek, who delicately wipes sneeze-juice off my VDU, and puts light into my life with her petite features and her beguiling smile, came to visit me today (and, granted, the rest of the office).

I saw my opportunity to engage in conversation.

Me: Sorry. But there is a Terry’s Orange Segment wrapper under my colleague’s desk …

She: Yes?

Me: would you mind awfully picking it up. She won’t let anyone else shift it.

She: Sorry love. We do computers and that’s it.

She called me LOVE.

23 Apr 2004

Avenues and Alleyways

Call Centre Tony and I have been a double act and a partnership for so long, it’s hard to imagine life without him. He likes to think of us like Arthur Daley and Terry in The Minder; he’s the cock-sure wheeler-dealer and I’m the put upon Dennis Waterman character.

I disagree. I think that we are more like The Persuaders. I’m the suave and sophisticated Roger Moore, while he is the rough and ready Tony Curtis with bad hair, leather gloves and an aversion to walking down stairs.

Working in the Call Centre will never be the same again. It’s the end of the canteen confessional; it’s the end of sharing our Wankerdaq portfolios; it’s the end of an earache – maybe I’ll get some work done now.

21 Apr 2004


Sweet Wrapper Watch, Day 17

“Its still there.” Thrush was shaking his head slowly.

I have contemplated sending an e-mail to SMAGELL to ask her to move the sweet wrapper as it is causing a bigger diplomatic crisis than the Gaza Strip. I think that it should come to a close before anyone gets killed.

A tall, pale looking lad shuffled into the office and over to the team. “Can I help?” I asked, a little irritated by his presence.

A few seconds passed while the question engaged with the synapses of his brain, “Huh…” He made Simon, the Craig David looky-likey, seem like Stephen Fry.

“I left my bag behind. It’s a black ruck sack.” He mumbled. “I’m on the evening team.”

The rest of the team pretended that he was not there and treated him with thinly veiled contempt. He was unshaken and lumbered around with the agility of the third Zombie from the left in the Thriller video.

“It’s there.” He pointed to an area near Tizzy’s desk and made a lunge and reached for his bag. In the same movement he swept up the sweet wrapper and tossed it into the bin.

Tizzy interrupted her call and pressed ‘mute’. “Put that wrapper back. NOW!”

Get Henry Kissenger on the line, quick.

20 Apr 2004

Matching Tie and Handkerchief

The stars are in tune with Uranus. Capricorn is rising. It can only mean one thing; the secret rulers of the Call Centre, AKA the Sales Stream, AKA The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, AKA a Complete Waste of Time, are meeting.

It has been a while since I have been called to one of their meetings. Since the expansion, they have all been too busy “Walking the Talk” as Mary (the compliance officer) explained: “I’ve not seen my arse for my elbows for the last 6 months.”

Ian was in an upbeat mood when he called the meeting to order. He was wearing a Foghorn Leghorn Tie and it seemed to swing from side to side as he spoke. He was blabbering on about the success to the start of 2004 and the recruitment crisis. He had the answer: ‘Cultural Solutions’.

“It’s a big ask. I know it’s a big ask. But, we need to double our recruitment efforts to manage our daytime ‘stroke’ evening spikes.” He fixed everyone with a stare.

“Unemployment is at an all time low in this area.” Wendy, the HR consultant, chipped in with her usual ‘spanner in the works’ statement.

“Yep.Yep.Yep. But I think the answer is in the togs. If we introduce a uniform, it is a cost effective way of ‘instant’ culture.” Ian smiled.

Instant culture. Michelangelo was wasting his time painting. He should have been running up a polo shirt for The Pope.

19 Apr 2004

Naff Off you Nerk

Sweet Wrapper Watch: Day 15

“There’s no way that I’m moving that sweet wrapper.” Tizzy has been making a point of mentioning the sweet wrapper, left by the evening team, every morning. “I have enough cleaning to do at home without having to come here and do it!”

Apparently, there are 75,544 people in jail in Britain, with only 75,437 places available in the prisons, and I have realised what's happening – the rest are over-flowing into Call Centres up and down the country.

The rapid expansion of our Call Centre over the past year means that the standards have dropped to cope with the recruitment crisis. The interview has been reduced to get the numbers up, as follows:

“Can you speak?”


“You’ll do.”

Consider my team, for example:

Simon, the Craig David looky-likey - we are doing the British public a service by keeping him off the streets (when he’s in), otherwise he’d be blowing money on spoilers for his stolen Subarru; John Doe would spend the day watching Trisha and blowing a bong; Barney, the Big Gay Bear, would spend the day blowing what ever Barney likes to blow.

A headset with a three foot curly bit may be the best form of electronic tagging ever devised.

15 Apr 2004

Should it be Magic?

Tizzy is still reeling at the revelations over the weekend. Apparently, a documentary about nineties boy band, par excellence, TAKE THAT, said that they were into sex and drugs, AND didn’t sing on their records, the pope craps in the woods etc. etc.

“I’m going to write to … Gary Barlow … or somebody and get my money back under the Trades Description Act. I feel my teens have been stolen from me.” Tizzy said.

Next they’ll be telling us that Cheryl Tweedy doesn't pick her own fights.

14 Apr 2004

Bay Leaf

“I’m Boris.” Call Centre Tony said.

“Really? You got the job?” I was shocked, stunned and a bit jealous all at the same moment.

He had applied for a job in credit control. The Call Centre has taken on some collections work and it is expanding. Tony said that The Catalogue That Cannot Be Named was one of the main clients. I had an image of Tony repossessing kettles that sing chart hits while they boil.

“So lets go for a nose bag. I am completely Hank. Sod the Brixton. If you’ve got some Pat we’ll have some jockeys and beans. My treat.” Tony said.

I’m going to miss Tony; he speaks my language.

* See 'comments' for a translation.

13 Apr 2004

The Weakest Link

Ocassionally, I get e-mails asking for blogging tips. What do I know? I’m just a tosser with a headset.

I have a couple of guiding principles that I apply when I’m writing a post that I share with correspondents:

1) I feel a bit like Polonius giving advice to his son, so I’ll pinch something from him:

“Brevity is the source of wit.”

15 lines good – 150 lines bad – Shakespeare should have followed his own advice when writing Hamlet.

2) From one pinnacle of world drama to another: In Waynes World 2, Jim Morrison’s ghost says “They will come”… It’s the same with blogging, if you write stuff that people want to read, they will come.

If you are spending more time looking at your stats than reading other blogs or writing your own, you probably need to calm down a bit.

3) Don’t be afraid to edit your archives. As Wayne says, “be sure to cross (y)our "t"s and dot your....lower case "j"s.”

4) When you have choice between the truth and the legend, print the joke.

5) Don’t take it too seriously.

CCC returns to normal after today. If you like blogs that editorialise, then you may like Byker, who is trying to incite a riot which will bring about the nightmare vision of a world without Girls Aloud.

HMTL does not mix with dyslexia, I shall not be linking again – it’s too much like hard work – if you like that sort of thing theDr (he has a dancing Chas Smash!) and daisy do it to perfection.

Normal service will be resumed as I’m back to the jug tomorrow. Thanks for your attention.

11 Apr 2004

Further Adventures in Blogrolling

I can die happy. CCC has finally come of age. I have had my first referral from Camhunnies - I must be popular if I am targeted by a porn site - look out for those ‘Kleenex’ ads appearing at the top of the page soon.

The Second Verse of Troubled Diva is as entertaining as the first and the closest thing to a blog-a-zine around. I enjoyed cringing at the link to a botched Kylie interview last week and Mike manages to get the coolest commenters with pithy contributions building on his well constructed posts.

There’s a couple of work-based blogs that I enjoy. The best is set in a funeral home but it hasn’t been updated recently. It’s not dead it’s resting. You can also get elbow patches for your jacket and see life inside the staff room or, pop a parma violet and say hello to Spengy(ask him to write some more.)

Gary’s been on telly and he taught me how to ‘ping’.

I still don’t know what an aRSSe feed is – perhaps I’ll find out at Camhunnies – I’ll check it out for ‘research purposes’.

10 Apr 2004

My New Improved Blogroll

As promised, I have managed to remember my Blogroll password, after a number of failed attempts, and have revamped it with the Blogs that I have been reading recently.

I clearly have not mastered the art of linking yet. I’ll persevere.

Zed and Natalie were both early supporters of CCC (or C cubed, as Pickle Juice prefers). If you’re not turned on by their very witty take on modern family life then you should at least check out their impeccable blog-links. Daily reads.

Birdman is about to get a shed so he can recreate his early life raised in a bird house. If you like his northern droll then try out the new Preston who has made a strong start.

“Shamus Heaney is a cunt” according to Adrian Slatcher who writes the first blog I ever visited. His bellyaching about the state of contemporary literature amuses me; I’m not sure it should, but it does. Download the sample of Where do you want to go today? as it is very funny.

Scaryduck is endlessly inventive and the best of blogging comedy.

Like many people, I find myself wandering through many blogs in a never-ending chain; I visit some that I can never find again.

I’ll add some more over the Easter weekend.

(Hey - I don't believe it - it is nearly like a real blog!)

9 Apr 2004

Contents of Wrapstar’s Belly Button

I’m off work for the Easter break.

I thought I’d Blog about Blogging for a change; if you don’t relish the spectacle of someone slowly disappearing up his arse, then skip CCC for the next few days.

I intend to take navel gazing to a new level.

I’ve worked out how to do links (its only taken 13 months) so it’s going to look like a proper blog for a change. You never know, by this time next year I may finally discover what all that Blog Shares malarkey is about (CCC is at an all time high, apparently).

Tomorrow I’m going to up date my blogroll and discuss my favourites, but I thought I’d answer some of the questions that come up in the comments and to my in-box.

FAQ Part One

1) When and why did you start the blog?

I started at the end of February last year after reading an article on blogging in The Guardian. I had done some work on a call centre memoir as a parody of Anthony Bourdain’s excellent KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL, trying to replicate the way he produced an interesting version of his working life in the kitchens of New York in the context of a call centre. I gave up after a while and shelved it until I discovered blogging.

I now find that the blog is a useful channel to cope with the absurdities of my day-to-day existence.

2) Do you think that blogging is a new form of journalism?

It’s not a genre of writing, it is a micro-publishing medium.

I used to spend months producing a magazine made out of ink, paper and staples and only 80 people would read it. Blogging is simple, quick and hassle free and available to more than 80 people.

3) Do your co-workers know about the blog and what do they think of it?

Most of the people I work with probably think that a blog is a form of alco-pop.

Fag Ash Lil is an aspiring author and, from an early stage, encouraged me to continue.

Call Centre Tony was one of the first people I told about CCC as he is a natural born comic. I was using so many of his turns of phrase that I thought he’d be flattered. Instead, he has tried to put as much distance between him and the blog as possible. It makes him nervous. He is convinced that the company will erect a set of gallows in the lobby when I am found out. He was panicky when he saw Belle de Jour ‘exposed’ on teletext. He thought that 'they' would come after me next. I pointed out that it was only Ceefax and CCC was hardly Watergate.

There are a handful of trusted colleagues who also know about it.

Q: Why Wrapstar?

A: ‘Wrap’ is call centre jargon for work done after a call: ‘wrap up’, ‘wrap time’. I wouldn’t want to use my real name in case I get confused with a ‘famous author’.

Q: Do you blog at work?

A: No. Our IT manager was trained at GCHQ and he will pick up on anything.

Q: Are you aware of your audience?

A: I enjoyed writing this rubbish when nobody was reading it.

I still enjoy writing it now that there’s a few more.

I’ll stop when I have nothing to say.

Q: Where did you get your skin?

A: I moisturise regularly.

Q: CCC is a lousy rip off of ‘The Office’. Discuss.

A: Fuck off.

7 Apr 2004

Gnomes at Golgotha

I spent the first hour of this morning staring out of the window and contemplating the irony of women on the other side of the world, whitening their faces with special creams, while they sit on production lines, painting ruddy cheeks on gnomes for The Catalogue That Cannot Be Named.

Meanwhile, there was a ‘between calls’ discussion regarding PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Tizzy had seen it over the weekend and she was clearly moved by the experience. “I don’t know how anyone can watch that film and not come out crying. I was heart broke.”

Brian, ‘The Hills Have Eyes’, interrupted abruptly, holding his palms out. “Don’t tell me what happens. I’m taking mum on Sunday.”


I suddenly noticed that our mascot has gone missing. The scary gnome, with one eye, a chipped cap and a ‘headset muff’ eye-patch has gone.

SMAGELL has struck again!

6 Apr 2004

Doreen Grey

"That sweet wrapper is still there. I'm not moving it!" Tizzy is still digging her heels in.

I still haven’t met the new, part time, evening manager who sits in my desk in the evening. There are little clues left here and there; a hair clip, a chewed pen, time sheets with things crossed out and irritating post it messages:

“Steven phoned. A personal call apparently. No message. Will call back. (Please read policy re. Personal use of hand-sets.”

Sarah Magellan, or SMAGELL as ‘the system’ likes to call her, is my nemesis and alter ego. According to her intranet profile she’s a Gemini and her favourite film is GLITTER. She sends me e-mails that are as bad as her post its:

“Please refrain from locking the desks in the area. My team requires storage too. I suggest that you are top and I’ll be bottom.”

You don’t get offers like that every day.

5 Apr 2004

Sunday Bloomin’ Sunday

“Did you see the paper yesterday?” Tizzy shouted over to no one in particular.

I held my breath. I wanted to keep a low profile today following Friday’s post-seminar bash and the appearance of Call Centre Confidential in yesterday’s Observer; I didn’t want any ‘connections’ to be made that may blow my cover.

“I knew that Posh and Becks were too good to be true.” Tizzy said.


Ian came over in a Betty Boop tie. He was beaming. “What are you like?” He went on to recount, in detail, the moves I made while dancing to ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ on Friday. It is amazing what powers you can discover using a cocktail of Jamesons and Stella.

We discussed the seminar and reminisced about previous clients, including the fence-makers and the sun-bed shop. “I was reading in The Observer yesterday,” he paused, my heart skipped a few beats, “women in Japan are whitening their skin with creams.”

As I suspected: there’s more to life than blogging.

3 Apr 2004

Bad Head Day

My head is banging. My pee smells of Jamesons. I have woken up after two days of listening to the ‘Sum of its Parts’ seminar with a holistic hangover.

I can only remember a screaming ring of images from the two days:

Ian was wearing ‘Sir Killalot’ tie; there was a group of women in crushed-velvet leggings (yes, you heard me correctly); Bernard tried to look comfortable with no tie, casually walking across the stage during his keynote address, instead he looked nervous and was pacing like a caged lion; I distributed packs to disinterested men in suits and women in leggings while I stood at an exhibition stand which featured an 8 by 8 photo of Barney, The Big Gay Bear, wearing a headset; and I got caught in the cross-fire of an argument between someone from The Catalogue That Cannot Be Named and someone from The Door to Door Catalogue That Cannot Be Named.

It was supposed to be an uplifting event that brought the two companies together in a sprit of harmony and cooperation; instead, it was a bun-fight.

The Door to Door people (predominately the women in leggings and Diamondette ™ rings) did not hide their hostility to the Call Centre. They seemed to think that it was a move too far into the twenty first century.

They have a point. I don’t know about you, but I like to see the whites of the eyes of someone selling me a Super Mop.

I didn’t get chance to ask my question: “How do you sleep at night?” And too much drink has erased much of Bernard’s messages about ‘vital’ learning synergies. I feel queasy at the thought of it.

I feel I need to go back to sleep but when I do, I have nightmares featuring Barney’s big head beaming at me like an over inflated Harold Shipman.

Nighty night.