22 Mar 2005

Exit Interview

In my daydreams I have rehearsed my leaving speech a dozen times. I suppose its like attending your own funeral, you hope to discover that you’ll be missed and that people really do rate you.

In my daydreams, Bernard is weeping uncontrollably at the thought of his protégé being released, while Brenda has an ‘Ernie Wise’ moment as she sees her potential double act collapse before it has begun. My team are fawning at my feet, John three clutching my leg, begging me not to leave, but it is too late, the crematorium curtains are being drawn to the sound of a Springsteen ballad. I’m falling behind.

The reality is much more sobering. Thrush, Tizzy and Joan always make sure that they are off the phones and ready for these events. Everyone else is carrying on like nothing is happening, pretending that the call they are taking is far more important than the maudlin nonsense going on around them, pushing their ear-piece closer to their head to drown out the splattering of applause as a card is passed to me.

I open it sheepishly and read the “Good Luck”, “Best Wishes” and “Don’t come back” messages made by people I don’t know. The people I do know seem to be suspiciously in the same handwriting as if it was dashed around on the last minute.

“Speech. Speech!” Thrush chants.

I smile and quote, “This is it. This time I know it’s the real thing…” you can always depend on Dannii to capture the essence of moments like these.

There’s a pair of Dilbert socks and a Six Thinking Hats book given to me by Martin on behalf of the other Team Managers (Ian’s idea apparently). Brenda looks like she wants to be somewhere else as I thank them, “It’s not the work; it’s the people I’ll miss.” I resist the urge to add, “taking the piss out of,” and reach a rousing end, “thank you for the good times.”

I pack away my headset in its velvet-lined box for the very last time.

“I’m made up for you, I really am made up for you,” Thrush taps me on the shoulder.

“I know you are. You all are John. Thank you.” I say.

Thanks for all your comments, but its time to get this show on the road, until then it is, “Adieu. Adieu. Remember me.”

15 Mar 2005

Dear Bernard

I don’t want to go to Wigan. I don’t want to carry on blogging this nonsense. I’m going to give it all up …

“Dear Bernard, I’ve finally done it. I’ve finally escaped the clutches of this soul sapping job” No make that “vampiric nightmare of a job that has sucked me dry of energy, creativity and the will to live.”

Ahh…let’s start this over…

“Dear Bernard, It’s hard to write this after having such a fulfilling 12 years working here. I’ve become part of the furniture and its time for a make over. If CHANGING ROOMS has taught us anything, it’s that a ‘throw over’ will only spruce up an old settee for a short period of time and that the time comes for a new one. Its time for this comfy old armchair to move on…”

Nah. No … corny, too corny for my taste, I mean, let me try and make it more profound.

“Dear Bernard, There comes a point in everybody’s life were they need to develop, move on and leave the stability of the place were they have been nurtured. Like a newborn making its first tentative steps I am going to stand on my own two feet …”

No, it’s going to be too preachy. I mean, you know … let’s face it; I want to hand in my notice here …

“Dear Bernard, I hope that you see this as a wake up call. People are dissatisfied with the work they have to do here. There is too much surveillance and not enough vision from …”

Too angry … I don’t want to be angry.

“Dear Bernard, Please accept this letter as my resignation. Thanks for all your support and encouragement. Yours sincerely.”

Love it.

7 Mar 2005

Safety Last

The Catalogue That Cannot Be Named have introduced a new promotion. They have a job lot of First Aid kits to shift. At the end of ever call we need to ask the customer if they want one, they say yes, and one is hastily despatched… oh if it was only so simple.

When you telephone in making an order for a new bulb for your SAD light, the last thing that you want to hear is some numpty trying to pass off a box of bandages.

The complaints have already started clogging up the system. There are no scissors in the box.

Martin has armed his team with some objection handling techniques: “Well we have cut its price and it’s still a snip. It’s the last chance to get first aid.”

Pass the smelling salts.

28 Feb 2005

Menthol Health Act

I’ve been writing this for two years today so, in the words of Bill Hicks, forgive me while I slap on a fake smile and wade through this shit one more time.

Simon, the Craig David looky-likey, has been leaking profusely today. Every hole in his head seems to be dripping as a result of his vicks sinex addiction. He asked for time off the phones so he could nip to Boots for his latest fix.

“Have you tried steaming with menthol?” Tizzy asked him.

“No miss, coz it brings on my face-ache,” he said.

If I shot him, I’d technically be doing him a favour.

23 Feb 2005

It gets Sadder

The Catalogue That Cannot Be Named is selling a range of ‘SAD Lights’ for people who don’t like the winter. The catalogue claims that ‘it may’ sooth people who suffer from Seasonally Affected Disorder with its bright ‘simulation day light’ and range of ‘dolphin music’.

“Is it like that SARs?” Joan asked.

I said that it wasn’t and that, according to the catalogue, its more prevalent than you may think.

“I think I’ve got it sir,” Simon, the Craig David looky-likely, made a bid for another sick note.

SAD. SAD Lights.

Long winter nights can make anyone a bit miserable, but haven’t these people heard of telly, stella and packet of crisps? It makes a pleasant change to having your retina burned out to the sound of bleedin’ Flipper.

Buy one while stocks last.

22 Feb 2005

Ordinary Addictions

Simon, The Craig David looky-likey, has had a cold since November.

Tizzy has said ‘bless you’ so many times she’s like a trainee Pope.

He’s developed an addiction to vicks sinex and squirts it up his nostril every ten minutes.

Wendy, from HR, has suggested that it’s due to atmospheric conditions in the office, and has recommended that we move the plants to create a unique eco-system for him.

He’s like a boy in a bubble in a bobble hat without a bobble.

21 Feb 2005

Wigham of Wigan

I spent most of last week going to and from Wigan with Brenda, preparing for move at the end of March by filling flip chart paper with multi-coloured action plans.

Brenda flounces through the office with her clip board ‘making observations’ about the Wigan office, its people and plant arrangements, “Who maintains the greenery in the office?” she asks Steven, the present office manager.

“We do.” He replied.

She wrote, “Outsource” and a big question mark with a big girly dot.

Steven looks like Wigham from the Simpsons and he is a secret spec wearer. He likes Brenda being up close, breathing her lunch up his hairy nostrils, because he can’t see her. The tramlines on the side of his head and his ‘deck-chair-leg’ nose give his secret away.

Brenda wrote, “Making a Work Plan” on the board.

Steven leant over and whispered, “Marketing a Wok Pan? What does she mean?”

16 Feb 2005

Wrapstar is on holiday in Wigan. Back in a week. In the meantime, tell your mates to visit here, we want to hit 200000 visitors before the 2nd blog day on the 28th!

9 Feb 2005

Step On…

I held a team meeting today and inevitably it was filled with discussion about me leaving them. They weren’t interested in me. They were discussing my replacement. “Who’s TBA, sir?” Simon, the Craig David looky-likey asked.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see Tizzy rocking backwards and forwards in her chair.

I explained that my replacement had not been appointed yet and that there would be a selection event over the next few weeks, so that when I leave in March I can have a ‘hand over’.

Brian glared through his big glasses and started to make hand farts for some reason, “Is it going to be a lady? I haven’t had a lady manager.”

“We don’t know yet. It could be,” I replied.

Tizzy was like Rain Man on acid by this point.

“Susan, what on Earth are you doing?” I couldn’t hold back any longer.

“Sorry. I’m trying to fiddle my step counter. I’ve done 1002 just by sitting here.”

8 Feb 2005


Bernard had finally made an appearance following the restructure announcement. At today’s meeting there was a toadying competition to see who could congratulate him the most for his bravery. Everybody loved the new Organogram.

“There’s plenty of opportunities for everyone.” Martin said, raising his ‘best boss in the world’ cup to salute him. Of course he likes it, he’s going nowhere different and gets to move into Brenda’s desk, complete with its own fan.

“If we don’t change we may become extinct.” Ian pointed to his Jurassic Park tie to emphasise the point.

“So true,” Bernard was getting into the grooves of the compliments by now.

“Who moved my cheese?” Brenda said.

Bernard stood up and said, “Thank you Brenda. You have reminded me of a seminal work concerned with change-management. Who Moved My Cheese uses the parable of mice looking for food to illustrate the need for change.”

“No Bernard. I’ve lost my shopping from Marks.”

If found, please return to …

7 Feb 2005

The Road

Wigan. WIGAN!

The only good thing to come out of Wigan is the A58 to Bolton.

The Wigan Call Centre isn’t a real Call Centre – it’s an old council building with shiny walls and sticky carpet. The only good thing its got going for it is its water machines (they have those ones that have a big tub that goes glug glug glug).

I’m going to be stuck there with Brenda. I hope the pie shops don’t stock tuna and onion sandwiches.

“Hey up son!” It was Call Centre Tony phoning to congratulate me on the move. I was consoled by the thought that we could revive our daily canteen confessional. “I’m Boris* to Birmingham.”

Woe thrice woe. Glug, Glug and glug again.

*Boris Karl OFF

2 Feb 2005

The end of the pier show

It’s been a long time coming. After weeks of speculation and the fear of God instilled in everyone, the restructure has been announced.

Bernard decided to take the day off as it was revealed on the ‘intranet’ (it’s like the internet, but without the porn.)

“This is a new Organogram of the Call Centre that comes into effect from March.”

I thought Organogram was a herb that you put on pizza, apparently it’s a complicated diagram of where you are in the food chain.

I’m not on it.

Brenda sidled over to me, “We are going to make a good team you and me.” She made a bold ‘panto’ gesture with her arms. Tuna and onion wafted up my snozzle.

She smiled and gave me the weird look that she’s been giving all week.

“I wanted someone on my new Wigan team who was dynamic, quick thinking and knew how the agents think.” She said.

I stayed silent. I wasn’t sure how to react.

“Wigan is going to be a big challenge I want someone to lead the team that can keep on delivering again and again.”

I paused before saying, “You couldn’t get Janice.”

“No. I got you instead.”

30 Jan 2005

Giving Head

Working in a call centre means getting intimate with your tool.

The tool in question is a headset. They come in many sizes and shapes, but without them you’ll not get far, because they are the link between you and your public.

It’s easy to spot people who work in call centres as they all suffer from ‘head set hair’: a narrow parting that stretches from ear to ear. Some women like to adjust the headset so that it sits at the back of their neck to avoid it messing their hair do.

There are a several code names for varieties of headset:

The Madonna These are coveted, but rare, versions of the headset. Made completely of black plastic with a proper cover on the mouthpiece.

The Cliff This is a ‘double header’ with ‘two’ ear-pieces instead of the usual ‘one’, disliked by everyone as it is impossible to hear what the topic of the ‘between call chats’. Barney has one, and skates around the office singing ‘Wired for Sound’.

The Seagull People are possessive about their headset and some daub their initials in Tippex on the earpiece. The headsets are past from generation to generation, and eventually they get caked in the stuff.

The Spirit Level A headset with a spit bubble trapped in the mouthpiece.

The Brazilian A headset with a curly bit missing.

The Nadia A headset with no muff.

This post is dedicated to Julian Clary who has avoided another snatch.

25 Jan 2005

Get out my way!

I hope that SMAGELL gets the chop in the restructure. I’m coming to the end of my tether sharing my desk with a lunatic. It’s not enough that I’ve got a bleedin’ dream catcher floating over my head, dropping dust in my hair whenever anyone wafts past me, but she’s plonked a model of Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, in the middle of my desk.

She won’t let me have Dannii Minogue, but Nellie the friggin’ elephant is fair game!

Ah well. She should be thankful that I’ve got more pressing things to worry about.

I’ve been concerned recently with all this talk of blog stooshing. That bloke at Waterstones lost his job. Dr Dre has stopped his NHS blog.

I might end up losing my job and that would be terrible.

24 Jan 2005

Bin there and done that

According to ‘experts’, today is the most miserable day of the year. Debts are high, Christmas has worn off and it’s a Monday.

It’s perhaps fitting that Bernard has decided to launch his restructure.

Bodies will appear in dumpsters and they’ll be dredging the canals. The culling started early doors with the Chuckle Brothers from Quandix. Apparently, the bottom has fallen out of the hygiene bin market.

18 Jan 2005

Starr’s in your eyes

The knives are still being sharpened in Bernard’s office and still no sign of the ‘first cut’, which as we know, is the deepest.

The topic of today’s ‘between calls’ discussion was about the heir to Freddie Starr’s throne: Prince Harry (lock up your hamsters).

Joan was horrified.

So was Barney, “It was a really bad costume, you’d think he’d have gone for the SS uniform, something with a little more élan.”

Joan was even more horrified.

Barney said, “Let’s face it, it would have been a big deal if he was Prince Charlie’s son, but he ain’t, so get over it.”

Joan spent the afternoon in the medical room.

17 Jan 2005

The wrath of the Medusa

Brenda keeps fixing me with those strange stares. There’s definitely something going on. Bernard has been locked in his office, scrawling on a flip chart, rubbing his chin, shaking his head and moving post it notes from one wall to another.

“It can only mean one thing,” Janice said, wide-eyed (as usual), “RESTRUCTURE.”

Yes, of course, the signs have been there for months, Brenda and Ian vying for position, coming up with hare-brained schemes to catch Bernard’s eye, they were making sure that they come out well in the cabinet reshuffle.

If you have been reading this for a while, you’ll know that things happen here in cycles, and the occasional reshuffles are designed to ‘keep things fresh’. In other words, people who know what they are doing are given new jobs so they don’t know what they are doing and it ends up with the Call Centre’s virtuous circle: nobody knowing nothing.

The disruption caused by this movement rumbles on for weeks. Old teams are sundered apart and new ones form.

It’s time for change.

It’s a time for new a vision.

It’s a time to order another register from stationery.

13 Jan 2005

History of Call Centres (Part Two)

It is pleasing to note that the first part of this History of Call Centres has been ‘searched’ by a number of people and will be forming part of dissertations in assignments around the world. Isn’t the Internet wonderful?

The first Call Centres were created when people in the Stone Age began to live together. Before, when people lived in caves, they used to communicate to their neighbours using smoke signals: “Please can we order one of those sabre toothed tiger skin rugs.”

When they moved away from the comfort of the caves and began to build houses and live in villages, they built beacons on the top of the nearest hill so they could communicate to the next village: “Our rugs have gone bald – can we have a refund?”

These beacons were the first Call Centres.

They were staffed by the local student population, between their ‘Wheel Studies’ they would throw sticks on the fire under the control of a ‘Tribal Leader’ who dreamed of doing something better with his life, such as appearing in Ray Harryhausan films, but working on the beacon was a ‘stop gap’.

12 Jan 2005

New Balls Please

I had a ‘Sprout Surprise’ smoothie today. It sounds horrible but the apple, mint leaves and carrot make sure it really is horrible.

I threw most of it away and got a coffee from the vending machine – I know, I know – it’s a slippery slope, next I’ll be on bread and before long I’ll be puffing away on a crack pipe.

First Aid needed to be administered on one of Martin’s team. The foam ball gun miss-fired and hit Bess on the back of the head. It was like Wayne Rooney had hit her in the face, she took a dive and hurt her knee on a desk. The ball bounced behind the coffee machine. The desk is a write off.

Another great idea comes to its natural end.

11 Jan 2005

The New Wave

I was not surprised by the debate that Thursday’s post generated about the tsunami as the office has not stopped buzzing with opinion for the past week. It has genuinely affected people and, two weeks on, everyone is beginning to understand that life may never be the same again. At least it has raised the level of debate from celebrity gossip to world issues.

Joan said gravely, “Well, in the pub quiz about a month ago, we were asked, “What is a tsunami?” and we said “Newcastle United fans”. We won’t be making that mistake again.”

John Doe offered his theory on the matter, “I reckon that China finally got its act together and arranged to jump at the same time to see whether they really could dislodge the Earth’s orbit. China is making no comment.”

“That’s worse than the ‘Lex Luthur’ theory you had last week!” Barney protested.

Bring on Brad and Jen.

10 Jan 2005


While I have been chewing cashew nuts and trying to resist the cravings for chips and beans, Martin has been trying to ‘up’ the level of competition on his ‘Youth Camp’.

He got a gun that fires foam balls for Christmas and he is now using it as a means of punishing his worst performers of the day. At the end of each shift he lines the people who have sold the least against the wall and they have to plead for their survival. Depending on the content of their plea – if they make a good pledge, for example – they may get a stay of execution (he isn’t known as ‘the Best Boss in The World’ for nothing), otherwise, the best performer gets the chance to fire foam balls at their head.

It causes a great deal of merriment and cries of ‘why don’t we do that kind of thing?’ comments from my team.

It’s enough to put you off your Echinacea.

5 Jan 2005

Stark Waving Mad

When there’s a national moment of silence, there’s a logistical nightmare to ensure that everyone gets the message and that customers who are mid-way through the conversation are politely told to ‘shut up’.

Brenda spoke into the p.a. microphone in a somber tone, like John Paul at Easter, and above the wail of feedback, she made everyone aware that the three minutes had begun.

I’m sure that some customers decide to ring us because they are banned from Talk Radio shows. I had a complaining customer on at the same time refusing to co-operate:

He: “I want a full refund and compensation …”

Me: “I need to interrupt the conversation to observe a three minute silence for the disaster in Asia.”

He: “What! I haven’t got time for this – listen – I can’t even go to a football match without a moments silence for someone’s cat dying. Life goes on.”

Me: “I think it’s more serious than a cat dying.”

He: “Over the last year and a half the Americans and British have killed as many Iraqi people that the wave killed in one day – are we going to have ‘a moment of silence’ for them an’ all?”

Next caller, on line three, is Clive from Grimsby.

4 Jan 2005

Janus Long

I can’t believe that I’m starting another year in the Call Centre. This time last year – when Michelle McManus was soaring up the charts like a burst Zeppelin – I was setting myself a clear set of resolutions:

More exercise,
More dieting,
More tolerance.

For old times sake, I’d decided to have the same this year. I’ve been given a book this Christmas: “You are what you eat.” In my case “I am a Kebab – with everything”.

Not this year. This year I’m going to be a reduced carb person who eats pulses and examines my stools.

“Happy new year.” Brenda breezed in, fixed a strange look on me, and winked.

If Brenda is what she eats, she is a Tuna and Onion sandwich.