19 Jul 2006

The road to nowhere …

I can’t help thinking that I’ve been here before. Sticking a set of different coloured VW Beetles on the starting line to represent my team. I had a flash back to when I was back in at the old place … sticking the heads of Big Brother contestants on cars … Nadia … oh my … I’m stuck on a roundabout with no left hand turn.

I mentioned this to the team, "A couple of years ago we had big brother wacky races."

They stared at me blankly.

All afternoon they did Pete impressions.

There’s only so much “Whistle. Pop. Wanker!” you can take

18 Jul 2006

Something Stupid

Give a team of sales managers a task like selling car kits and it is a queue for something stupid.

“Let’s make it visual! We’ll run a motorway along the side of the office with cars representing each of our advisers!” Fag Ash Lil, who loves these kinds of things couldn’t help herself. “We can have prizes for people who hit different mile stones – the first to fifty could have a free valet, the first to a hundred could have a furry dice.”

“Yes! Yes! YES!” screamed Brenda who was practically sticking to the seat with excitement.

Everyone was ‘tasked’ on finding cars to represent their team members from the internet. Elaborate plans were made for the art work. I offered to order the brown paper and felt tips, but I’ve been banned from the stationery catalogue (again) following an over enthusastic ‘post it’ request a few weeks ago.

Car kits sold … Nil (Early days)

17 Jul 2006

Our friends electric

Refreshed and renewed – we have been set the task of ‘blowing Bolton out of the water’ in our sales performance.

No body blows quite like Brenda blows when she’s had a tuna and onion sandwich. Her mentor and former boss, Bernard, has been winning the monthly sales competition for the past 6 months. They even managed to sell a job lot of St George’s flag dressing gowns (from Euro 2004 – with the label cut out) and the Cupid Love Handles went out in droves.

Brenda has seen the light and she’s insisting that every call includes the sale of a heritage car kit, which includes a Victorian style squeegy.

During her presentation she talked about the need to create a “Blueprint that follows the road map to a sales timeline.”

Its times like this when you need a regency style sat nav.

11 Jul 2006

Flog it!

I felt really empowered being ‘a leader’ rather than a ‘manager’, unitl I had to take my shoes off to enter Brenda’s office. She’s got a new carpet, a new lap top, a screen and one of those pointers that people shine in the eyes of pop stars.

We sat in a semi-circle, looking each other down in our new ill-fitting uniform. The collective rustle of the nylon body-warmers, combined with the new carpet, was generating enough static to power a small town in Wales. Forget nuclear power Mr Blair, I've found the answer.

“We are reaching a new era of freshness and renewal …” she said.

Here we go again.

“Renewed, refreshed energy …”

She really is Bernard in a pencil-line skirt.

3 Jul 2006

Wiginagain agin again and again

Brenda has created a new world order in Wigan. She has given the Team Managers a new title. From next week, we are to be known as Team Leaders. She thinks that if we change our names we will become like Winston Churchill in an Asda suit over night.

The Asda suits are going too. The campaign for ‘togs’ has finally been given the green light and we will be decked out in yellow t-shirts and beige slacks with the company logo embroidered on the purple tie. To finish off, we have a beige gillet, which sounds like a sea bird, but it’s a quilted body warmer that makes us look like we are FBI agents without a nightstick.

Brenda doesn’t wear it. It doesn’t suit her ‘line’ apparently.

I give it a month. I’ll keep my ASDA suit on standby until then.

29 Jun 2006

Wiginagain agin again

These are the confessions of an unreliable blogger.

Being back at the Call Centre is strange. Its like going to bed with Sharon Osbourne, it seems new and very old at the same time.

There are aspects of the job that never change. The customers still have unrealistic demands of being answered straight away by someone who knows what they’re doing. I mean. Come on.

The staff still are trying their damnedest to get off the phones at whatever cost.

The team managers, sorry, Team Leaders, are still trying their damnedest to keep their team on the phones while hopping from one meaningless meeting to the next.

The Customer Service Manager, Brenda, is still keeping it real by concentrating on the minutiae of every bleeding detail in meaningless meetings that go on for hours.

Thus the cycle continues and the nation is provided with all the novelty spoon holders it can ever want and some attractive love handles thrown in for good measure.

I’m not finding it funny any more.

28 Jun 2006

Wiginagain agin

Now that I’ve been back to work for 6 months, its time to take stock and reflect on what has been an encouraging start: Brenda has not given me real people yet, I’m stuck with temps but they are so embedded that they are going to qualify for a clock, she has, however given me several high profile jobs such as monitoring the complaints and auditing the chairs in the centre.

She has been like a plague of locus throughout the Wigan office and chucked out the chintz, and everything else she could get her hands on, in a bid to make the place ‘her own’. She’s replaced all the chairs with bucket-like banquettes in a range of colours. At the end of each day she has a diagram that she spot checks to make sure that the banquettes do not clash with the pin boards.

I have been put on ‘bucket-bonk’ detail.

It’s a start. I may not be hot on the love handles, but I know that my ‘apple’ fabric shouldn’t be mixed with my ‘damson’ pinboards.

27 Jun 2006


Don’t worry. I’m not dead. I’ve been resting due to a malfunction.

It makes me sound like a dodgy cyberman. Let me rephrase; I’ve been off-line due to a computer malfunction. It’s something to do with a firewallbanger burning out, or something like that, thus I’ve been unable to access the internet.

Whatever the reason, I’ve had Slaptop, the IT manager, burrowing under my desk for weeks pulling out wires, staplers and laminated ‘Employee of the month’ certificates like they were rabbits out of a hat.

He mumbled something about thread worms and gave me a long number that I was supposed to remember and an ETA SLA of 28 days.

On the dawn of the 28th day, I saw the light of day, and the BBC homepage.

Slaptop sent me a 40 page feedback form for me to complete. I’m giving myself 28 days prior to sending a ‘holding notice’.

In the meantime it seems that a counterfeit version of the blog has been started: ‘Call Centre Consequential’. If you haven’t seen it, then imagine buying one of those t-shirts off the market ‘Timmy Hillfigure’ or ‘Kevin Klien’ and you’ll get the idea. I guess it is the sincerest form of flattery, but I feel a little soiled. He’s even recycling some of my bad jokes.

I wonder if Slaptop can ‘take him out’.

7 Apr 2006

Team Talk

I’m never going to get a team of real people at this rate. I’m working really hard on the complaints process, but I’m not getting chance to speak up in meetings and get myself noticed.

Brenda called a meeting in her head quarters today. She looked serious. She must have had the tuna and onion melt early in the day because she was breathing noxious fumes across the table.

I could tell that there was work on the way and I intended keeping my head down. I can’t afford to cop for anything else.

“What’s happening with your sales?” She screamed.

A sales competition between the Wigan and Bolton office had been raging over the past couple of weeks. It had passed me by as I thought that I had a perfect excuse: I’m dealing with complaints and the temps are … temps … they don’t count because they can’t count, (it takes all their time to breathe.)

“Ermmm. I’ve not added them up yet,” I lied, buying for time.

“It needs to get better. Your lot have only pumped out a dozen of those Cupid knobs!” she said.

I need to get a better handle on the team.

6 Apr 2006

"It looks like you are writing a letter," said the paperclip

Dear Mr Brunton,

Thank you for your letter dated 1st March 2006 regarding your dissatisfaction at having to wait so long on the 28th February to register the warranty for you brand new 1940’s style telephone/ facsimile combination.

We are experiencing large call volumes at present due to our Heritage Catalogue promotion. Customers are taking advantage of our free ‘Love Handles’ offer on orders over £50.00, (the Love Handles are cupid shaped knobs, for an interior door).

The hold music we have selected has been market tested for its suitability for most audiences and Nigel Kennedy is considered to be an industry standard. I hope that you have recovered from the discomfort that you experienced while waiting, however, any claims for disability will need to be verified by an independent medical expert rather than the ‘programme on channel five’ that you refer to in your letter.

As a gesture of goodwill, without prejudice, I enclose a complementary pair of ‘Man for All Seasons’ cufflinks, in the shape of Henry the Eighth. I trust that this resolves your complaint to your full satisfaction.

Yours sincerely …

4 Apr 2006

Spring is in the air.

I’ve got myself into serious trouble while being the complaints monitor. Perhaps I’m not the right man for The Apprentice after all.

My interpretation of the 24-hour rule is incorrect apparently. 24 hours actually means 24 hours! The ever-growing pile of complaints needed to dealt with quickly so I came up with a ‘holding letter’: “Thanks for getting in touch, but we need a bit longer – Thanks.”

This kept the wolf from the door for a while, but now I’m working all hours trying to catch up.

The queues have been high recently and the whistling wall boards have been singing. The complaints have been getting more and more intense as while the customers are having to wait and wait, listening to the hold music.

A customer complaint from Mr Brunton has been escalated to Brenda. He’s seeking compensation for contracting seasonally affected disorder from Vivaldi while on hold for 20 minutes.

If he’d waited a bit longer, he’d have reached Spring

17 Mar 2006

Give up giving up

I’ve managed to break all the resolutions I made at the New Year. The healthy seeds I was chewing on have been growing in the cupboard. It’s not very healthy to have shooting seeds in your closet … ask George Michael.

The only resolution I’ve managed to keep is kicking my stationery habit.

All that is about to change. I’ll need to put in an order for a job lot of lever arch files to retain the complaints within my elaborate system.

Over the past few days I have compiled a complex indexing system for registering complaints that requires a set of algorithms too intricate for the human brain to work out, thereby making my role as Complaint’s monitor indispensable, (cue evil laugh).

The complaints pile is now about an inch high (less if I use a paper-weight). I’m not too worried, I’ll make a start on them next week now that I have a system. There needs to be a 24 hour turn around, which makes it about three working days… less if you include my lunch hour.

Sir Alan Sugar has missed a trick. His next apprentice is right here.

15 Mar 2006

“And for another thing …”

In business, you need to listen to your customers (See – I’m even beginning to sound like Sir Alan.)

Following the reprogramming, I was hoping that Brenda (my manager) would have promoted me to ‘real people’ rather than temps. She’s done the next best thing, and put me in charge of complaints. This is the best status I’ve held since being made a Milk Monitor on that glorious day in 1978.

I spent most of the day composing a spreadsheet. I spent hours working out what information I needed to capture and moving things from one side of the page to the next.

I proudly presented it to Brenda and sighed, “Use 10 point Tahoma.”

“What about the information it captures?” I asked.

“Oh, I don’t know, that kind of thing doesn’t bang my buttons.”

A tidy pile of complaints arrived at my desk at noon. I put them to one side and set about removing Comic Sans from my spreadsheet.

Brenda has taught me to prioritise my work.

13 Mar 2006

The Apprentice

In the new world order, after my reprogramming, I’m finding it hard to be cynical about the Call Centre. I’m so fired up about my job, I’m so motivated by Brenda’s flouncing, that I cannot bring myself to bring it down. I’m no longer a rebel. I’m a company man.

Indeed, I’m considering putting myself forward as Brenda’s Apprentice, in the hope that I can appear in the next series of THE APPRENTICE. I’m begun to model myself on Sir Alan Sugar: I’ve bought his book, I’m more grumpy and wearing a pair of tights over my face to ‘get the look’.

I got another call from one of the Marr’s zombies today saying that he had bird flu. “How do you know it is bird flu?”

“I caught it off my girlfriend.”

You’re a light-weight. You’re fired.

13 Feb 2006

Born Again

My reprogramming is almost complete.

They’ve tucked me away in a prefab somewhere for a couple of weeks for an ‘induction’. It’s basically been a crack course on fire extinguishers, an endless stream of videos with John Cleese getting inflamed with James Bolam and all the sandwiches I can eat.

Pheobe, the mild mannered trainer, picked at her eccentrically manicured nails while telling us about customer service and asking us to complete “feedback sheets” every hour on the hour about “Things that have gone well” and “things to do differently”, or variations on the theme: “Is it hot or is it snot?”

Or at least, that’s what it sounded like.

It was during the CO2 extinguisher session that I was struck with a brainwave. I was standing up right, striking the knob when I realised that I needed to update my Wankerdaq profile…

30 Jan 2006

Marrs Attacks

Alison ‘The Hun’ isn’t that bad. In the post this morning there was a cornucopia of stationery with ‘Marrs Temps’ plastered all over it: mouse mat, ruler, rubber, pens and a stress ball.

It will help me resist the stationery catalogue for a bit.

I was disappointed that there was no Marrs Hole Punch. Fag Ash Lil was impressed with the bounty when Brenda flounced in from lunchtime shopping. She delved into her Pravda bag (where did she get that in Wigan?). “I saw this and I thought of you.”

She handed Lil a leaflet with “Smoking Cessation Class” advertised in big letters. ‘Cessation’ is a new word for ‘pack it in’.

Luckily, I managed to catch the stress ball before it hit the back of her head as she walked away.

25 Jan 2006

They’ve got my number

I’ve been completely erased from the system, so they have created a whole new identity for me. The PC’s in Wigan have more security than Harrods on “Scouse Shopping Day” and the virus checker is so thorough it can find bird flu at fifty paces.

The change to my numbers and passwords as thrown me into an identity crisis, so at lunch time I forgot my PIN number. The woman at Marks and Sparks asked me to put in my number and I drew a blank.

“Sorry cock. It’s chip and pin or nothing.” The M&S grinned.

All those years at school, learning how to spell my name, come to nothing.

I had to put the celery banquet back on the shelf.

24 Jan 2006

Its Behind You

Karen, one of the temps on my team, has been protesting about where she is sitting all day.

“I’m too near to that plant. There are flies. I don’t like flies.” She explained.

“I’ll get you a swatter,” I said (luckily The Catalogue that Cannot Be Named (for keeping my job reasons) has got one in stock.)

“There’s a draught from the air conditioning.” She said.

“I’ll turn it off”

“I don’t like having my back to the room. I don’t like people coming from behind.” She moaned.

“I’ll get you a rear view mirror.”

“I think that this chair needs adjusting.”

I think she needs a mallet.

23 Jan 2006

Zombie Flesh Eaters From Marrs

“Have they all arrived Hun?” Alison ‘The Hun’ from the Marrs Job Agency, was keen to know whether the temps had managed to shuffle their way in.

“Yes they are all present and correct.” I said, trying to match her cheerfulness.

“Do you need more chick? I can get them for tomorrow!” She is relentless.

I looked up at the congregated crew clustered around the ‘glug, glug, glug’ water machine.

One of them dribbled.

I hope I get upgraded to real people soon.

18 Jan 2006

Absence Makes the Heart Grow fonder…

There is a friendly face in Wigan. Fag Ash Lil has transferred over the Summer.

She hates the place and has been huffing and puffing, more than usual, at my desk today.

“They are turning the smoke room into a ‘contemplation room’ so people can pray. It’s political correctness gone mad. What about my rights? Don’t they realise that they are making me smoke MORE because they are all trying to stop me? If they let me smoke at my desk, I wouldn’t fret so much and I’d probably give up.” She fumed.

I suggested she put shine to Benson and Hedges in the contemplation room.

I got a passive glare.

17 Jan 2006

Go Away

Day6 and I already have an annoying person on my Wankerdaq profile. Not bad going.

To break me in gently, Brenda won’t let me have a team of real people, I’ve got to have temps instead and she has allotted a new batch of ten from the Marrs temp agency.

Alison from the temp agency has been ringing me all day. She is depressingly happy all the time and insists that I’m a “honey’, “chick’ or “babe”.

“Hun, I can get you five guys for next Monday, how does that sound chick?” said in a tone you could call ‘bubbly’.

“Er… I don’t know.” I said.

I’m a team manager; she mistakes me for someone who can make decisions.

16 Jan 2006

Secondment to none

One week in and it feels like I've never been away. I keep getting those "they never get away" looks. Barney, the Big Gay Bear, keeps calling me from Bolton demanding a refund of his 'whip round' money from when I left.

People are curious... The girl with Kaleidoscope eyes keeps asking me about it.

"I've been on a sabbatical," I keep saying, not really knowing what one is, hoping she'd go away.

"Did you go travelling?"

Does a weekend in Morecambe count?

She continued, "I had a 'gap year'."

"Really?," I replied, "what did you do?"

"Worked in Gap and took too many drugs."

Now, why didn't I think of that?

12 Jan 2006


Brenda, the former under-boss, has been bumped up a few stripes.

Part of the conditions of my return was that I had to go from Bolton to Wigan. If it isn’t bad enough that I have to come back, I have to fit in with Brenda’s new World Order she has developed in the Wigan office.

Brenda has grown from a tuna-and-onion-breathing to fire-breathing dragon. She is half way between Thatcher and Evita played by Janet Street Porter.

I think she is avoiding me. Occasionally, she’ll flounce past saying “busy, busy, busy,” or she lurks behind a plant and says, “I’ll catch you for a latte and lunch. Honk! Honk!”

Three days on and I feel like I we’ve crashed landed and I’m trapped in a strange place with a beast lurking, making strange noises in the undergrowth.

Its like LOST. With ugly people.

10 Jan 2006


This is a new start and a chance to reinvent myself. People have a short memory and my incompetence will be all but forgotten. I’ve set some golden rules for my new image:

1) I’ll cut down my Post-it consumption.
2) I’ll only order the stationery I need (see 1 above)
3) I’ll look at the BBC website no more than once a day. I don’t even like cricket.
4) I’ll prepare for my appraisal and avoid self-destruction.
5) I’ll investigate more about the life of Jodie Marsh, her work has passed me by, Big Brother is leading me to cultural enlightenment.
6) I’ll cut out chips and beans and eat seeds instead.
7) I’m not going to waste my summer on Big Brother.
8) I will no longer have the wool pulled over my eyes. I will consult the Family Medical Encyclopaedia when staff phone in sick. How was I supposed to know that parvo was a dog disease?

I quite like the new me.

9 Jan 2006

Bak to the Jug Agen

Whoever said, “lightening doesn’t strike twice” had never heard of herpes, Mick Hucknall and call centres.

I’m back, in the words of Gary Barlow, for good. While I'm at it I'll be whistle-blowing like Roger Whittaker with a pair of bellows up his arse

In the month that the Dutch have finally admitted that working in a call centre is not the fulfilling job that we were promised, by opening one in a prison, it is fitting that I come back.

I left seeking fame and fortune. I discovered that the streets maybe lined with gold, but they are also dotted with dog muck in neat piles. Some people have a calling for greatness; I’m clearly destined to work in call centres.

It is my destiny. I only hope that I’m up to the task.