Call Center Purgatory <$BlogRSDURL$>
Call Center Purgatory
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
  Un-Freakin' Believable!

I don't normally share "weird news of the day" stuff-but this was too much.I saw this today and could not believe it. Richard Simmons "bitch-slapped" a man at an airport, and the guy is going to sue him.

Exercise guru Richard Simmons cited for assault-CNN

I mean who of us would have the guts to confess to anyone that we let Richard Simmons slap us around? Sure, you might get some money, but will you ever get a date again?


 
  Very,Very Bored...
Check out this blog: veryverybored.com


BLOG ANNOUNCEMENT

I've added a list of what I consider the best posts
of the blog so far to the blogroll on the side.
Hope you enjoy.
-AnonymousCog



 
  Dreams of Grandeur - Part III


Part 1
Part 2

One of the reasons I think that I will eventually live that dream of a job that actually makes the world a better place is one word: perspective. When I finished college and my early 20's I did not understand what it really means to work for a living. What it means to decide whether you eat or pay the light bill. What it means to work 50-60 hours a week and not see the sun for 5 days because you come in at 5 am and leave and at 6 pm. Looking back, I can feel fortunate about for some of those experiences, because I have no illusions about what it means to work for a living. I've traveled from idealism to cynicism and am slowly making my back towards pragmatism as far as a living philosophy for how things ought to be.

But even if I never do find that dream job, I've figured out a way to feel fufilled no matter what. While I was in that pit of cynicism and self-hate because of the "wasted years", I came to a real epiphany concerning my "Dreams of Grandeur". It's this, you can make the world a better place in whatever situation you are in. You don't have to be a social worker, priest, missionary, or lawyer to make the world better. Maybe all of this longing I've experienced through the years was actually just a quest for pride and recognition. Why do we only think of noteworthy people as the ones who make the world a better place? Everyone can't be famous, everyone cant be Gandhi, but everyone can be Rosa Parks, or Todd Beamer, everyone can be a great aunt or uncle, everyone can be a Sunday school teacher, or volunteer at a humane society.

The maxim of "Think Globally, Act Locally" is really a good one. Whatever good you and I can do at an everyday level makes the world better. Whether it's being kind and efficient to the people that I deal with at the call center, to spending time with my family and making real friendships with others around me, I can change the world locally for the better, whether I ever make it into a more noble profession or not.



 
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
  Anonymous Cog's Field Guide of Bad Bosses of North America....

In the 15-20 years that I have been in the working world I have met many different types of bosses, seen many different types of management. I have worked for people from the east coast, the deep south, the Midwest, and the west coast. I have worked in fast food, retail, factories, warehouses, as a janitor and groundskeeper, sold vacuums door to door and worked as a phone solicitor(the last two jobs I only lasted 2-3 weeks-'cause they suuhhckked big time!!!!), and don't forget the lovely job in which I currently work. In my younger days, I changed jobs very often. I like to think of it more as a result of my search for excellence and a relatively short attention span, as opposed to the fact that I truly may have been a slack-jawed loser.

Bosses Commonly Found Throughout the World of North American Wage Slaves:


1. The Southern Red-Necked Barrel-Chested Wahoo:
While mainly indigenous to the south east, this hardy species can be found in the Midwest on occasion. Identified by red neck, white socks, and shiny polyester dress pants. While appearing friendly and genuine, this species has little regard for it's employees thinking for themselves, or any policies concerning sexual discrimination. When trying to attract a mate, this species will comb over bald spot with a pocket comb and any water source. Related families include the Northern Jersey, Philadelphia, and Northern Midwest Wahoos also[*1].

2. The Flat-Topped Olive-Drab Shrieker: This species migrates to all parts of North America, and is very aggressive in how it relates to other member of the flock. Characterized by a desire to mold everyone in the flock into a mindless machines in order to gain total efficiency. This species believes that work is a bootcamp where he or she will be able to cleanse the world of slackers. Has no life outside of the pursuit of excellence in the small arena of work.

3. The Hugging Consensus Building Mentor has made a comeback throughout North America. It previously ranged only in certain areas of Southern California, but seems to be making inroads to areas like Vermont, Connecticut and Virginia. One researcher has hypothesized their growth may coincide with levels of public radio[*2] membership and the reading of any books by Leo Buscaglia[*3]. This species displays the incredibly annoying habit of pretending to seek a consensus by discussing why your views are not progressive until you agree just so they will stop talking.

4. The Short-Skirted-Shrieker: The only female boss we will examine today. While much more attractive than the flat top shrieker, this species is much more dangerous. Actions are characterized by attractive plumage and a flirtatious manner that camouflages a very hard sharp beak that is able to rip and tear small employees to worm meal if they doubt any decisions made or any perceived slight to "my authority". Approach with extreme caution.[*4]













FOOTNOTES AND DISCLAIMERS

*1 If you are from the south, don't take this as a blanket slam, just my experiences with several individuals-you'll notice I gave equal time to equally obnoxious Yankees and people from the Midwest.

*2 I'm a member-So I can say this.

*3 I actually like his books and I have even read this one-maybe just a teensy bit more touchie feely than I am used to-but hey, I'm anonymous-so you know I have some sort of intimacy issues....

*4 I have had women bosses that were equitable and very fair-this was not one of them...


 
  Dreams of Grandeur Part II

The Talking Heads song in Part I of this post describes a good portion of my life and how I have felt the past few years.

I remember when I was 16 and started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life. I had a really good career counselor in high school. I took all sorts of tests and it was determined that I would probabally be happy as a social worker, therapist or even a minister.

I found a school to put me in the right direction for this career of helping people. I finished school with good grades and moved back home. I could not find a paying position, so I found ways to volunteer with agencies and churches. Time went by and I got married to a wonderful woman who is still the best thing in my life. I asked the agencies where I volunteered if I could come on full or part time and they were never able to hire me on, or maybe did not want to. I continued working in whatever job I could find, and found one that I did ok in and felt accepted. I continued to volunteer in my church and in other ways.

Years passed and I realized I am on the back side of 30 and the dreams still remain unfufilled. I don't blame the places I volunteered for not hiring me. I had some times where I could have applied to other jobs, but they just seemed like they were too large of undertakings for me. I was scared and stayed in my Joe Jobs.

Recently, I have started making advances back towards the dreams I had when I was younger, and I'm not beating myself up so much. Things are going to get better, they have to.....
(Continued in Part 3)

 
Monday, March 29, 2004
  Lumbergh from Office Space

Of course, the funniest movie about working in an office is Office Space. One of my favorite characters in the movie was the boss, Lumbergh. Here's a link to a page where you can click and hear all of his sayings anytime you feel like it:
"ummmm...yeaahh....We're gonna need you to come in on Saturday...yeahh....

This will be great for those of you that don't get enough condescending managementspeak (like newspeak-only less coherent) at work-now you can have it 24 hours a day! woohoo!



 
  The Politburo Diktat

Here's a link to a pretty cool blog:The Politburo Diktat
The Commissar has some great political insights, and great links.

The link below is one of his entries that shows us new bloggers how to generate traffic and have a great blog-good stuff!

Unified Theory of Blogging

 
  Dreams of Grandeur Part I

When it dawned on me that I was on the back side of 30 and had nothing besides a Joe job and a lot of credit card debt, I finally understood the Talking Heads song
Once in a Lifetime.

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, With a beautiful wife,
And you may ask yourself-Well...How did I get here?

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.

Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?...Am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself
MY GOD!...WHAT HAVE I DONE?


Continued tomorrow....

 
  It's not my problem....

I remember a clerical job I had in a factory a few years before working in the call center. I started having a lot of stress. I had become fairly knowledgeable in the operations of the plant, and knew what my boss would say or do in most situations, and he trusted my judgement when he was not in the office. I guess I had sort of become an administrative assistant instead of just a data entry clerk. So when people started having problems with production issues and shipping, I would jump right in there and tell them what to do. I started acting like I had authority that I did not. What really shocked me is that people started doing what I said.

But that didn't always work out, and then I would have to try to clean up my messes. I started dreaming about the factory, and problems at work. (this is when I decided I did not want to be a supervisor ever again. )

Then one day I made the decision not to get involved in anything outside of my job description. I was hired to be a clerk, not a crew leader. Things changed almost instantly. I started only being concerned about the accuracy of my clerical work, and if I was pleasant to my coworkers and customers and vendors.

Some of my coworkers in the call center get really stressed out sometimes. They see the queue getting backed up, and sales are not being completed like they should and they start talking about how they are carrying the whole shift, and how everything is so unfair. I know they are right, but I also know I can't do anything about it. I'm not going to carry the weight of the whole call center on my shoulders, that's nuts. I'm just going to handle it one call at a time, and do the best I can. I wish some of my coworkers could see it that way...

 
Sunday, March 28, 2004
  Rude Customer

The other day we had a customer call in being very rude. He had a problem with his account that ended up being on his end. He threatened the supervisor on duty, and just made everybody miserable. We finally got his account fixed. When he called back, the person that picked up the phone put him on hold an extra five minutes, went and smoked a cigarette, then finally told him that everything was taken care of. This guy must get great service everywhere he goes....

 
  outofambit

Check out this blog: outofambit

 
  What a whiner....

The other day on the way home from work I started thinking about whether I should be thankful for my job. If you have read many of my previous posts you know that's sort of an incredible thing to say.

The reason I say this is that though I have been looking for another job and keeping my resume out there in case something bad happens, I still have not been offered a job that has the same starting salary I have here. Other than the uncomfortable environment, I am rarely personally attacked, or singled out for abuse more than once in a while, and I know my boss doesn't mean it personally.

I guess what pricked my conscience about thankfulness is more of a spiritual side of it. I believe that God leads me and guides me in my life, even unconsciously, whether I realize it or not. Besides in Sunday school as a kid, and in my own studying, I have been taught that Christians are to be thankful for everything that they receive. There are some other things going on in my life that I can't discuss without divulging more of my identity than I should, but the main thing is that this job is actually enabling me to prepare for someday moving on to doing something that I will love for a living.

Last week when I went to church, and was being quiet during a solemn part of the service, God spoke to me and told me that after this job I would find something that I love to do, and that its important that I stay here until everything is put in place for the next move. It wasn't anything weird, just a "knowing" inside of me.

So that brings me back to the original question, am I just a whiner? Well, I know I need to change how I talk about work to my coworkers, just complaining nonstop about our situation is not a good idea, and since we really cant do anything about it, it's not really that useful.

But as far as blogging about it, I'm not sure. The bible is filled with people crying out to God how their situation is horrible. The psalms of David are certainly not all positive lovely writings. I also know one thing, the blogging keeps me sane, I don't have to dump all this garbage on my wife all the time(we still discuss bad days at work, but I dont think it right for me to go on and on). I also dont find my self feeling like I am going to lose my mind, because I can put my thoughts together and sort things out.

The other great thing about blogging is that I know that someone else has actually read my posts(thank you sitemeter, haloscan, and tagboard!). I want to send out a big thank you to those people that visit here and read my posts on a regular basis and it means a lot when you comment. You guys are great.

 
Saturday, March 27, 2004
  "M" is for "Mock"....
One of my friends at the call center has this way of dealing with stupid customers. When customers call in and start acting really stupid, or being rude, he presses the mute button on his headset and proceeds to mock the customer to no end. Not just, "you're stupid", no, he goes on and on, ad infinitum. You know how some people create with paint and canvas, or clay and a potter's wheel. Well, this guy is an artisan of mocking. Everything from your lack of distinct genitalia, to your sexual inadequacies, to the fact that your family tree never branches out and ends with a detailed description of your mother's shortcomings.

When people call in, many of them labor under the misapprehension that we are glad to hear from them and are looking forward to helping them no matter how they may act to us. Most of the time we feel exactly the opposite. We're not happy to be here, the boss is yelling at us and our desk is awash in stupid memos. So we are marking time until we can punch that clock and leave Purgatory.

Now of course if a customer calls in and approaches us the right way, many of us will go out of our way to help them, and we don't all hate people. I do like that I get an opportunity to really help people from time to time. But the idea that call center employees are some large group of concierge-like people who are just waiting for the phone to ring so they can kiss your boots, well, you're just very mistaken.....
 
  Bailey's Broadcast
Here's an interesting blog about OCD(obsessive compulsive disorder). Give it a read-very interesting, nicely arranged website.

Bailey's Broadcast

Bernard is also a friend and supporter of this blog here-thanks again for the kind words!
 
Friday, March 26, 2004
  How many trees must die for this?


83 memos...


That's how many memos I had in my files from 2003. Some incredibly boring reading. Not only that, very condescending. Imagine Barney the Dinosaur lecturing you about flossing, forcing you to sing a song about flossing, and then chasing you with a stun gun. That describes how both the annoyance and fury these pieces of paper bring to my life.

There are two distinct kind of memos: Regular memos, that everyone gets a copy of, and then what I like to call ,"Sign and Blame" memos. The latter are a short memo that comes around and you have to initial that you have read it, but you don't get a copy. I figure that is so that it can be thrown back in your face at a later time.

What really sucks is that if the instructions on our computer system contradict the memos, or vice versa, you are stuck. If something goes wrong, you are liable either way.

One of my favorite memos that I received, was concerning reading memos given to you:

"If we give you a memo, that means it is important and is to be filed in your gold book of training materials for your subsequent perusal as needed. Do not misplace, or throw away these memos."

They need to realize that they have already lost the battle when they have to issue a memo like that.



 
  Like rats from a sinking ship.....
Two more employees quit this last week. One of them told me about his interview while he was serving out his last week. He said, "It was amazing visiting this place where I will be working, everyone had a great attitude, and was positive and happy to be at work. It wasn't like here, where everyone is beat down and doesn't want to be here."

The other guy left because the recent cuts had made it difficult to provide for his family. He lost overtime, and then had to start paying more for his family insurance every month.

They were both technically knowledgeable and very good on the phone. I have heard through the rumor mill that management may be looking at new applications to start hiring again.

 
  Just a girl.....



Definition of Prestige:Social respect accorded to an individual or group because of the status of their position. Applies to gender, race, religion, and other social factors.

One of my coworkers has been very frustrated lately with management and customers. She went to the general manager to explain how the floor manager is not listening to her, becomes verbally abusive from time to time, and how he is not willing to listen to customer complaints. She was not taken seriously and treated like "just a girl". The other day someone called in with a problem and she proceeded to help them and started asking technical questions to solve the problem. The caller(a man) would not listen to her and insisted on speaking to me, and saying in so many words that I knew more than she did because I was a man.

What's really a shame is that she has more technical knowledge than I do, and is equally, possibly more intelligent than me. She is more efficient than I am, I know that for a fact. But I have less problems dealing with management and customers because I am a man. At one point I spoke to management about the very same problem that she had pointed out, and they listened to me and did something.

When I was a kid, I thought that predjudice didn't exist toward gender and minorities, now that I am an adult, I know better. Most of the managers are all men here, and they are Good Ol' Boys. I know how to fit in and speak their language, but it makes me feel bad that my coworker cant get ahead when she has such a good work ethic and tries hard to do a good job.

 
Thursday, March 25, 2004
  You are under my control....
Somewhere in all of my past jobs as a nameless wage slave I had several very serious jobs where I went through specialized training. I learned techniques for controlling a conversation, whether on the phone or in person and how to get people to tell you what you need to know. It also dealt with some aspects of dealing with people when they are under stress. It's not as good as a Jedi Mind trick, but it does the job. So here you go:

1. When someone calls you and is stressed out, you've got to get control right away. Be prepared to cut them off, but have questions ready for them. Speak in a quick, decisive way so that they are so busy answering your questions that they cannot get you off base.

2. If there is going to be a lag in the conversation, explain what's going on-"I'm bringing up your file right now", "The computer is mapping your location".

3. Use words that communicate that you are helping them. "let me take your information so we can find out how to fix that."

4. Adjust your rate of speech to match theirs (read previous post about this).

5. If they are just losing it and will not listen to any complete sentences, use a technique called Repetitive Persistence. Repeat a phrase three times in a slow controlled voice, try to use their name in that phrase. They may not hear you until the third time-don't give up.When people are in a crisis situation, they revert to childhood. 40 and 50 year old people can become like two year olds if they are in a bad situation. After you have got their attention back explain that you need their help in order to get them what they need-always give people a part to play.

6. Figure out what level of respect that they are looking for. Do not automatically call people by their first name. When people hear you using a title with them, they assume that you see their value as a person, and that you respect them. If you appeal to everyone's sense of dignity, they will play the part.

And of course all of these bets are off if the person call is an absolute ass.-they do exist out there....



 
  Meadow of the Damned
Scott McCloud has a most excellent website with great online comics.It was his comic "Meadow of the Damned" that got me thinking about working in a call center forever could be the same as being in purgatory.

Here are the links to this excellent comic:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

 
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
  I am not a resource...
[Caution: Rant ahead]

When did the term Human Resource come into use? I remember Personnel department was used before that. While I have not tracked down the origin yet, I believe that it came into being somewhere around the 80's.

It's certainly not a new concept, in fact it's somewhat refreshing to see management acknowledge how the actually feel about employees. I'm sure if we could have went back in time to the building of the pyramids, there would have been staff meetings discussing which techniques caused productivity to increase while decreasing the short term investments involved in maintaining the viability of their human resources. Then the minutes would have recorded the conclusion of a new and modified productivity paradigm of increasing floggings and beatings while decreasing the amount of food distributed to their workers. Then after the pyramids came in on time and under budget, the managers were all given Leadership posters to mount on their walls, so they could feel good about the fine job that they have done. The stockholders slapped the lead foreman on the back, thanking him for his insightful management skills and reward him further by giving him a brand new chariot. He is interviewed for "Taskmaster Monthly" and brags that by the application of these sensible strategies, the building industry in Egypt will be the best in the world, as long as they can continue to replace the depleted human resources with new and stronger slaves. A mile from the pyramids, in a large pit, the remains of these resources are left to dry in the sun and be picked over as carrion by the birds.

Yeah, that's outrageous, but how does that compare to increasing the copayment on medical insurance for families, cutting hours and wages to hourly workers while still making capital investments all around? Cruelty is the same, whether it uses a cat-o-nine tails, or a parker pen. Why do we judge people as worthwhile for making money, while they don't make the world any better except for themselves and their own investors? Why is it incredibly easy to justify anything in the name of the "bottom line"? Why is the bottom line so low-down?


 
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
  Mango
Growing up in Gringo America, I never knew what a mango was. Sometime ago in the last 10 years I tasted a mango. It was almost a religious experience...

They have to be at a certain stage of ripeness to be enjoyed. You pick them up, lightly squeeze them, Does the fruit yield a little bit when you squeeze it? Think of when you were a teenager and tried to kiss a girl who you thought did not like you, but then she did not move away, but yielded just enough to let you know she liked it, that sort of yielding. Ok, back to the fruit, if it is yields a little and is not stiff, it is probabally ready to be eaten. You look at the top, where the stem was connected, look for a little sticky spot, like honey had leaked out of it and dried. You put your nose to the fruit, is there a sticky sweet perfume smell? It reminds me of a 16 year old boy on a first date who has doused himself with Calvin Klein One.

I generally slice it up into sections and then put it on a paper plate.I've never figured out how to eat one and not get sticky-I accept it as an inevitability.

The taste is almost sinful, if it is perfectly ripe. Think of a valencia orange, and a georgia peach mixed together with a teaspoon of honey, and a squeeze of lime juice, and you have the perfection that is the mango.

Now get some floss, it is a very stringy fruit....
 
  Finding Normal
Hey, here's another link to a fellow caffeine-obsessed-wandering-pilgrim. My friend Shelly-check out her blog it's pretty cool!
Finding Normal

 
  George Orwell - 1984
It's been a very good day...The fine folks at Amazon.com sent me my new dvd , George Orwell's 1984.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
It's very cool. I already watched some of it, then ran over to the computer to type about it. It does not have the haunting soundtrack by the Eurythmics. Which I am also listening to right now. Here's a video from the soundtrack.



I don't remember when I became such a freak about this book. I picked it up in an airport, and had read it 3/4 of the way through by the time I got home. I would say next to the Bible, C.S. Lewis, and James Herriot, there is no book that I have enjoyed reading more than 1984.

I finally got my wife to read it, and she thought it was stupid. I have to agree the sex parts are a little stupid-but hey, written by a guy, ok?

Julia and Winston-From the Movie 1984(c)


What's cool about Winston is that he thinks about what is going on around him. He's no hero, he's no saint, but he does try to be human. He inspires me in that even though the deck is entirely stacked against him, and he knows that he is going to die in the end, he still lives his life like a human. That's probabally why Julia loves him, he is still trying to suck the marrow out of the dry and old bone of this incredibly horrid meal of a life they were given. He's a Quixotic figure who puts his mind and body on the torturer's rack just for the privilege of thinking for himself.
 
Monday, March 22, 2004
  Obsessed by breakfast
Damn, I love breakfast....

While not particularly crazy about all things NYC*, I love New York Bagels! Bagels are a sublime bread source, toasted, with a schmear, butter, honey,peanut butter, you are my favorite carbohydrate source.

-Eggs fried over easy with just the right amount of golden goo, a douse of hot sauce.

-A small glass of tropicana "some pulp" orange juice.

-6 cups of coffee-(3 large mugs anyway)

-And today the soothing sounds of Smashmouth on my computer as I check my mail.....


*Dear New Yorkers-as a result of my years of customer service to you and your people, I am compelled to remind you that you are not the apex of the country as you may think. Don't knock flyover land-it's where you get the grain for these wonderful bagels!
 
  Spring hath sprung....
Yeah, I know that's no big deal to you guys that live in places where it is continually warm-but here in...... [insert name of unknown city in North America where it gets really cold]*.....we look forward to spring. Not only did I hear all the birds going nuts, I saw a squirrel frolicking. That's right-it was an actual frolic, well maybe it could have been half a frolic, maybe it was a mild seizure of some kind. Well anyway, he was rolling around on the ground and jumping over sticks and having what looked to my anthropomorphic sensibilities like just a good time in the sunshine.

Weblog announcement: You will notice I have added haloscan to the blog now-I love it at all the other blogs I visit, and gosh darn it, I want to be like everyone else! I'm leaving the tagboard up for now-cause I think it's cool for quick graffiti stuff-but if I dont stop, this thing will look Homer Simpson's website (you would have to have seen the episode-very funny-but I digress...)




*Yes, I'm still obsessively trying to stay anonymous so I can trash talk the job without losing it for the time being.
 
Sunday, March 21, 2004
  Sugar in the Raw
Here's a good blog to check out:
Sugar in the Raw

The post describing her work life and the anal retentive asian with the new cell phone is a real hoot!
 
  Jeremiah's Complaints
Added a new link to the side you will want to check out:

Jeremiah's Complaints

Go through the archives and read the full story about battling the mouse in the the office-very funny stuff and a very well written blog.
 
  Fightin' the Oldies.....
In one of my previous posts I told you about how hard times had come to the call center, the temps had been fired. Well, it has continued, hours have been cut, and people are kind of scared.

One of our corporate customers has asked that we change the way we provide service, and do things differently. Upper management has asked that we provide more customer service and really take care of the customers that we have, especially in light of the hard times and labor cuts.

We've got several groups of people here, the ones that have been here since the place started, and the ones that came onboard during the last five years, and then the newbies. The newbies are doing what they are told, they follow the customer instructions to the letter. The ancient elders refuse to. They have done things this way for more than 10 years and they refuse to change. One of the newbies turned over a problem to one of the "elders" and they refused to follow the customers instructions or wishes.

But what's really crazy is that management can ask these senior employees to do things differently, but is not able to "make" them do anything. These guys have proprietary technical knowledge that cant be replaced easily. So they know that they have management "by the short hairs". It's sort of a passive-agressive showdown. I don't think this stalemate will end, until the wage freeze comes to an end and some money is given to people.

I do all I can to lay low and not be a target, and just take care of every customer I come in contact the best I know how. I keep away from any of the sales or transactions of the senior employees-they have the clout to do whatever they want-I don't...
 
Saturday, March 20, 2004
  Random stuff....
I drove through Taco Bell on the way home. There was a new girl taking my money, she greeted me warmly and told me to enjoy my dinner with what looked like a genuine smile. I was so shocked I couldn't respond. It was certainly not because I was incredibly charming, with my torn polo shirt and four days of 5 oclock shadow. I'm so used to fast food being given to me by surly minimum wage slaves, it was hard to deal with.

But I'm sure after she rises like a meteor to the heady position of crew leader, she will hate the public and throw my bag of tacos at me like I'm used to.


This week I finally bought the first country and western album I have ever owned: The best of Johnny Cash.
It's ok, he's so incredibly cool and timeless, I don't consider him even anywhere near the kind of mass produced commercial schlock like Garth Brooks and Shaniah Twain.
Really digging "Fulsom prison blues" and "Ring of Fire"....
 
  Rye toast....yeah!
I really like rye toast for breakfast. Even though the seeds get stuck in my teeth the flavor is outstanding.

A few years ago in college, I was voted most serious by my public speaking class. As you can see from some of these posts I still struggle with taking life a little more serious than I should.

 
Friday, March 19, 2004
  Losing my religion....
“That's me in the corner, That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion, Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it, Oh no I've said too much
I haven't said enough”*

Some days when I come home after work,
I feel like have really lost it.
I used to feel like I was a better person,
I felt like I lived right, and
lived what I believed.

I am a Christian, not just a "go to church on Christmas and Easter" churchgoer, but I believe with my whole heart that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins, and I have faith that his blood has cleansed me from those sins.

I was raised to believe that Christians live in a righteous manner. They don’t lie, steal, or curse, and the rest of the 10 commandments. I still believe that what you believe should affect how you act. But I have a real hard time reconciling what I believe with how I act at the call center. I cuss, I have lied on occasion, and I’m not always a very kind person.

It’s amazing the amount of pure evil that this place can bring out in everyone. The people that call in are sometimes in some difficult crisis or undergoing financial and physical stress. We ask people to spend money for services they need but don’t really want to buy. Others are trying to justify what they have done, and wont pay for what we have done for them. We do not get opportunities to see people at their best. Sometimes the atmosphere is the equivalent of tying 4 cats tails together and putting them in a bag.

I’m still trying to reconcile this with my own faith. One of the things I have determined is that I see even more than ever that no one is perfect, and that everyone struggles with sin. I also know that I am not a good person in anything I can come up with from inside me. More and more, I am leaning on the grace of God. I’m trusting less in Sunday school rules, and more on the fact that God loves me even if I am a sometimes lying and hateful human being. People have said Christianity is a crutch, they may be right. It’s more than that to me-I don’t have a leg to stand on, it’s my wheelchair, it’s my artificial legs, it’s my fixed hope that there is something good and lovely outside of this purgatory that I am working in now.

Many people really get the wrong idea about the Christian faith, they think it’s a bunch of rules and regulations for do gooders. No, it was made for liars, and adulterers, and murderers and the worst scum of the earth. So that we could throw away the rules, and depend on that blood to cleanse us of our filth. The good that I am able to do, I do because I want to show my thankfulness for what he’s done for me, not because I am scared of going to Hell.

This is the passage of the bible that means the most to me when work becomes too much to bear…

My tears have been my food day and night,
while men say to me all day long, "Where is your God?"

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
By day the LORD directs his love,
at night his song is with me-- a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?"
My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long, "Where is your God?"
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. **


*1 From REM-“Losing my religion” from the out of time album)
[I know some of you are saying, "hey,that's not what that song was about!" . Well, I'm taking liberties with it, because alot of their songs are so ambiguous-they could mean a lot of things, so don't worry about it. If you are that concerned-get your own blog-they are free..]
**2 Psalms 42:3, 7-11-New International Version




 
  #@*&$%$*%$ you!!
There is a whole lot of swearing that goes on in the call center. I’m sure that there must be some rule in a manual somewhere against it, but it certainly is not enforced. The supervisors cuss, when people get off the phone they cuss, we cuss at each other, and when we can’t get off the phone, hand gestures have to suffice to communicate varying levels of pissed-offedness.

I read in a magazine once that psychiatrists have determined that swearing come from the same place in the brain as crying, they also went on to say that women cry to release stress and men swear. In my experience women do both, and men only cry when there aren’t other men around. Psychiatrists not withstanding, most people will agree that nothing really expresses the special sort of frustration you get from dealing with irrational people like cussing does.

I was raised to believe that cussing is a sin, and therefore very interested in it. I have a love-hate relationship with cussing. I would rather that I did not do it as often as I do, but sometimes there just aren’t appropriate words to communicate how incredibly frustrated I get working here. You see, I’ve known people who used the word fuck as an noun,verb,adjective, and adverb all in the same sentence. Now that’s ignorant. A good cuss word should be more of a douse of hot sauce-used sparingly.

But the really funny thing about swearing is that while it shocks you if someone swears at you, it doesn’t really hurt your feelings that much. No, the real words that hurt are more plain, more cutting, more distinct. Being told that you are a son of a bitch, that’s insulting to your mom, but that’s really about it. But its so common, and people say that jokingly that it really doesn’t seem like much of an insult. The things that hurt more are words that go to your worth as person.

The things that really get people pissed off in the call center are more subtle than words, the customers that make us furious are the ones that either through their condescending tones, or belittling attitudes make us feel like we are ignorant, or don’t matter.



 
Thursday, March 18, 2004
  Salesmen
I've never liked salespeople, even when I was one(sold stuff door to door for 3 weeks-wow, was that a mistake). The idea that someone else gets paid to make outrageous promises that I have to keep really pisses me off. I've dealt with customers that remind me how they were promised thus and so, and why can't I deliver?

In my business it mainly ends up being customers that want us to jump through 4 flaming hoops, while juggling chainsaws and singing an aria in Portugese, before we get their business, and then complain about everything.

I've often wondered, what would a world without salesman be like? If there was just customer service and production?

And while I hate to admit it, I was inspired to write this post after reading a new blog:A Free Man in Preston

He's a new blogger like me, and has some real funny stuff. There's a link up on my blogroll too.
 
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
  Stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea...
I actually am fairly fond of my direct supervisor. He treats me well for the most part, and generally doesn't yell at me that much. In one of my previous posts, I told you about the corporate problems. I explained how wages are frozen, and there aren't any reviews going on. This has put the management here in a tough position. They don't really have a lot of tools at their disposals to change what is going on around here. We all know that no matter how hard we work, that it's probably not going to affect our wages or benefits. The most our hard work will do is to maintain our job and keep our customers happy, and personal fufillment doesn't seem to keep up with the effects of inflation.

But besides the fact that they don't have a carrot, they also have no stick. Unless we do something really stupid, it's not very likely that we will lose our job. Yelling, badgering or memoing us to death is pretty much all they have. Since there are no reviews that show a paper trail of any performance issues, even if we get fired, we can apply for unemployment. With corporate cutting down on people, if they get rid of too much dead wood, they wont let them replace them and then there will not be enough people to answer the phones.

One of the guys here went to a member of management and expressed how frustrated he was with not getting a raise even though his sales and call volume was good. He was told that management is in the same boat as everybody else and they want raises too.

I figure that they are probably more frustrated than I am with the current situation.
 
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
  Coffee
My day begins with the smell of coffee wafting through the house and the friendly gurgle of my coffeemaker set to go off before I wake. I sip coffee while I check my mail, eat my breakfast and watch the morning news. I sip it from my stainless steel cup while I listen to NPR on the way to work. When I arrive at the call center after I turn on my computer the first order of business it to get another cup of coffee before I turn my phone on. In hourly increments throughout the day I refill my cup time and time again, mainly just with sugar or equal, sometimes non-dairy creamer is added. On my days off when I can afford it I love a grande latte made with Seattle's Best brand coffee with an extra shot of espresso and a shot of hazelnut or caramel syrup($4.25!).

The feeling of excitement,
coffee
the euphoria from too much caffeine,
Kafei...
a feeling that all is at one with the universe,
Cafe...
the mental energy and the overwhelming potential stored within,
Gehve...
l feel as if nothing can stop me as I am fueled for action,
Qahwa...
A bracing bitter taste mixes with the spicy flavor of caffeine as it
Koffie...
rolls around my tastebuds.
Masbout...
The bonhomie and conversational lift,
Joe...
The creativity and ideas flow quicker,
java...
used by artists, thinkers,composers,politicos, and me,
cafecito'...
How do I love thee oh my coffee....?

[Cumulative cup count for Tuesday, March 16, *7 cups*]
 
Monday, March 15, 2004
  Call Centre Confidential
Here's a great blog by a call center team leader in the UK!

call centre confidential
 
Sunday, March 14, 2004
  The Seat of Power
One of the reasons that corporate structure here is so messed up is because we are one of many companies that are owned by a corporation in another state. The first day I started here I learned the names of the president, vice president and some other corporate information.

I've never met any of these guys, not once. I think the vice president may have breezed through the call center once without any fanfare. There has been a company wide wage freeze throughout all of the different divisions of the company for a long time, even though we see (what appears to us anyway) alot of investments in equipment and other things going on around us.

We also know that the corporate people keep track of our call numbers and relative sales and other numbers, even though we dont receive performance reviews. What worries me is that even though I get along with my direct supervisor, and I think they are satisfied with my work, I could lose my job if they want to trim the workforce again.

I have worked for other companies where I knew who owned the company. I brought them their mail, they handed me my Christmas Bonus, called me by name and wished me a Merry Christmas. I could go to their office and discuss things with them directly.

I guess what bothers me the most is the fact that people who have never met me or my coworkers can make decisions that affect us negatively will never have to look us in the eye. They can go blissfully on with their life and brag to their friends that the company went through a bad patch, but they were able to make the right decisions to keep it all profitable.

Look, I know that in order to keep a business running you have to make tough decisions sometime, but you should not have the right to lay off, fire, or otherwise hurt people but never have to face them. When you never see how your financial decisions affect others, you can say like Ebenezer Scrooge, "Are there no poorhouses, are there no prisons?"
 
Saturday, March 13, 2004
  What does freedom mean?
Read this excellent entry in a blog called percenterprises. it asks the question, "What does economic freedom really mean?"
 
  Office Space
One of the funniest movies ever about working in an office-office space by Mike Judge-the creator of Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill.

here's a new blog devoted to this awesome movie. and it tells you where you can purchase the red swingline stapler!

 
Friday, March 12, 2004
  Class Warfare
I was recently reminded by one of my coworkers that a subtle class system still exists in the North American corporate culture. It was rather harsh too, it hurt my feelings. Someone from our vast customer relations department went out of their way to put me in my place in front of some of the other employees for a reason I still don't totally understand. They told me my call volume was not satisfactory and I had better do something about it. It really blindsided me and came out of nowhere, because my direct supervisor has never said anything to me about that. Maybe I misunderstood it, and it was meant as a joke, but the tone was definitely condescending and demeaning.

It reminded me of other times when I have been put in my place by other people in a perceived different "caste" than me. I've worked in quite a few jobs where I was on the periphery of going between the divisions of "office" and "labor". I was a mailroom employee for awhile, and did data entry in a manufacturing plant, and other jobs where I moved in and out of the office and plant or warehouse. I had what I thought were friends in the offices, people that would joke with me, and we seemed to be close, but time and time again I would be reminded that I was to remember my place as lower on the corporate food chain. Most of the time it would come indirectly, like being told through my superior that I should limit my time in certain areas of the office, or that it was ok to get a cup of coffee from the office, but don't abuse it by going too often. The most incredible one had to do with not being told by a member of management not to approach another coworker to borrow a couple bucks, after I had lent them money on several occasions and gave them rides home when their car was broke down.

I always thought these sorts of degrading episodes would stop after I got older, more educated, or simply became wiser in the ways of the world. This episode lately involved a very educated man that I had worked closely with. I really thought we were friends. I really thought he would speak to me privately before putting me down publicly. I guess the only worldly wisdom I'll attain is to remember that mid-level bureaucrats will only be your friend when it's convenient.

It's always a shock when you are growing up in America, and are told these ideals that everybody is equal, and that no one person is better than the other, and other working class beliefs, and then to run head on into a wall of class divisions and prejudice. Sometimes I think it would have been better if I had been brought up knowing that other people would actively put me in my place, and that the classes are actually divided, at least then I would not keep trying to make friends with people that will not respect me as an equal.

 
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
  You're FIRED!!
In my last post I told you about a job I had that I really liked. I was there for a long time, the benefits were great and I got along with everyone. But I was feeling like I wanted a change. I had an opportunity to go somewhere (I thought) with better wages and more opportunities. There was an extensive training program, I was there for 3 months before I failed the training program. It wasn't the first time I had been fired. I think it happens to everybody now and then. But you certainly take a look at yourself whenever it happens. I know I've got some real character flaws, and that they have something to do with my problems at work.

Marx described something called "false consciousness". That meant that workers believed that all of their financial problems were their own fault, and that if they only worked harder things would get better. Marx believed that the real problem was the financial system of capitalism was broken. He believed that the workers never received enough wages to live on no matter how hard they tried. In the US we have added to this problem with credit cards.

I dont know what the answer is for all workers, but I know that the it's not all our fault. If we show up to work on time every day, do the best we can to produce accurate correct work, that is all we can do. We don't all deserve $20 an hour, but if we cant afford reasonable housing, basic medical care, and some time away from work every year, then the system is not working.

Employers can't be counted on to pay these kind of wages, because the nature of business is to pay as little as possible in order to maximize profit. I think minimum wages should be adjusted state by state according to the standards of living.

Oh yeah....that feels better...need to get a good rant on now and then.
 
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
  Tied up in knots.....
I know that hating my job is not normal. I have had jobs that I liked. Some that lasted many years. I got raises and got accolades. I went years believing I was part of something like a family. I had an employer that actually cared about the people that worked under him. Maybe they weren't the best jobs in the world, but I did not come home cursing under my breath with a knot in my gut.

Recently we lost another coworker. I really liked this guy, he was fun to work with and we kidded around a lot. When you spend 8 hours plus a day with people, they have to become more than just aquaintances. I'm not real good at making friends outside of work, so I take it a little harder than other people.

I know that business is about making money. I know you can't hug each of your employees, and take care of them no matter what. But I have seen too much of the other side. People are not just resources, and employers do have a moral obligation to make a workplace that you want to come to every day. Not to treat their workers like a forklift, or a fax machine, or a thing that can be thrown out when it gets in your way. There is a bottom line, but it's not as low-down as we see way too often in this working world.

I know there are people that will say "You can't make money that way!" . So when we all come full circle, and people are on their death bed, or we are remembering them at their funeral, is that all we will say, "He sure knew how to make money"? Or will they be like Jacob Marley and realize too late,"Mankind was my business!"?




 
Monday, March 08, 2004
  Something Good for a change
Several days ago, a customer I had helped a couple of days ago called me back. He said he was calling to thank me for helping him and keeping him informed about what was going on. He said he really appreciated what I had done for him. That was probabally the second time that had ever happened. It meant alot to me, the guy said he would pass it on to my superiors.

When raises stopped being plenteous around here, we noticed that people started receiving plaques. Some were for high sales, or exceptional performance, or years of service, etc. etc. . But when you work at a place where the salaries are all frozen until further notice, a plaque can be at best a feeble attempt to reward you, and at worst, a reminder that other than merely keeping your salary, there are no substantial rewards for hard work. There are some people who have been here so long without a raise, it would be a bad idea to give them a plaque-unless you gave them one like this..

 
Sunday, March 07, 2004
  One of my favorites...
Here's a great weblog I really like-check it out-
I'm glad to see I'm not the only George Orwell fanatic out there!
 
Saturday, March 06, 2004
  Where's the love?
I used to believe that people are basically good and from time to time fall into problems caused by their own weaknesses. Now I believe that people are basically selfish and any good they do is an anomaly.

We had a person work at the center a couple of years ago that really illustrated this well. They would rack up incredible numbers of calls and sales. But we would get calls from customers and suppliers complaining that they did everything half-ass and that they were rude. So some of us tried to help this person, tried to point them in the right direction, humbly corrected them and encouraged them to do things right. They wouldn't listen. They continued to do things half-ass. But not only that, they did not care, if a customer waited on hold for twenty minutes, it did not matter. If a customer did not get what they wanted, or had to pay a huge bill, it didn't matter, all that mattered was the needs of this asshole.

I really tried to reconcile that this person was just trying to do the best job they could, and was just going in the wrong direction. Nope... they did not care about anyone, anything, except themselves.

What really irritated us was how this person could do no wrong, even when they caught them dead to rights. Complaints from customers, losing sales, making people mad, wasting money, nothing seemed to affect management, to get rid of this blood-sucker.

I won't go into more detail...(you do realize I have to be vague to keep everything hidden about my job.)

When this person left, it was almost like a holiday. We all hate our jobs, but at least we all mostly want to help the people who call in, and we also can count on the other people we work with not to really screw things up.

People talk about evil in the world, like Hitler, or Saddam-Hussein. I don't think that this type of malignant, repugnant evil can exist in the world without people like the employee I just described. Selfish, uncaring, half-ass shirkers make great stormtroopers and torturers.


 
Friday, March 05, 2004
  You suck....and thats just sad......
I had one of those days when I really have had enough of people for one day. Not just my coworkers who normally annoy me on some level, but especially my customers. One of my customers whose lack of manners and condescending attitude is only matched by an almost undecipherable accent insisted I call my greatest competitor before they would buy my product. It's a long story, suffice to say, I called pretending to be someone I wasn't and was made to feel really stupid just to please my customer, and then they cancelled her order after I jumped through hoops for her.

I don't mind going out of my way for customers. I like being able to provide products and services that are outstanding, but for someone that can't be satisfied, it's never worth it, and your best is never enough.

The next time you call some call center, and give someone on the phone "a piece of your mind" for something they probabally had no control over, just realize you probabally ruined their day just because you needed to feel like you are superior to someone else. You would not believe how often call center employees have pressed the mute button on their microphone and are ranting about what an absolute dumb ass you are and calling you every name in the book.

The truth is when you act ugly to me, any customer service you recieve will be purely coincidental and the minimum I have to do, and I will probabally not be in any kind of hurry. But if you are genuinely thankful for any help you get, and make me think I am being a hero to you, I will pull down hell to get you whatever you need. Make me see that we are both human, and that you will appreciate whatever I can do to help you out, and I will make you happy if it is possible. If you sound cute, that might help some too.
 
Tuesday, March 02, 2004
  Control this....
I read One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest recently, very good book. It reminded me of something I heard a class on sociology. Much of society is focused on control. The hierarchy of classes and authority is very prevalent in every part of society. There are Nurse Rachets everywhere. People who want to control every aspect of your life, and want you to only think orthodox thoughts. Take your pills, clean your area, keep your bed made and you will get along fine.

My job is like that, don't read the paper at your desk, stop talking to your fellow workers, don't leave your desk if there are already people away from the phones, dont take too long on each call. I really tire of being controlled. I just want to be left alone to do a good job. Here's an idea for all of you managers that may be reading: How about you pay good wages, give performance evaluations often, and fire people who don't care? You see, if you hire good people and don't micromanage and memo them to death, you would have less turnover.Then your employees would know where you stood, and know that if they work hard, they could get more money or even promoted. I know it's a tough concept to concieve of, but it would make your worker's lives alot less stressful.

I always wanted to be like Mcmurphy in the book, but I'm way too pragmatic for that. I just don't see open rebellion against a your employer as really worth it. Sure, if you're being told to break the law or go against your own morality you should rebel. But most of us are trapped, if you get fired from too many jobs, you wont be able to get a good one. I've always been more of a subversive than a freedom fighter, an even more accurate description is passive-agressive compared to a plain old agressive person. That has a lot to do with how I was raised.
 





Exploring the mind numbing insanity and childish corporate culture of an unknown call center employee.
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Purgatory: A place of suffering and torment with an unknown duration. In Roman Catholic Theology-the place where the dead are purified from their sins.
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By Rage Against The Machine
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