Check out this great post by Old Weird Ward about the power of blogging versus so-called "conventional" media entitled:
The "Pajamahadeen" and "The Media"
You can read him anytime by clicking on the entry on my blogroll. I like his writing, he's truly weird, intelligent and shows a fair amount of testicular fortitude. Check him out.
eight hours of boredom,
sticking pencils in my eyes,
anything is better.
scum rides upon coffee.
non-dairy creamer improves.
sweet-n-low kills rats?
pop goes the pop up,
A couple of days ago I was listening to someone from the Bush campaign talk about how tort reform was going to help the cost of health care. He said that by limiting pain and suffering claims to $250,000 doctors and hospitals would pay less malpractice insurance and the cost of health care would go down.
This sort of reasoning assumes that insurance companies will decrease their rates to pass the savings on to their customers. This also assumes that once the doctors or hospitals are paying less in insurance that they will decrease their fees or do other things such as stop running tests that aren't necessary. After this chain of events, the HMO's and PPO's will immediately pass this savings on to us the consumer, and our employers will in turn reduce the amount of employee contributions.
I think I will say it one more time, in order to punctuate the utter stupidity here:
(sorry if you are offended, I just think nothing describes this kind of stupidity better)
Either they assume we are incredibly stupid, or they are. I think it's both. People are greedy, and they will not lower their prices unless competition is really fierce. I do think that the other part of the Bush plan for starting health care savings plan sounds like a more reasonable step in the right direction.
Check out my plan for universal health care:
Health Care for All and Higher Minimum Wages
Even though I am still voting for Bush(reluctantly), its these sort of half-ass attempts at helping the poor that really alienate the rest of the voters. Labeling tort reform that benefits the health care industry, and then say you are helping the working poor is incredibly insulting.
Check out this website-great links and good writing:
Frustrated at Work
Check out this website:
Retro versus Metro
Its a companion site to a book called "The Great Divide". While the site is obviously biased towards the Democratic party, it does a good job of exploring the real cultural and ideological battle that is going on in the United States right now.
I go a couple of months without hearing from any of my customers from Quebec. I actually used to be very predjudiced to them in that non-specific way Americans tend to be. But I have met some very nice people who warmed my heart toward the Quebecois, that and the lovely accent that French women have just makes me sort of melt...
Jaques called asking me to help him with a service for one of his clients, and to help walk his customer Guy, through obtaining some services. So I had two clients in one. Jaques set up the service, and his company is paying me, and Guy is paying Jaques.
After I set everything up, I called Guy to explain how it would work, and he was not happy. "I was told there would not be such a high fee, and that you were supposed to handle this within 15 minutes." . Jaques had double-crossed me and promised things that he knew I could not deliver so he could still get the commission and blame my company for the screw up. I wasn't going to be a part of that."No Guy, I told Jaques 30 minutes to complete the service and he clearly knew what the service rate was, you need to discuss that with Jaques." He relented and hung up.
Ten minutes later, Jaques called complaining vehemently that I "had promised 10 minutes and a reduced rate based on Canadian funds." It was obvious he was using everything to his advantage. I firmly told him,"Look, you and I set it up very clearly in a straight forward way, would you like the timed and dated transcript of the conversation? Maybe I can have the monitor get you a tape?" All of a sudden we were "amis" again and he was blaming his bad English skills for the misunderstanding.
I know its basic human nature to define people and groups as good and bad, and he wasn't doing anything that someone from Georgia or New Jersey wouldn't also try.
It's just that there is something built into my Redneck American consciousness that makes an angry french accent push my buttons.
Can one of those nice Quebecois ladies call and flirt with me again?
I swear that all will be forgiven...
C'est la vie in Call Center Purgatory...
Ok, here are a couple of amazing opposing views that you guys will want to read from the Christian Science Monitor
-We always hear about the military's support of the president-read about soldiers that are very much against the president.
-Read about a Sudanese Muslim that believes George Bush is good for Islam, and wants us to vote for him.
Whatever you believe, or are going to vote, its good to keep reading what the other side is saying...
Go visit Andrea at Tales of a Farm Wife.
Interesting writing about farming,Canada,Christianity and raising kids.
Finally broke down and put hummus in my wrap today. Wow...What have I been missing? Very tasty!
I know, I am so four-years-behind everyone in anything new. I think its the first sign I am becoming an old fart. The second sign is I really don't give a rat's ass if you think I am behind the times, I just like hummus..
Finally decided to start a second blog to explore the subjects of poverty, politics and faith. Check it out here:
Check out this song over at Acid Planet, it's called "I don't like my job", has a great line ripped from one of my favorite movies, "Office Space".
Acid planet is an incredible place to get great original music. it's worth checking out.
Ok, feeling a little more perky today. Sorry for that last downer of a post, but hey, this is called Call Center Purgatory. No one would read a blog called called "Call Center Paradise"-Isn't that right,Patricia?
Hey, my good buddy Morgan has set up a new blog, be sure to visit it:
I love this time of year, when the leaves start falling, the grass stops needing to be cut and it becomes brisk and cool. Check out Runs With Scissors for some excellent pictures of Fall in New England, and always excellent writing.
Last Sunday night I found myself sitting in church, listening to a sermon about integrity. I was trying hard to keep awake, yet feeling vaguely uneasy. My pastor was not pulling any punches at all. I sat there wondering how much integrity I have in my life, and why I seem to act so different at work then I do at church and other places. The conviction from the sermon seemed to last through the last two days like a dull toothache, enough to bother you, but not enough to call the dentist.
Today, I would have called the dentist immediately if I could have.
I took my corporate customer's information about what they wanted, and how they wanted it done, and proceeded to get what they needed. After I spent their money, and had it all set up, I called them back to explain the results. When I told them what I had done, they explained that I had bought the wrong product. I explained that there had been an error in communication on their part, but I would fix things right away.
The bad thing is, after I fixed everything, it ended up costing them about $150 dollars more than I had originally told them. While they were to blame technically for part of the error, I saw in the computer where I had made the real error that had cost them money. They did not listen when I read them back the order, and during a subsequent conversation with my superior. But it was me who really was to blame. I tried to explain this to my boss, without taking too much of the blame. "We were at fault here in some respect, even though they did not listen to the confirmation", I told him,(the word "we" and "some respect" being the active weasel-ly words...). My boss said, "Don't worry about it, I looked at it and they wont contest the charges."
I know he's right about that. He trained me too well. I did not admit blame when I screwed up, I kept notes that covered my ass and his. I made us money, and did not lose money for the company. I know it's not that big of a deal compared to the millions of dollars that come through here all the time. I know all that in my head, but I feel sick in my heart.
I miss the days when I was younger and I could just walk out on a job. I've got bills getting bigger, I was overdrawn again this week, and if I lost this job, I don't know what would happen between jobs. Contrary to popular belief, credit card balances don't get smaller on their own.
When I was younger, I shook my head in disgust at the sell-outs who gave up their soul for a buck. I may be one now....
Whether you agree with the messages or not, this site called the Freeway Blogger is a great example of Guerrilla Free Speech.
Here's some great poetry and an incredible photo:
Check out this interview with Jimmy Carter where he explains where the Christian Right isn't.
I was raised a redneck. Cowboy boots, cowboy hat, misty-eyed when the stars and stripes fly, listening to Hank Williams, George Jones, ZZ Top, hunting and fishing on Saturdays and church every Sunday. If you want to define Redneck as a honorable, patriotic,white, Christian, working-class individual, I'm ok with that. I define white trash as the bigoted, ignorant, sexist side of growing up white in America. The point is, I was raised to love my country.
I remember when I was about 20 I met a man who had been a missionary to another country, and he said something that really troubled me. He said he did not think of himself as a citizen of the United States of America, as much as he considered himself a citizen of the World. At first I thought he was either a communist, nuts or both.
But now I know what he means. Anyone who has grown up here was told we are the best country in the world. We are told, especially during this time of year, that our economy is the envy of the world, and that we are a shining example of freedom and democracy to the rest of the world. I have visited at least half of this country, it's a great place, but we have a lot to improve. There are a lot of people on the edge of poverty, one check away from being homeless, with no hope for the future. I've actually been one of them, so have my parents. I've made too much money to get assistance, but not enough to pay my rent.
Sometimes when I hear the political rhetoric from both sides, I remember a saying I heard from a friend from New Jersey: "Don't piss on me and then tell me its raining."
I love my country, and believe this is an amazing place with great people and a great form of government. I would fight for my country if I was drafted, it is a place worth fighting for. But to say America is the best country in the world is a little hard to swallow. No country can be the best in every way, that's impossible. I have been to other countries, and we don't have it all together and could learn from other countries.
The way some of my countrymen talk, you'd think that nobody else in the world loved their country as much as us. I often wonder how the rest of the world sees us. I've talked to Canadians, Mexicans, Costa Ricans, Taiwanese, Koreans, Chileans, Britons, and others. I get the impression they aren't as impressed with us as we think they are. To simply dismiss all negative opinions about America as "jealousy" or "ignorance" is misguided at best.
I'm not trying to join the "Bad-Mouth-America-Fest", not by any sense of the word. I'm just hoping I can be one of the voices calling for us to stop only listening to our own press and small-minded opinions, and think outside of this red white and blue box our politics has wrapped us up in.
I dealt with a customer today that really pissed me off. He requested I set up a transaction to occur at a certain time and let him know immediately how it transpired. Call centers being the way they are this did not go down the way it should have. His transaction was delayed by about an hour and he may have lost about $100 on the rate besides being delayed for a meeting. He is an insurance executive.
I swear, he was about to cry like a 4 year old girl in a frilly party dress with little blond curls who had lost the corvette that went with her Malibu Barbie. He's making gobs of money, loses a measly $100 compared to the very healthy profit he will make anyway, and he is almost weeping.
It just kills me that so many people with money(not all of them) have no perspective of how fortunate they are compared to the rest of the world. In the Southern states of our country people are losing their homes, and sometimes their lives, just trying to hang on to body and soul, and he's complaining about $100. That $100 would feed a family in Costa Rica for a month, and he probabally spends that much on coffee every month.
I just wanted to scream into the phone, "Boo-Frickety-Hoo you Schmuck! if you don't like it, take care of your business yourself! Go on, see how good you can do yourself! You make me sick! Your kind of arrogant,selfish,self-absorbed putzs are are what's wrong with America!"
I don't hate all rich people, I know that's wrong. I know we need some form of capitalism to create jobs. But America's obsession with Social Darwinism is wrong and has led to callousness to the poor and a greedy,grasping,never satisfied, love of profit.
Ok, I feel better....had not had a Marxist rant for a while...
Here is an interesting article about how call centers in India are experiencing as much as 50% turnover, even though the wages are very good compared to other jobs in country.
On and Offshore: Call Center Economics
I think this speaks to the nature of call center work itself.
There are so many different kinds of people that come through the call center. Some stay and do ok, some quit after a week, some don't make it through the training program, and there are several that were just told to leave. Once you can make it through a couple of months without losing a lot of money and pissing a lot of customers off, your place is fairly secure.
Some people become very cynical and depressed after working here for a while, I am probabally one of them. But last year someone joined our team that rose above all that and seems to be almost flourishing in this environment.
I'll call her María, she is an older lady, I think she is from Cuba or the Dominican Republic. She had worked in our field before. What's so amazing about her is how she gets along with management. She does her work her way, she lets memos pile up on her desk unread. Policy does not really enter into her mind, she does things her way, and talks to the customers any way she wants. I don't mean that she cusses at them, but she will talk rude to the customers if she needs to. I think she could do a better job, and provide better service. I also think it would not hurt her to care a little more about the people that call in.
When the boss calls her on not following policy or not reading memos she smiles real sweetly and talks to him like a teacher to a slow pupil. But she throws enough of a flirt in there that he's powerless under her spell. She is a great example of a truth about the world that I did not really discover until about ten years ago:
She's like some sort of Che Guevarra wearing a headset, she's acting the way that the rest of us wish we could act. Long live the revolution. Viva María!!
I love breakfast. It is my favorite meal of the day. Today was no exception.
3 Eggs overeasy with bacon bits spinkled over them as they were cooking.
3 Squirts of Franks Red Hot pepper sauce
2 Slices of Whole-Wheat Toast-nice and crispy-like English toast-No butter.
1 Cup of Lime Jello
(I know, wierd combo-but tasty-eaten seperate from the eggs of course...)
2 Mugs of Starbucks House Blend
(I know I'm a sell-out but it is a damn fine Java)
Maybe I'll have this for dinner tonight also....
Yeah, that's right, nothing much going on at the call center today...
Kevin at the Homeless Guy is starting to write on his site again. Good to see him back.
There is a great series on Call Centre Confidential about how to complain when calling a call center.
Check out Call Center Digest for a round up of general news and happenings in the call center world. Its on the blogroll also. It's always good to know what sort of things management is reading.
Gmail accounts have multiplied again-I have 5 even though I have given out 4-I'm baffled, but happy to share them. Drop me an email if you want one, no strings attatched.
Breathtakingly mediocre. A triumph of dumb-assedness. Quite possibly the stupidest and most careless call center worker I have had the displeasure of working with.
Want to know who I am talking about?
I had my head so far up my ass today, I would have needed a gps, a miners helmet, and a belt full of carabiners to find my way home.
All of the things that I piss and moan about my fellow workers doing, I think I did at least one of each of them today. I was sloppy, careless, and bs'ed my through most of the day. I forgot to enter data into the computer, I did not check my work, I did not update the call sheet, on and on.
I think I'm just a little over tired and under the weather. But you know, in some ways its not such a bad thing to realize you aren't all that you believe yourself to be. When you start taking such pride in your perfection, and your attention to detail, that you cant slack off now and then you are kind of, well, a tight-ass.
I guess in some sort of Zen-like philosophy, you should "embrace the slack within so that you may flex like the reed, but never break like the popsicle stick"...Or something like that.
I whole heartedly believe in trying to be a better call center worker, person, and spiritual being. But I also embrace that I am flawed, imperfect, and desperately in need of help. If we could have attained perfection on our own, He would have not needed to hang on the cross...
I don't understand how this works. I gave 2 Gmail accounts away, and I still have 5 left, its sort of an electronic loaves and fishes going on. I wonder if Google could be considered a religion. It is all-knowing, well, kinda, ok not really..but knows more than me. Anyway, I'm rambling...
What I meant to say is that there are still Gmail accounts available for the asking, just send me an email....
Recently I had someone call me for service who really made my day. Now before you start thinking pleasant thoughts about people helping people and all the world holding hands in harmony, let me stop you. He made my day because he was a jerk and I got the better of him.
Without getting too specific, I arrange different financial services for my customers. The nature of the work is that sometimes I can really get them good deals, and save them money, but there are times where its not possible to get them a good deal, but either way, we do things cheaper and quicker than if they had arranged it themselves.
From the moment I started speaking to this guy, I knew he was trouble. He made a big deal about what sort of position he had at his company, and made me understand he was a special customer that deserved expedited service.
Well, I made a real effort, and secured him at least an average deal on what he needed. Nothing out of the ordinary, but up to my company's standards for service, and good enough. Well, he preceded to lecture me, and I lectured back, here's how it went down:
Caller: "This just won't do. Surely you can get a better price than that."
Cog: "Sometimes its possible, but this is well within average prices today, and I don't think we're going to do any better, we may do worse."
Caller: "I know you can do better than that, why I saw a better deal just this morning from a different source."
Cog: "Really, Ok, what was the name of the company? I'll see if I can locate them."
Caller: "Well, I don't recall their name, but I have been around money for a long time and I am sure you can do better than that."
Cog: "I tell you what sir, I understand you are not satisfied. If you would like, I will scrap this round, and try again."
Caller: "Yes, that's more like it, keep trying until you get me a better price."
Cog: "Of course you realize, I can't guarantee I will do better, and I have to cancel this service in order to find you a better price. This may also delay your transaction."
Caller: "Oh, this just won't do. I need a better price."
Cog: "I'm willing to do whatever you decide, but you can't have it both ways. Either I cancel this service and continue looking, or we put this transaction through. What's your decision, Sir?"
Caller: "Just put it through as it stands....[click]"
I didn't hear from him the rest of the day. I basked in the smugness of this call the rest of the day...
Score stands at:Cog 1 -Arrogant Customer 0
Thanks for playing.Bye Bye.
Hi, I have five Gmail invitations left. Send me an email at the address listed on the right and you can have one as long as they last.
The coffee tastes bad,
The lack of intangibles,
Cash might help this some.
They will not be satisfied,
Callers demand all.
Calls now flood the queue,
Why won't they call back later?
I really must pee.
Moving past it all,
First frustration, then apathy,
Hope remains my end.
Hey, Go check out CubeZoo for some good writing. It has also been added to the blogroll.
I really try not to convince people one way or another who to vote for in this election-this is not a purely political blog. You will notice that I have both liberal and conservative blogs on my blogroll. But I came across this very compelling piece about why Ed Koch is voting for George Bush, even though he disagrees with him on almost every domestic policy. It's worth a read if you are still not sure who you want to vote for.
Doing a guest post today, is Marsha, another denizen of Call Center Purgatory. I really enjoy her sense of humor and attitude. Enjoy!
If I had stumbled upon this blog 5 years ago I would have thought it strange to dedicate a site to what would seemingly appear to be a humdrum job. But now I’m a call-center employee of 4 years (which in ‘dog years’ translate to 10 yrs since the average call center career lasts 2.5 yrs) and I can completely relate to the authors cynical insight. Myself being Catholic I appreciate the comparison to Purgatory too. I check out this site almost daily like some people read Dilbert.
I’ve told a select few of my co-workers about the terrific writing here. You see, call-centers are very diverse and sort of like mini worlds where you get every type of person imaginable. I can get along with just about anyone so I don’t mind that there are sometimes people in my midst with whom I wouldn’t ordinarily relate. I can’t make everyone my best friend. But I have a few co-workers that I perceive as potential good friends if given the opportunity. These are people with whom I’ve never even had a full conversation, due to the nature of our business who has time to talk to co-workers but I can tell from brief encounters that they’re ‘cool’. So I shared this site with them and if they’re reading, feel honored!
Only in a call center can you work for 4 years and really not know anyone well. That comes in handy though. Ever worked in a traditional office where one particular person gets on your nerve and you can’t avoid them? Well, now I’m glued to a cube and denied social contact and I think I like it. Every so often I’ll get a cube-mate who could be that annoying person but ‘oops’ index finger goes up ‘sorry, got a call…can’t talk’. On the rare occasions when it’s slow with 2 minutes between calls it’s tempting to pretend to have a call when the person beside me is going on and on about the new super Wal-Mart in town (like isn’t it obvious I’m a Target shopper, just look at me!) Really, I’m a nice person and I would never be rude to these people, I just like the option of ignoring them without hurting feelings. On the flip side, I’ve had cube-mates that I adore who return the sentiment and we become fast friends trying to get in as much chat time between calls as possible. I’ve even been guilty of putting customers on hold just so I can say “I LOVE those shoes! Where’d you get them?” or “Did you see the hula-hoop competition on the Olympics last night? What’s up with that?”
I have 2 co-workers that I hang out with outside of work. And guess what we end up talking about….work! But it’s not always complaining. That gets old. Sure, we hate certain aspects of our job but it’s like beating a dead horse. What we DO talk about seems therapeutic and sometimes even philosophical like why did we end up at a call center and why are we still there. The kind of people I’m drawn to usually end up being the thinking sorts, who think outside the box, pardon the cliché. Here are a couple of observations we’ve made while sipping Margaritas.
Number one, if we weren’t micromanaged to death we would probably give 101% of ourselves. One minute is so important to the company that we are considered ‘late’ when signing on 1 minute past our shift starting time. If a 15 min break turns into 17 minutes because we stopped to say “hi” to someone on the way back from the john, it’s brought to our attention. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to management when the last minute of the last hour comes around, there are calls on hold, and we dash out the door. Sorry, MY minutes are just as important as the companies. It’s a two-way street.
Number 2, we’ve discovered that we love the basic principle of our job: talking to strangers all day, assisting them with their concerns, educating them about our product that they pay for, yet don’t fully understand. (Not ‘product’ like a tangible item, but the service we provide. Can’t be specific. Too much info can be dangerous out here in cyberspace). Not ALL people are *ssholes. We enjoy the interesting ones and the jerks…well…I always say, you can’t slap me through the phone. And besides, I’m on the clock. Complain, swear, and scream as much as you want just don’t call me at home. But aren’t there always the few co-workers who let it ruin their day? Who wins there? The jerk!
Then we suck on our limes, laughing at how many of us are on maintenance meds (thank gawd for health insurance). We forget about work for a while and wonder out loud, “HOW did Kerry end up as our only option to Bush?” I almost want to vote for Bush and I’m a Democrat. My co-worker slash good friend then asks me “WHY do you Catholics have a Pope?” “Good question” I respond. “We’re outta tequila. I’ll get back to you on that one”.
“See you at work tomorrow”.
Check out an awesome post over at How to Become a Hero entitled:
One of the banes of my existence is customer complaints, That is until this week. As you can imagine, in a business based on working with other people's money, it doesn't take much to piss someone off. There are so many things that can go wrong, with the market and other forces we can't control. Even if customers know they aren't in the right, people will complain if something happened to cause them to lose money. You can't really blame them.
It works like this, the customer calls in and expresses their disappointment and asks for the matter to be turned over to our "Customer Satisfaction" department. I enter it into a special screen in the computer and hit "Complete" and it is transmitted to the powers that be. They then determine how we can blame someone or something else and explain to the customer why they are satisfied by losing money, I think it involves mirrors or the metric system, its very mysterious.
"Customer Satisfaction" is part of the operations department. The person in charge of this is a 30-something yuppie with black slicked-back hair and a penchant for busy ties. He carries himself like he is above us all, and too important to speak to us unless it is to explain how we failed the company in such a way that the company may actually have to own up to, and pay back some money to the customer. I think the payment of money back to the customers may actually affect his bonuses somehow.
Today, we saw a different side of him. About 11 am a female customer from Maryland called in asked for Mr. Satisfaction. Across from my cubicle, my new coworker from the temporary agency took the first call. Henry is a great worker who wants to help people. He's, shall we say, not very masculine, but a very nice guy. Henry made the mistake of telling our lady customer that Mr. Satisfaction was indeed in the office today, and he would put him right through to him. When Henry advised Mr. Satisfaction he had a call and who it was, Mr. Satisfaction told him that he would not speak to the customer, and to put her through to his voicemail. Henry tried to lie, but he has not developed that skill yet, and the woman was not convinced.
Five minutes later, I could hear my other co-worker who had not been a part of this conversation, make the same mistake and admit Mr. Satisfaction was here and tried to transfer the call again, only to be told to transfer the customer to voicemail. That was it, our customer knew Mr. Satisfaction was in, and he was avoiding her. I imagined her on the other end of the phone, looking at the reciever and planning her next move. This was the last straw. She had been "handled", lied to, and it was time for some justice.
She started to call repeatedly, I think she was pounding her redial button over and over again. Every other time, poor Henry gets the call. He's changing his name, changing his voice, sounding like he's some Springsteen wannabe from New Jersey, a southern gentleman from Atlanta, and I think I heard him trying to do a Spanish accent at one point. Time after time, he's putting the woman to voice mail, asking our supervisor to talk to her, and doing anything he can.
This woman finally says to my supervisor, "I am tired of this bullshit. I know he is there, and I am going to call you over and over, and tie up your lines until I get this guy. I will find friends and family, we are going to continue to call. I will post this phone number on internet chat rooms as a place for a good time, you will be inundated with calls until you put this shithead on the phone, are you getting my point?"
Finally, the general manager forces Mr. Satisfaction to answer the phone, but he did it out on the floor where all the employees can hear this call. He starts to whine like a puppy hit by a newspaper, explaining how there is a process involving the accounting department and other members of management. He explained he was only one person, and was doing the best he could. She broke him, he lost his cool. The silk tie, the coiffed hair, the expensive cologne, it all meant nothing. We all knew who had the balls, and it wasn't him. I don't normally root for pushy customers, but I was this time.
As I finished my bologna sandwich, I thought, "Cool, dinner and a show."
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.
By Rage Against The Machine