Call Center Purgatory <$BlogRSDURL$>
Call Center Purgatory
Monday, January 31, 2005
  Bedwetting and Religion Part I

What could these two things possibly have in common? I've been reading George Orwell's essay entitled "Such, Such Were the Joys..." about his time in public boarding school in Great Britain. Upon coming to school at the age of eight, Orwell tells that he reverted to wetting his bed.

"Nowadays, I believe, bed-wetting in such circumstances is taken for granted. It is a normal reaction in children who have been removed from their homes to a strange place. In those days, however, it was looked on as a disgusting crime which the child committed on purpose and for which the proper cure was a beating"
Orwell finally received not just one caning for wetting the bed, but also a second more savage beating(the cane broke!) because he bragged it didn't hurt. After the second beating, he remembers coming to a unique understanding of the cruel world around him.
"I was crying partly because this was expected of me, partly from genuine repentence, but partly also because of a deeper grief which is peculiar to childhood and not easy to convey: a sense of desolate loneliness and helplessness, of being locked up not only in a hostile world but in a world of good and evil where the rules were such that it was actually not possible for me to keep them. I knew that bed-wetting was (a) wicked and (b) outside my control. The second fact I was personally aware of, and the first I did not question. It was possible, therefore, to commit a sin without knowing that you committed it, without wanting to commit it and without being able to avoid it. Sin was not necessarily something that you did: it might be something that happened to you...But at any rate, this was the great, abiding lesson of my boyhood: that I was in a world where it was not possible for me to be good."(Orwell's emphasis)

While I am still in the process of reading all of Orwell's works, I am fairly sure that he did not mean this to be a positive passage about the concepts of sin and religion.

But what he did do in these passages, whether he meant to or not,was to expose the number one concept of many of the world's religions that consistently frustrates and confuses so many people.

More in part II...

Thanks for reading.

Click Here to Read Part II
Friday, January 28, 2005
  The Good News...

The good news from the beyond was that my uncle had located a job opening in state government that had went unnoticed by many people. Not just any job, but a non-production job that may actually make a positive difference in this world. Whether it actually will or not, its a way out of purgatory that I thought would never come. Government benefits, an eventual increase in pay and less of a commute. This is the best opportunity to come my way in a long time.

It was me and maybe two others that applied. I got an interview with a Phd. and some very stern civil servants. They interviewed two others also. The suit has been hung back up in the closet, and the thank you notes sent. Now the waiting begins...

Between my anxiety over whether I will get the job I dream of, there is the continuing garbage here at work. On Wednesday, Larry was away at a management seminar(good waste of money), and the phones went berserk. I wont go into details, but I was yelled at for something I didnt do, and I yelled back. It was bitter, and petty, and ignorant. It just made me feel sad, hateful and just tired to my core.

I've been expecting the other shoe to drop all day, and it never did. I keep hoping that I will get the job before they fire me. The thought that keeps me going is figuring out if I'm simply going to burn the bridge or call in an air-strike. But I'll probabally still give notice, it would actually be enjoyable to work out two weeks with no fear at all...

Thanks for reading,


Click Here to Read If I Got the Job or Not...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005
  Suicidal Snowflakes

Check out this guy, correction, this chick. She's got a style with words that is unique. Think of a combination of Thoreau meets Mickey Spilane. I liked him immediately.


Monday, January 24, 2005
  News from the great beyond...


"Anonymous Investments, this is AC. How can I help you?"
"Hi, this is your eternal soul. How's it goin'?"
"Dude, I told you to never bother me at work! What do you want?"
"Well, it's nice to hear from you too. So how's my brother, Reason for Living doing?"
"He's at home with the flu...He's in bad shape. Out of the whole family, only Cynicism, Survival Sense, and Depression could make it today."
"Listen, I won't keep you long. I know you have asses to kiss and you're still trying to sell me on e-bay, but I've got some good news. Are you ready for it?"
"Get on with it, my coffee's getting cold and I have to pee."
"Word is coming to me from the world of Universal Good that you may find a way out of Purgatory soon."
"Don't yank my chain again. What have you heard?"
"Just ask your uncle tonight when you get home. He's got news."

And he was gone...

More news as it becomes available...

Thanks for reading,


Click Here to Read What the Good News Was...

Friday, January 21, 2005
  The Specialist Blues...

I've had a horrible day...Actually, make that a horrible week.

We have a customer that only certain people can handle their calls. They do all kinds of diverse trades and transactions. The money is good for the company, I think. The difference is that most other trades are mostly one-shot transactions, but this customer has us do a lot of extra work. If we don't do things just so and spend twice the time we spend on other customers, we won't get paid our fee, and may lose money.

Essentially, we are doing some of their clerical work for them. Documenting things that they should handle themselves. I haven't figured out who came up with this win-win situation for the customer and lose-lose for us, I assume its part of some salesman's mistake or strategic synergy on acid. Whatever it is, it sucks.

They don't call us every day, I'm not sure what determines when they call, I just know I'm one of the specialists that get to take their calls. When I don't have to deal with this customer, my world is not too bad. But when their calls consume my day, I just tread water to keep from losing money or making horrible mistakes.The call volume is overwhelming sometimes, and I can't seem to get beyond just handling all of the details for doing this customer.

I know I should be taking more calls, and a more efficient representative could handle more than I do. I know I spend a lot of time writing what is wrong with this place, but there are a lot of things that are wrong with me. I guess its my own obsessive compulsiveness. I can't stand to do something half-way. I can't stand to not treat people well. I can't stand to say I will help a person, and then not get to it for a long time when I said I would do it right away. When I get overwhelmed, and don't know how to deal with things going every which way, I slow down, and try to do everything totally correct. There's part of me that wants to point in the mirror and say "Slacker!". Then there's another part of me that just wants to tell me that I've never found my niche and a job that was really right for me. I guess both answers are correct in their own way.

I hate this place. I hate what it has made me become, or what it has revealed about who I really am.

Someday, I will leave here. I will find a place where I get paid to do things right. Where half-ass is not allowed, and I am happy to hit the time clock in the morning. I believe this.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, January 18, 2005
  Getting on with it...

Here is some great verse about the absurdities of interviewing for a job.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, January 17, 2005
  No Free Samples!

In an information based job, giving out information for free is akin to giving out free samples. It can be a good thing, but if you do it too often, you are being taken advantage of. As a newbie, we are told to not give out any free information, and to give those calls to supervisors. As an "experienced" rep., we see it all the time and even have supervisors tell us to do it to help out a big customer, or even sometimes to avoid a transaction that may not be worth the hassle or liability if something goes wrong.

"Anonymous Investments, This is AC. How can I help you?"
"This is Paul Smith from Something for Nothing Corp. We have an account with your firm, but I don't need any trades today, I was just wondering if you could help me with some information."
"Sure, what do you need?"
"With recent changes in the market after the election, is there a percieved upsurge in the international funds, as opposed to the domestic?"
"Well, this is my opinion only, but I think we are going to see some type of upsurge, at least in the short-term. Some of the Fidelity funds are doing very well right now. Be sure to remember us next time you need some trading done."
"Thanks AC, I will"

5 minutes passes...

One of the grizzled veterans yells out over cubicle-land "Larry, there's some guy from Something For Nothing asking for advice, but he's not interested in a trade!"
"You know we don't do that!" Larry barks.
"Yeah, I know, but someone else on the floor just did it, and he wants more!"
"Who's giving out freebies?! You guys know the rules! No free information! Let me talk to him!"

The hair went up on the back of my neck. Was the guy going to remember my name? Was Larry going to write me up? What was going to happen? In situations like this, I don't know whether to 'fess up or just keep my mouth shut. I stood up and started walking in the direction of Larry's desk, but at the last moment walked on by towards the water cooler.

Larry was getting angrier and angrier. The customer had him speak to his vice-president about this. While I couldn't hear the other side, there was some kind of threat, and Larry finally gave in and gave him more information.

I knew it. He yells and screams about it, but he ended up doing the same thing...

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, January 15, 2005
  Stupidity of Exponential Proportions

(The following is based on a conversation I had recently with a customer.)


"Anonymous Investments, This is A.C. How can I help you?"
"Can you find me a fund in the next 30 minutes that will bring a guaranteed 15%?"
"You're kidding, right?"
"No, I was told to call you and ask before I call another firm."
"Look, I don't know if you have heard this phrase before, but its very common in this industry, 'Past performance is no guarantee of future results.' It's kind of a maxim."
"You mean, you can't guarantee a rate of return?"
"Thats right Sparky. I can't even start looking unless you give me some trust here. Whats it going to be? I can start looking for a fund that has done well in the past, but only if you allow us to open a file."
"Well, I don't know..."
strained silence....1 minute passes.
"How about I send you a coffee cup and some pamphlets?"
"Thanks for calling Anonymous Investments."
"What a Moron..."

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, January 12, 2005
  Fight the Power...

I don't normally take internet tests, but this one was fun.

You are a Radical. Right on!

What kind of Sixties Person are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thanks for reading,


Monday, January 10, 2005
  1977 13" Sony Color TV

The shades of my perceptions of reality flicker like some redneck TV with only pliers to change the channel. I can't find the bent butterknife we always used to adjust the colors and vertical hold. That part of the vision refuses to stay steady, and all I see are rolling forms in garish colors. I think its MASH, but I can't be sure.

My own paradigms of reason, kindness and faith change the same way when I see the baseness and fear inside my own heart. Why must my life be a re-run of mediocrity when I can't even get it right the first time?

Somebody, anybody, slap me upside the head, so the picture will straighten up again...

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, January 09, 2005
  Reading His Dreams

Check out Edgar's blog called "Sleeping With Winona Ryder". It's not a stalker site. Edgar writes down his dreams on his blog, its great writing.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, January 08, 2005
  The Walk-Out...

"You have no right to tell me how to work old man!" She screamed.

"Oh Yeah? You aren't perfect. All you do is bitch and moan how no one else is as perfect as you! Quit whining and get back to work!"

"Screw you! I'm out of here! We'll discuss this when Larry gets back in the office!"

Then she was gone...

She walked right out in the middle of a busy shift and all she left was the scent of her cologne and an atmosphere of guile and anger on the call floor...

Several days ago Larry was sick and one of the other assistant supervisors stepped in for the day. George has never really been a supervisor in the sense of knowing how to lead people and resolve conflicts, he's more of a veteran that knows the business, but is otherwise not what we would call a "people person". That's a nice way of saying he can be an asshole...

We were at half staff on a Wednesday. Three other people were out that day, and we were very busy with customers coming off of their Christmas vacations. I was sitting two cubicles away from Sonya, one of my favorite coworkers, and Tom was in the cubicle next to me. There was also several other temps, four other regular employees and an older man named Henry. Henry has been here as long or longer than me, but he still has no clue how things work, so he mainly does services that are essentially following up on and adjusting services already set up, and he doesn't do that not very well.

The call volume started to increase halfway through the day. George was taking calls at his own speed, and not really stepping up to the plate. He's such a fixture, he doesn't care and is just here marking time. Sometimes, he passes calls off to other people, or just puts them back into the queue if he does not want to take them. Then he will go to the other extreme and take a bunch of calls before he starts handling the trades, and the trades get delayed and customers get pissed off.

George was up to his normal ways, passing off calls and just doing things half-ass. But that wasn't what finally set Sonya off, but it certainly didn't help. What broke the camel's back was that Henry had messed up a bunch of her transactions and customers had called her back about them. In the midst of a really busy day, Sonya had to fix something she already set up because Henry just doesn't get it, but is not able to be taught either.

Sonya has been here longer than me and we have always got along well. She is one of the most excellent agents here. Her call volume is exceptional, along with a real sense of how to do things right the first time. But she does seem to have a real hard time accepting how messed-up our corporate culture is. She never seems to be able to accept that things aren't going to change or be fair as long as we have the current management in command. I would tell her to get a blog, but I don't think that would be a good idea.

Sonya started yelling at Henry, asking him why he can't follow policy and why he continues to make such stupid mistakes. She didn't really want an answer, she just wanted to vent. Henry started yelling back trying to defend himself, and would not let the matter drop after Sonya had spoke her mind.

"Just let it drop, Henry..." she hissed.
"But if I messed it up, I want to fix it. I've checked all of my transactions, I don't see any errors." he shot back.
"Let it drop, damn it!"

From there George stepped in, acting more like a bully defending one of his henchman than a supervisor trying to get through the shift. Before I knew it, there was cussing, and phones slamming and then I heard the door slam.

Tom and I just tried to keep our heads down and make it through the rest of the shift. Soon after that, the call volume abated and we actually had a pretty mellow shift until the end of the day three or four hours after the markets closed.

I could hear George talking to Larry at home in bed with the flu, explaining his side and why he was right. Sonya later told us that she had called Larry on her cell phone and explained her side that day.

I know that Sonya is right, even if she was a hothead. Sometimes I think George really has no business being in charge, at least not all the time. But its wrong to expect everyone to act right when there is no real management or discipline above George. Bad corporate culture is like fresh fish, it goes bad at the head first...

Thank for reading,


Thursday, January 06, 2005
  "We appreciate you...Somewhat...Only Some of You...Maybe None of You..."

Several weeks ago, a rather non-descript piece of paper materialized next to the computerized time clock system. It had two pieces of tape to hold it up. Here was the message:



It was strangely worded. It should have said something about "Happy Holidays", but did not. Since we are a call center, we sort of eat in shifts or whenever you can leave your desk. Mrs. Cog made her incredible dessert called "Dallas Delight", a creation with cool whip, pudding, graham crackers, and frosting. Simple and sinful, may not be haute cuisine, but I am a simple man with simple pleasures.

The pizza came in, hot and steaming. We all got at least three pieces and ate until we could not eat anymore. Food always makes this place a little happier. But the festivities did not just end with the food.

We have about five different departments in the same building, so there are quite a few people here. They had gotten rid of the temporary employees at the first part of the year, but recently they had hired about ten of them back to help in the various departments. There are even some out on the floor with us. They go through the same training and do the same work. We consider them as equal as any other coworker.

After lunch, the secretary from the Human Resources department came around and had us pick these little green tickets out of a hat for door prizes. She did not go to the temporary employees though. Then after she passed out the numbers she came back and returned giving each of us with tickets a door prize. But the temps received no prizes.

Jean, a 30ish girl from somewhere in New England, stood up and asked Larry (the floor manager), "Hey, how come there is nothing for the temporary employees?". Larry turned red, then said, "Don't worry about that, you need to get back to work!"

Jean would not let it drop, she walked up to Larry's desk and questioned him some more. He was visibly nervous, licked his lips, then looked toward the GM's office to make sure he wasn't looking. "Look", he said, "I'll ask the personnel department if they have anything left over. But the GM set all this up and I don't want to get involved!"

Things around here continue to amaze me. What they must have meant as a way to raise employee morale only made them look small and cheap and mean-spirited. Throughout the whole meal, the GM did not come out and make any kind of small speech, or greet us and ask if we were enjoying ourselves. He stayed in his office on the phone. Once he stalked through the cubicles rather quickly without saying a word, just sort of exuding that atmosphere of unfriendliness that follows him everywhere.

The temps were offended to say the least. Hurt is more like it. Being a temp employee is hard. You always feel like an outsider. Now they felt it even more. I always remember the scene in a Christmas Carol where Fezzywig has the Christmas Party. It was a little thing, but he made their jobs bearable by acting human. By joining in the festivities, by shaking their hands and dancing a jig.

No, I don't expect that. Nor do I expect any kind of hug. Just acknowledge that you see the work that we do, and that you appreciate us. I guess that's out of the question...

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, January 04, 2005
  Redneck Prejudice

Several days ago I realized that there is no end to the kinds of prejudice we all experience. I was talking to someone at work about some of my customers from New Jersey, how they seem like crooks, and how they can be hard to deal with. It was a very mean and callous thing to say. I realized that when this person became hurt and said "Don't say that, I'm from New Jersey." I quickly apologized for this. It wasn't true either, there are plenty of nice honest people from New Jersey, its just the bad people are so memorable.

In an episode of karmic fair-play, I was on the receiving end of the same kind of prejudice just lately. I found myself offended when someone started talking about how ignorant rednecks are. I'm not ashamed to be labeled a redneck, I probably define it differently than others, though.(Click here to read my definition of a redneck versus white trash) This person did not mean to hurt my feelings. They had some bad experiences with people identifying themselves as rednecks.

Just the same, both of us were prejudiced against different groups of people. There's a sociological term called outgroup homogeneity that explains that we fail to see the distinctions of people outside our own group. The most common example is when one racial group says that people from another group "all look the same to me". But it goes farther than that, this sense of indistinctness causes you to be unable to recognize personality traits as well as physical characteristics. Unconsciously, we label this group of "others" as possessing all of those negative stereotypes that have become ingrained in our national psyche.

We all like to think that we have become so politically correct. But we have just traded prejudices and redefined which groups it is permitable to judge wrongly. We have built up a library of regional prejudices that go beyond harmless jokes. All rednecks are bigots, all people from the North East are arrogant, all people from the West Coast are flakes and all Southerners are ignorant.

One of the reasons for all these labels is that we have a need to explain why what we believe to be right is not recognized as right by the others in the world. Sometimes it bothers us when we hold a truth as universally true, and yet other people mock it or vehemently disagree with us. There are several options, we could be wrong and they could be right, or both of us are wrong. Or it could be that our perceptions of the issue are so different that both of us are right.

Instead of searching out why these people see things differently, we so often take the easy way out. The other group must be wrong. Whether its gun control, abortion, religion, all of the other hot button issues, instead of trying to at least understand why they think the way they do, we find it easier to just define them as all wrong.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not calling for the sacrifice of truth on the altar of tolerance. There are absolute truths in the world. But your view of truth won't be less true if you take the time to understand exactly what it is that others believe. It will either make your own sense of truth stronger, or it will help you redefine what is true.

Ultimately, any of us could be wrong. There's no need to add rudeness to ignorance.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, January 03, 2005
  The Church of Dysfunction

Check out the Church of Dysfunction by another denizen of Call Center Purgatory.


  The Offensive Cog...Part 2

Part 1

Several days after this incident occurred, I had an opportunity to speak to Ron about what happened. During a slow time, we were all popping our heads up over our cubicles to chat while the bosses were off the floor for a few minutes. Tom and I were sitting in adjoining cubicles and Ron was about still fairly close.

"What was George's problem the other day?" Ron asked.
"Well, he gets like that from time to time" I said, "I just try to do the best I can and ignore him. But he does know what he's talking about."
"But he just blew it out of proportion and wouldn't listen to me" Ron responded.
"But you should have done what he said." Tom said.
"No, the primary client had said no need to call back up to a certain share price." George explained.
"But you never told George that." Tom responded.
"He wouldn't let me. Besides, he really doesn't know what he's talking about. He's so rude."

This was the point at which I made that conscious decision to open my mouth when it would lead to nothing good. We all come to that point, we know the person we are talking to will not listen to what we are going to say. In fact, we know the only reason they are speaking to us is to justify themselves and their actions. They aren't seeking any kind of real give and take, no matter how reasonable they appear. I knew it would come to no good, but I also get tired of working with the people that are not only arrogant, but ignorant too. So I said what I had been really thinking.

"Tell me something Ron, why did you come to George in the first place?" I asked.
"Because I wanted his opinion of what to do next." Ron said.
"If you would have just stopped arguing with him and did what he said, he wouldn't have gotten so angry."
"But he wouldn't listen to my question. Nobody seems to listen to what I say"
"During active trades he doesn't have time to hold your hand. You should have just said 'Yes sir' and went back to your desk and that would have been the end of it."
"You guys just don't get it. I knew what I was doing and he should not have treated me like that!"
"I thought you said you spent so much time working in government and military jobs. I would have thought you would have figured out the concept of respecting authority! I guess you missed that part."
"Yeah, I learned that his kind of authority is not worthy of any respect!".
With that he stormed off to his cubicle.

I didn't take this too serious at the time, because we all speak to each other like this from time to time. Like any workplace dominated by men, there is a lot of good natured teasing and friendly insults thrown across the cubicles from time to time. We all pick on each other, it just helps the time go by faster. Besides that, I have never worked anyplace where men do not do that between each other. I haven't decided if it is always a bad thing, but I've known a lot of people that can't handle it. I guess I'm so used to it now I don't think about it.

Well, Ron was not used to it. I had assumed he would have gotten over it, but he took it personally. Around Christmas time, I spoke to him again:

"What's your plans for Christmas, Ron?"
"Keep out of my business. You're always sticking your nose in my affairs." He snapped, not even looking at me.
"You're kidding, right?"
"Fuck off."
"Alright, You're the one with the problem, not me."

I turned and walked off. He hasn't spoken to me or even looked at me since. I felt bad about it for a while. But its not like I can fix it. Some offences cant be fixed, though they might fade with time. I've had people talk to me that way, and I was mad for a while, but later on I laughed about it or took it to heart if they were right. I doubt Ron is going to do either.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, January 01, 2005
  The Offensive Cog...Part 1

Recently, I realized that I had not only offended someone, but had made an enemy in the call center. I know I may seem over-sensitive, but I still can be oblivious to other people's feelings from time to time. I may have been in the right in what I said to this person, but I wasn't right to say it. To a lesser extent the culture here is to blame for this, but not enough to justify what I did.

One of the new hires was a gentleman named Ron. He is somewhat older than me, and has had jobs of considerable more responsibility than I have, at least that's how he presented it to us. After training, he developed a high opinion of himself, even though the rest of us know much more and are more experienced than him. I don't mean he should have low self-esteem, just not be so sure of what he is doing when so much of the training is really on-the-job. Most of us were quick to listen to the veterans and ask their advice often after training, since it is so easy to screw up and make expensive mistakes in this business. But he does not want to take instruction or listen to correction from other more experienced people.

At least that is my opinion of him, which probably accounts for my rudeness to him. Several weeks ago, George was the supervisor on the floor while Larry was off the floor. George is one of our veterans who is very knowledgeable, but has no people skills. Most of us just ignore him and his comments and do the job we all know how to do and make it through the day fine. When there is a problem though, we all count on the fact that George knows what to do. We all respect his knowledge.

There are always certain instances where you must advise the supervisor on the floor if you are making a large trade, or need authorization for something beyond certain pre-approved limits. Then, if you come up against something that does not feel right, or you are suspicious of, you should go to your supervisor.

This day, Ron was handling multiple transactions on his own and we were all busy. He came to George and said, "George, should I re-confirm authorization on this trade with the secondary client since the share price changed again?"
"What did the primary client say when you set it up?" George asked.
"Well, it was the secondary client that I was more concerned about. Never mind, I'll just call them." Ron replied.
George shot back, "you will call both of them. There's too much money involved!"
"No, you're not listening to me, I only need to call the secondary client on this!"
"I don't care what you think, the primary one is who will be ultimately responsible, you must call them back."
"Why won't you listen to my question? You don't have to yell at me! I know what I'm doing!"
"Damn it, just do what you're told!"
"George, why won't you listen to me?"
"Do what you are told and make the call now!"

Finally, Ron relented and did what he was told. But the matter wasn't over...
To Be Continued in Part II

Thanks for reading,



Exploring the mind numbing insanity and childish corporate culture of an unknown call center employee.

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.

Email:anonymous.cog at

"One must know oneself, if this does not serve to discover truth, it at least serves as a rule of life, and there is nothing better." -Blaise Pascal

The Cog is listening to:
"Wake Up"
By Rage Against The Machine

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