Your Political Profile
Overall: 45% Conservative, 55% Liberal
Social Issues: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Ethics: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
I don't see Memorial Day as a time to reinforce jingoistic American ideals about the present war and all other wars. Most wars seem to start out for what was presented as noble ends, but become so cloudy at the end.
The point of Memorial Day is not the politics and the wartime rhetoric, but honoring the men and women that die in service to our country.
"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."-George Orwell No matter what you believe, if you are Republican or Democratic, Communist or Socialist, the idea that someone is willing to lay down their life for your safety, for your security, for your liberty, still means something. The world is an evil place. There are desperate people who will take the property and lives of others without any guilt at all. Society forgets very quickly that our peaceful lives are the results of people willing to fight against evil. Everything can't be resolved by discussion and negotiation. There will come times in the world where someone has to stand in the breach between peace and chaos, justice and anarchy. Someone has to be willing to bear arms and do violence in defense of those who can't defend themselves. No matter their politics or personal beliefs, those in the armed forces and police are willing to submit to the discipline of authority and give their lives for us. Remember their sacrifice with honor and gratitude.
Happy Memorial Day.
Thanks for Reading,
Like everybody else in the working world, I perk up around time to go home. But working in a call center is not like other jobs. I can't just hit the clock when the whistle blows,(we don't have a whistle, its an expression). Calls continue to come in and people have to be helped. If you get a call at the last minute theoretically you are supposed to be able to hand it over to another agent so you can go home, but thats never the way things turn out in practice. Supervisors will cajole you into staying, other agents on the floor will refuse to take it over and say they are too busy. There's also the implicit social pressure that a good agent will stay until all his transactions are set up. I think thats bullshit, but I have Marxist tendencies. I will admit, there are times I stay over just because it makes it easy to go home if I know I completed everything I started and my clients are happy. That's why I stay over.
We all start becoming very strategic about thirty minutes before quitting time. You see, the idea is to keep busy right up until the bell, or at least to appear busy. It's really like a game of chess almost. You can't turn your phone off, that would be seen. You can't refuse to take calls. I have seen people actually wrote up for telling the supervisor that it was too close to the bell and they refused to do it.
Chess may not be the best analogy, sometimes its more like poker. Every call you take is like drawing a card. Will it be an informational call that you can drag out until quitting time by being chatty or will it be some multi step transaction that will take 20 to 30 minutes? I try to do customer satisfaction surveys and call customers back to advise how things went down. If I can find faxes to do or some reason to be out of my desk but still visibly working I do that, or sometimes I just bite the bullet and hope that things work out.
I guess my luck is holding, I haven't had to stay late for about a week. But it always leads to this superstitious feeling that your mojo will run out any time and you will get nailed at the last minute.
Thanks for reading,
I've been blogging about my job for about a year and a half without anyone even having a clue that I'm doing it. At least my own paranoid "Cog-sense" hasn't picked up any danger (it's like Spidey-sense, but much more pathetic).
I came up with some rules early on before I even started the blog and put a lot of thought into how I could rant about this place without getting caught. There are more and more anonymous work bloggers out there, and people thinking about setting up a work blog. I'd like to give you some suggestions and ideas to keep you from blogging about unemployment, instead of fighting the good fight from inside the belly of the corporate beast. Together, we can give bad corporations indigestion, and be a voice of conscience for good corporations.
Many of these are very simple, and go without saying, but as much as I respect you all, I never like to assume the intelligence of anyone. If there weren't people buying the Weekly World News and believing in Trickle Down Economics, maybe I wouldn't be so cynical. Many of these may seem extra paranoid, but this is written by a man whose favorite books are 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, so I assume you will take all of this with a grain of salt.
1. Check your company's policies on blogging, check it through the web site or publications. I wouldn't go asking a lot of questions of the H.R. department or your supervisor if you work for assholes-remember, you need to keep your head down if you are going to pull this off.
2. Never, ever, ever, blog from work. At least don't blog to the site that tells of the evil of your company. If you want to set up a decoy blog that tells of the wonders of your company, but hey,that's your call, it seems sort of schizophrenic to me...
3. Make sure that you date and time stamp your blogs in such a way that no one can determine your schedule, either change the dates, and times, or do like I do, use the same time for every post.
4. Get an email address that you use only for things related to your blog. Do not have it forward to your primary address, or you may reply using your "real" identity. The truth is email has more tracking abilities than your posting does. Like an IP address, it is possible to get a geographic location from an email message besides when it was opened. There are more secure email systems that hackers use if you are really paranoid. Go to google and check this out. Use the same caution with your email that you do with posting, only check your email away from work and at certain times. If you want a Gmail account, drop me a line. I will delete your real address after I send you your gmail invitation.
5. Don't tell anyone at work that you are doing this. Don't even hint at it. You have no idea what a blog is and you certainly don't keep one. This will be very hard. When everyone else is ranting about what a stupid place you work at, you will be very tempted to say something. Don't do it!
6. You will probably tell someone. Check them out first. The world is incredibly small and people talk a lot. The less people that know the better, if nothing else, make sure they aren't local or that you can count them on less than three fingers.
7. Keep your home computers clean. Find a secure place to keep your blog files and favorites. We let other people use our computers all the time. You know they are going to poke around, just like some digital version of your medicine cabinet.
8. Ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish. Are you a whistle-blower? Are you an amateur journalist trying to expose the evils of your company from the inside? Or do you just need to rant? How much are you willing to risk here? For me, I started the blog not only to rant, but to help change the way people think about bigger issues related to call centers and the nature of work as a whole. I am not willing to try to change my company, I don't think its worth it. That's the decision you've got to make.
9. After you answer that question, then decide how much you will share. What events and people will be easily recognized? How much will you change to protect yourself? Just using people's first initials is probably not enough. Don't put yourself in harm's way unless you are ready to take a hit.
10. Writing a sensational blog to get you a bunch of hits is good, but not if you lose your job in the process. Be disciplined in how important you allow your blog to become in your life. Don't take yourself too seriously. There are things outside of your blog that are much more important.
Thanks for reading,
For more info on blogging anonymously about work, check out Ian MacAllen's essay "Blogging with a Rubber".
This guy is my new hero!
Li Xinde roams China with a laptop and a digital camera documenting the abuses of the Chinese government and blogging the truth to the world.
Click on the link above to read the article in the New York Times. If you aren't a member, sign up, it's the best paper you will ever get for free in your email every day.
Thanks for reading,
Check out these two new call center blogs:
Call Centre Guru
One of our comrades across the pond talking about the mobile phone industry. He has a style reminiscent of Wrapstar.
Craziest Call Center
A call center CSR working in the escort industry.
Thanks for reading,
"Why do they let him continue to handle trades like that? That's against policy!"
"I don't know,Jeff..."
"Why do they keep putting out memo after memo about the same shit, but nothing ever really changes?"
"I don't know,Jeff..."
"How come he gets to come in late and take all the time off he needs for his personal problems, but they won't change my schedule at all?"
"I don't know..."
"Why have I been here so long without a review or a raise?"
"I don't know..."
"Why don't they hire more people? We're getting creamed with this call volume!"
"Jeff...I still don't know."
"Why do they do everything back-asswards? It's like they don't think about anything
"Dude! I'm beggin' ya to stop!..."
Jeff had been here about two years. He was in his twenties and came here right out of college thinking it would be a stepping stone to a real career. After the training hype and the honeymoon came to an end he started noticing what was wrong with the place. I like Jeff, he's a good agent who cares about his work and his customers. But I'm concerned for his sanity, there's a lot of questions that can't be answered.
"Jeff, you've got to stop asking all these questions. There are no answers. All your questions assume that the managers have a plan for the future, or really care if this is a nice place to work. They're making it up as they go. They either don't care, or their bosses won't let them."
"A.C., I know you're right, but I've just always wanted the world to make sense. I want things to be right and fair. I want our customers to be taken care of. I want to be treated fairly and be appreciated. I know I need to let it go though."
"You've got to let it go, or you're going to lose your mind. Keep your head down and do the best job your can until you can get out. Do the best you can so you can look at yourself in the mirror at night. If you worry about how our coworkers are screwing up, or how the customers or managers are abusing us, you'll start muttering to yourself and lingering in gun stores asking what the layaway policy is for an AK-47."
"I know man, I know...."
"Jeff, I know it sucks and I'm sorry. But the only answer I've got is that nothing is going to make sense while we're here..."
"It's OK AC...Maybe I'll go home and get tight..."
"Thanks for calling Anonymous Investments. This is Jeff, How can I help you?"
Thanks for reading,
Sometimes I feel like the people that own my company truly don't understand the power of money. Of course we all talk about money all the time because there has been a wage freeze for a few years. I know if I were to talk to the powers that are really responsible for this they would either take the time to condescendingly explain to me why they are unable to give us any raises at this time, and how its unfortunate, but is for the survival of the company as a whole, or they would give me the finger and tell me to look for another job if I didn't like it. In some ways, the latter is at least more straight forward and honest.
People don't just want money so they can buy more stuff and enjoy going out to eat. We don't just want to be able to afford higher gas prices, and save for the future. Raises mean so much more than that.
I remember starting a job where I made just over $5.50 an hour. I worked like a dog for ten hours a day in a dark and dirty place. I was there for many years. I finally made it into the office and got some responsibility. Most years I saw a small raise, a couple years I didn't get one. But I knew they were coming. I knew if I kept working hard and was loyal I would be rewarded. By the time I left I had doubled my per hour rate.
This did a lot for me. It made me proud of my work, it showed me I was worth something, and it was a visible sign to me of my value to my employer and that they were worthy of loyalty and real effort. Even when I worked at a fast food restaurant, the quarter and dime raises meant something to me.
But here in call center purgatory, none of that happens, and we are given no answers whenever we ask...
I don't want you to feel sorry for me, or even tell me to stop whining. This isn't about that. I'm a big boy, and I've got a plan in the works to leave this place. But its important that those people who are in management that read this blog remember that raises are more important than just trying to satisfy your money-hungry employees. Money is the most visible and substantial way that employees know how much they are worth to you.
Thanks for reading,
Several weeks ago I started noticing something odd about one of my coworkers. Wilma has been there almost as long as the Larry, the floor supervisor. She still smokes Lucky Strikes, drinks more coffee than I do and has that I-don't-give-a-damn attitude that I've always liked.
At least that's what I thought...
But lately, it seems like she went off the deep end. She became obsessed with her numbers, she would take eight new transactions before she would start completing them. She would leave her phone on all the time and never turn it off when she had too much to do. Then, she'd only take calls that would increase her numbers and pawn off all the informational calls on the rest of us.
The bad thing was, her production went up and her accuracy shot way down. She started making costly errors and the rest of us would either get caught with our pants down or start lying through our teeth to cover her sloppy work.
I was really starting to dread working with her. Before this change in her work habits, she was a really level headed agent. I went to her when I had questions and respected what she had to say. But after this Jekyl and Hyde transformation I just didn't like her anymore.
I mentioned this to one of the other agents who's tight with Wilma, and she explained what happened. The GM and Larry had called Wilma on the carpet and told her that her numbers needed to improve.
She's not too far from retirement, so it all made sense. It also made me mad. She's given many years to this place, they've always been able to count on her. She knows more about this business than any man here, and this is how they repay her, by hounding her in her last few years here.
Look, I know business is about numbers and profit. I also know that she could be a slacker at times. But this short sighted obsession with numbers is killing any chance we have of ever making this company profitable. There are times our mistakes have cost us all the money we made with those big numbers, but besides that, we're pissing customers off when we think its better to piss all of them off with crappy service than to satisfy as many as possible with quality service.
Thanks for reading,
I've been laughing my ass off reading this blog. Click the link above. This person works in a call center and every day picks the worst call of the day and blogs about it. Worth the click. Its already on the blogroll if you forget the link.
Thanks for reading,
It all started with a pen...
I left a pen in my pants and threw them in the dirty clothes. The sort of pen with a large liquid reservoir and a fine point. That same weekend my wife had bought two new outfits. A pair of pants and a pair of shorts that fit her better than anything had ever fit her before. Two hours later, the pen exploded in the wash and everything was ruined. Not just a couple of little spots, but large streaks on every piece of clothing.
She didn't just yell at me, she cried too.
At the moment, I felt incredibly low. I didn't care what happened at work, I didn't care if I ever got a paycheck again. I remembered how she is the most important person in my entire universe. Its a shame that it takes me being such a bonehead to remind me how much she means to me.
I've never been good at keeping friends long term. I seem to lose touch with people, not have time for them, or we just seem to drift apart for no good reason. I am very good at making acquaintances, but I have no friends that I hang out with every weekend. I've never figured out why this is, luckily, I do spend time with my family a lot.
This is what makes her so incredible. She's the one friend in my life that hasn't wandered away, or not had time for me. She's the one person who sees all the crap in my life, all the bad habits and all the incredibly messy humanness contained inside of me, and she still likes me. We still enjoy each others company. She still turns me on.
I may work in Purgatory, but at home, I live in Heaven.
Thanks for reading,
"Anonymous Investments, AC here, How can I help you?"
"Hi...I've got an account with your company. I recently invested in Overseas Anonymous Outsourcing Corporation. What rate of return should I expect after two years?"
"I don't know...It's going to vary on so many things."
"You mean you can't tell me what sort of return I'm going to get from my money?"
"Sorry...No one can without lying to you."
This wasn't word for word, but I actually fielded a question that was that stupid.
I don't know what sort mythical powers people think we have. I blame ON-STAR, Auto clubs, and 911 dispatchers for making us all appear more capable than we actually are. Let me burst a few bubbles about call centers their relationships with you:
1. We don't know who you are and where you are from just from the sound of your voice.
2. You called yesterday....So out of 200 phone calls I will remember you?
3. We don't know your life story and your personal financial history all the way back to when the lunch lady refused to give you credit for chocolate milk.
4. We can't forecast the future.
5. The pay here does not include enough to be your new best friend. There's a chance it could work out, but don't get your hopes up.
6. We weren't required to have a Masters degree to get this job. We might not have graduated from High School.
7. We were not bred in a secret lab with special empathy genes that make us care deeply about you.
8. We are not as incredibly tolerant to abuse as you think we are.
9. There are other people calling in needing help. You are not the center of the universe, I don't care what your Mom said...
10. You are not as interesting to others as you think you are. If you want to feel like everything you say is incredibly insightful, get a blog. It seems to work for some people.
Thanks for reading,
Stop reading my blog right now, and click the link above to go read an excellent blog by a call center supervisor.
But promise you'll come back right away after reading his/her stuff.
All the cool things seem to happen when I'm not around. A couple of weeks ago when I was home sick one of my coworkers named Gary had a huge fight during a meeting with Larry-our direct supervisor, the General Manager. One of the Human Resources Weasels sat in on the meeting also. So when I come back the next day, everybody was still talking about it. It took me a while to catch up. I would ask different coworkers and get a little more of the story every day. You have to make time to gossip in a call center, because you spend most of your time talking to customers. Finally, I got it straight from the source when I saw Gary outside of work and got him to tell me what really happened.
In some ways, Gary is the closest thing to a company man I know. He's fairly good at everything and really takes pride in his work. He's got two little girls at home that adore him. He's a tall guy in his mid twenties. His numbers are fantastic, from total transactions completed to customer surveys, this guy is smoking. That said, he's not perfect. He's late from time to time and takes days off he shouldn't, he can have a bad attitude sometimes too. But that seems to come standard with most of us.
The day I was out sick, Gary decided he wanted to change his schedule to make it easier to pick up his girls from school in the afternoon. The GM and Larry called him into the office to discuss and dropped a bomb on him. They had the HR guy in there for good measure.
"We cannot change your schedule, you have to leave it as it is.", Larry explained.
"With all of the extra work I do around here, you think you could grant me this one thing!" Gary responded.
"You got a paycheck for all that work, didn't you?", the GM asked.
"Yeah, I did. It was the same paycheck I've been getting for 5 years! No raise, no appreciation, but more work!"
It didn't get any better from this point on. Gary lost his cool and started shouting at the GM and Larry. I think the HR guy was spared any wrath. People in cubicles down the hall could hear him. Not only that, he busted out the F-Bomb and let it fly free and fast, like a flock of pigeons on a high fiber diet, it became very messy, very quick. He explained in clear, small, words his frustration with the current situation.
"Hold on Gary, you cussed at them and they didn't respond?" I asked.
"That's right, they didn't say anything."
I didn't know how to feel about this. I know the current situation makes us all feel like we are all more than entitled to better treatment, but I wonder if he might not have went over the top. I don't like how they run the place, that's a given. Yes, management here has the people skills of a nest of wolverines.
But how bad must they need employees to stay if they will let them scream obscenities at them and not respond, or even write them up? I can't imagine coming to work every day thinking, "Great, some guy who makes less than me is going to rip me a new one and I can't really do anything about it or I will lose more people I can't afford to replace." I know they have to be thinking, "If I could only fire this sorry son of a bitch. If only they would let me hire more people, this guy's ass would be grass. If only they would unfreeze the wages, I could give him a real reason to cry."
For the first time in a long time, I felt sorry for my supervisors...a little bit anyway.
Thanks for reading...
A couple of weekends ago I listened to an interview on Fresh Air on NPR. They interviewed an ATF agent who had infiltrated a motorcycle gang in order to gain information on them to later prosecute them.
He said that things became very confusing after while, and he could not tell the difference between these two sides of his personality. He said that for weeks on end, he was essentially a gang member. They were his buddies and friends, he drank with them and ate with them. They hugged him and told them they loved him when his Mom died.
Working at the call center I can really relate. No, my life is never in danger, but sometimes I feel like an informant. I've disguised my job enough, and the people and their names, that its very unlikely that anyone will ever find out. But, still, I feel kind of guilty telling stories about my coworkers when I have grown fairly fond of them. They all make me very angry and annoyed sometimes, but they also help me and are my friends. I watch their backs and they watch mine. I guess thats all fairly normal.
Now as far as management is concerned, I have no such guilt. There's never been any love lost there. Besides that, my coworkers may be selfish and petty from time to time, but they do give a damn about their fellow employees. I haven't seen that same human caring communicated from the people that sign our checks and yell when the phones back up though...
Thanks for reading,
Check out this great essay on the connection between beautiful women and politics. Whether you agree with it or not, it's well written and fun stuff.
It's not always the big things that mess up your day. It's not always when someone curses or yells at you that your day is shot to hell. Sometimes the smallest exchange between people causes the most painful sting.
I had just spent about 20 minutes setting up a transaction and I was pretty proud of it. All of my ducks were in a row, I had set it up perfect. Every field was filled out, every instruction clear as crystal, every thing authorized by the powers that be and all that was left was for it to be completed in the next hour and make the customer some money.
The last thing I had to do was advise the customer of the status. I tapped the numbers into the phone and sat back wishing I had three arms so I could give myself the uber-pat on the pack I thought I had earned.
"Hi, This is AC from anonymous investments. Can I speak to Roger please?"
"Yeah...this is Roger."
"Hi, I'm just calling to let you know I set up the transaction your boss requested. We'll call back in about an hour to give you a final accounting."
"Sure, you will. Everytime you guys call me, you promise you'll let us know if there's any problems. The last three times you guys haven't called back, or carried out anything the way it was requested."
I stopped for a second. Nothing I could say at this point would make any difference to this putz. Well, if that's the case, then at least I can remind him that he can't treat people like shit without getting some of the same back.
"Well, at least I'm being consistent with you. Do you think I'm saying these things simply to piss you off? I'm doing all I can to be truthful with you, but I guess none of that matters to you does it? Have a real nice day, Okay? **CLICK**!"
One of my co-workers said something the other day that sums up the headaches call center workers face:
"Why do these people all think they have the right to speak so badly to us? Sometimes its like we're not even human to them..."
Ok, this is not related to call centers in any way shape of form. If you're looking for insights into call center life, I'll probably have something tomorrow.
I've got one question that has been rolling around in my little pea-brain for some time... Does anyone ever buy anything from spam email? I never have. None of my friends have. Is there someone out there who is buying things from these guys? Sure, we all know there are stupid people all over the world, that's a self-evident fact. Everytime I stand in the check out line at Wal-Mart and see the Weekly World News and Soap Opera Digest, I realize not all of us are playing with a full deck.
But buying something from a spammer, someone who makes up fake messages and misleading subjects just to send you something you aren't interested in, tell me, is this really a merchant who is going to be trustworthy with your Visa card when you want to buy that Swedish Penis Enlarger your self-esteem thinks you can't live without? Buying from a spammer is like buying a "Rolix" watch from a guy in an overcoat standing between the alleys, except this time he walks into your house and keeps bothering you even though the last one you bought from him ran backwards and the gold tone turned your wrist green.
The way I see it, the people who make money at non-porn related spamming, must be the people who provide services and training to spammers, the people who sell them the email addresses and have multi-level-marketing seminars at the Holiday Inn.
I hate spam like I hate stupid,overbearing authority figures. It's the biggest waste of energy and bandwidth on the internet.
Now the actual meat product by Hormel called Spam, that I like. It's not bad grilled actually, especially over an open campfire and followed with some Bush's baked beans, Au Gratin Potatoes, cold Lime coolaid and Smores for desert.
But I digress....
Thanks for reading,
Click the title of this entry to go to an article in the New York times. The article is about a group blog set up for the employees of Los Alamos to air the their grievances with their director,George P. Nanos.
Click below to visit the blog in question:
I love breakfast.
I think I have mentioned that a time or two. I especially like eggs and all things bread-like. Bagels with schmears, biscuits with honey, whole-wheat and rye toast, Jiffy Corn Bread, even corn and flour tortillas, I'll eat anything except white Wonder bread (no taste at all in my opinion, I mean hell, it could have been squeezed out of a tube).
Early Sunday, while Mrs. Cog was still asleep, I rose to try something different. She doesn't share my obsession with a good fry-up. She has some monastic obsession with oatmeal I have found very hard to embrace. I like my eggs over-easy. I can't stand runny egg whites, it's like snot. But the yolk still needs to be mostly liquid so I have something to sop-up with my toast. Over the top of the eggs goes about a teaspoon of hot sauce.
I think I found the solution to my dilemma this time. This isn't healthy by a long shot, but damn, its tasty! I put about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 pats of butter in the pan and got it really hot. When I cracked the three eggs into the pan they started crackling and popping. A pinch of salt and lots of fresh ground black pepper went on top. In two minutes I flipped it and in two minutes more it was done. They were a golden brown like a fritter, but the yolk was still liquid and gooey.
While the eggs had been frying I had been toasting two slices of wheat bread in the toaster oven. After the eggs were on the plate I slathered the bread with butter and fried them butter side down in the hot frying pan. They came out the same wonderful golden brown as the eggs.
I finally sat down at the kitchen table with a glass of milk, a steaming mug of coffee, Louisiana hot sauce, the Sunday comics and big ole' smile of contentment...
It was outstanding. The whites were crunchy and subtle, but not hard. The toast sopped up the golden gravy better than ever and the hot sauce made it all mambo in my mouth. I enjoyed a caffeine buzz as I lingered over Garfield and Arlo and Janice. For that one moment in time, I felt extremely happy.
Thanks for reading,
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