Moving to the Niagara region has been a real eye opener. All or most of the old smokestack industry has shut down and now the dominant employers are call centers. I’ve been here only a month and a half now and the first three to four weeks were all about settling in and getting all my personal effects properly put in place, getting the cable and internet hooked up and working properly, putting up shelves, stuff on walls, hooking up appliances, and so on.

Once that was done, I turned to getting my car fixed up to drive on Ontario roads. Got insurance, changed the ownership papers, license, smog check, safety check, the works. Got home insurance, applied for unemployment, prescription medication and health insurance. It took a whole month to get it all done.

Once I was finished, I was nearly broke and had already used up most of my savings and had even had to borrow some money from a friend to make the October rent. So I got busy and started seriously looking for work. I quickly realized that the call centers were the places who were hiring most often because there was such a high turnover and the pay was so lousy and obviously the work itself was not all that great, based on my own previous experiences working in call centers as well as everything else one hears about these high-tech digitalized electronic globalized sweatshops.

But I applied nonetheless because I needed to eat and pay the rent. Of course I got in and am now in my fourth week at one of the major call centers in the Niagara region doing customer service for a major Canadian retailer, who shall remain nameless. I’m still in training but have already started to take live calls with backup from the ‘floor support’ people who help us with questions we have. All the people in floor support are really, well, supportive and patient with us, but the customers sometimes aren’t.

So far I’ve been yelled at at least twice, had my intelligence openly questioned once, as well as sundry surly and disgruntled customers make off the cuff remarks about various aspects of the service they get. Not that it’s all negative. I’ve had a few people thank me and say that I’ve been very helpful, which is nice. But we are closely monitored by machines, cameras, and a quality department in a far-off Asian country who sometimes buzz me from thousands of kilometres away when I’m in between calls, trying to log what I said to my last customer in my notes, that I’ve been off the phone for too long and to get back on the phone!!!

Holy kadoodle!!! Talk about Big Brother!!! That’s when I noticed three of the buttons on my phone had peculiar markings on them. One said ‘Explode’; the other said ‘Patrick Swayze’ and the last one said ‘Rabies’. Great, I said to myself. I guess if I get too stressed out I can press the ‘Explode’ button and my chair will explode upwards like the ejector seat in a fighter jet and I’ll be released from the pressure cooker of the boiler room in the call center. I guess some previous agent with a perverse sense of humour who was bored during a late-night shift had decided he was going to amuse himself.

Or maybe it was a she. Because the second one said ‘Patrick Swayze’. Does this mean some woman agent was bored and started fantasizing about some ‘80s movie she saw? Maybe she thought that if she pressed the ‘Patrick Swayze’ button, ol’ Pat would materialize before her eyes and start ‘Dirty Dancing’ with her or something?

The third one was kind of hard to figure out. ‘Rabies?’ Like, does this mean that if I press that button a rabid dog will appear, bite me and I’ll contract rabies and have to go to the hospital? I’m not sure if that would be an improvement on the call center, but hey, you never know, I might meet Patrick Swayze in the waiting room and we can explode upwards while doing some Dirty Dancing!!!

Have a good one folks, don’t work too hard!!!!

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One comment on “CALL CENTER BLUES
  1. glenharriet says:

    All the very best Peter.


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