Working at a call center is an experience you will never forget. You talk to every cross-section of humanity at their best and at their worst – and that’s just the employees! One call center I worked in was for an Internet Service Provider, and was extremely liberal. I mean EXTREMELY! There was often a keg in the break room. Team meetings included margarita chugging contests as “team builders.” Halloween costumes were worn by employees year round. In fact, after a staff meeting when the boss commented on the dress code saying, “I don’t care if you show up to work in a Speedo, as long as you take good care of our customers,” four employees took him up on that the next day – including one woman.
Groups of call center workers would sometimes walk down the hall singing (to the tune of “Sixteen Tons”):
- “You answer sixteen-hundred phone calls, and what do you get?
Another cup of coffee and another cigarette.
Big boss he comes to get me, but I can’t go.
I’ve got to buy a T-Shirt at the company store.”
We had language experts in many of the standard disciplines (Spanish, French, etc.) and in many that were more exotic, including Navajo, Klingon, and ancient Latin. (That last one was me. Heh.) Decorations in the cubes included kimonos hanging on hooks, pet tarantulas, a beta fish swimming in a blender, and even a large bullwhip. There were several pet hamsters who wandered around the call center in their exercise balls during the day, being collected by their owners and returned to their cages at the end of the shift. When one of the hamsters had babies, the entire office shut down for several hours to throw a baby shower. There was a haiku contest one week with a grand prize of a $100 gift certificate to the nearby Mexican restaurant (where many a margarita was consumed) as the prize. The winning entry was:
- “The customer calls.
He is a fucking dumb-ass.
I still say ‘Yes, sir’.”
This liberalism wasn’t confined to just this office. The corporate headquarters would foot the bill for tattoos, auto or home paint jobs, haircuts, branding, or piercings that incorporated the company logo, and sold logo-emblazoned nipple rings in the company store. All you needed to do was send them a picture of the finished product and the receipt and you were reimbursed on your next paycheck. They even paid for a company soiree with dinner and entertainment that included a hypnotist who would mesmerize various employees and make them French kiss one another.
Once, when a customer called in he made the following odd complaint. “Y’all need to change that dang hold music. I mean, jeee-zus. man. Play some country western or Lynyrd Skynyrd or some shit like that. Not this classy vee-oh-linn shit.”
There was a supervisor there named “Rolph” who was from Germany and had a thick German accent. The call was transferred to Rolph, who listened to the customer’s complaint for several minutes. He then replied (in an even thicker accent than usual), “Sir, I have not listened to our hold music for some time. I will have to put you on hold to listen to it.” He then put the customer on hold for twenty minutes. The customer was surely fuming as he listened to the music that he had specifically called in to complain about. When he returned to the customer, Rolph addressed the customer’s complaint with a music history lesson.
“Sir, the music you just listened to is one of the most beautiful and haunting melodies that Beethoven ever created. At this point in his career, his hearing was failing, and it is an amazing feat that he was able to create this piece from his memory of sound. Beethoven is recognized as one of the most passionate and emotional of the composers of the Classical era. In fact, he bridged the gap between the Classical period and the Romantic period…” and he went on and on until the customer hung up.
A recording of this call was immediately transferred to a CD and played over the intercom system for the entertainment of all of the employees.
When an earthquake occurred at the call center, a recording was saved of a female employee screaming and moaning on the line as she cowered under her desk. This recording was later used as the sound for a video of a male employee masturbating in a way that matched up with her yodeling cries. (Thankfully, his hoo-hoo was pixelated.) It was emailed to the entire staff and then shared as part of a slide show at a company awards dinner.
You may be wondering how any work got done in this office. Well, there were plenty of occasions when productivity was not what it should have been. But there was not a single employee who would have quit for all the tea in China, and no one ever called out sick because they didn’t want to miss any of the shenanigans. I’m sure there are lessons to be learned here (most of which would make an MBA cringe) but all-in-all, it was an entertaining place to work.