Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Parting Shot

Frankie Boyle customer service...With frightening regularity I fantasize about tearing verbal strips off the many moany customers who visit my place of work. You know the types I mean: the complainers, the ne’er-do-wells, the jobsworths, the oiks, the various foulmouthed ruffians who pollute all societies with their continued existence.

Most of the time – in fact all of the time – I stick to company policy. I remain polite. I remain non-aggressive. I try to appease. I apologize where necessary. For the ruffians I am sometimes moved to call the police but that is (a) another story and (b) just self preservation.

But for the rest, particularly when they have been rude and unnecessarily superior, I have often wished in retrospect that I had been a little less mollifying. A little less obsequious. Yes, it has kept me in my job but it has darkened my soul somewhat and certainly damaged my self-esteem.

It would be nice not to give a damn one day and really lay into someone, give them the kind of tongue lashing that would turn Frankie Boyle’s hair white.

Yeah, well if you don’t like the state of the toilets why don’t you drag your sorry arse out to the local park and wipe your backside on a thorn bush you pisspoor excuse for a human being...!

Don’t talk to me like that you stuck up harridan, why don’t you take your stupid blue rinse out to the nearest soup kitchen and go and boil your head?

Marvellous.

Some days even a simple eff off would do.

My problem is I’d never have the balls to do it. I’d worry too much about getting into trouble or losing my job. The only time it would be possible would be during that glorious period of employment when, for whatever reason, you have handed in your notice and are working out your last week before moving onto pastures new. I mean what could they do? Sack you? Ha ha! I piss on your corporate sacking procedures!

And then it struck me. I did have the opportunity to do that once. Years ago.

The first job I ever had was as a telephone operator at British Telecom. What an utterly soul destroying job that was. I used to get sympathy from world weary vampires. A couple of months before I left I watched enviously as a colleague of mine worked out his notice. On his last day he went out at lunchtime and got blindingly drunk. When he came back for his last ever afternoon shift the air was peppered with four letter words and expletive combinations that would have made Frankie Boyle’s hair fall out. Callers were cut off, told to eff off and do things with their orifices that those orifices were never meant to do. The superiors could only look on white faced and let him go home early.

Absolutely ruddy fantastic I thought. I shall have some of that when my time comes.

But did I?

Did I hell.

No, on my last shift I remained as polite and professional as ever. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not even a “go boil your head” passed my lips.

What an idiot!

*Sigh*

Looking back on it I blame my extreme youth, nervousness, fear of authority and general callowness. All qualities that I have gradually shed over the intervening years. Now I think my tongue would dissolve in the acid I could muster.

No job is for life these days, they say, so sooner or later I’ve got another last day coming to me. When that day comes stay out of Leamington, my friends, stay out of Leamington...


29 comments:

Rol said...

I've written a variety of speeches that I intend to deliver on the day I finally escape this gulag... but part of me thinks a bigger man would go quietly, a professional to the end.

No, fuck that...

Steve said...

Rol: too right. And what a fab idea. Yes... preparation. Rehearsal. Maybe even personal letters to everyone. Hmm. I might run with this.

The Crow said...

(O)

Steve said...

The Crow:

>:¬}

Gina said...

No, I've never done it either.

I did once swear at the VP on the phone. We had been messing about in the office, ringing other members of the dept and pretending to be important people saying outrageous things. I answered the phone in the midst of this fun and there was a voice purporting to be the VP. "Aha," I thought, "they are not going to trick me." The person pretending to be the VP said something about research training, and I interrupted immediately with "you can fuck off about the research training" and slammed the phone down.

I went out to the main office all pleased with myself only to find out that it had been the VP after all. Oops!

Steve said...

Gina: ouch. That happened once to a work colleague here where I work too. She took a call and erroneously thought it was a mate having a wind-up and launched into some very inappropriate chatter... only to realize a few seconds later that the caller was in fact a genuine customer who was less than removed. I think strong words were delivered from "those upstairs"... hope you didn't get into too much trouble regarding your little faux pas!

KAZ said...

Completely understandable Steve.
At least you had the fun of writing this.
At the age of 50 - on the last day of my job as a responsible middle manager - I set off a fire alarm so that the new senior managers had to abandon their champagne celebration and shiver on the street.
Childish or what?

Steve said...

Kaz: if "what" is code for superlatively masterful I'll go with the "what" as opposed to the "childish". All may be fair in love and war but anything goes in business.

French Fancy said...

Well Steve, we have a bond - I too was an operator for BT. This is years ago, at the post office tower. I too was always polite, although a big group of us did take a lot of pleasure in listening in to calls to some of the brothels in Soho. I know, shocking, eh? Nosy old telephone operators!

Then I got put on 999 calls which wasn't half as much fun - so I left.

You can't change your nature, my friend. If one is polite and helpful you can never really turn into Mr Nasty - even when working notice. Stay as you are - lovely.

English Rider said...

Knowing that you chose the high road can be worth swallowing some bile.
One polite but very satisfying response I have learned to use when faced with disagreable clients is "Thank you sooo much for sharing that with me" followed by a forced smile. No one can call you rude but it is a response that burns the deserving recipient.

Steve said...

FF: those years at BT were the most miserable of my life - not a great introduction to the world of employment. As for my nature, there is a dark side just waiting to run amuck I can tell you...! ;-)

English Rider: he he! I can see the value of that little snippet of good advice and will now actively seek out situations in which I can use it...!

Steve said...

Gina: that should have read "a genuine customer who was less than amused".

Selina Kingston said...

Thing is, that dark side you refer to is what we all identify with. But you are so lovely that I suspect, like most people, nothing too awful would pass those lips. Seething rage is better left hissing and snarling within us - it never comes out right in temper anyway

Steve said...

Selina: I've read that negative things are much better out than in... maybe I ought to take up primal scream therapy so I can vent my manly rage in a way that causes harm to none, least of all my-good-self?

Deirdre said...

after 30 years of behaving just like you Steve I am hanging on to the hope that ONE of the things I will enjoy about my wished for mahoosive lottery win will be just SAYING IT LIKE I WANT TO to my bosses, some colleagues, and the general public......but I suspect I won't.....win/say it as I wish...

missbehaving said...

I think the fantasy of it would be so much better than the reality.
You're a nice guy, I think if you actually did let it go on someone you'd beat yourself about it afterwards.

Steve said...

Deirdre: ah yes, the great big Lottery win. That's the other opportunity for unleashing "extreme honesty" upon the world... Lord, how I fantasize about that. Wouldn't that be great? I think I'd even go so far as to wave a great wad of £50 notes under the noses of those who have annoyed me: "Yaaa! Eff you! Loadsamoney (etc)!" Alas, the chances of that becoming a reality are so minimal as to be laughable.

MissBehaving: you're right. I would. I'd lay into myself. And that feel guilty and bad about that too. I'd fall into an endless cycle of self-torment which would eventually lead to depression and psychosis and then me taking everyone out with a sawn-off shotgun. It wouldn't be pretty. Maybe I'd just better stick to the company rules regarding conduct?

Löst Jimmy said...

Suffice to say I know EXACTLY what you are talking about Steve, I've had 8 years of it, and as Jack Regan once said 'a bellyful'

Heather said...

I used to work as a holiday rep and spent half my waking day being screamed at my angry tourists - the other half I was hiding in the loo.
I sympathise. sometimes it is so hard to keep your mouth shut and yeah, a small piece of you seems to die each time you let them get away with that sort of behaviour.

The Sagittarian said...

Like others, I can't quite picture you delivering a blistering address but I am almost certain that a few Italian suppository remarks would be made (you know, innuendo...)

Steve said...

Löst Jimmy: whenever I have to remove an undesirable from the public toilets I am often tempted to use another of Jack Regan's famous quotes: get your trousers on, you're nicked.

Heather: holiday repping sounds like the job from hell. Just thinking about it has made me review my own job and I now think I've got it pretty easy.

Amanda: alas, innuendo is lost on the stupid and the obtuse and, therefore, on most of the populace of Leamington Spa...! ;-)

Brother Tobias said...

So tempting. A deranged member of the public once shouted at me at a planning exhibition in Whitstable library, "I hope you die". But there's nothing worse than someone running a workplace down at their leaving presentation. However true, it makes the ones left behind feel like complete losers.

Steve said...

Brother T: now I'm doubly sold.

(Only joking)

femminismo said...

Too funny, all of this! But I think we all would end up berating ourselves -- we "nice" people who don't like to offend. How about feigning a hearing loss or a stopped-up ear to make "those people" have to shout their ridiculous complaints??? Hmm. I might use this one.

Steve said...

Femminismo: alas, these people often need no or little incentive to shout the first time round...!

Gypsy said...

I once worked for the Public Service Dept and I've come across just about every low life God or the Devil ever put breath into.

Sadly my self control did desert me once or twice. I remember one lady coming into the office and going off her nut at me because her blocked drain hadn't yet been fixed. The whole barrage of abuse was liberally peppered with the f-word and she had a small child with her. I managed to keep my voice even (not that I could get a word in edgewise mind you) until she called me a name that no-one in their right mind would ever call me. Starts with a C and ends with a T.

I didn't say a word....just turned my back, walked away and refused to go back until she had left. She had to cool her heels for a good 5 minutes before anyone else would go and see her and was by that time suitably chastened and feeling more than a little foolish I suspect.

I did get into trouble of course but as I explained to my superior, "you don't pay me enough to take that kind of shit". Point taken.

Steve said...

Gypsy: "you don't pay me enough to take that kind of shit" - yes. My point exactly. let's design the T-shirt right now!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Brilliant post Steve.

I too am a fellow sufferer of terminal politeness. And now I am being made to do a Customer Service NVQ Level 3 which can only make me even worse!

By the way, have you noticed the increasing number of signs in banks etc saying things along the lines of 'Notice. Our staff will not serve abusive customers' So it is obviously a growing problem if customers need continually reminding of such a simple fact. Even my own workplace has it as part of their policy and we are told to tell the customer we are terminating the call on the grounds of unreasonable or abusive behaviour.

If you do not have similar enshrined in your own policy at work, perhaps you should suggest that it is time in your next team meeting.

If you don't win the Lottery first of course. And I'm sure you've already got signs in every loo saying 'Please leave these facilities as you would wish to find them and use hygiene bins provided'

Steve said...

Laura: alas, all of our polite notices are usually ripped from the walls within hours, used as makeshift toilet paper and then strewn around the floor... People, they're animals, I tell you! Animals!