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Oh, That’s Reeeeal Mature

, , , , , , , | Legal | February 20, 2023

This story happened many years ago, before I was married, when I was living on my own in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

It was a Sunday morning, and I was walking from my house down to the church I was going to at that time.

As I walked along, I passed a group of three young people — two fellas and a girl — who couldn’t have been older than about thirteen or fourteen. The girl was sitting on a step outside a shop, and the two fellas were leaning against a wall. As I passed them, the girl looked up at me pleadingly.

Girl: “’Scuse me, mister! Would you go into that shop and get us a pack of smokes?”

Me: “No, I’m sorry, but I can’t do that.”

Girl: *Looking frustrated* “Why not?”

I glanced at each of the three in turn and then looked back to the girl.

Me: “Because if you’re young enough to still be calling people ‘mister’, then you’re far too young to be smoking cigarettes!”

I walked on. But the girl hadn’t finished yet, and from behind me, I heard:

Girl: “Aye, well, f*** you, then, mister!”

Second (And Third, And Fourth) Verse, Same As The First

, , , , , , , | Friendly | January 13, 2023

It’s 2004. I am a student living in an apartment in the noisy student quarter of Belfast, Northern Ireland. I have just arrived home from a busy day at university, and I’m hungry. I go into the kitchen and start looking around, figuring out what I’m going to eat.

The phone rings. I go and answer it, and it’s an elderly lady.

Elderly Lady: “Hello, could I speak to [Person]?”

The person’s name doesn’t even sound REMOTELY like mine.

Me: “I’m sorry, you have the wrong number.”

Elderly Lady: “No. I want to speak to [Person].”

Me: “Yes, you said. But you have the wrong number. Nobody with that name lives here.”

Elderly Lady: “Oh.” *Hangs up*

I look at my phone, and the caller display indicates that I have TWENTY missed calls — all from the same number, which I don’t recognise and which isn’t in my contacts. I also have FOUR voicemails, so I listen to them, and they’re ALL from the same elderly lady wanting to speak to someone with a name that is nothing like mine!

I walk back to the kitchen and continue preparing my food. The phone rings again, so I go and answer it.

Me: “Hello?”

It’s the elderly lady again!

Elderly Lady: “Hello? I want to speak to [Person], please.”

Me: “Okay, look, I’ve told you already. There’s nobody here called [Person]. I suggest you check the number you’re dialing because you have the wrong number.”

Elderly Lady: “Oh.” *Hangs up*

I put the phone down and go back to the kitchen. I’m slightly bemused by the whole thing but not yet angry.

A few minutes later, you guessed it — PHONE!

I go to answer it, NOW starting to get frustrated and sound angry.

Me: “Hello?!”

No prizes for guessing who it is!

Elderly Lady: “[Person], please. I’d like to speak to [Person].”

I’m trying REALLY hard not to lose my temper.

Me: “Look! There is nobody here called [Person]! Do you understand that? You have the wrong number! Go and check that you have been given the right number. Please don’t call me again.”

She hangs up without saying anything.

I put the receiver down quite hard this time and go back to the kitchen. I manage to get my meal started and it’s cooking when — yes, you guessed it again — the bloody phone rings!

This time, I’m furious. I feel my anger rising as I storm across to the phone. I snatch up the receiver.

Me: “WHAT?!”

This time, it’s a different voice — a man’s voice.

Man: “Hello, would [Person] be there, please?”

I can’t take it anymore. I snap.

Me: “Okay, what the h*** is wrong with you people? I have already explained to the elderly lady who’s been phoning me that there is nobody called [Person] living here! You have the wrong number! Go and check the number you’ve been given—” *I scream this last part* “—AND STOP CALLING ME! I’M SICK AND TIRED OF IT!”

Man: *Sounding mortally offended* “Well, I’m sorry. There’s no need to be so abrupt!

He hung up before I could say anything else. I walked back to the kitchen and finished cooking. Nobody else phoned for the rest of the evening.

Looking back, I really don’t like the fact that I lost my temper and screamed at someone. But seriously? You’d think that after being told THREE TIMES that it was the wrong number, they’d have gotten the message!

A Dead-End Is Better Than This Weirdness

, , , , , , , , | Working | May 6, 2022

In early 2016, I quit a dead-end job in a call center and was looking for new pastures or at least a way to pay my bills. A certain company was recruiting for a sales team, and I figured I’d give it a go. I mean, if nothing else, a year and a half in customer service had sure fine-polished my gift of the gab.

The interview went fine — so much so that they excused me for ten minutes and then invited me back in to offer me the position. In retrospect, that should’ve been my first warning sign — who hires someone based on a fifteen-minute chinwag and ten minutes of deliberation? But oh, well.

I showed up on my first day for the contract signing, and it was then revealed that we’d be working on commission only. This should’ve been my second warning sign because if I don’t make any sales on a certain day, I don’t eat that day.

We then went off to a morning meeting in what they called “the Atmosphere Room”. This meeting consisted of everybody pairing up in twos and practicing the (near-identical) sales pitch on each other — with a boombox blasting loud dance music at the same time. According to the trainers, this was to “motivate us to talk loudly and confidently”. I was a bit skeptical, but I didn’t want to be “that guy,” so I played along nicely.

Then, we actually got off to work. It turned out we’d be doing “campaigns in residential areas” — which I quickly learnt was door-to-dooring — so as to recruit benefactors for a cancer fund/research organisation. “Commendable purpose, if nothing else,” I thought to myself. But I soon wised up.

For starters, said organisation had no operations in Northern Ireland (NI), so that alone made it tough to tickle anyone’s interest. Moreover, NI already had a variety of local organisations and hospices doing an amazing job. Lastly, I was no sales expert, but even I knew that knowing your demographic group is key. I also knew that NI was still shaky and divided despite the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, and saying the wrong word at the wrong place at the wrong time could still get you into a heap of trouble.

With that in mind, it’d make sense to focus only on Protestant/Unionist areas, right? Nope. We’d be sent off to random neighbourhoods with no regard for sectarian division. Now, imagine walking into a staunch Catholic/Republican area, asking people to donate to a London-based English organisation that doesn’t even operate in NI. In retrospect, I believe it was only my non-Irish/non-Ulster accent that saved me from major carnage. (“Ach, some weird Caneedien or Austreelien… Lad don’t kno’ any bettur!”)

The trainers kept telling us that for every thirty doors knocked, we’d be invited into thre homes, and out of those three we’d perhaps make one sale — in plain English, a conversion rate of 3%. We shouldn’t be discouraged but instead be more assertive and positive. We were expected to cover 100 to 150 households during one ten-hour day in the field, while keeping a tally of the number of houses visited, doors answered, invitations inside, and sales closed. After we’d visited the last house, we were to return to point of origin and revisit all houses that hadn’t answered the door the first time. After Round Two, it was lunch — which, by the way, wasn’t company-paid, so everyone had to find something on their own. With a very limited selection of shops and food outlets in no man’s land, it always ended up being overpriced fast food. On average, I’d spend £4 to £5 on lunch each working day. And unless one of the trainers would take us in their car to our respective patches that day, bus tickets were, too, funded by us. A day ticket in Belfast was £4 back then if memory serves.

At the office itself, things were getting more and more ludicrous. We were not allowed to drink beverages of any sort in the “Atmosphere Room”, and we weren’t allowed to go near the reception area if there were visitors in the waiting area. (They probably didn’t want us to warn inadvertently any “new fish” about this whole madhouse.)

On my fourth day, I started crunching some serious numbers. If, best-case scenario, I’d close a deal with 3% of the households visited, and each sale gave a commission of £2, I’d have to knock on 200 doors a day just to cover lunch and bus tickets that day! Never mind rent and utilities that whole month! There are only so many residential areas in NI! 

The drop that finally tipped the scale, though, was when I’d just returned to the office one evening. The dress code mandated trousers and a dress shirt, and as it’d been a fairly warm summer’s day, I was beat and rather dehydrated. Toilet facilities were scarce in the field, so everyone tried to limit their fluid intake.

As I still had a soda left in my backpack, I helped myself to it. One of the trainers walked by, and I jovially raised the can in a sort of toast. She flipped! What was I doing here? I wasn’t supposed to be out here drinking soda, but instead, I should be in “Atmosphere” to deliver the final tallies! I was like, “Gee, hold yer horses; I only got just in like thirty seconds ago!”, but she’d have none of it. 

And that’s when I left. I couldn’t even be bothered to hand in a formal resignation. I just left and never came back. Rack off, ya collection of lunatics!

A Tale About Topping Up Is About To Go Down

, , , , , | Right | November 18, 2020

I have just arrived at work at the phone store, and there is an elderly couple waiting to be seen. I walk over.

Me: “Do you need any help?”

Elderly Woman: *Exclaiming* “Your company is a sham! You’re trying to con innocent pensioners out of their money!”

Me: *Confused* “What is the problem?”

Elderly Woman: “We were in store a couple of days ago to get a £10 top-up put on our phone. We gave you a top-up card, and the money didn’t go onto the phone!”

I check the receipt confirmation and the number of the top-up card they have is mismatching to the one on the receipt.

Me: “Do you have another top-up card with you that might have been used accidentally?”

Elderly Woman: *Firmly* “No!”

They continue to complain the whole time I am on the phone to our customer care team as they try to work out what phone the money has gone on to. They end up telling me there is nothing they can do, and it is up to the store to fix it.

My manager at the time has been listening in and is annoyed at their outburst. He comes over.

Manager: “I will give you a new top-up.”

This is just to get them to leave the store. The woman goes to open her purse to pull out her loyalty card to get the points, and he points toward one of the cards inside. Lo and behold, there is another top-up card sitting in there, its number matching the one on the earlier receipt.

They had given my colleague the wrong top-up card. I had spent over an hour trying to fix a problem that could’ve been resolved if the customer had just checked her purse in the first place.

The woman said she was embarrassed and that she’d never usually get angry and have an outburst like that. She quickly apologised, telling us what great staff the company had — even though she complained about my colleague the whole time, calling her incompetent — and they quickly left with their tails between their legs.

All Of Europe Is Just North Africa

, , , , | Right | November 15, 2020

I work in a phone shop. A woman comes in:

Customer: *Demanding* “Why is my phone bill more expensive this month?!”

I take a look into her account.

Me: “It’s due to international roaming. At the moment, our customers can travel anywhere in the EU and use their phone at no extra charge. Countries outside the EU, such as Canada, Australia, the USA, etc., are not included, so would start to charge the extra. Have you been abroad?”

Customer: “I went to South Africa for a couple of weeks.”

Me: “This is the reason why you were charged extra.”

Customer: *With bewilderment* “South Africa is within Europe!”

Me: “No, it isn’t.”

The customer lets out a surprised gasp.

I can no longer take her seriously and find it hard to keep a straight face. As if this isn’t enough, she goes on to complain that the bank changed her password for her banking app without her consent — highly unlikely — and asks if I can do anything about it.

Me: “We are a mobile network provider, and thus can’t look into apps, especially those including sensitive information such as banking.”

The woman gives a sound between a laugh and cry, and from what I can see, she is starting to have a mini-breakdown. She quickly got up, exclaiming she would go to the bank, and walked quickly out of the store.