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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!

What Part Of “I Cannot Personally Guarantee” Confused You?

, , , , , | Working | April 12, 2022

Years ago, when I worked in IT support, we had a company director who was quite “demanding”. I ended up being the only person in the office who dealt with him, mainly because our boss got fed up with him and nobody else had the patience to deal with him without getting angry.

One morning, this director phoned me with a query.

Director: “Hello, [My Name]. I need a favour. I have a friend who runs a charity teaching computer skills to children with disabilities, and he’s looking for a couple of old laptops. Do you have anything we can give him? I’ve cleared it with [My Boss].”

Me: “I’m not sure, to be honest. I know a couple of weeks ago we had two or three old laptops that had been decommissioned, but I don’t know if they’re still there or even if they still work.”

Director: “That will be perfect! Thank you!”

Me: “Now, hold on, [Director], I first need to look for them and test them. I cannot personally guarantee that we will have anything.”

Director: “Okay, well, have a look and let me know when you find them. I’ll be onsite later this afternoon.”

I ended up really busy and wasn’t able to get looking for the old laptops until after lunch. I checked all three of our storage areas — nothing! I even asked our SysAdmin, who confirmed that he’d taken one laptop for parts and the other two had likely been disposed of.

Of course, I tried phoning [Director] to tell him but got no answer.

Later that day, [Director] turned up.

Director: “Right, [My Name], what about these laptops you have for me?”

Me: “Well, [Director], unfortunately, I don’t have anything for you. I had a look in our storerooms, and everything we did have has either been salvaged for parts or disposed of.”

[Director] was angry at this point but not actually raising his voice.

Director: “You promised me that you had three laptops for me. I’ve promised my friend he could have them today!”

Me: “I didn’t actually promise you anything. I said we might have old laptops but I needed to check.”

Director: “This is not very professional. You’ve made me look bad in front of my friend, who does very important charity work.”

Me: *Thinking* “Well, why the h*** did you promise something like that to your friend?”

Me: *Out loud* “Well, [Director], I’m sorry about that.”

[Director] repeated his complaint about me being unprofessional and walked out of the office. As he left, our intern piped up:

Intern: “Maybe he shouldn’t make promises he can’t keep?”

This was just one of the many things [Director] did that caused me endless frustration in the process. But when he retired about six months before I left the company, I went to the retirement party, and just after receiving his retirement gift, he came over to see me, shook my hand, and apologised for being so demanding. In spite of my “unprofessionalism,” I clearly managed to stay in his good books!

A Fun Twist On “Cheeseburger With No Cheese”

, , , , , , , | Working | January 14, 2022

My restaurant offers table service, and staff takes orders on tablets. We choose the food but can type instructions to the chef, eg “fish & chips”, “no salt,” etc.

Customer: “What’s the soup of the day?”

Me: “Carrot and cumin.”

Customer: “No, I don’t like carrot or cumin, but I love the bread that comes with it. Can I just have the soup of the day, but only the scone, please?”

Me: “If you like. That will be out shortly.”

The soup of the day comes with a scone. However, I can’t find the scone separately on the tablet, so I enter it exactly as he asks. Our chef, from France, comes to me waving the docket that printed out.

Chef: “Hey, [My Name]? What is this h***? Is there something wrong with my English?”

He’s waving the docket from the kitchen.

Me: “Huh? Oh, you mean, ‘What the h*** is this?’ What’s the problem?”

Chef: “‘Soup of the day, no soup’? You wrote this? He wants an empty bowl?”

I speak a little French.

Me: “Nan… Ils veulent juste le pain qui reste après avoir emporté la soupe.” *Take away the soup, and they want the scone that is left.*

The chef is still confused but understanding.

Chef: “Okay, if that is what he wants.”

The boss has heard the commotion.

Manager: “What did you do this time, [My Name]?”

Me: “Guy at table seventeen just wants the scone from the soup dish. I entered it as a soup without any soup.”

Manager: “Let me check with him.”

Me: “I’m not kidding.”

To be fair to the boss, it’s exactly the sort of prank I would play if I knew the customer.

Manager: “I’m in charge, and if he doesn’t get what he asked for, I’ll have to deal with it!”

The boss comes back.

Manager: *To the chef* “All right, give him a scone.”

Chef: “‘Soup of the day, no soup.’ This is brilliant! I will keep this docket for my fridge at home.”

The customer got his scone. The bill got discounted, so he didn’t have to pay for a soup he didn’t order. Our tablets now list “scone” as a separate option.

Wasn’t Eggspecting That

, , , | Right | December 24, 2021

Our shop sells large appliances. I am showing a fridge freezer to an elderly lady, going through all the shelves and compartments. She spies the egg holder on one of the shelves.

Customer: “What’s that?”

Me: “That’s for your eggs.”

She looks at me as if I’d just admitted to mass genocide.

Customer:Eggs? In the fridge?

Me: “Yes, eggs can go in the fridge. I keep mine in the fridge.”

Customer: *Glares at me* “Oh, no. No, no, no. Young man, you never put eggs in the fridge.”

Then, she walked away without buying anything. That’s how I lost a sale because I told someone I keep eggs in the fridge.

Getting Through School Is A Taller Order For Some

, , , , , , , , , | Learning | December 17, 2021

I am a twenty-two-year-old woman who has always been unnaturally tall. I am currently 6’9” (2.05m), and when I was twelve I was 6’3” (1.95m)! Life is hard enough for a teenage girl, but in my case, it was worse because I was bullied for my height, and the teachers at my school (a middle-class all-girls grammar school) were generally never very good at dealing with issues like this.

As an example, when I was thirteen, my mother, unable to find shoes that fit me, had to buy boy’s shoes. Someone in my school found out about it and started calling me “Boyshoes”. This in turn led to the rumour that I was born male (I wasn’t), and of course, all the girls in my school had to see for themselves if this was true by touching my breasts (to “see if they were real”) and putting their hands up my skirt (to “see if I had a penis”). When my mother complained to the school, they said there was very little they could do. I guess they meant there was very little they were willing to do. My mother claimed that this was sexual harassment, but the school disagreed, saying it couldn’t be sexual harassment as it was an all-girls school and the perpetrators were girls. My mother went to a solicitor, who wrote to the school, and they finally did something.

On another occasion, my mother had been having trouble finding a uniform to fit me. I was tall, but I wasn’t skinny like some tall girls; I was curvy and heavyset, and buying a uniform sized for a girl my age was out of the question. She tried uniforms for seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds — I wasn’t even fourteen at this point — and although they did fit, the skirts were far too short.

The school’s uniform policy stated that the hem of the skirt should not come too far above the knee. This was measured by kneeling on the floor and measuring from hem to floor — the distance should not have been more than about two inches. In my case, it was closer to seven inches, and when I stood up, the skirt was well above my knee because my legs were so long! At this point, my mother gave up; the skirt fit, the jacket fit, and she’d found blouses that fit, so she was just going to send me to school, shorter skirt or not.

It wasn’t long before I got a detention for a “non-regulation uniform” and was told to come in the next day with a regulation-length skirt. The following day, I got another detention for “non-regulation uniform and failing to rectify this issue in a timely manner”. I also got a letter sent home with me, warning my mother that I would potentially be suspended if I turned up to school in non-regulation uniform again.

My mother was livid! She stormed up to the school and demanded to see the principal. She waved the letter in his face and demanded to know why the school was “picking on me”. The principal was uninterested and made some excuse about how “the school’s uniform policy is for everyone’s benefit”. My mother told the principal that the school’s official uniform supplier didn’t make uniforms for girls of my height and build, and that if I wasn’t left alone, she’d be taking further legal action.

The school never bothered me about my “non-regulation” uniform again.