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Putting The Witch In Switchboard

, , , , | Right | September 17, 2021

I work as a telephone operator for an external switchboard company. We provide telephone and scheduling services for a number of companies who, for various reasons, do not have their own telephone operators.

Many of our clients are small, one-person contracting firms, where the owner is out all day and doesn’t have time to answer the phone. Most of them are in male-dominated fields, and people who call them and reach me assume they are talking to “the girl in the office.”

Every company has its own policy for how they want us to handle cold callers; the most common is to instruct them to send an email or to take a message. Telemarketers can be pretty aggressive when they don’t get their way:

Me: “Welcome to [Company]. How can I help you?”

Cold Caller: “I want to speak to the owner.”

Me: “He’s not in the office right now. Can I take a message?”

Cold Caller: “No, just put me through to him right now; it’s urgent.”

Me: “I can take a message and ask him to call you back. May I have your name and what this is referring to?”

Cold Caller: “No, just put me through already. He’s going to want to talk to me.”

Me: “Sir, the owner is probably standing on a roof somewhere right now. It’s not safe for him to answer his phone. I can take a message or you can send him an email.”

Cold Caller: “That’s ridiculous. I’m about to save him a lot of money. He’ll be so mad that you won’t put me through. Do you like your job?”

This client is one of my favourites because he’s always appreciative of our services and frequently thanks us for doing such a good job. His customers are also very nice and understanding of the fact that they can’t always reach him, so I know that this guy is not legit. Therefore, I decide to use the magic words: “company policy”.

Me: “I can’t put you through. For safety reasons, it’s company policy not to call the owner when he’s on a job.”

Cold Caller: “That’s ridiculous. It’s just because you’re a girl that you won’t put me through. Let me talk to a man, instead.”

Me: “There are no men available to take your call right now. You may leave a message or send an email.”

Cold Caller: “Do you know what? If you’d been a man, you would’ve put me through! I hate women; you’re all switchboard witches!'”

Me: “If I’d been a man and put you through, I still would’ve broken company policy. Have a good day.” *Click*

From then on, my colleagues and I proudly referred to ourselves as “switchboard witches” when we were talking to each other.

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How Do These People Operate Their Cars To Get To Work?!

, , , , , | Working | September 15, 2021

I work at a small library branch where I have become, through no fault of my own, responsible for IT and technical issues. I have no formal training; I’m just the normal amount of tech-savvy for my generation, having grown up with computers and smartphones, while most of my coworkers are quite a bit older than me.

I’m a problem-solver at heart, so I don’t mind helping out, but there are a few coworkers who frustrate me to no end, because they will not even TRY to understand when I explain to them how to troubleshoot small problems like, “Have you tried turning it off and turning it on again?”

The first year I work at this branch, it is finally time to go on summer vacation. Joy and celebration, a whole four weeks where I can just mind my own business!

I know that there are probably going to be technical issues while I am away because there always are, so I sit down and write a long list of things that might happen, how to deal with those things, and who to call if said things do not resolve themselves on their own. I make sure that everyone who will be working during my vacation has read the list and understood it, I make sure that there are copies of the list everywhere, I make it clear that I will probably be unreachable for most of my vacation, and I leave a list of numbers to call in case something happens that is not on the list.

Then, I go on vacation. It is fantastic and I have a great time. Then, the last weekend before I am supposed to go back to work, I log into my work mail, just to check what happened while I was gone and what I will have to deal with on my first day back. I find a long string of increasingly annoyed emails from my boss, who is stationed at the main branch, about how I should have made sure everything was functioning correctly before I went on vacation.

I get back to work and find out that, two weeks into my vacation, there was a power outage. This apparently caused some kind of glitch that made our self-checkout machine stop working. As a result, my coworkers had spent the past two weeks checking everything out manually and they were not happy.

Coworker: “[My Name], finally! You need to fix this now. It’s been impossible to work like this.”

Me: “Ooookay? Did you look at my checklist at all?”

Coworker: “There was nothing on there about what we were supposed to do if the power went out.”

Me: “Did you look at step number one?”

Step number one for everything is, of course, “Turn it off and turn it on again.”

Coworker: “I don’t know how to do that! That’s what we have you for!”

I crawl under the self-checkout machine, turn it off, and turn it on again. While waiting for it to start up, I turn back to my coworker.

Me: “So, that’s how you do that, just like I showed everyone before I left. I have to ask though, did anyone call IT for help? Or the library system supplier? This is literally what they’re for, and the numbers are right there in the checklist.”

Coworker: “But you’re the one who deals with those people. We don’t know how to do all this technical stuff.”

Me: “If you call IT, they will tell you exactly how to do all this ‘technical stuff’. They are very nice people, I promise.”

Coworker: *Huffily* “Well, it’s still your job.”

The self-checkout machine started up again, connected to the servers, and worked perfectly within five minutes. I went back to my desk to try to apologize to my boss and explain in the kindest possible words that my coworkers were technical disasters who were incapable of following simple instructions. 

I tried to bring up the issue at the next staff meeting, but the general consensus among my coworkers was that I should just be on call for technical issues whenever I had time off. I said fine, as long as I got the appropriate pay rise. The boss said no. I did not stay much longer at that workplace.

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If The World Revolves Around Him, So Do The Directions

, , , | Right | September 10, 2021

I work as a librarian in a public library on the outskirts of a Swedish city; let’s call it Westside Library. In Sweden, we have a huge online directory called the Swedish word for “find.” A man in his sixties approaches me at the reference desk looking very upset.

Patron: “Your library is not in ‘Find’; you need to fix that.”

Me: “Are you sure? Let me have a look.”

I go to “Find”, type “Westside Library” in the search bar and, sure enough, we are there to find. I turn my computer screen toward him and point it out.

Patron: “That’s not your name!”

Me: “I’m sorry, sir, but that is most definitely our name.”

Patron: “No, it is not! When I typed ‘Southside Library,’ you were not in ‘Find’!”

Me: “Sir, we have never been called anything other than ‘Westside Library’ since we opened in the mid-1970s. Just because we changed our location six years ago, that doesn’t mean we also changed our name.”

Patron: “Well, you should be called ‘Southside Library’ and you should be in ‘Find’!” *Storms out.*

Sure, we shall rename our name for the past forty-five years on your say-so, mister.

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A Cubic Meter Of Unrealistic Expectations

, , , | Right | September 8, 2021

I work in a building material store in a chain that owns its own forests and sawmills, so part of the parent company’s focus is on selling wood products we processed in-company. As such, one part of the parent company grows and harvests lumber, another processes the lumber into a multitude of wood products, and the last part, where I am, sells it to customers in-store along with other building materials.

I’m answering the phone at the cash register. Due to a stutter, I normally avoid saying the name of my small town when I answer the phone. That could explain some of the following, but certainly not all.

Me: “You’ve reached [Company] building material store; my name is [My Name].”

Caller: “Hi, yeah I was wondering if I could get the price for a cubic meter of lumber.”

This is the first time I’ve gotten that question and I’ve worked here for many years. We sell wood panels and such by meter or square meter, so I’m a little confused.

Me: “Sorry, did you say you wanted a price for a cubic meter of lumber?”

Caller: “Yes, exactly.”

Me: *Confused* “Okay… You are aware you have called [Company] Building Material store in [T-T-Town]?”

Caller: *Getting impatient* “Yeah, exactly.”

Me: “Hmm, okay, well, I don’t have that information. That would probably be a question for [Company] Wood Harvesting or [Company] Wood Processing—”

Caller: *Interrupting* “What do you mean, you don’t have that information?!”

Me: “As I said, you have called [Company] Building Material store in [Town that is several hours away from HQ and sawmills of Company].”

Caller: *Getting angry* “So, why don’t you have that information? All I want is the cubic meter price for lumber!”

Me: “Because we… I would have to look up who you should contact for this, Maybe I can take your number or email and pass them along to the right people?”

Caller: “No, forget it. I will call someone who knows what they’re doing!”

Me: *Trying to recover* “Okay, but I can take your information and send it to someone who knows the right person to contact if you want?”

Caller: “No, it’s too late. I will call someone else. Bye!” *Click*

I get that the first part of [Company]’s name is the same, and maybe I could have been faster in trying to get the guy’s information to send to the right part of the company, but I hope this guy doesn’t call his local grocery store when he wants a price for a whole trailer of carrots or something.

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Hairdressers Who Listen Are So Hot

, , , | Working | August 30, 2021

This took place during the heatwave during the summer of 2018. I tend to run hot naturally. I was working in a public space with no AC, and I was tired of having my shoulder-length hair dripping with sweat at the end of every shift.

When I was younger, I used to be in a number of alternative subcultures. I have had every single weird hairstyle my very thin and fine hair will support and I’ve had every unnatural hair colour that can be bought. All the hair experimentation ended up damaging my hair a fair amount, so by the time I hit my thirties, I just stopped messing around with it and let it grow out in my natural mousy brown, cut straight with bangs. It’s not too exciting, but it’s comfortable and practical.

The summer of 2018, however, was straight-up torment, and I figured that it might help a little if I got an undercut — long on top of the head and buzzed really short on the sides and back.

I went to my usual hairdresser, sat down, and explained to her how I wanted it done. She gave me a strange look.

Hairdresser: “Are you sure?”

Me: “Absolutely. It’s just too warm for long hair right now, but I’d like to keep a little of it, you know?”

Hairdresser: “I’m not sure I’m comfortable giving you this kind of haircut.”

I get it. My wild youth is over, I work as a librarian, and I dress more conservatively than I used to, so I probably don’t look like an undercut kind of person, so I tried to reassure her.

Me: “Don’t worry. I used to be a punk rocker. I’ve actually had this hairstyle before, only then, I had it dyed in red and black tiger stripes and I used ungodly amounts of hairspray to keep it up.”

The hairdresser gave me an even stranger look.

Hairdresser: “No, I don’t think so. This won’t suit you at all. I’m just going to give you the usual trim, okay?”

Me: “Actually, I’d really like the undercut. I don’t care if other people think I’m pretty or not; I just want to feel comfortable in this heat.”

Hairdresser: “But it’s going to look horrible on you! What if you don’t like it?”

Me: “Oh, it’s just hair. It’ll grow out.”

Hairdresser: “No. I don’t think you should have that hairstyle. It’ll make your face look fat. I’m going to give you a trim.”

And that is how I ended up changing hairdressers!

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