Monday, January 7, 2008

Biting the Bullet

It couldn't go on much longer.

When I suddenly found myself unemployed, thanks to one of the coldest, most heartless separations I've ever undergone, I was sort of in shock. I'd thought things were improving after a tough time, but it must've been too little, too late.

That was back in September, and once I took stock, I decided not to go looking right away, and after a while got busy with setting up more of a presence online, first with Squidoo and the lenses, then with Have Pun Will Travel. Like probably everyone else who's ever thought of using the Internet to make money, I was wildly overoptimistic. But it got me started, at least.

Regardless of whether jobs have been lousy paying, which has been all of them over the past five years or so, or even if I wasn't working for a while, I was at least always able to keep up with the credit cards with at least minimum payments. So that's what I've done lately, and used the cards to keep me from becoming homeless and hungry. Of course, that means I'm going to be owing on the cards for quite some time to come, but the break was worth it.

Today I went back to a former employer. Since all my jobs have been with call centers, I went back to the one closest to where I live. It took me nearly an hour to get to my previous job each day, and another hour to get back home again - two hours per day. The place I just applied to is less than ten minutes away, so I gain a good hour and a half each day. That's an hour and a half I can use to keep doing web pages, lenses, and whatever else I decide to do to try and get some extra money.

At least I know what to expect from the job, which, provided there's nothing that comes up to keep me from getting it, will start with five weeks of training next Monday. The good part is that means I don't have to take calls until mid-late February. Training is usually a breeze, although I'll be sure I learn what's necessary to do the job. Aside from being close to home, this place hires just about anyone, so age discrimination shouldn't be a factor, as it so subtly a factor at so many places.

There's a downside to them hiring just about anyone, of course, so I'll end up working with a lot of people who really don't give a rat's patoot about much of anything except themselves. They're the kind of people for whom actually working the 40 hours per week they were hired for gets treated as a goal to be met at some undetermined, but very distant time. They're the kind of people who can't wait to go on break so they can call up some family member or boy/girlfriend and spend the whole break yelling at them, either in the break room, or outside in the smoking area as they furiously puff away and yell simultaneously. I don't hang out with people from call centers after work, needless to say.

One thing I've already decided - if something they want me to do doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, I'll do it anyway. That was probably my downfall on the last job. They kept insisting I say stuff that does nothing to help the customer, stuff that if I didn't say it, the customer never would've noticed, and the call would go just a bit faster. By the time I started doing it their way, it was, apparently, too late.

The problem with many call centers is that instead of being focused on the customer, they focus on statistics, which means, in part, whether or not the person taking the calls says certain specific things in a specific manner, regardless of whether this helps the customer in any way or not. On the last job, it wasn't enough to efficiently and promptly answer a customer's question. First you had to assure the customer you could answer the question, and only then could you answer the question. It's like someone asks me what time it is. My initial efficient response (and probably yours too) would be "3:30" or whatever time it is. But according to the geniuses of marketing, this was wrong. The "correct" response is something like, "I'd be happy to tell you what time it is. It's 3:30." Just saying "3:30" doesn't mean I'm not happy to tell the person the time, it's just doing it their way takes longer and just isn't the way normal human beings in a normal conversation talk. "3:30" is understood to be an adequate answer, and the conversation moves on. In the real world outside call centers, anyway.

So I'll go back, and see how long I can stand it this time. And you may have noticed, aside from my obvious lack of enthusiasm, I haven't mentioned the name of the employer. I don't plan to, either now or later. It's safer that way.

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