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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Nothing matters but the weekend

...from a Wednesday point of view...

Well, let's see. SuperGirlfriend just left without her cell phone. It's always an ironic situation when she does it, as my first instinct is to call her on her cell phone and tell her she left her cell phone here.

It also underscores how much of the heavy lifting I still let her do with the SuperKids, despite my best intentions. I want to call the daycare she's taking Super Adorable Toddler to and leave a message for her, but for the life of me, I can't remember what the name of the daycare is. I know where it is, but I don't know the name of it, or its phone number.

At some point, she'll realize she doesn't have it with her and come back to get it, but it's going to be a big inconvenience for her. And there's absolutely nothing I can do about it.

Tomorrow I'm working 8:30 to 5, by special dispensation from my supervisor, so I can get out early and go to a holiday concert for the kids. Naturally, the idiots at both Super Drama Teen's school and Super Adorable Toddler's school scheduled their holiday concerts on the same night, so we can go to one, but probably not the other. I realize that it would most likely be impossible for all the music teachers and principals of all the various different schools at various different levels in River City to schedule their holiday events on different nights, but is it too much to ask that the three different schools our kids go too get their act together? Geez.

In breaking news, it is now official: I am an insulting, cowardly hypocrite. Or, at least, so says my first ex-girlfriend, in response to a brief paragraph in my last entry about our recent and abortive attempt at getting re-acquainted via email:

Some things never change, I guess. You still have this way of
insulting someone and then hiding under a cloak of nobility. And now
you can hide behind your blog. It's cowardly. And a little
hypocritical.


Of course, later on in her email, she notes that "given how we ended our relationship and then friendship..I knew you'd have every right to blast me to hell..."

I have every right to, but, of course, if I do it (which, actually, I don't think I did) I'm an insulting cowardly hypocrite. Or something like that, anyway.

Well, it doesn't matter. In honor of her, I'm thinking of retitling this blog "Cloak of Nobility". But I don't know. It seems to lack the geek bravado I generally strive for.

I'm really tired. I would love to call in sick today. Of course, I have no paid sick days, since I'm a temp, so calling in sick would be unforgivably stupid, since it would convert my two hours of overtime so far this week into six hours of unpaid sick leave, which would add up to about $70 gone from next week's paycheck, and we just can't afford it.

We did get a message on the answering machine from my temp agency last night, though, saying I should call them today before I go into work. The message seemed to indicate that one of my supervisors called them up to complain about a few things that need to be straightened out so I'll have a good chance of being hired on permanently at my current assignment, so that would seem to indicate I'm not being fired... and December is a hellishly busy month at the call center and we are already down about six employees on my team so it's not like they are going to fire anyone who is trained, experienced, and halfway competent at the job right now... but still. I am wise in the ways of temp agencies. SuperGirlfriend tipped me off to the message while I was still at work last night, and I brought home all my personal items. If it turns out I'm no longer working there, well, that will be disastrous for our personal finances, but, on the other hand, I will no longer be working there, which neatly supplies its own upside.

Here's the thing: I have a giant stack of customer commendations. I've had a similar stack at every call center I've ever worked at. I meet or greatly exceed every stat they measure us on at my current job. Our adherence to schedule is supposed to be 95%, mine is habitually 99 to 100% (while my peer group's compliance averages out to 43%). Our average talk time is supposed to be six minutes, mine is 4:55; peer compliance to the requirement is at 50%. Our average hold time is supposed to be 15% of talk time, mine is 6%, peer compliance with the standard is 72%. We're supposed to take around 40 calls per day, I generally take 56 to 65.

By every measurement, I not only exceed performance standards, I exceed the performance of very nearly all of my co-workers. And yet, today I have to call my temp agency and go over a few matters, because one of my supervisors called them up and bitched at them about things.

I have a feeling I know what this is about. The phone message mentioned specifically 'breaks'. Now, this is a call center and we have two scheduled 15 minute breaks. We are also allowed another 30 minutes per day of unscheduled 'break time', mostly to go to the bathroom if we need to, or, so smokers can run out and cop an emergency cigarette. I've never gone over that 30 extra minutes, but I do use a lot of it on a daily basis, and I suspect it's really pissing at least one of my supervisors off, because she's aware that I often 'go to the bathroom' when we have a lot of calls in queue. But here's the thing about that:

We have a lot of calls in queue all day long on very busy days. Generally on very busy days, I sign in an hour to an hour and a half early to help out with the heavy call volume. (This is because the local bus schedule requires me to be at work at 10 am every day for a shift that starts at 11:30.) This makes my day longer, and goddamit, I need more break time, and of course I don't have any scheduled, so goddam it, I take it when I feel I need it, which is often after I've spent an hour answering call after call after call and there are still twenty fucking calls in the queue from absolute idiots who will not get the goddam news and hang up and call back some other time when it isn't so busy.

When I feel like the very next time some idiot asks me why their flex spending card was turned down at the dentist's office, I'm going to lose it and start screaming at them... then I take a break.

Now, yesterday wasn't a particularly busy day for us, and I had a total of 47 minutes break time... which is to say, my two scheduled breaks, and another 17 minutes out of the half hour of break time I'm allowed. Which isn't bad; I suspect everyone clocks in right around then on the average day.

I also suspect I'm going to get a flea put in my ear about logging off the phones at 7:59 instead of 8:00. Now, I always log ON the phones at 11:28 or so instead of 11:30, but of course management doesn't care about that. Let me log on one minute late and I'll hear about it, but two minutes early every single day... they got nothing to say about that.

At the last call center I worked at, when I was on the floor, I worked the closing shift, too. There, the rule was, you couldn't log off until the supervisor sent a GOOD NIGHT e-pop out to everyone on shift, which he or she wouldn't send until they were sure all calls were out of queue. Here they don't have that rule, and they probably badly need to institute it. But until they do, my inclination will be to log off the phones as early as I think I can get away with it without being dinged for adherence... especially when SuperGirlfriend is usually waiting for me outside, and every extra minute I stay on the phones is another chance for some whiney stupid participant to call me up and cry at me for twenty minutes past my scheduled shift time about their goddam idiotic flex spending account.

By the way: if you have a flexible spending account and you have to call your customer service line for any reason, try to avoid using the phrase "but it's MY money". I swear to God, any time a customer uses that phrase with any of us, there's at least a 30% chance we're simply going to hang up on him or her immediately. Why? Well, aside from the fact that we hear it about fourteen thousand times a day, here's the actual skinny:

It's NOT your goddam money any more. You voluntarily signed a piece of paper setting that money aside into a special account, which has certain requirements and conditions pertaining to the reimbursement of said money to you. You thought the idea of getting all your health care expenses tax free without having to go to the trouble of itemizing your deductions at the end of the year on your tax form was just spiffy, so you went for it, and in so doing, you gave up all rights you may have ever had to say 'it's my money'.

Now, you jump through all the hoops, you get your money back. You don't, and you don't. But it's not your money until we send you a check and you cash it, and sometimes it's not even your money then, if you submitted the same claim fourteen different times because you're too stupid to know how to run a fax machine and you end up with an overpayment.

If you don't like any of this, then for the love of God, don't sign up for a flex spending account next year.

Oh, and here's another clue: saying "You know, this is too much trouble, I really don't think I'm going to sign up for this next year" does not have the effect on the customer service rep you are talking to that you want it to have. You think you are making some sort of threat that will cause us to leap to attention and kiss your ass even more than we already are, because our lousy job requires it. However, the simple truth is this: not only do we not give a shit if you sign up for the flex spending account next year, we actually hope you don't, because you're a whiney annoying asshole and we'd love it if we never had to talk to you again.

One more thing I've learned on this particular job: if you consistently have problems with your flexible spending account, it's because you're a dolt.

Now, this isn't true of other businesses and services. When I took calls for the Post Office I constantly talked to people who were having all kinds of trouble with their mail and it wasn't their fault, and when I answered the phones for Sprint I talked to folks who constantly had problems with their long distance and it wasn't due to any fault or character flaw of their own. But with flexible spending accounts, yes, this is absolutely true.

Oh, we do occasionally make mistakes. So if you have had your account screwed up once or twice, well, that could be our fault, and if so, we'll apologize for it. But if you are calling us every single time you send in a claim because every single time you send in a claim we deny it, guess what? You're a moron. You're doing it wrong. And it's not that hard; a lot of people who aren't very bright fill out their claim forms correctly and get their checks without any difficulty at all.

One bright spot to the morning: SuperGirlfriend came back for her cell phone, and since she was already going to be late for work, we totally (explicit sex scene deleted) before she left again, and that was extremely pleasant.

Okay, I have to go get into the shower and then call my temp agency to be kicked around a little. Yay.

I really wish I could just go back to bed.

Post script: Well, I just called the agency. Julie, the person who left the message and who asked me to call back, won't be there until this afternoon. The girl who picked up the phone looked in my account for notes, and said that according to the email they got from SHPS, I am 47 minutes over my allotted break time for the week so far... which is absolute bullshit, but, whatever... and I need to watch my lunches and breaks.

So... ::shrug:: I don't know what's going on. Except that there is incompetence everywhere, so why can't I get a permanent job?

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