Fraudery and Freakery and Fuckery
I used to wonder how Judge Judy could just look at someone, listen for a moment, and know that they were full of it. I'm beginning to get it. And there are levels. Levels of stupidity, some of which is based on simple (and frustrating) lack of experience of the world we phone jockeys live in, and some of which is based on a sense of entitlement and greed - regardless of financial status or color or sex.
There is the Kindness stupidity:
"The number of my credit card is 4444 ... [pause for 2 beats] - space - 5555 - [pause for 2 beats] -space -6666 - [pause for 2 beats] -space..."
Wow...now I know you have never worked in an office or in retail before.
There is the Blindness stupidity:
"Well I already tried calling the store, so you're never gonna get through."
Really, Sir? I work on the inside - think there just might be a way I have at least a different mode of contact???
And there is the You Think I'm Stupid stupidity:
"Well, the store should come out and remove the security tag from my clothing. They've come out and done it before! Yes they have!"
... [wow, that's a beaut. No. They really haven't.]
"It's Nice of You...But Really...Who Cares..."
Who knew the word "stylist" could mean something besides a hair dresser?
One woman spoke to me on the phone of having been advised by her stylist, and not long after I realized we weren't actually going to talk about her hair but about her clothing choices, I received another call from another woman and became her clothing stylist for an hour and a half.
"What are your measurements? Okay, let me look at the size chart. You need a Medium... Yes, I am absolutely sure. But there is one thing that concerns me. What concerns me about this plunging and revealing swimsuit tankini top [which is completely useless for a swimming class], is that it ties behind your neck. Your breasts pull on the ties which pull on the back of your neck and it's not great for your neck muscles. [Not to mention that you're looking at a picture of a 5'8" model who is 24 years old, and you're 65 and 5'1". What are you thinking???]"
"The First Thing of Christmas That's Such A Pain To Me"
I have to ask myself today if there is any point in my existence. That's how post-holiday it is in here. In this Call Center. And in this psyche of mine.
I feel like a moving target. Now I'm a professional, card-carrying SAG-AFTRA actor - now I'm not. Now I'm an Administrative Assistant - now I'm unemployed. Now I'm a writer, now I'm an artist, now I'm a Customer Service phone jockey. At NONE of these things - ALL of which I excel at - am I making serious money. At only two of them have I been recognized for my gifts, and that is for sales jobs that pay almost nothing.
Is there a PURPOSE here somewhere? Because somewhere in here my vision, my hopefulness, my forward-facing view, my life force is drained by people who are truly exercised about a fucking pair of shoes. Or bath salts. Or a blouse...
Somewhere in here, my personal level of disappointment about this work - my sense of having failed to become Important-With-A-Capital-I by dint of being Fulfilled-and-Useful, with a capital FU, is elevated to Code Red, deep-sixing my sense of personal satisfaction in service. Even when a man calls today to ask about returning two rings to the store, and reveals that his wife died in September and that these are two rings she did not wear, I'm not moved. I say all the right things to him, but I'm just. not. deeply. moved.
Even when he says, "And my mother died 2 hours after she did!".
#StoriesFromTheStoreFront - Episode #10
"A Christmas Hangover"
"How was your Christmas?" I inadvisedly ask one older man who calls me today, the day after Christmas.
He pauses infinitesimally, and then says, "Uh...alright. I was alone. Many people are."
I was too. I am. I understand what he is saying.
You know, I'm not Christian. I'm also not anti-Jesus. But I find that I am good and tired of Christmas and its expectations that live within my own self.
It's different than it used to be. Just a year ago, I was ending a 3-year period of being - what is that word, again? It's the replacement word for "homeless". Ah yes, that's it: "displaced". For those three years, the month of December just blew. I was working for myself, looking for clients to hire me for my marketing savvy. And in December, no one is looking to hire. People are looking to buy.
So, to have a December in which I could make money from the very activity that used to bum me out...well, that struck me as brilliant karmic balancing.
#StoriesFromTheStoreFront - Episode #9
"A Customer Service Christmas"
"I have to bury my son tomorrow, and I need to purchase a shirt."
My heart stops. I sit up straighter and I lean forward, wanting somehow to reach her with my concern.
Turns out, she wants a very nice-looking t-shirt, because he was 19 when he transitioned, and he "never wore a suit in his life".
We spend an hour trying to find something. She is calm. In fact, she is so calm I think maybe she's scamming instead of serious, but who would go to this level to get a shirt? No. She's in shock, or fix-it mode. Or this-is-what-I-can-do-for-him focused mode.
I'm not leaving this call until she gets what she needs. We seem to get her there, at long last. She can get a shirt for her son. And she can get it to the mortuary in time for tomorrow's service.
#StoriesFromTheStoreFront - Episode #8
This job is perfect for adrenaline junkies. Actors. Achievers and Over-Achievers, COME ON DOWN!
By the middle of the day, all 6 of my arms, Kali-like, have emerged from my sides, and I am whacking balls back at multiple people at incredible speed: cranky people, nice people, people ordering, and people just damn-out wasting my fucking time. "Hello, thank you for calling. My name is Lori. How can I help you?
"Hello, thank you for calling. My name is Lori. How can I help you?"
"No, ma'am, I'm not in the store, I'm with a part of the store that can see all of the malls throughout the U.S."
"NoMa'AmI'mNotInTheStore", and so forth.
By the end of each day I'm wired.
I come home and drink a few sips of wine, I eat something, and I hit either the couch, or my bed. I bemoan the lack of entertainment inherent in not having a partner to share my life with - but I'm used to this bemoaning; I've been doing it off and on for a very long time - and I go back to working on my business, and writing blogs.
#StoriesFromTheStoreFront - Episode #7
"Off the Sauce"
The adrenaline is not wearing off, but the enjoyment is.
Ho! Ho! Ho! Happy Holidays!
I'm dismayed by the disparities in those who are ordering. The comfortable New York man in his 50's who called yesterday, looking for a fur coat for his wife. The elderly and poor New York woman, born in 1939, who called today to buy a shower curtain liner for as low price as possible because she needs it delivered - can't get out of the apartment. (I waived her shipping.)
I'm bummed out by how many words I say, and how little people actually listen.
"If you don't buy this shoe right this hot minute, it will probably be gone because things are selling out while I've even got them in the CART!"
"Yes. Really. And these shoes you want are called 'Final Sale' shoes because they're almost sold out already."
I give the puffer fish ornament example to indicate just how critical the grab-it-now-and-return-it-later solution is.
#StoriesFromTheStoreFront - Episode #6
"Lobster On Pedestal"
Time for my daily game of Defang The Customer.
The first and final calls of the day were laugh fests. Thank God.
Because it is, in fact, the holidays and we're overrun with calls, we're not getting the coaching sessions we ordinarily would get. So, after the new year, I imagine I'll find out everything I have been doing that has not been perfect. I don't mind. What I'm actually more focused on is plotting the start of a whole new department to cover a part of training that is completely missing. Wouldn't it be incredible to go from $14.35/hour to $150/hour for being VP of some new department?
Anyway, today's last call: my favorite of the whole day. I have realized today that throughout the day one employee or another on this huge level playing field of a floor with its endless desks looks at me like, "What the fuck?" when I'm laughing. I imagine they are probably thinking I'm ... uh ... different, because I do, in fact, laugh my way through the day (no wonder I'm fecking exhausted when I get home; can you lose weight from laughter? Asking for a friend...).
#StoriesFromTheStoreFront - Episode #5
"Life Is Tartar Sauce"
I didn't know why I was angry today. I felt it like the backdrop of my day and I couldn't figure it out. It wasn't about the phone situation - that was going to be remedied eventually, and I had already chosen to freak on Friday and leave the freak behind.
I had a few calls that were fun - lovely women with whom I laughed and who ordered higher-priced items like iPads and such. And I had the super holiday-stupid calls - people freaking out, pulling an attitude, blah blah blah. Jesus! Do you REALLY think it's worth all of this tsuris??? HARDLY!
I went to the lunchroom to eat my avocado sandwich, and I realized that what I felt, like a tom-tom in the background of my emotional calm, was anger. I searched in my mind for what could be bugging me and couldn't find it.
I asked Joe, who came to join me for lunch, if he ever felt things that he couldn't figure out a reason for. He's young. Twenty-seven. He barely understood the words coming out of my mouth, but he took a stab at it and nailed it in one: "Anger, you mean? Or love?"
Yesterday was what I've decided to call a Service Day. Service Days are those days NOT filled with money but with opportunities to be of service emotionally in someone's day.
I spoke to two 90-something-year-olds, three 88-year-olds, a woman whose neighborhood was apparently being buzzed by a police helicopter, a man who agonized for 40 minutes about whether or not to buy a pair of $69 jeans that looked like they were already 10-years-worn-and-torn-during-painting-jobs, and a couple from California who I think I talked into moving to Cincinnati.
Oh! And a woman who, it turns out, is the mother-in-law of my cousin's business partner.
I am increasingly convinced that I have this job just so I can write a book.
I mean, who can make this stuff up???
Working for a retail store should come with hazard pay. Especially when you're in a Call Center.