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Catching Up

OK. First, take a look at this page.

Then, if you can get it to download in epochal time, look at this cat movie.

Finally, a bit of a taste of what my day's been like lately, behind this cut.

0600: wake to something cheerful on the morning news. For example, "AND THE STOCK MARKETS TOOK ANOTHER NOSEDIVE THIS MORNING ON WARNINGS THAT AIR CONTAINS INERT SUBSTANCES." Imagine that P.E. teacher you had who shouted too much and also had to teach chemistry? That's the voice. This is the market analyst on our morning news.
Alternately, "And, there's a sniper shooting at random targets in Maryland today, but close to home, twice convicted rapist and suspected serial murderer Ward Weaver today pleaded innocent to the rape of four teenaged girls and the murder of two of them. Police feel confident that the evidence provided by their bodies, found buried under the concrete slab he installed in his back yard, will be sufficient to convict. If convicted, he faces up to six years in a low-security prison."

OK. Awake now?
Time to drive to work for the 0730 start time. One bad thing about the call center - you're not allowed to clock in more than five minutes before your shift starts, and if you're as much as a second more than five minutes after your shift start time, you are TARDY and if you are TARDY more than seven times you are RELEASED. Yep. Grade school comes in handy here.

Note it takes about six minutes to get the foam earpads onto the headset on the phone, to log into NT network, then to the SUN UNIX server that runs the order-taking system, then to sign into the phones, and enter the code that means 'reading email.'
If it takes more than four minutes to do this, they Notice Something Wrong.
Another smudge goes into your Permanent Record.

OK. Phones done, reading email, it's 0740. There are five replies to the things I did yesterday, two of which are due to someone not understanding what's going on because they didn't actually read the email. Send the emails again, using the same words, but break the sentences up differently, and voila! They understand, and the situation is trivially fixed, two customers will be made happy.

Note, a happy customer is THE most important thing. Happy customers will return to spend money. Happy customers will tell four or five friends how wonderful we are.
Not good if they are unhappy. Unhappy customers not only will not return to spend money, but they will tell fifteen or twenty of their friends how rotten we are.

So, first phone call of the day. BEEEP Early Winters, says the headset.
"Welcome to Early Winters, my name is Stephen. How may I help you today?"
I'd like to place a ordure, says the headset, in the voice of a southern woman in her fifties, who clearly did not mean ordure, but order. In the background, her visiting grandchildren are shrieking, and the poor dear lady's 40 year old dog Alzheimer is urinating on the carpet and on her catalog. (I kid you not, I had such a call today. The dog, anyway. The kids were in the call yesterday. This is a composite call.) I know about the dog because she tells me, with a voice filled with love, that her poor doggie has gotten so old that she has become incontinent, and has soaked the catalog, which is why she cannot read all the items she wanted to order. I suggest she talk to her veterinarian, because there is a product called 'doggy Depends' which she might be able to get to help control that situation.
Eventually she orders the one thing that she can read because the dog-urine soaked pages were open to that spot, and she'll be able to get a new catalog. I get her card number ... ALWAYS get the card number! ... and thank her ... ALWAYS thank the customer! and it's on to the next call.

Which is 20 minutes later. Yes, it's a slow beginning to the peak holiday season this year. This call is a customer service call. The gentleman, another composite character, tells me (in his finest Texan accent) that he ordered two pairs of pants, hemmed, and that the package arrived with but one pair of pants in it. He called to ask where the other one was, and the person reading the order checked and found that there had been only one package. But, today, he got the second pair of pants in a box that was labelled 2 of 2!!
So would I please stop that third pair of pants from being sent to him?
(Note, our customers are, like most people, scrupulously honest. They do NOT want stuff for free. The people who do want stuff for free almost always try to get it by sneaky means, and it shows up rather obviously, and they end up with the infamous FRAUD flag set on their account - we cannot take orders, not even to send free catalogs, to people with FRAUD set. And they can sound like sweet little old ladies.)
OK. Back to the guy with the extra pants. Checking on the order, I find that (in the database at the warehouse side) the shipping order does show two packages, but the form has been filled in wrong so the second package is kind of hidden on the information line of the contents of the first package, instead of where it belongs.
Bah. Copious notes go into the order, copious notes go into an email to the department at the warehouse which fills special orders, and they will, we hope, stop this pair of pants from being sent; I'll find out in an email tomorrow.

The last three times I've tried to get the special-fills department to stop something it has been too late. Let us hope that this time, it is in time.

More boredom. Then, around 11AM... Note, 11AM is the Witching Hour. It's 2PM east coast time. Anything that has to go out TODAY has to be filed by 11AM.
Sweet lady in Tennessee calls... "Hi, I just need to order a few things and I'm really sorry, I apologize for being so late, etc...."
"It's OK, ma'am, I'm not upset that you took so long to order. What can I do for you?"
"Well, I'm going to Chicago Friday (today is Wednesday) and I need to get my Fall Wardrobe first, can you overnight it to me in time?"
Boggle. Check time. "We can TRY. No promises. It will get there by Friday but may be too late to get there before you have to leave for your plane."
"OK, lets try... " and she gives me an item number, we check size, check specs, check care instructions, check the colors, etc. etc. AND she wants one of it... 89 dollars.
This continues. Only two items not in stock. Fifteen items and appx $1360 later, we have ordered her entire fall wardrobe, only two pieces of which will not ship by Thursday. I am, however, aghast at the amount of money (so is she!) and I tell her, first, that she may be getting a call back to confirm the order, because of the amount of the order, that this is policy to protect her from fraud. Second, that it's after the cutoff and it may still not make it out of our warehouse in time to reach her. She's fine with this, knows she's risking the cost of the overnight, and we part as fast friends forever. (Her husband, however, may kill her.)
Curious, after lunch, I realize that I didn't write the order number down, so I find out how to get the list of orders I'd taken that day, and I look it up, and check... and it looks like it will go through! And ship today! Huzzah and a tiger for me!
(and of course copious notes on the order telling them why it's being overnighted.)

The afternoon? Boring, slow, boring, boring, boring. Altogether I took 60 sales calls during the day, with about 10 which we didn't complete because something wasn't available or they were just checking style or fit. And, 20 or so customer service calls, 10 of which were to cancel catalogs.

And this was a BORING day with long stretches of tiresome no-call time. Especially bad around 2pm, when my narcolepsy wants to make me take a nap.

So, here we are. Four days into my work week as a full-time peak season customer service associate, and I'm already almost as jaded as the full-time regular employees. The drug for this job is the calls. If you have calls, it's good, if you don't have calls, it's dull dull dull and deadly dull.

Now, if only I had been awake enough today (as yesterday) to study more in the ASP.NET book I'm studying. Sunday I fly to Idaho, stay overnight, and visit with the people who my friend Michael is working with to create a new piece of web software to assist in an aspect of running an auto dealership. (Sorry, that's it, the rest is covered by my nondisclosure agreement.) Should we convince them to go through with it under our terms, Michael and I will be working for six months on this contract.
I will cease to work at Norm Thompsons' ... they will be happy for me because they hire NICE people to work there, it's actually a job requirement!

Anyway. I'm torn, a bit. I like working the phones, when it's busy. I like solving peoples' problems. I don't like boredom, I don't like the low wage (yeah, I know, it's more than many of my friends make, but it's not what I'm used to, nor what I am worth when programming.)

Maybe I can just win the lottery and not worry about it all. Hah.


Incidentally... they've just changed the way the lottery machines work here in Oregon. We can no longer specify on our tickets the choice of a long term payout or a single lump sum which we can invest ourselves. Now they have some sort of weird multiplier scam. I don't like it. It's different.

Heh.