Who Said You Could Go To The Bathroom?

Who needs a newspaper when you can chat?

In light of Telescreen being recently named one of the worst companies to work for (no shit), I thought I’d get back to the “Job Security” category of ESP, and focus on what it’s like to work at a call center. At at normal job, you have work to do, and you have the day to complete it. You can chat about the NFL game at the water cooler, go out to Chipotle and snag a burrito, or arrive five minutes late if there’s goddamn traffic. If you have more shit to do, you stay a little later, or work through lunch. If you get tired, you snag a cup of coffee over in the break room. You’re responsible for yourself and your job, and the company trusts you to complete your tasks. How fucking enlightened.

Oh how different a call center is from the real world. At Telescreen, time is money, and the employees are expected to work every second of their shift. Every…fucking…second. Call centers are all about statistics, and everything about the employees day is monitored: When they walk in the door, when they log into the computer, when they take calls, how many calls they take, when they go on break, how long the break was, how long the calls are, when they log out, etc. It’s 1984 in the worst sense, and the monitoring is enlisted because Telescreen doesn’t trust any of the employees to do their jobs.

The employees are expected to start taking calls before or right when the shift starts. Not a minute after, literally, and no excuse will get an employee out of being marked late. The whole eight hour shift is monitored to ensure the employee takes calls the entire time, and don’t sneak away to do anything other than work. This obviously is physically and psychologically draining, as getting screamed at for eight hours nonstop isn’t ideal for anyone.

The employees get a lunch break that’s exactly 30 minutes, as well as two other 15 minute breaks, and you guessed it, there’s no wiggle room in the length of the breaks. In the meantime, they take calls one after another, no downtime between calls, no time to breathe, just frantic work. What do they do if they have to stretch their legs, take a leak, or check the mountain of emails in their inboxes? The short answer is…they don’t.

I have had a few problems with this myself in the past. We are supposed to go into our “break aux” on our 1984-esque monitoring toolbar anytime we need to do anything other than take calls. I say, fuck that, because break-time is exteremely precious yell-free time. So when I have to go to take a leak, I get up and take a leak. Seems simple enough to me, I mean, what kind of place won’t let the employees go to the bathroom? Well…

One day, nature called, and I headed over to the bathroom after hanging up with what was probably a dumbass redneck. When I walked out, I saw one of my supervisors rushing towards me, looking concerned.

Supervisor: “What are you doing?”

Being the smartass that I am…

Winston: “Um, do I really have to detail what was going on in there?”

Supervisor: “We have a queue of 50 people! Get back on the phones! Who said you could use the bathroom?”

Being the smartass that I am…

Winston: “My bladder.”

Of course I rushed back to work and took a million other calls all fucking day long, because that’s how it works in a call center. Since working at Telescreen, and because I write down everything that happens for the purposes of this blog, I have gotten “talked to” by three different supervisors five separate times for using the bathroom. What kind of Hell-hole won’t let it’s employees take a piss? One of the worst companies to work for in America maybe?

Here are some more fun posts to give you an idea of why working at Telescreen is pure shit:

Master of the Custodial Arts

Winston Gets A Raise

The Hot Dog Eating Contest

13 thoughts on “Who Said You Could Go To The Bathroom?

  1. Your supervisors sound like painfully stupid control freaks. Either that or they are replicants who don’t have bodily needs. I love your deadpan answers ;D

    • That is a true assessment. Since they don’t have to be on the phones all day, they are actually able to use the bathroom like normal people. Maybe that’s one of the benefits listed for the supervisor position in HR.

  2. Oh.My.Gosh. My boyfriend works in a bank call centre, and I always thought that he was just a whinger (well, he is actually) but from what you have written, it seems like everything shitty thing he tells me about is actually true. I had thought that he was just exaggerating the situations, but that would then mean that you are also exaggerating and that would be too much of a coincidence.
    If it makes you feel any better, know that it’s not just call centres in America that have crappy rules, it’s exactly the same here in Australia.

    • Yes, us call center employees tend to complain a bit, um, a lot. At least you know the horror we describe is true, apparently everywhere in the world!

  3. Thankfully, this was never a problem for my husband when he worked the call center for a point of sale company. Of course, after they were bought out, he worked from home so nobody knew if he took the headset (and caller) to the can with him 😉

    • You know you’ve made it when you can do your work from the can. On the other end of the phone, I cringe to think of how many customers are talking to call center employees from the bathroom. Maybe that should be included in one of those customer service satisfaction surveys. “Did your conversation take place while in the bathroom? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no.”

      • LOL So true. Or the “can I put you on hold to use the restroom?” callers lol “As a matter of fact, no, you called me, you should have relieved yourself before dialing, now what can I help you with?”

      • I’ve had that that call. Worse, the caller had apparently filled up on pickled eggs and beer the night before. Considering the volume and the amount of reverb from the presumably tiny bathroom space, I’m very, VERY glad that I was only listening in. I honestly kept waiting for that moron’s ass to explode and spare us all, even if the blast could be seen from orbit.

        And then there are the ones who have to eat during calls, too. Not just sneaking a French fry or something, but massive meals, like a rock python swallowing a baby elephant. They’d then get furious that you had to ask them to repeat themselves over the sound of chewing and slurping. (Some of our worst customers had that issue even if they weren’t eating. With one, I literally would have sold my soul to have told her “Thaaaaaat’s right…take your grandson’s penis…OUT of your mouth…and NOW try to talk.”)

  4. Why are you still working there? Seriously? Why are you?
    Get out while the going’s good. There are other jobs out there that are a helluva lot better. And any excuses about bills, bad economy, school, etc. are just that. Excuses. Your situation won’t change until you do something about it and for your sake, I hope you do.
    Harsh words maybe. But i’ve worked in a few truly shitty jobs and learned its not worth your self respect, your self esteem, or your self worth. Its certainly not worth the money because you’re hardly making what can be considered good money, and its not worth your future. Get out while you can, I mean that from the most caring part of my heart.

    • Wise words my friend, thanks for advice and help. I ask myself those same set of questions everyday. The job search is like a full-time job unto itself, and it is usually done after a long day of work in a state of desperation. A shitty job really does have a wide range of affects on the employee, and probably lasting as well. I might aim my sights lower for a new job in the interim, because hey, if I’m flipping burgers at a fast food joint, at least I’m getting free food and can probably use the bathroom as I please.

  5. *LMFGDAO* This IS the company I thought it was! i won’t spill it, especially since I’ve had people related to me work there before.

    Reading through you blog. Love it.

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