Intro to the Customer Service Diaries: The Cubicle Plantation

So Neo-Prodigy and I spoke over the weekend and I invited him to do the CSR Diaries with me.  We're both reps for insurance companies and we wanted to do occasional rants (some humorous, some not) about life in the biz.  If I recall correctly, some patrons here at the bar are also CSRs, so feel to free to contact me if you ever want to do a rant about a particular call or other experience you've had.

Now, before we get started on the Diaries, I need to lay down a few ground issues about being a CSR, because apparently the American public ain't got a clue.  For the record, whenever you call in to talk to a CSR, always remember that you are speaking with an underling.  If you ask to speak with a supervisor or manager or whoever, understand that they too are yet another underling.

In case there's any confusion so far, the keyword in the preceeding paragraph is underling.

Underlings do not own or run corporations - that goes without saying.  Underlings don't write policies, set the fees or, in short, make the decisions you want to influence.  Corporate America is set up to fulfill its own best interests, not make customers happy - so don't believe the hype, and don't fall for the company line.  The customer is not always right, and preference is shown to those who simply shut up and pay their bills.

Believe it or not, this isn't always as selfish as you think.  Anyone who's ever run a business will understand this one simple principle: businesses exist to make money, preferably on time.  You've got bills?  Businesses have bills too, some of which are just like yours - phone bills, utility bills, building repairs, taxes, and the like.  People think that because a company is worth billions, it can do whatever it wants whenever it wants - um, no.  People are often at the mercy of those whom they owe, and companies are no different.  Whenever you hear of companies brutally being taken over and thousands of its employees getting hung out to dry,'s 'cause somebody owed.

But I digress.  My point?  CSRs are not large and in charge; the people who are wear $2000 suits and spend all day in meetings and conferences while their receptionists do all the work.  Even if you call corporate and file a complaint, you will never talk to them.  The whole point of having CSRs is merely to give customers the illusion that aside for their money, they themselves matter.

Furthemore, anyone who believes slavery is completely dead in America is not only blind to the sweatshops and prison chain gangs in America, but they've also obviously never worked in the special hell on a cubicle plantation before.  Granted, some are much nicer than others, but that's basically the same difference between house slaves and field slaves, because:

1) You are expendable.  You are constantly reminded that you are expendable.  In times of recession particularly, you are constantly reminded of how other people would love to have your job.

2) Your everything is tightly scheduled.  Deviation from that schedule flags the system, so if you so much as sneeze off cue, there's a penalty.

3) You are paid, but not enough to care.  I've mentioned this before.  Sometimes, a customer calls and gets a listless operator who sounds like they're on suicide watch.  That's because they probably are.  They're probably working in one of the worse cubicle plantations, putting in forty hours a week (if they're lucky), they're wearing the same slacks for the third day in a row, they haven't eaten since yesterday, and they're about five paychecks behind on bills.

You'd be suicidal too.

4) As a CSR, you are the very embodiment of the 99%.  No one gives a fuck about you.  Some customers will (very rarely) acknowledge that you do indeed have a thankless job...and then proceed to be thankless, regardless of whatever you do for them.  Back when I worked for a cell phone company, people who obviously didn't make great money were still buying iPhones like hotcakes.  One customer I had actually did have some extra charges on his bill.  I removed them and gave a generous credit for the inconvenience.  His reply?  "In my opinion, the bill is still too high."

*rubs temples*

So Neo and I - and hopefully others - will be sharing our delightfully bitter stories about what it's like to actually be the bitch/idiot/jerk you had to talk to.  Think of it as our humble attempt at CSR rights activism.


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