Wot I Think: I Get This Call Every Day

By Alec Meer on May 3rd, 2013 at 3:00 pm.

I Get This Call Every Day is a simple Flash game for Windows and OSX about working in a call centre, based on the real-life experiences of David S. Gallant. It achieves absolutely everything it needs to despite being a simple Flash game. I’ll just need your name, address, previous address, social security number and date of birth, and then you can read all about it.

I do this routine every year. The interest rate on my savings account falls off a cliff, my utility companies all push me onto the highest payment rate, my car insurer tries to renew the policy at a higher price than before even though my no-claims bonus has grown.

So I have to pick up the phone and call a bunch of companies to request closure and transfer, then call a bunch of new ones to request activation and authorisation. Usually, both sets of companies will keep on calling me to try and talk me into taking something else out too. There’ll probably be some problem with payments and tax too, so I have to call my bank and the HMRC to resolve things.

I get these same questions every time, I get to do the same miserable dance from endless automated systems to bored operators who have to ask me the same things yet again. And I think I am so damned hard done by. My precious time! How awful to be intoning date of birth and address and national insurance number and convoluted password and to-the-penny recall of the price of something I bought two weeks ago. How could the world make a generally good-natured human being suffer so?

If I really was all that good-natured, I’d be thinking about the poor schmoe on the other end of the line instead of myself. I have to do this maybe a dozen times every year; he or she has to do it hundreds of times every day. I look on them as my persecutor; they must look at me as but one of the thousand cuts they die by every week.

At least I am merely impatient, never rude to my unseen nemesis, but then again perhaps someone ranting and raving and swearing and threatening infinite vengeance is at least more entertaining than yet another grumpy and disorganised average joe.

I have always strived to remind myself “it’s not their fault, they’re just the messenger of a cruel master”, but I haven’t ever truly considered what they’re feeling. I fall into thinking that this call is as important to them as it is to me, that they really have some agenda for it, rather than that it’s just one more dour stepping stone on their long, rocky path through a day spent answering the same phone and asking the same questions.

I Get This Call Every Day puts the shoe on the other foot. It is very simple, in both mechanics and its MS Paint appearance, but to include anything other than choosing conversation options would only be to the detriment of its miserabilist roleplay.

It’s startling how easily and how rapidly my sympathies switched – it’s comparable to how I’m exasperated by the impatience and aggression of drivers when I’m a pedestrian, but exasperated by the idleness and ignorance of pedestrians when I’m a driver.

I see a computer screen – old, beige, without ornament, without even the faintest suggestion that it could be used for anything other than the database of Canadian tax records it displays. I see a phone, and I see its call light blinking. I don’t see anything or anyone else. I certainly don’t see myself, because the ego has no role or purpose in this place. In this call centre.

I answer the phone, because that’s all I can do. On the other end, a young man. He sounds as though he’s not really paying attention, even though he was the one who initiated this conversation. He sounds as though he has never payed attention to anything in his life. But he can focus enough to ask something of me. Just a simple thing, he thinks, just to have his address updated on the system.

When I am that (not-so-young) man, I cannot for the life of me see why this request, why this call, should take more than two minutes. This is my name. This is my date of birth. This is my old address. This is my new address. Have a nice day.

Now on the other side of this anti-flirtation, I quickly learn this is not the case. This clearly feckless gentleman must share with me a wealth a information if he is to have status on the tax system altered. I can choose only variations upon a theme – greet him cheerfully or tersely, prompt him to be specific or allow his vagaries as sufficient. Easier said than done, when said vagaries include claiming that his full name is simply “Bill.” When he can’t or won’t tell the difference between past address and current address. When he thinks ’10 November’ is all I need to hear when I ask for his date of birth.

He’s a prick. He’s a loser. He hates me simply because I am the one who answered this phone. And I hate him because he is the one who rang it. Yet I have to keep working with him, trying to coax just a little more information out of them even though I wish I could plunge my hand through the receiver and tear his slacker face off. I have to prove every damn little thing, every number, every street, every mailbox even though I do not for even a single second believe that this man is not who he claims to me. I have to not react when he says ‘Vagina Street.’ I have to be simply an audio extension of what that beige monitor says.

I can’t say – spoil – much more, but this isn’t a game about reaching a happy ending, or even about anyone learning anything. It’s a game about trying to co-operate with someone who doesn’t want to, about trying to find the miserably thin line between pissing him off so much that explodes and catering so much to his vagueness and helpfulness that your suitability to working at a place that has security in its blood is thrown into extreme doubt.

It’s not a game in which you get to do much of anything. It isn’t a game to make you feel good about anything. It’s a scrappy but entirely effective simulation of working in a dead-end job where nobody cares about you, where people even actively want to see your job, simply because it might entertain them for a millisecond. It’s a game about seeing the other side, but raw and unsympathetic rather than didactic or apologetic. It’s a game about how we’ll feel the world’s out to get us, no matter whether we’re customer or operator. It’s a game for everyone.

I feel awful.

I Get This Call Every Day is out now. It costs $2. It’ll probably last you half an hour max. That’s OK.

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78 Comments »

  1. primalchaos says:

    everyone should play this game, never mind national service, everyone should have to work in retail or call centre and see what the poor bastard at the other end has to go through. I reckon people would be far less likely to be so difficult

    • Dervish says:

      I have worked both retail and in a call center, and my experience suggested that while they are frustrating thankless jobs, they are also staffed by plenty of incompetent boobs among the patient hard-workers–like any place you might work, really.

      If you’re annoyed on both sides of the phone, or annoyed at both drivers and pedestrians, maybe it’s because you’re better than the other people at both roles.

      • trjp says:

        The problem is that whilst some retail/CC staff are assholes – having that job means the majority of your time will be dealing with assholes.

        When I worked in a shop I spent maybe 50% of my time tidying/stocking, 10% serving regular customers and 40% dealing with a small number of people who were over-entitled pricks.

        Anyone who’s sold on eBay will know this too – they’re a tiny number of people but when you run into one you will spend EONS dealing with whatever tiny complaint they may have.

        Example:
        Someone bought a case of alcopops which were marked as ‘out of code’ or ‘out of date’ – they worked-out at 20p a bottle. Next day they came back to complain that they felt bad and that they “must have been off” and they wanted a refund. They brought back ALL the empties in the box…

        That sort of person – the sort of person who’d be more use not wasting air and space…

      • primalchaos says:

        Of course there are plenty of incompetent boobs in every job, but any customer service jobs you have to deal with crap from customers, crap from staff, crap from bosses and the pay is terrible. If you have to deal with it from people and understand the crap the poor staff member has to go through then you are less likely to deal it out unfairly in the future

        • sinister agent says:

          There are also people who specifically seek out retail/customer service people so they can bully and insult them. I’d watch some of them scan the shop for the youngest, frailest-looking staff to do it to before they started. Anywhere that the public can pretty much say what they want and the staff are forced to tolerate it or get into shit is just arsehole central. Some people are just that small and pathetic.

      • belgand says:

        This is really the case. I’ve also done both and aside from being terrible, thankless jobs they’re both made infinitely worse by having incompetent co-workers who truly will never be able to rise above that level. I had a boss in retail that failed to return from the bank one day because she decided to adopt a puppy on the way back and then drove home with it without telling anyone. I had another co-worker who was not allowed to work alone because of his gross incompetence (he was also the highest-paid, the other intelligent worker with the best sales record was paid the least) and how he’d steal product and then replace it with the free samples. He had once been arrested for photocopying $20 bills and was caught once he started bragging about it at a later date.

        At the call center the majority of problems we were called on to resolve were caused by other employees doing something wrong. Those that weren’t were often caused by errors in shipping that, I can only assume, were themselves caused by other incompetent workers doing their jobs wrong. There was one person who put a customer on hold for several minutes just because a song was playing on the radio that they liked and they wanted to listen to it instead.

        I spent about a year at each and while I try to nice to reasonable employees on the occasions that I notice them it’s still hard not to vent angrily at the ones that are obviously idiots. Perhaps our biggest problem is putting our dumbest, laziest people in jobs that inherently require them to work with others and then paying them next to nothing and finding ways to make the job as soul-crushing as possible. At least, that would be true if most of the callers weren’t equally bad.

      • Apocalypse says:

        “If you’re annoyed on both sides of the phone, or annoyed at both drivers and pedestrians, maybe it’s because you’re better than the other people at both roles.”

        Ignorance is bliss:)
        So maybe if your pissed at drivers and pedestrians and are annoyed on both sides of the phone, that is just because you are a horrible person and ignorant fool. Just like the dude on the other side of the line.

        Not your fault either, its arrogance is in our dna ;-)

    • dE says:

      Folks working in support get maximum sympathy from me. I always try to be as friendly as possible with them. Now those that call me in an attempt to sell something, I keep a special place in my heart for them. The one that goes to hell and has spent the last decades preparing for that trip.

    • jesemain06 says:

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      (Go to site and open “Home” for details)

    • pauldin05 says:

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      (Go to site and open “Home” for details)

    • DestroyYourEgo says:

      Lol- I’ve BEEN that person, and you know what? I AM still difficult! Why? Because it’s the COMPANY that makes it difficult, not me.

      I’m serious- their loopholes, counteragendas, “deflections”, if you will, legal jargon- a lot just to say “give me your money”.

      Maybe if the COMPANIES weren’t so difficult, the people that work for them and the people that “answer to them” wouldn’t have to endure so much turbulence.

  2. McGuit says:

    Don’t know what to say.
    Can’t play games that make me sad.

  3. Chalky says:

    The chap who made this got fired from the job that inspired it as a direct result of this game coming out. Poor guy.

    • DestroyYourEgo says:

      Gotta love Life- the experience, not the board game or cereal of the same name.

      If God had a form, it’d surely be irony.

  4. jalf says:

    Since it didn’t seem to be mentioned in the article, it may be worth linking to this: http://www.polygon.com/features/2013/3/7/4071136/he-got-fired-for-making-a-game-i-get-this-call

    The developer behind it got fired from his day job when his employer found out about the game he made inspired by his workplace. :(

    • Dervish says:

      No, he was fired because there was a newspaper article that mentioned his place of business.

      “He was not fired because he wrote a game about working in a call center. He was fired because a story about the misery of working in a call center, and dealing with members of the public, appeared on the front page of the Toronto Star.”

      • hotmaildidntwork says:

        So he got fired because somebody noticed? I don’t really see much difference…

        • fuakinjuicy says:

          He got fired by dropped the exact name of the call center he worked in, not for simply making a game about that experience

          • WrenBoy says:

            What are you basing that on?

          • hotmaildidntwork says:

            Even if true, I don’t see it making them look any better.

            “How dare you call attention to our shitty workplace conditions?!”

          • Tukuturi says:

            Saying where you work is a pretty serious offense in the world of call centering. When I did tech support for HP, we were not allowed to say where we were or that we actually didn’t work for HP (it was Teletech, but the HP tech support network also used Stream call centers at the time). Part of this was because customers calling in still believe they are talking to an employee of the company they think they are dealing with. A bigger part of it was that we received threats of violence and death about once per hour per employee, and those would have to be taken a lot more seriously if people knew who and where we actually were. Once a guy did know where we were and was in a nearby town. They had to call the police.

          • hotmaildidntwork says:

            Even ignoring that those are pretty shady business practices, all of that is only really valid during a call. Or maybe when dealing with call specific data. What I mean is that unless he’s using genuine call data in the game then the sum total of his security breach is to have told people on the internet that there is a call center by that name. Possibly physical location? If somebody wanted that stuff, they could just Google it.

          • medwards says:

            This is incorrect. The Toronto Star reporter did some upstanding background research and determined he likely worked in a given call center, asked him to comment to which is intelligently replied ‘no comment’ and the Star reporter went ahead and reported it with the article. The game itself is about general call center experience and never mentions the Canadian Revenue Agency or any of its specific tasks. The Minister, with Canada being under a similar cock-choppingly-corrosive Conservative government (like yourselves) promptly did everything in their power to fire him. It is a textbook unjust dismissal case and I am sad he never pursued it, one assumes that the notoriety earned him just enough cash to say ‘fuck yall’ though this is unverified.

          • davidsgallant says:

            As has been brought up by others: I didn’t identify myself as a CRA agent to the reporter. However, I also didn’t do enough to discourage her assumption, which is one of the reasons I was fired.

            The game made a fair bit of money, but it has mostly run out at this point. The main reason I haven’t pursued a wrongful dismissal suit is because I would literally be suing the taxpayers. I’m not that kind of dick.

          • hotmaildidntwork says:

            I think I like this situation less the more I hear about it. Well, still glad I checked back for new comments. May the future be more pleasant!

            Or at least more satisfying. . .

    • Alec Meer says:

      I very deliberately didn’t mention that stuff, to be honest – that anecdote risks stealing focus away from what the thing’s actually about.

  5. jrpatton says:

    I’ve worked a few support desks, and it’s never been quite this soul-sucking for me. We get demanding, noisy, and stupid callers, but, quite frankly, those are easier to deal with. I actually enjoyed getting those calls because it’s easy to tell them “No” in a final way. The proper response for someone who doesn’t have necessary information is, “I am required to get specific answers to these questions for your security/by law. If you’d like, you can gather the information and call back right back.” The important thing is to be empathetic, occasionally sympathetic. “I know the queue is long, it’s ridiculous, isn’t it? I’ve been trying to get some changes made to our process.” etc etc. Being vague and non-committal are also your friends.

    That being said, I enjoyed solving tech problems, and it’s not necessarily easy. One skill you must have, especially for tech support, is the ability to gauge the customer’s knowledge, and then be able to teach at that level. It’s a subtle skill that gets honed over time.

    • Kodeen says:

      I also worked tech support (for Dell, actually). I had that job for a whopping total of 5 months, if that tells you anything. While I also enjoyed solving tech problems, that’s not really what we were allowed to do. Instead, we had to go through the diagnosis logic diagram.

      I know the guy’s motherboard is messed up, he knows his motherboard is up, but I still have to jump through the damned hoops of various types of software diagnosis and other wastes of time, because if I don’t go through the logic diagram, I can’t get approval for a replacement part.

      One thing that job did give me is tremendous empathy whenever I have to call customer service. I always try to be as professional as possible, even if I am getting frustrated. Thankfully it is not nearly as often as Alec (dear God man, 12 times a year?).

      • jrpatton says:

        Ah yes, the flow chart of wasting time. I’ll admit that while I’ve always had flow charts to follow, I’ve never been forced to follow them. My managers in the past realize that they are, at best, a safety net, so that some sort of procedure can be followed in any circumstance, but by-and-large just waste time. The response to the frustrated customer in this case would be (and I’ve had to say this many times), “I know you’ve probably done all of this stuff, but I need to ask you to do these things now, for the record, before we can move on.” Let them know that you don’t necessarily think they are an idiot for not turning it off and on again.

        It has, like you, also given me an appreciation whenever dealing with customer support. I realize that things are often out of the other person’s hands. I can’t remember any instance where I’ve gotten angry at a support rep.

        The only thing I really don’t like, is being on-call. That’s something I still have to do. Luckily most of the customers I deal with recognize and appreciate that a) I’m not out-sourced tech support, b) can think outside the box, and c) am a human being that would rather be sleeping.

    • DellyWelly says:

      I too have honed this skill dealing with friends/family calling me and asking me to fix their computers over the phone. Listening to my half blind mum describing her screen to me is a thing of sheer frustration/joy -depending on how much coffee I have had. I need to further hone my skills though, because my callers never remember a damn thing!

  6. Kollega says:

    Sometimes, i look at my father and brother not as examples of despicable human beings who enjoy making our world more miserable, but as examples of how fucking awesome it is to live without even a little bit of conscience. This is one of those times.

  7. Badreligion says:

    Nothing will make you loose faith in humanity more than working in customer service. Some people can handle it fine and even enjoy not me though dealing with some of these people just makes me wanna grab the nearest living thing and kill it.

  8. Kodeen says:

    Here’s another aspect of customer service that you might be interested in, the time management. So when you’re logged in, you’re under some phone code for any given time. There’s obviously a code for being on the phone, but there’s code for after-call (typing in notes, other wrap up items), there’s a code for team meetings, there’s a code for lunch, etc…

    There’s also a code specifically for going to the bathroom. Call center operations knows about your bowel movements.

    As if that isn’t degrading enough, at my job we only got 2 or 3 2-minute bathroom breaks a day. And I worked at the other end of the building, and it took me 45 seconds just to walk to the bathroom. I complained about this in a team meeting once. I am a human being, I like to think I have at least a little bit of dignity. Well, one of my coworkers (a veteran) suggested saving up your after-call time and using that. I shouldn’t have to do that.

    So next time you’re on the phone with customer service, think about what their options are if they suddenly have to pee with 5 hours left on the shift, and they’ve used up all their bathroom time.

    • derella says:

      I was given a warning and “coaching” on how to reduce my “personal” time. I quit shortly after that.

    • belgand says:

      This is one of those things that not enough people mention and a large component of what makes the job so miserable. I actually count you lucky for getting time allotted to it. We didn’t. We just had to wait until we had our two 15 minute breaks or lunch (generally 1 hour, often shortened to 30 minutes during the day when they decided we were too busy; this at a place 15 minutes away from town so if they changed it and you hadn’t brought a lunch you didn’t get to eat) and go then. As in most things this was only a problem for the ethical employees.

      But as horrible as this is it’s only emblematic of what made the job so truly awful: they own every single second of your day. At most normal jobs you often have a bit of downtime. Sure you might be working all day, maybe even long hours, but you can occasionally get up, stretch a bit, grab something to drink, maybe even take a moment to look out the window and think depressing thoughts about your job. You can’t do that on the phone. Every moment from when you sign in in the morning (and they know if you’re a single second late to work and will demerit you) to when you leave at night you’re being watched and controlled. Calls keep coming in and you never have a chance to take a bit of a rest. When it gets busy they just yell at you to start taking the calls faster… while also upselling customers or making them happier or whatever this month’s chosen metric happens to be. You’re recorded and criticized for every slight lapse in policy as if you were directing someone on how to perform heart surgery and then they also critique whether you sounded friendly enough while doing it. This is what does it in. Not being one minute out until leaving when a call comes in that lasts for 45 minutes. Not how banal and dull the job itself usually is or how you mainly serve to get shouted at while being given no authority to actually do anything helpful; a sort of corporate whipping boy for the policy of executives that will never have to experience their effects first-hand. But how they completely and utterly own you for every second of your day and the crush of calls never stops coming.

      • sinister agent says:

        The worst part is that all that is a false economy. Chaining people to their desk all day makes them work less effectively, but treating staff with a modicum of humanity doesn’t lend itself to instant cash-per-second calculations, whereas running the conveyor belt of incompetent or competent but burned out staff under ever more oppressive and miserable conditions does.

        It’s a bit like an unrelated job I had, where I was put under pressure to apply quick fixes to things instead of doing the job right, a practice that was directly responsible for the hundreds of thousands in lost payments that I uncovered while doing things right. Naturally, I was still encouraged (and eventually coerced, by my own “support” locking me out of the tools I needed to do the job) to do a lousy job five times instead of a good job once.

        It was still less hateful than call centre work, though. I’d turn to crime before I signed up for that – I just don’t have the reserves anymore.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        This.
        Although we did have a small amount of “hold” or “down” time we could use to grab a drink or make a loo break (though this WAS regulated :/ ).
        And that 45 min quote you gave really hits home. Because on the last day, five minutes before I finish, on a rather late shift (though not the latest, so I did not get the grant of the phones turning off), I get a call for the other department.
        “I can’t help you sir, that’s not my department, I will transfer you”
        “No don’t, I need help, they won’t help me, can you?”
        “I cannot. Please call them.”
        Etc, for 45 minutes. I could not transfer, because the other department was now closed. I just did not want to make that last call me cutting off a desperate customer. Not that it mattered for my “stats”, as I was leaving. I wanted to keep hold of at least that ounce of respect. I know others would have just cut them off and gone home.

      • MattM says:

        You are giving me a panic attack as I flash back to my time in a call center.

    • Tagiri says:

      Our after-call time usage was paid, as it was technically “work time” since you were still working on something from a call. Right before I quit, our managers went on a crusade to limit time spent in an after-call phone code, so if you actually wanted to do your job correctly without being written up, you ended up using your unpaid “bathroom break” code for it. Of course, if you used too much of that you were also written up, so it led to a lot of bad work being done by staff who felt rushed and also longer calls, as you couldn’t count on being able to finish things up after the call. And, of course, if your calls are too long, you get written up.

  9. derella says:

    I worked at two call centres after I finished school. It was the most awful experience of my life.

    I was actually fired from the first one because I gave customers too much accurate information – I would explain what the UPS statuses actually meant rather than lying to the customers and saying their order was still scheduled for delivery that day.

    I quit the second one because I realized that hating my life wasn’t worth $2/hr above minimum wage

  10. JFS says:

    How come everybody here worked at a call centre? I’d have guessed there were nicer jobs available. It comes as no surprise to me that call centre work (in a line with supermarket cashiering, bartending and the like) doesn’t pay well, means dealing with annoying people and suffering from terrible working conditions.

    • sinister agent says:

      You’d have guessed wrong. Few people get a real choice what they do to pay the bills.

    • RedViv says:

      You’ll probably hear a a bit more from folks who worked at them because, as is the nature of the internet, people with connection to a topic will be more likely to respond in comments.
      That said, it has become a very viable source of additional income during university in many places in many countries. That certainly allows for it to overlap with the statistically average gamer.

    • Kodeen says:

      Well for me it was the first job I could get out of college, armed with my newly minted B.A. in philosophy (employers just don’t see the value). After I quit it I got what amounted to a data entry job at a different company, but was able to get a good job in another department through that.

      I think most people have to work a shit job at some point in their careers, usually early on. Call centers, retail, etc… all have a lower barrier of entry and high enough turnover. Sometimes they’re the only choice.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      It paid very well. And was actually a REALLY nice call center. But the bank had bought it about 2-3 years previous, and it took about 12-18months before it hit rock bottom. Yes, I joined around 12-18 months before it did. :P

      So when we started, it was the best place to work ever. Really, I have some great stories. It was fun, we worked hard, did a great job, and the customers loved us. ~1 year later, the customers hated us, the atmosphere and “good” people left, the fun died out for 100% work 110% of the time (over time/extended calls due to over demand, under staffing), less deskspace “because” even though we had twice the office space, desk sharing (see previous) etc, etc. I probably will run out of space listing the failures, or the great time we had before it took that route.

      Needless to say, the banking sector hit rock bottom themselves 4 years later. So they have a habbit of it, but I guess it makes them golden parachutes so why would they care? :( Oh, and I was in that sector then as well. Oops!

    • belgand says:

      Eh, I’d finished college and despite having a pair of B.S. it was a tough job market and there wasn’t much I could find. My girlfriend had another year of school left and I’d have to leave town to find any sort of reasonable job to begin with which was very hard to do when you don’t have any money to move. After spending all summer trying to find tolerable to crappy jobs it ended up being a sort of last resort option.

      You lie and tell yourself that it’s only temporary, but it sucks your will to live so much that you come home and the last thing you want to do is spend several hours trying to find another job.

      Getting a call center job is, at least in my experience, much easier to get than a retail job. Retail is much better and pays about the same, but the turn-over isn’t quite as high and they tend to be slightly pickier. Call centers will take just about anyone.

    • malkav11 says:

      In my particular case, I -had- a nicer job (well, more to my tastes, anyway, although it still involved being constantly interrupted by phone calls, not infrequently misrouted calls about things that I was not able to help with), but I was irregularly required to cover in the call center, either so that the full customer service unit could have a unit meeting, or because they didn’t have enough customer service representatives to fully cover when down people because of unexpected absences.

      I really, really hated it and my experiences doing that as well as the regular customer service involved in my job and a year or so working the register at a fast food restaurant in my youth have informed my interactions with telephone support and restaurant workers ever since. The former, in particular, I try to be nice to because it’s nearly invariably not their fault that they can’t help me, it’s incredibly moronic and/or customer hostile company policy or, as people have said, that they don’t actually work for the company in question so have very limited ability to remedy issues. I just do my best not to do business with companies like that.

      Now, covering certainly isn’t the same as doing it full time, which had its plusses and minuses – I wasn’t monitored or expected to hold to particular performance metrics, but if a client had questions about anything the least bit out of the ordinary grind, I tended to be clueless as to how to help them, which was understandably frustrating for some people.

      These days I actually have my office phone perennially on do not disturb and am not expected to take any client calls whatsoever. It’s beautiful. (The DND is because, unfortunately, though my position no longer involves customer service, that hasn’t stopped clients from continuing to call or being directed to me erroneously, though fortunately much less frequently than when I first changed roles.)

  11. kwyjibo says:

    Yes, but all we want to know is if it’s better than Every Day the Same Dream? What’s the best every day simulator?

  12. davidsgallant says:

    I honestly cannot believe how much I Get This Call Every Day resonates with other people who have had service experience (particularly phone-based customer service). When I made it, I believed the last people who would be interested in the game were people who were living or had lived through similar experiences. Shows what I know.

    Ask me any questions, I’ll furnish you with answers.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Not sure I have any, just shared experiences. All I can say is like other places (banks? quack sciences?) only those drinking the cool aid (falling for the lies, lying to themselves, in it for the money and ready to run) stay in there. So the staff of managers seems impossible to engage with in any logical, practical or relevant discussion.

      The main way this is shown, is in the way the top manager of resources, who runs all the stats and checks, notes how “10% of our staff fall below the 10% average and so must make improvements”… Hmmm…

      I was in that 10% risking disciplinary, as I’d prefer to give the customer the extra 30 seconds or 5 mins to get the job done instead of “accidentally” forgetting and leaving it for the next time they call up.

      • davidsgallant says:

        I know what that’s like. I’m the type of guy who wants to help people. To me, the metrics are never as important as making sure people get the help they need. That’s made me unpopular at a lot of my previous call centre jobs. My last one, with the government, was like a breath of fresh air; their main metric was accuracy, not call handle time. They cared that we were giving the right information, and not so concerned with how long we took to do it. However, that focus definitely shifted towards the end of my time there.

    • WrenBoy says:

      What are you working on these days?

      • davidsgallant says:

        At this very moment, I am at TOjam (http://www.tojam.ca) making a narrative game about a particular part of the life of Nikola Tesla, one of my heroes. I hope to have the game mostly finished by Sunday when the jam wraps up.

        In the more long-term, I’ve been meeting with Eric Weiss (who collaborated with me on Apocalypse Later, http://www.davidsgallant.com/apoclater.html) to create a remake and sequel. He’s got a pretty funny script so far, and we need to start looking for an artist sometime soon.

        I’ve also been kicking around the idea of a direct sequel to I Get This Call Every Day. I was originally very resistant to the idea of expanding the game; I felt that the original communicated everything I wanted to say. However, the idea has started to appeal to me; there are a LOT of different call types I got on a regular basis, and it would be cool to expand the simulation to make it both more interesting and more mundane. I Get These Calls Every Day might happen, but I’ll need to crowdfund some capital to make it so.

    • sinister agent says:

      How do flies land upside down?

    • oatish says:

      I work this job – in BC, too. The first account had Coquitlam as the city and I let out a shocked laugh… gotdamn this is close!

      • davidsgallant says:

        I just love that word, “Coquitlam”. I’d been dying to use it in a game for a while.

  13. Sehnder says:

    It goes without saying saying that a cordial demeanor should be expected everywhere of everyone. How you treat people who you have no obligation to treat well is one of the truest measures of your character. This is especially true when it is somebody completely at your mercy. Show me how you treat a waiter when you are having a bad day and you show me a lot about the kind of person you are.

    That said, working at a call center is a job. You are paid money to put on a good face for the company and patiently work with customers even if they are not so smart. Garbagemen have to deal with nasty smells. Accountants have to deal with account balances not being what they expect. Call center representative have to deal with dumb customers (who by the way, paid money for your product/service and by extension pay for your wages.)

    It sucks, I get that. Most people have some aspect of their job they don’t like. At the same time it isn’t like this isn’t some unexpected burden thrust upon you- this is core job function.

    • pottering says:

      “to put on a good face for the company and patiently work with customers even if they are not so smart”.

      You can actually do that in the game, that’s an option you can take within the game.

    • Amun says:

      You’ve never worked a day in your life, have you?

    • belgand says:

      Dealing with the customers is bad, no doubt about it, but it’s only about half of the problem. Most of the true misery comes from the conditions and the way your own company treats you. Also keep in mind that the vast majority of call centers are outsourced. When I was working in one we were explicitly told to lie that we were employed by Gateway if questioned when we really worked for a company called Alorica. The only Gateway contact we even had was that they had one rep in the office. So you’re mistreated by your real bosses, but also by corporate policies that treat the customers badly. You’re just there to take the blame and tell them “no” and “I can’t help you”.

      In reality most of the customers are pretty reasonable. They were largely just reasonable people who wanted to make a return or check on a delivery or such. Just a couple minutes of looking it up and letting them get on with their day. Those are easy and simple. It’s soul-crushing work made all the worse because it could easily be done without you via the Internet, but whatever.

      The problem is dealing with people with weird, specific requests (one customer lived in the middle of nowhere in Alaska where he didn’t have phone service and had to drive into town to call us… and wanted something complicated done that would require him to be called back; another was angrily complaining about not getting something that it turned out they already had; or wanted to return a computer that they bought 5 years ago, but never opened) or people who are already upset and phone up just looking for someone to yell at. A good percentage of those were caused by other, incompetent employees. More were caused by terrible corporate policy. A much smaller percentage were caused by idiotic, angry customers who insisted on getting their way. In many ways those were the best because you’d tell them “no” and they’d demand a “manager” and off they’d go to level 2 ignorant of the fact that nobody there has any real authority to do anything.

      So, no. That’s not really the case all that often. Most of these are preventable problems, not just dumb customers. Blame the companies that enact customer-hostile policies more.

      • malkav11 says:

        Yep. I really try to keep this in mind when I, say, interact with UPS (a company with the most mindbogglingly dim customer service policies imaginable – essentially, if you didn’t ship the package yourself, there’s almost never anything whatsoever that they can do for you except maybe have it held at the shipping center, and even on the rare occasion when something can be done, it invariably has to be done by the local center and there’s no way to contact them directly or even be transferred to them.)

  14. pottering says:

    Play this game 8 hours straight with a short pause for lunch and it becomes The Most Realist Game Ever.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      You’ll be surprised, even with the repetition. I once got the same customer 3 times, even though we had ~300 people in the center at the time. Granted though, it was over 3 days. Same complaint each time though, with them hanging up before taking the card details every time. Yes, the complaint was that we did not send the delivery, as we could not take payment. By the third time, I pretended to not be the person who took the first call, as the caller could not even tell when I told them I was. :-/

      • Tagiri says:

        We had a dirty caller go all the way down the line of cubes at my call center once. By the time he got to me, half the row had already had him, so when he said his ridiculous fake name, I blurted, “Oh, it’s you!” and he panicked and hung up.

      • mattevansc3 says:

        Very likely your call centre had the same routing service as mine whereby the system tries to assign repeat callers to the last member of staff they spoke too.

    • soldant says:

      I worked in ambulance communications, and it was 12 hours, no breaks, and far worse callers. Really, unless you’ve been in a call centre, you can’t know what it’s like.

  15. 9of9 says:

    Disclaimer: never worked in service. Also, spoilers? I guess… *spoilers*.

    That aside, having played through this once – as a standalone experience – I truly don’t see what’s soul-crushing about it. I was polite to the guy, worked through all the options and explained reasonably that I couldn’t process his request because he didn’t provide enough security details. The position he’s coming from is pretty understandable and relatable – he’s dealing with a horribly messy and complicated system, dealing with which is important and inevitable, but that everyone would rather have out of mind.

    In the end, the protagonist told him that all he can really do is try and look up some of the necessary information and call again when he can. He was understandably frustrated, but we had both done our best to conform to the system and, in my case, to guide him along. At any rate, the call was resolved for now and no ‘You’re Fired!’ screens, or any failing.

    Now, perhaps, doing this kind of thing for a whole day, every day, would get tiring. I mean, I’m sure it would. And I hate speaking over the phone, so I doubt I’d find it enjoyable. However, I really can’t see this as some particularly dismal, miserable example of the experience. It is the kind of call I’d expect to get and precisely the sort of situation that you need phone operators to answer, surely?

    Tl;dr – I’m sure the rest of the experience sucks, but as a slice of it, this call is pretty reasonable. Discuss.

    • Dr I am a Doctor says:

      Great! You played a video shame as a saint, great for you. Now, for the hard mode:
      do this for eight hours daily, for years, for an almost minimal wage, where you can’t control dialog options, when you have no identity among your fellow call center workers or your boss, no prospects for life, when everyone who calls you hates you solely for the fact that they have to call you because something doesn’t work smoothly, they hate you, they don’t respect you, who would respect a call center worker? not someone who is so fucking angry at the moment because he’s over the limit on his debit card but he just doesn’t understand, doesn’t want to understand, he can only yell all the time, while you have to maintain the politeness because you are under constant supervision and if you don’t you’re going to get fired and nobody will care or notice

      death is salvation

      • mattevansc3 says:

        Add onto that if you work for a government call centre, negatively commenting on your day job or the customers is a stackable offence so your avenues for release are minimal.

  16. Agricola says:

    God, reading this comments thread has brought it all back. This must be what its like to be a Vietnam vet watching Platoon!

    There is a certain type of person who has no problem working in this environment. I spent 5 years (the majority part time) in one and I knew a few people who were there a long time before me. You have to be able to switch off, be completely uncaring and dispassionate, and really let nothing get to you. I unfortunately was one of those people who likes to help others and get to the bottom of issues. That meant I wasnt a hit with the, maybe 10 bosses I had in my time there. (The department heads liked to keep supervisors moving around, keep em on their toes)

    I was always getting hauled up over long call times. So this one day, I was sent to listen in with a girl who actually started in the job after me! Apparently she would school me on how to cut my call times. She proceeded to ignore the monitor for every call, do her nails and talk patronizing to every customer. She had no intention of helping them herself, and just looked for every “exit point” in each call. Was there a way to transfer them, direct them to another company or tell them she couldnt help as we didnt support “x” hardware. If she did have to actually help them, she attempted to tell them 3 steps (which would normally not sort the issue at all) and ask them to try those and call back. Hey presto, 2/3 minute calls! I personally couldnt behave like that every day because it made an already awful job even worse if I had to betray my own character and be someone else. So I just muddled along, keeping my head above water.

    I’d agree that half the problem with the job is co-workers. Many of the issues customers have are due to poor processes and incompetent staff. When you pack your ranks with 18 to 20 year old students who don’t give a flying fuck if they are sacked on the spot, what kind of service do you expect to provide.

    And a mention for phone codes, and the company owning your whole day. Yeah it sucks. My experience of this was that it got progressively more restrictive in my time in the job. This was largely due to staff abusing any and every loophole and then said loophole needing to be closed. I heard stories that in the very early days (late 90′s) the staff had an almost free run, like a regular office job, little to no monitoring. But as the years went on, it got more and more like Orwell.

    Was never as happy to have left a job in my life!

  17. MadTinkerer says:

    ” It’s a game about trying to co-operate with someone who doesn’t want to, about trying to find the miserably thin line between pissing him off so much that explodes and catering so much to his vagueness and helpfulness that your suitability to working at a place that has security in its blood is thrown into extreme doubt. ”

    Maybe I should do a game about the time I had to do a programming project with someone who had explicit instructions to not cooperate with me (I found out later), and blamed me for everything that went wrong. That was the most “fun” I have ever had.

    Hmm… Yeah, I am studying AI right now, might make a good exercise… A masocore game for a player and AI where every time you (or it) die and respawn the AI becomes less cooperative, but you can’t get past certain rooms without it. Then the meta-game becomes which rooms you absolutely need to finish and which you sacrifice to it’s belligerence…

    Oh, and in the final cutscene the AI claims all the credit for winning and accuses you of trying to steal credit for it’s efforts.

    It would certainly be different!

  18. gingerbill says:

    I worked in a call centre complaints department for about 2 years . The sad thing is if you care about customers you will hate the job , if you dont give a shit and just follow orders you will be a lot better of. The call centre’s job strangely is not to help customers but to help the company. Once you accept the fact all they care about are figures on how many calls you have done then the job is easier . Nobody cares how many customers you help.

    My stress was never with customers shouting at me (which they did a lot) , it was always the work enviroment . It was a self defeating policy of never helping anyone properly just deal with as many calls as you can. they didnt seem to care the customer would phone up 5 times if you didnt help them and once if you did.