Writer, history researcher, biographer

Call Centre Carnage Chapter 2 (cont)

Posted by Suze Appleton on Sunday, May 19, 2013 Under: Serial novel
Continued. . .

When everyone, except Krystal, was seated at their desks, Jo handed out the DVDs to the front row and asked them to pass them back. A collective groan ran round the room as they recognised yet another batch of Jo's sales videos.
'Okay, enough,' urged Jo. 'You'll learn a lot from my videos and then you get to see what you can do. Are you ready for this? You're going to make your own sales video!'
The reactions rippled back in degrees from the squeals of the almost identical girls on the front row squeals to mild curiosity on the back row.
'You'll work in groups,' continued Jo. 'Okay, six in a row, each row can form a group. I want you to watch these videos, then get together in your groups and agree on a video style as well as what role you will play in your production. These DVDs contain the full range of my selling styles from my early days right up to the current, rather more professionally produced films that I show today, as a syndicated TV personality with my own show...'
'Yeah, on at god earthly hours on a minor satellite channel desperate to plug what they think are British products. And I bet most of them are made in child sweat shops,' muttered Krystal to Matt.
Jo was continuing to talk as the discs were passed around, but as soon as everyone had a disc and they were watching their monitor screens she suddenly announced that she would just be popping out for a moment. Everyone knew what that meant. She was off for a coffee with her best mate, Marilyn, and wouldn't be back until the end of the session.
Krystal yanked the disc out of her machine and threw it on the floor, stamping hard on it until it cracked.
'That's what I think of her so-called professional films, the stupid cow!'
Mina's eyes started to fill up and Matt tried to calm Krystal down while the rest of the room erupted into cries of disagreement and despair.
'Where's Adrienne when you need her?'
'I can't learn anything from watching this self-obsessed bitch.'
The sentiments echoed round the room as others turned from their machines to complain to each other.
'How are we supposed to produce something professional without some help?'
'I could do better than this with one hand behind my back,' preened one of the front row girls.
'Oh yeah? And just where have you got professional lighting and sound engineers, let alone make-up artists and scriptwriters?'
'You mean this guff is scripted? No way man, this is just her liking the sound of her own voice.'
Matt tried to ignore the noise and stared at his monitor.
'Hey guys! Hey! Everyone! Have you seen the latest email from Jo?' He tried to shout over the noise until he got everyone's attention. 'She must have just sent it through. I think her and Marilyn are having a laugh at us.'
Fiona, dark haired girl on the next row of desks snorted as she read the email.
'She has to be joking,' she said. 'Have we got video phones? Is that what she wants us to make a film on? What does she think we're doing? How can we make anything without the proper equipment.'
'Hang on,' called Jan, an older woman sitting at the end of the middle row. 'There's another email from Marilyn. She wants us to get some kind of sponsorship for our films? What's that about? Surely the company will buy the films, if they're any good, which there's not much chance of. I don't know the first thing about making a video on my phone. I can't do it. Sorry guys, I won't be much use to this team.'
She looked apologetically along the row at her colleagues.
'And besides,' she added, 'I have to take my mother into a new residential home next week so I won't have time to take part in it. You'll have to manage without me.'
A look of disgust passed along the row between the rest of her group. The boy next to Fiona brought out his mobile phone and started demonstrating its video capabilities to her as she looked even more annoyed than she had a few minutes earlier.
Krystal grabbed her bag off the back of her chair and started heading for the door.
'Where're you going?' Mina looked anxiously after her. 'Come on, we need all the help we can get. Don't just leave'
Krystal turned with her handle on the doors and smiled at Mina.
'I'll be back,' she grinned, 'but if that bitch can walk out of her class then so can we. We need to find sponsors, don't we? Well I'll do that but I can't find them sitting in this room, can I? C'mon, let's go and see if Bar365 will sponsor us, eh? And then after that there's Domino's and then, ooh, let's see where we fancy spending the afternoon. I'm sure the rest of you can take care of the filming can't you?'
Matt shook his head, watching her as she winked at Mina and strutted through the door. For once he didn't want to stop her getting herself into trouble. He already knew from experience that she would get sacked sooner or later and she didn't seem to care when it happened. He was just amazed that she lasted as long as she did when she pushed the rules so much although he had to admit a sneaking admiration for the courage she showed. Sometimes he wished he could be as confident, especially in places like this call centre where targets were high and pressure intense. All the targets and supervision stats felt like a whip to keep them from thinking about how bad their lives were. And some managers seemed to take any drops in performance so personally that working there became intolerable. 
Matt was sure there was a better way of running a call centre. For a start the support systems seemed so inefficient, he was sure he could write a better performing system in a week or two. It would just be a matter of tweaking some of the programs. He had lots of ideas of how to make the work more interesting, give more scope for progressing and maybe higher rates of pay, commission and other incentives. Matt made a mental note to speak to Drew about it next time he got him on his own.
From two seats down on his left a young guy called Jamie leaned over to him.
'Hey, I got a seriously cool webcam last week and I reckon we could mock up a pretty good video between us, what d'you think?'
Matt shrugged.
'Yeah, sure, Jamie, that'd be great,' he replied. 'Maybe we can take care of the tech stuff We're going to have to something so we might as well have a bit of fun with it. What about you Mina? You could be our salesgirl. I reckon you'd be proper photogenic.'
Mina giggled and hid behind her hands, looking round to Pat on her other side. Pat smiled but seemed less enthusiastic about the idea.
'So what shall I do?' She looked at the two boys expectantly. 'I did do a bit of creative writing at school but that was a long time ago. The only things I've written lately are emails and to-do lists but I could write a script.'
'Great. So we're good to go then,' put in Don, an older man sitting between Matt and Jamie. He had already made it clear that he didn't care about the job. He'd only taken the job to get out of the house and earn a little money before he got his pension. His wife's job paid the bills and he just needed to prove he could contribute. Having suffered from depression for most of his life, one of his priorities was a job with sick pay for when he needed time off.
On the next row Jan had her head together with Sybil, the older woman next to her, muttering about wasting their time with stupid exercises. They had come to do a job where they turned up in the morning and went home in the evening after doing what it took to earn a living. They didn't understand the modern obsession will with role playing exercises. It had never been like that when they first started work. Just tell them what they had to do and they would do it. They had no need for stupid games.
Matt listened to the grumbling going on around him and held up his hands.
'Okay guys,' he said, 'I know it's stupid but let's do see what we can think up, yeah? We might as well get on with something as watch another one of Jo's videos? C'mon, let's get together and throw out some ideas.'
His group wheeled their chairs into a huddle at the back of the room just as Krystal stormed back into the room.
'Bloody security! Didn't want to let me go until they had it cleared with my manager,' she raged, 'and that bloody bitch Jo wouldn't back me up; said we had to present her with a plan before anyone went off anywhere, and it was all supposed to be done over the phone, as in, it's a call centre thing so like, use the phone. Anyway, you guys need me or else you'll just come up with something shit."
Straddling her chair she pushed into the huddle and leaned forward.
'So what've you got so far? What're we doing?'
Everyone started to think up ideas, some more outlandish than others and Matt tried to keep track of them all as he scribbled them down on the pad. Inevitably everyone wanted something different. Don wanted to feature wine, Jamie wanted a new gadget, Pat thought a new hair care item would win the task for them and Mina just wanted to please everyone. Matt vetoed every suggestion that Krystal made. Not one of them was without violence, many involving a bloodstained scene or explosives. Eventually they came to a compromise that Pat would write a script, Jamie would arrange the filming with Matt, and Mina, Krystal and Don would try to get sponsors.
The product to sell had to be chosen from the Pickering Prime Picks catalogue, the specialist items that were supplied to the upmarket Sunday supplements. These products were even more garish than some of the cheaper catalogue items that the company sold, the Pickering Popular Picks. Prime products took bad taste to a new extreme, eccentricity appearing to be the main criteria for their inclusion in the catalogue.  The company seemed to work on the premise that the more affluent the audience, the crazier their tastes would be. As the group passed the catalogue around, two of them, Pat and Jamie, both chose a clear plastic hood that was a personal phone kiosk for a mobile phone user to inflate around their head for some privacy. Don and Matt agreed on a wood effect cabinet with shelves for wine bottles and DVDs. It would have been perfectly acceptable apart from the Viking helmet complete with realistic horns to use as handles and a commemorative plate describing the Viking invasion of the British Isles.
Everyone looked at Krystal and Mina to cast their votes. Mina shook her head and looked at Krystal.
'I don't care,' she shrugged. 'I'd be happy to blow the lot sky high.'
'Oh come on, Krystal,' snapped Matt. 'Stop being so dramatic! We all know it's crap stuff but we have to make a film around one of them so just pick the one least likely to make you throw up.'
'Okay, okay! Let's go with the cow horns. At least that's funny.'
Mina nodded.
'I agree with Krystal,' she said, 'maybe we could have some fun with that one.'
'Okay guys,' declared Matt, 'everyone agree? We're doing the cow horns? Now let's get on with the actual video. I'm guessing they won't give us long to get it done.'
The group chatted some more, throwing ideas about for a setting for the video. Don suggested that a lounge setting would be easy to set up and film. Krystal wanted to go for a deathbed scene where an old guy was bequeathing his treasured cabinet to his descendants. They all agreed that they needed to set it in a really upmarket room and despite offers of help Pat insisted that she would be able to write a script for it over the weekend.

In : Serial novel 

Tags: dvds filming script "sales videos" "cow horns" 

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