Monday, June 08, 2009

Panty Man & Lingerie Girl

Once upon a time, the wise & profound writer that you know as "aka pastor guy" was once a lowly employee of the JC Penney Call Center in Nashville, TN. (If we want to completely accurate, he was actually an employee of this establishment two different times: 1997-98 for 11 months & 2002-03 for 3 months. But since I don't care all that much about sharply focused details, that'll be the last we talk about it.)

My official title was a CSR - Customer Service Represenative. Basically, that involved sitting in one of about 300 seats (that looked a little like study desks), putting on a phone headset & staring into an aging CRT green screen. Push a button on your phone pad & the calls start coming, pretty much until you sign off for a break, lunch, or escape back to the real world.

It wasn't, thankfully, an out-call job. (In call center jargon, that means we only took in calls or called customers who had already called us, rather than cold-calling new customers.) That didn't stop us from getting some real doozies on the line - my 14 months was enough to convince me that a lot of Americans need anger management classes.

In addition, there are some folks out there who are inordinately glad that they have a captive audience for their auditory exhibitionist tendencies. (There. Did I say that delicately enough?) Evidently, all of them knew that JC Penney's call center was open 24 hours a day.

The standard policy when we got "problem" calls was to warn them, push a "trace" button (which I'm almost positive did NOT trace them... at least back in '97-98), and hang up on the call. (The new system we used in the 2002-03 was hooked up to call waiting & probably did a much better job of cutting down on those kind of calls.)

Of course, the CSR's had names for the repeat offenders. All of the women I worked with had ended up on the phone with the guy they called "Panty Man" at one time or another. You can probably guess what he wanted to talk about.

I still remember (fondly) the day that one of my African-American co-workers decided she'd had enough of "Panty Man"... so when he got on the line, she began yelling into the phone, "You're a bad, bad man! That's just WRONG!" She banged her mike against her desk & went on: "You're going to hell for this, oh yes, you are!" Then she hung up, to applause & laughter from the rest of us in her section. (This was most certainly against company policy - but she'd been around a long time & didn't seem to get into any trouble.)

I never had the dubious pleasure of speaking to "Panty Man" as he (and most of the other phone creeps) would quickly hang up when they got a male CSR. On slow nights, I knew when I got a hang up that one of the folks down the line would quickly get a call from the same person.

Instead, the bane of my existence was "Lingerie Girl." This lady had worked out an elaborate ruse, where the call would start out like any other catalog call... until she'd ask the CSR to turn to a particular page in the catalog and tell her if they liked what they saw. She was a smart cookie, as I fell for her routine at least 3 or 4 times... until we got to the whole "do you like what you see?" part & I couldn't hit the hang-up button fast enough.

There were other nutty customers: the lady who spent 3 hours on the phone with me, ordering Christmas gifts that ended up being out of stock, cussing me out for 2-3 minutes, then trying to order some more stuff, which also ended up being out of stock, which brought on another round of expletives that would make a sailor blush... and it kept going. Three hours.

Not sure why I posted all this... except I'd promised to do it a long time (almost 2 years) ago.

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