Friday, 26 November 2010

Repair my arse!

Please note - the title is neither a request nor a demand! Admittedly, there should be a comma in there but I omitted it shamelessly for effect.

The point? The point is my washer/dryer. A few days ago, the dryer part of my combination washing machine/condenser dryer decided to give up the ghost. Washing machine = fine. Dryer = buggered. Needless to say, it's way out of its warranty so it was down to the Thomson Local Directory to suggest someone to come and fix it. Other people always seem to happen to just know someone who can do this sort of thing, but I don't. I randomly picked a company that said they did same-day repairs and didn't charge a call out fee. Within 4 hours, they said. 45 minutes later, Neil and his large toolbox were at the door. Promising, I thought.

I gave him the info, including the fact that I'd had the same problem before with this machine and what I'd been told it was (simply the heating element of the dryer part of the circuit board). "Leave me to it", he said. Dade and I retired to the safety of the living room to indeed leave him to it. There ensued grunting, dragging, crashing, swearing etc but to be honest, that wasn't surprising. I have a tiny kitchen which doesn't lend itself well to large appliances being hiked out from under the worktop and then taken apart. Shortly afterwards, we heard what sounded like rather a lot of water followed by Neil saying "Um, have you got any kitchen roll?" I entered the kitchen to find water everywhere - the floor, the worktops, the walls. He'd already used a teatowel to mop a load up. More mopping ensued and he said he was fine to carry on. Once back in the living room, the next worrying noise was a repetitive clicking, which I recognised as the ignition switch for the gas hob. I went back to the kitchen and found him attacking the ignition switch with kitchen roll while it clicked away happily. The fact that I had no idea where the actual cooker is plugged in didn't help as it meant I couldn't cut off the power to it so it continued to click for a good 20 minutes. At which point, Neil then said "Have you got a hairdryer?" Working on the assumption that he hadn't decided to suddenly sort out his coiffure, I retrieved my rarely used and frankly almost pointless hairdryer and delivered it to him. "It's like this", he said, "One of the hoses came off because it was too short and hadn't been installed correctly, and water went everywhere as you know. A lot of it went inside the machine so I need to dry it out before I can fix the dryer". I then watched him hang the hairdryer upside-down inside the machine - not inside the drum, but into the inner workings of it via the missing top cover. Unable to look, I went back in the sitting room to rejoin Dade who had been watching/listening to all this with, I'm sure, slight amusement but some sympathy! A couple of minutes later, we heard a loud pop and the now familiar clicking noise stopped. Given how annoying the noise had been, you'd have thought that would be a good thing but the addition of the loud pop into the mix gave it an air of disaster. Off to the kitchen with me again, where this time Neil said he'd been trying to dry out the igntion switch with the hairdryer, and had obviously shorted it. He was very quick to point out that 1) he's not an electrician so couldn't just fix it and 2) he's not qualified to touch gas cookers. I was starting to wonder if he was qualified to do anything at all. The upshot at this point was that the inner workings of the machine needed time to "dry out naturally" so he would come back the following afternoon at 2.30 to finish the repair (and at the same time, bring me one of those gas ignition lighter gun things so that I could light the gas hobs).

The next day, I got home at 2.29, eagerly awaiting Neil's arrival, as by this time both Dade and I were pretty desperate to do some washing. Neil turned up, disappeared into the kitchen again for half an hour then called me in. All ready to pay up and wave goodbye, I was a bit concerned to see him still sitting on the floor and all the lights on the front of the machine flashing. "Um, unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to get it fixed for you today", he said. "Oh well," I said, "as long as the washing machine's still working, I can dry stuff on the radiators for a few more days". "That's the thing", he continued. "I can't get it to work at all now. The flashing light code is telling me that there's a problem with the motor and the motherboard..." At this point, I was as bored as you probably are now. Ten more minutes of excuses and explanations were forthcoming, none of which changed the simple fact that 24 hours earlier, I'd had a washing machine but no dryer and now I had neither. Nor did he bring me a hob ignition thing, of course!

Neil's solution - "I have a mate who sells reconditioned washer/dryers, installs them, takes away the old one and gives you a 3-month guarantee on the recon one". Oh, you do, do you? How bloody convenient! He then offered to try and get me a second-hand motherboard and fit it for free, but if he couldn't do so, he would get his mate to call me to see if I was interested in buying a machine. Less than two hours later, and with no call from him about the motherboard, his mate called me and did indeed ask if I wanted to buy a replacement machine. I told him I had no idea yet as I was still waiting for a call from Neil. He hung up pretty fast when I didn't immediately say I wanted to buy from him. What a lovely little set-up they have going, eh? I'm trying not to be cynical but it's damn difficult.

The ad in the Thomson Local says that the company in question (who I have a feeling might just consist of Neil) is "insured". Hmm, interesting. Insured against completely knackering my washing machine, breaking my hob ignition button and soaking most of my kitchen, I wonder? Probably not.

I feel a trip/call to Citizen's Advice coming on. In the meantime, it's the launderette for us while I work out if/how to afford a new/replacement machine or how to sue him for everything he's got!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

It's the Work, the Working, Just the Working Life

So - the market research call centre has availed itself of my services for just over two months now. It was never a job I'd considered before, especially as cold-calling seemed like the most demoralising way in the world to earn a crust. The job details were a little misleading, suggesting that we would be calling people who had either said they were happy to be contacted by phone or were actually expecting a call. Not so! Quite simply, various companies ask our market research company to conduct customer satisfaction surveys by telephone with their customers. However, it's safe to say that most of those customers have no idea that their contact numbers will be used in this way. No doubt, it's somewhere in the small print of their contracts, or one of those little tick boxes, but really - who reads those?

It's been an interesting experience if for no other reason than hearing the many and varied reasons people come up with for not being able/willing to participate in the survey at that time (or at all). Some of my favourites so far are:

- But I'm watching Countdown!
- I would but I'm just going out to buy plums.
- God, ten minutes is a REALLY long time!
- My son's got a blister so I can't possibly.
- It's Sunday - the day of our Lord. Sod off. (Spoken by a vicar!)
- Sorry, my biscuits will go soggy if I do it.
- I'm on a piss-up at the moment so it might not be the best time to be asking me questions.
- Are the government paying you to do this because you can't get a real job? (Asked to one of my colleagues)
- I'm in the bath so I would sound all bubbly if I talked to you.
- No, my wife won't want to do the survey. But, Emily (!) you sound very sweet and lovely so I can promise that Santa will look after you very, very well this year.
- I know you mean well, and it's probably an awful job, but I just don't want to talk to anyone at the moment. I'm so very very sorry.
- Can I take the survey in the shower?
- I can't stop now. I'm just looking for a hamster that's gone missing.

As expected, I've also been shouted at, sworn at, told where I can stick my survey, and generally abused! And of course, all of these tirades have to be met with a completely fake, sickly-sweet "Well, thank you for your time anyway. Goodbye." Mind you, by the time I've reached the second word of that, they've usually hung up.

It's easy to be pretty thick-skinned about these when they only occur once in a while but if several of them crop up consecutively, I'll admit it does get to me. One day last week, on a shift due to finish at 9pm, I was on the verge of walking out at 7pm. For a solid half an hour, everyone I spoke to was either rude, unhelpful, unco-operative, pissed off or all of the above. I have no problem with people simply refusing to take part, with "I don't want to do it" - I would say no too - but there's really no reason to shout and swear in the process.

One surprising thing I've learnt is that people really don't like being disturbed on a Sunday. I guess because I worked shifts for so long and weekends meant nothing to me, plus the fact that shops etc open seven days a week now, I forget that some people still consider Sundays to be sacrosanct, whether on religious grounds or not. I've also discovered (though I'm unconvinced by the truthfulness of some of the claims) that "traditional" Sunday lunchtime now starts at about 11.30am and runs right through until about 4.30pm.

I'm in a bit of a quandary about the job though. I can really only hack about five hours at a time (except at weekends when the shifts are all six or eight hours), but that means I only work about a 26-hour week. Given the stupidly low hourly rate (even on the bonus rate when you beat the target number of completed calls), that really doesn't give me an income I can live on. The upside of the job is the flexibility of being able to choose your own shifts on a weekly basis, and I can't deny that not having to start work until 4 or 5pm is quite nice! What I could really do with is a nice little part-time job on three full days a week, which I could mix with the obligatory three shifts at the call centre.

It looked like it might get a little more interesting when I was asked to coach some of the poorer performers regarding the quality side of the calls. I've only been there eight weeks, but I'm currently ranked number 2 in the whole centre, and my quality feedback is at 100%. After the coaching, there's potentially some mini-training that they might want me to run, along with a couple of other members of the phone staff. They're trying to get away from all training being done by supervisors as they believe, probably rightly, that people generally accept advice and coaching better from their peers - people who are actually also on the phones day in, day out. However, as with most other things there, the coaching wasn't very well organised and the actual potential training hasn't even been devised yet, nor have any days or times been chosen for it. The people I was speaking to wanted to know the details before they signed up to their refresher training (as it was all voluntary). Suffice to say, that little diversion actually isn't going to make me inclined to stick at the job any longer than I was already going to.

So the hunt continues for something else/additional, reasonably flexible but more interesting. At least the latter shouldn't be too hard!