“Hello Customer Service” #2: Twas The Day Between Christmas and New Year

It was a quiet day and so far the phone hadn’t rung once, and to be fair, who’s going to ring Customer Service on December 27th? Nobody, that’s who. As you can probably tell I drew the short straw and had to come in to man the phones, and the other poor soul forced to make up the skeleton crew of the office of the damned was Steven with a “v”.

After four hours I’d read our online terms and conditions twice (just to have something to do), rationing the paragraphs to make them last as long as possible, and the conversation with Steven was starting to get dangerously serious.

“Would you rather…have the head and neck of a giraffe or the body of a giraffe?” He enquired.

Please don’t make me answer this I thought.

Steven was still expecting an answer.

“Hmm…” I pondered. And this was how bad it got, I answered and tried to reason my answer.

“I would have the body, it’d be easier to get around. Plus if you had a giraffe neck it’d be a pain drinking coffee. You’d have to put the cup down on the other side of the room then lean down to it.”

“What are you guys talking about?” Enquired a passerby from another department. Steven relayed the question. “Body obviously, the neck would be stupid.”

“What’s this about?” Another intruder. Same question repeated. Opinions given.

“But if you had the body it’d look so weird.”

“And a giraffe neck wouldn’t?”

“How would you pick up stuff though?”

“You’d still have hoofs.”

“I can’t clutch a drink with two hoofs.”

“Sure you can, you just put them together.”

Steven on one side of me, the other two on the other. Mentally my brain packed an overnight bag, leaked out of my ear, and jumped off my shoulder towards the door. If you were there you might see me with a dead expression and vacant eyes. It’s a very handy skill to have in Customer Service when you have irate customers, I’ve honed it over time.

Briefly I came to. The conversation had turned to how giraffes would give birth. My brain died again, this time with so much deadness that I wouldn’t be surprised to see dribble coming out of the side of my mouth.

Back to life again.

“You can’t get a giraffe-horse hybrid.”

“Why not?”

Black out. I was an inch away from smashing my face on the keyboard.

Consciousness again.

“Anyone want to play Twister?”

I looked up straight away to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating or losing my mind. But there they were, an I.T. technician with a box of Twister under his arm. If it was a hallucination it was a bloody good one.

We all looked at each other with a smile.

“The phone’s only rung once.” Steven added in. We all exchanged another look of smiles which secretly said “let’s do it.”. No bosses in sight and this will be an urban legend amongst the company. The skeleton crew that played Twister at Christmas.


Something For The Office: Get a Bonsai Tree


Ficus Bonsai

Trees truly are life givers. Provided it is growing and in good health a tree will produce far more oxygen that it requires, sequester carbon, and filter the air for toxins so often found in an office or home. A NASA study of 1989 identified a list of over 30 common household plants that can filter air efficiently including Ficus trees (the same one in the picture above). So why have I focused on bonsai in particular and not just general houseplants? Well there’s nothing wrong with having both actually and it just comes down to personal preference. But I always find there’s something a bit romantic and aesthetically pleasing about having a bonsai.

Depending on the kind you get they’re not as difficult to look after as you might think, and the act of nurturing and caring for one over time can do wonders for stress and your own personal well being.

Good ones to start with are Ficus and Chinese Elm. Both are excellent for beginners and are relatively forgiving to under or over watering. They grow fast too, so you can see progress appearing right before your eyes.

For positioning keep them somewhere bright (just because they can tolerate lower light doesn’t mean they prefer it), a window sill just out of direct afternoon light is ideal.

Allow the top soil to dry out a little between watering to let the roots breathe but don’t let it dry out completely. It takes time to work out a good watering routine but you’ll be able to do it almost subconsciously after a few weeks, instantly knowing if your plant needs a top up or not.

Bonsai food is recommended, a liquid fertilizer maybe every two weeks during spring and summer. If you forget to feed for a while it’s not the end of the world, but your tree will be much happier and flourish more if you do.

Once you start getting some good growth and branch structure appearing you can start having a little fun with it too – pruning and shaping! It’s not hard and will be therapeutic and enjoyable I assure you. A Ficus can be coerced into taking a different shape with its branches very easily, and Chinese Elm respond well to pruning with lots of tiny-leafed vigorous growth. In fact, with Chinese Elms there’s even a little tip I can give you: when you prune the end off a branch, the direction the last leaf left is pointing in is where the new branch growth direction will be. So you can plan ahead and make for some wonderful shapes!


Growth Direction on a Chinese Elm

After a time you can make some truly wonderful designs and your office place will really be happier. Check out the one at this blog: https://www.bonsaiempire.com/blog/bag-end

It’s been shaped to look like a Lord of the Rings hobbit hole!

With care your tree will last for years, hundreds of years in some cases. For a just a few minutes each week to water and tend, it will pay you back a hundredfold.

“Hello Customer Service” #1: The New Uniforms

“It’s too big.” Andy said.

“They’re in different sizes, moron. Find one that fits.” Helen responded.

The new uniforms had arrived and oh how they were loathed. Thick, stuffy fleeces so itchy they might as well be made of horsehair.

“Why do we even have to wear them? Nobody sees us. The customer’s can’t look down the phones.” Not yet, I foretold myself warningly.

“Orders from downstairs. Everyone in uniform.”

It seemed so silly. Everything in the company was being rebranded now, the sign on the building, the boxes we send stuff in, and now, the customer service reps. I have to hand it to them it was clever, putting the company name in a different colour like that.

It wasn’t the worst part though. The worst part was that it was summer. Humid. Hot. Sticky. The fleeces were immediately abandoned onto the backs of chairs (nobody was going to check we were wearing them). Even the manager followed suit.

The cafe next door was doing a roaring trade from us, ice cream and cold drinks being purchased from every department, and the wide spacious windows so admired for their view were acting like a greenhouse bringing heat like the door to an oven.

“Peter, collection.” The manager hung up his phone. I hung up my headset and slumped back in my chair. I could practically see the wavy hot air in front of the ceiling.

“Urrrrggghhh.” Collections are where something has been returned to the company for the attention of Customer Services. The rule was that when this happens we have to go get it, and it was a dreaded chore let me tell you. Remember in Toy Story where those little green aliens get selected by “the claw”? And now leaving the office meant I had to put on that stupid fleece. Where the hell were the branded shirts?

Sulkily tugging on my fleece I proceeded down the hallway to the elevator, eventually reaching the front counter.

“Down there” Stephen with a “ph” pointed to the end as he walked past.

“Ok, let me see.” I walked up and studied it. “Hmm. It’s 29 degrees outside, humidity at 93%. This box is….just over a metre long and half a metre wide…”

I tested the weight. “Ah. Nice and heavy too. That’s got to be nearly 25 kilos. I feel that justifies a swear word.”

My hands could barely grip it, the width of the box and the sweat on my hands made it almost impossible. I was melting. As I got it to the elevator it slipped from my hand just as I was putting it down and one corner crushed onto my foot. Hastily tugging it out from underneath I sighed heavily and used the box to rest my elbow on as I waited for the lift to come down. A bead of sweat trickled down my brow.

“Screw it.” I said, and all too eagerly removed the fleece.

The lift doors opened to reveal the depot manager (my boss’s boss) like a prize on a game show. He took a sip from his company-branded coffee and our eyes met for a moment. “Afternoon” he said, and walked on. But I’m pretty sure his eyes were saying “I see you’re not in uniform.”

Dear God it couldn’t get any worse. After a brief respite in the elevator it was back to hauling the box, half carrying and half sliding it down the hallway with the fleece tied around my waist.

With triumph the box was plonked down by my chair, the fleece abandoned, and my butt found it’s groove back in the padding of the seat.

“Ah….” I savoured the rest.

Almost as soon as I reattached my headset the phone rang.

“Peter, collection.”

Screw you, Danny.

Introduction To The Customer Service Series

It’s not a bad retail company, I’ll say that straight up. But as with any large company there are problems and when there are problems who do the customers call? That’s right. Not Ghost Busters but Customer Services. And that’s who we are. The front line of defence for the armchair generals taking the bullets, shell-shock and flak so you can get that missing Lego piece. Ever wondered what we do in our spare time? Wonder no more.