When bad call centres happen to good people
I got sacked from a call centre.
No, let me rephrase that. I was on a zero hour contract and I was told by my supervisor, Steve, that I wasn’t getting sacked, I just wasn’t getting any more hours. Ever.
I was in my late twenties, an out-of-work actress and in the middle of moving my ex-boyfriend’s stuff out of – what was – our shared flat. Cheers Steve. Talk about kicking me when I was down.
Here’s what happened.
It was a booking line for theatre tickets. A lady called, annoyed that her tickets still hadn’t arrived. I went through the scripted questions to help her, something I’d learnt during my three intensive (and unpaid) training days. Despite me simply doing my job, the lady didn’t like me. Or, more precisely, she didn’t like my Liverpool accent. This, she made quite clear by telling me to repeat myself because she couldn’t understand me, and when I asked for her house number she huffed and said, “We don’t all live in terraced houses up north, you know!” Silly me. I should have known she lived in Rose bloody Cottage. It took one more jab at me to hang up. Yep. I hung up. In training, they warned this was a sackable offence and I’d never done such a thing before. But this lady was, in a word, horrid. And I immediately told my team leader, apologising for my actions.
“Don’t worry,” he assured me. “Thanks for being so honest.”
So, the next day when Supervisor Steve asked me to follow him to his office – with a wink and a smile, I’d like to add – I’d wondered if I was getting a promotion. Or maybe it was somebody’s birthday and he wanted me to carry the cake into the call centre. I even remember asking how he’d been feeling since that awful cold he’d had the previous week.
Steve was much more prepared than me. For starters, he’d placed a toilet roll on his desk, which he handed to me once I started crying, begging for a second chance. Also, he’d recruited one of his cronies to gather my coat and bag from the desk I’d logged into, leaving them beside his office door. “So you don’t have to see anybody on your way out,” Steve had said. I managed to say, thanks.
I left the building. I walked in circles around Soho Square. I phoned my ex-boyfriend. Yes, we’d gone beyond the realisation that despite our best efforts, we really were not made for each other. But, he still knew me better than anybody else on the planet, and in a bittersweet way, he was the only person with the ability to lift me up. Which he may have done. Although I distinctly remember crying all the way back to a half empty flat, feeling like utter crap.
The following day was a new day. I called the good ol’ temping agency and found myself at a reception desk of a deserted office. My job was to answer the phone “if it rings,” the office manager told me, “but it probably won’t”. Seriously. Nine quid an hour for that. “Feel free to check your emails and stuff.” Bonus!
Now, this was the era before social media went nuts. I had a Facebook account, but there wasn’t much to mooch at. To update my status, I had to fill in the blank after ‘Hayley Doyle is…..’ Yeah! Remember? Simpler times indeed.
Which could be the key to my good thing… Or not.
In short, I spent the day researching creative writing courses. By the end of the day I’d submitted an application for a Masters Degree at Brunel University. And a few weeks later, I received a letter in the post. There it was, in black and white; I had been accepted.
I now have an MA in Creative Writing: The Novel. My dissertation was awarded the Curtis Brown Award and a few years later, I was offered representation by a London literary agent. My novel, Never Saw You Coming was published by Harper Collins in April 2020, and my next novel, Love, Almost will be out in the New Year.
I do sometimes wonder if this would have happened if I hadn’t taken that lady’s call, if I’d been on my break. Or, if I hadn’t hung up. Or, if I hadn’t been so honest and confessed to my team leader.
Maybe the lesson here is, always be honest.
Or at least, be true to yourself.
– By Hayley Doyle
Hayley’s upcoming book Love, Almost is available to pre-order on Amazon.