Always Something There to Remind Me

Daily Prompt Post: A song comes on the radio and instantly, you’re transported to a different time and place. Which song(s) bring back memories for you and why? Be sure to mention the song, and describe the memory it evokes.

This song reminds me of my first real taste of heartbreak.  It was a long time ago now…five or six years, at least.  I was crazy about a guy who I thought liked me back, only to find he didn’t.  Or maybe just wasn’t interested in a relationship.  I’m still not sure, and have never had the courage to ask, even though we’re still good friends today.

When I (finally) got the “no”, I was devastated, locking myself away in my room in the dark, curled up on the floor, this song playing loudly, tears falling uncontrollably.  This song really helped me through it, though.  I don’t know why a sad song is sometimes so therapeutic, but it is.

I have memories attached to almost all of Taylor’s songs, but this one is definitely one of the most powerful.  Every time I hear it, it takes me straight back there.  It doesn’t make me sad any more though, but rather, glad I’m in a better place now, and glad I learnt so much from it.

Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour Review

So, after buying the tickets over a year ago, and dramas with the people I was originally going with no longer coming, the night finally arrived.  This is my fourth Tay Tay concert.  The first one I went to was at a (relatively) small location that most Melbournians are familiar with as a nightclub – Billboards.  She would have been about 19, this was her first time performing in Australia and she only had one album behind her.  She was still very country-sounding, and still had her famous curly hair.  There was maybe 500 people in the venue.

10400114_60306460775_4791870_n
Taylor Swift, Billboards, March 2009

Flashforward to now, six and a half years later, and she’s sold out three Melbourne shows, has lost her curls and has moved far away from her country roots.  She still enjoys her sparkly dresses though!

I’ll be honest, after the dramas leading up to it and the massive wait since purchasing the tickets, my enthusiasm wasn’t particularly high as I was heading in for the show.  It didn’t help it was Friday night after a long work week, and I’d been up since 6am.  Still, I’d wrangled presale tickets that cost $180 each (a far cry from the $50 I paid way back in 2009) so I was going to try to “shake off” my tiredness and enjoy the show.

The first thing I did was head to the nearest merch stand and join the massive line.  I know it’s a rip off but I always get something from concerts.  I couldn’t get anything at Billboards, but each concert since I’ve grabbed something – the first I got was a cute hat, the following one I got a shirt (which I still wear more than pretty much anything else).  As I was standing in line, squinting to see what was on offer, I was tossing up whether to get another shirt, or spend an arm and a leg on a hoodie.  I decided to bite the bullet and go for the hoodie as I didn’t have many jumpers anyway, and I already had a shirt.  At the last second, my best mate jumped in and shoved cash at the girl, telling me it was my Christmas present.  I honestly didn’t see it coming and didn’t have time to react, so I couldn’t stop him spending so much on me.  It was nice of him to do, but the hoodie was $100.

tayhat

$_1

Blackneon1989hoodie
My merch collection

After waiting in line for over half an hour and not having eaten since lunch (which felt like a lifetime ago by this stage), we headed off to find food.  This was when it first became clear that the venue – AAMI Park – was not like the usual arena these sort of concerts were held at (it’s normally held at its sister stadium Rod Lavar Arena, but Elton John was performing there that night).  Rod Lavar Arena had everything inside the concourse and you could enter through any door and walk around.  AAMI park, it seemed, did not work like that, at least not during this kind of event.  We initially headed up the closest steps which read Gate 6, 7 and 8, assuming we’d just walk around to Gate 2 (where we needed to be).  Once we got up there, though, there were temporary fences blocking the way and mobs of people trying to work out where to go.  Even with security around, there just wasn’t enough to get to everyone.

We headed back down the stairs and started walking around the outside of the stadium, not even sure if we were headed in the right direction.  On the way, we stopped by a food stand and purchased overpriced, tasteless dinner.  I could say it was disappointing (and it was), but Australians have come to expect that from stadiums so there’s really not much point in going into detail with that.  We ate it to curb our hunger, not because we thought we’d enjoy it.  As we were eating, we kept walking, battling through the enormous crowds, hoping like hell we were walking in the right direction and we wouldn’t hit another fence.  Luckily, we found the right gate and headed up, only to be told in no uncertain terms we would not be allowed in with backpacks…and my friend had a giant one as he’d come straight from work.  I also had a large bag, although I wasn’t told specifically one way or the other whether mine would be acceptable.  As it was getting late, we just assumed mine would be too big as well, to save us getting knocked back a second time.  We were told to go back downstairs and to the drop off arena.  Another line to wait in.  Backpacks were never an issue at Rod Lavar, so this was another annoyance to add to the list.  Nobody even gave an explanation as to why – it just was.

While I was waiting, I changed into my new hoodie, as the night was already cooling down quickly and I’d only worn a light cardigan.  The hoodie was awesome – I got the biggest size they had, and it was oversized and warm and snuggly.  I was very happy about that as I was worried it’d be bad quality (as some stuff from merch stands can be).  Instead, it’s now the best jumper I own!

After finally dropping off our bags and heading upstairs again, we were let inside.  They handed us a white rubbery bracelet at the door, and then we basically had to fumble our way through the concourse trying to decipher the signage.  Yet another thing Rod Lavar does better – a lot better.  The signage was confusing, sometimes hard to find and always hard to translate back to what was on the ticket.  Once we finally found the right door to go through, we headed down to the floor.  As I mentioned earlier, these were expensive presale tickets.  I was under the impression they’d be good seats.  While I’m not denying there were probably worse ones, these weren’t fantastic.  The seats were cheap plastic temporary ones, zip-tied together far too close for comfort so when everyone was sitting we were all crammed in.  The other issue with being on the floor was that its all one level, so unless you’re in the front row of your section, it’s a gamble as to what you’ll actually be able to see.  I wasn’t impressed.  And before anyone starts, presale tickets don’t give you a massive choice of seating, so I couldn’t have chosen to go Level 1 or 2 even if I’d wanted to, unless I took my chances and waited until they officially went on sale, but the previous tour tickets sold out within twenty minutes or something, so I didn’t want to risk it.  Plus, you’d assume presale tickets would be good seats anyway.

My other annoyance was that the roof doesn’t close on AAMI Park.  It was designed to be a sports arena (namely, soccer) so I guess they didn’t need a roof for that.  All I can say is, I’m glad it didn’t rain, as being on the floor (aka the ground) would mean there’s absolutely no protection from the weather.  It was seriously cold though.  The wind was strong and icy and everyone was shivering and pulling on any extra layers they could.  I, once again, was relived I’d chosen the hoodie at the merch stand.  I don’t think I’d have lasted through the whole concert with just the cardigan I came with.  Had the concert been at Rod Lavar like the previous two, the stadium roof would have been closed and the wind blocked out.  Instead, we all froze half to death.

As the seats filled up, it became very apparent I’m not going to be able to see very much.  I was about halfway down in our ‘section’ and there were taller people in the front rows.  Plus, I had little girls in the seats in front of me (maybe about 8 and 10) and the only way they could see over anyone was to stand on their seats.  I completely understood, but it didn’t help my view.  $180 and I could barely even see the giant screens next to the stage (never mind the stage itself).  What a joke.  As there was a massive space next to our seats (I’m talking at least 5×5 metres, minimum), I went and stood there instead, where my view was much, much better.

The concert started with a bang, as it should.  It started with Welcome to New Yorkwith giant black-and-white noir-style images on the screens behind the stage.  It quickly jumped then into New Romanticsone of my favourite tracks off the album.

During costume changes, there were “interviews” with Taylor’s squad, including Selena Gomez and her best friend Abigail, full of messages targeted at the younger members of the audience.  All bubbly and uplifting and occasionally funny.   Again, I understand the motive behind them, and I’m sure the younger members of the audience enjoyed them and got something from them, but for the older people (which is actually a large majority), it was a time to notice the cold and wish she’d come back on stage to distract us from it once more.

About halfway through she played my favourite song from the album, How to Get the Girl.  It was also around this time that an old security guard marched up to us and told us we must go back to our seats due to “OH&S issues”.  What the fuck does that mean?  We weren’t in the way, there was metres of space on either side, we were still close to the seating, and we weren’t hurting anyone at all by being there.  I was going to argue, but I knew exactly what he’d say – “if I let you do it, I’ll have to let everyone do it”.  Fair enough, except most people seemed okay where they were.  It was only us and maybe two others from our seating group who’d decided to move slightly away from the seats.  Whatever.  My bad mood returned as I struggled to see anything at all.  It again crossed my mind to leave, not because of the concert (it was her usual awesome quality), but because of the awful venue choice.  I managed to find somewhere to stand where I could see at least one screen, so that helped.  It also helped that a couple of songs after How to Get the Girl, she’d jumped onto a giant crane and was above the heads of the crowd, so I could finally get a decent view that wasn’t from a screen.

When she jumped onto the crane, she played a really old song of hers, Fifteen, as her twenty-sixth birthday is next week.  It’s a great song, so this lifted my mood again further.  She spent the next few songs on the crane, so standing in my seating area wasn’t an issue.  She played Love Story, which I’d seen her perform at her last two concerts, but this was a slightly more rocky version, and was really cool.  Then – sadly – she got off the crane.  By this point, though, the little girls in front had succumbed to the cold and had gone home, so my view suddenly got a lot better anyway. (Side note, another reason why this venue sucks.  I mean, yes, I got my view, but those little girls had probably been counting down the months, weeks and days to come to this concert and then left halfway through because they couldn’t stand the wind any more.  And their parents would have paid the same price for a ticket I had, but for 4 people as the girls had an older sister with them as well – that’s $720 for half a concert!  They battled to stay too, but it got to the point one of them was hunched over and close to tears from the cold. Seriously, that’s messed up.)

The best two songs IMO came right towards then end, when she played We’re Never Getting Back Together followed closely by Wildest Dreams.  The coolest part of that was she’d remixed the latter to combine any older song of hers – Enchanted – with it.  I love both those songs, so it was the highlight of the show for me.

Sadly, unlike her US and UK shows, Australia didn’t get any surprise visits from Taylor’s friends.  I can’t say I’m surprised, as down under usually miss out on stuff like that, but it would have been nice to have had it too.

As the show wrapped up with Shake It Off, we left halfway through.  Not by choice, really, as I would have loved to see it through to the end, but because we knew if we didn’t get out early, we’d get stuck in the massive line to collect our bags.  It was lucky we did leave then, as we were right towards the front of the line.  Once the show let out, the line was so long it wrapped around the outside of the stadium so far I couldn’t see it any more.  We assumed they’d be pleased we’d come early and gratefully hand over our things as quickly as possible.  After the evening’s dramas though, I don’t know what gave me that idea.  We were told that the bags were being kept in a secure location but couldn’t be accessed until a majority of the people had cleared the stadium as it was right off a corridor that is used to let people out.  Basically, they couldn’t give us our stuff for “at least twenty minutes, but maybe longer”.

SERIOUSLY.

I was extremely annoyed by the way this stadium ran things.  I don’t know who designed it or why it was thought to be a good idea to do it that way, but if you aren’t going to allow backpacks into the arena, thereby forcing a large number of patrons to use the cloak room system that otherwise wouldn’t and who didn’t have any choice in the matter, don’t make them wait for twenty minutes in the blistering cold to get them back.  It’s common fucking sense.  Either cordon off the corridor, or don’t use that area to store stuff in the first place.  Once they finally deemed the stadium empty enough, it was just as disorganised actually getting our stuff back.  There was one little table slotted in one little doorway, and they’d take the ticket they’d given us earlier and tell us to “wait to the side” – all well and good except they’re saying that to 10, 20, 30 people at once.  There’s physically no room to fit that many people in that little space.  And yet, they kept insisting people “move over” to let people who hadn’t given their ticket in.  It was chaos.  I was so relived when my bag finally made an appearance.  I just wanted to get out of there.

On the walk back, the traffic we walked past was absolutely bumper-to-bumper stopped back as far as the eye could see.  I don’t think it was a great idea to have Elton John and Taylor Swift playing at stadiums a stones-throw away from each other.  The city streets couldn’t deal with that kind of traffic.  The line at the taxi rank was enormous, and I’m sure would have taken hours to clear as the cars were barely moving in front of it, meaning taxis couldn’t get there if they wanted to.  As cold and tired as I was, I was glad I’d predicted this and had parked further away from it all.  I could hear people talking on phones nearby complaining loudly about having no way to get home.

One thing I haven’t mentioned but that really, really impressed me was the free bracelets we got given at the door.  They lit up different colours and at different times in time to the music.  I know that doesn’t sound all that cool, but in a sea of 30,000 people, all with them on, it was beautiful.  The thing that impressed me the most about it was that they’d managed to do it by seating – for one song, the people in the stands had their bracelets lit up blue, and us down on the floor had them green.  I’m sure this will become the new norm for concerts in the future, as it beats the hell out of mobile phone screens and overpriced flashing torches from the merch stand.

IMG_0445

Overall, the concert itself was great, and the setlist, backgrounds, special effects, costumes and crane usage was very well done and thought out.  I only wish the venue hadn’t let me down in so many ways, and almost ruined a night that should have been epic.  I will not be going back to AAMI Park for concerts (and seeing as how sport is not my thing, it’s a safe bet I won’t be going there for that either).  If Taylor performs there next time, I will be skipping it.  I’m not going to risk spending big bucks and not being able to enjoy myself.  I only hope that she manages to get back to Rod Lavar next time where everything is a lot better!

IMG_0447
Panorama of the stadium with their bracelet lit up

Mourning

So, as I’ve discussed in previous posts, I lost my job a few months back.  I’d been there for five years, and while it had it’s rough patches and downsides, for the most part I was happy there.  I’d met heaps of wonderful people (some who are now my closest friends), learnt a lot, found myself and honestly thought I’d be there for a long while to come.

The last year I’d spent there had been the best yet.  We had a great team, I was 50% of the management and the other manager was a close friend, we called the shots and everything was running as smoothly as can be expected.  I loved going to work every day.  About three months before the end, things started to go downhill.   The manager told me he’d found another job, which was devastating for me on a personal level as he was a lot of the reason work was so enjoyable.  It was also devastating for the whole team as he really was the glue that held us together.  After he left, things fell apart.  The new manager tried to change things that shouldn’t have been changed, I felt unheard, the part-timers got their shifts cut back, the roster was full of gaps and mistakes.  I dreaded going to work as I felt like I’d gone from co-store manager back to just one-of-the-team.  Alongside that, I was also copping it from my Area Manager, who told me brutally and in no uncertain terms that she didn’t believe I was ready to be Assistant Store Manager (she’d only been in charge of my store for about a month at that point, prior to her we’d had a different Area Manager who was really laid back and whom we barely saw).  I was furious.  Firstly because she’d been there for so little time so how would she even know?  And secondly because I’d been acting-ASM for nearing two years.  Her main issue was I wasn’t focused on sales coaching (I was very admin-focused at the time) and she believed that was what was required of an ASM.  It didn’t matter I’d done it previously, or that the old Area Manager never once had a problem with me doing admin, or that both the old AM and herself had looked me in the eye and told me the paperwork for my promotion was coming through.

As you can see, I was having a miserable time.  I applied for another job and hoped like hell I’d get it.  I didn’t hear back from them at all for almost two months.  Every single day I’d wake up and think about quitting.  I’d written out two different resignation letters, ready to hand in when I finally broke.  I guess there were a couple of reasons why I didn’t quit.  Looking back, I wish I had of.  The first one was that, despite being taken for granted, lied to, overlooked and basically treated like shit, I was comfortable.  I knew the team very well, I knew the systems backwards, I knew the products we sold, I knew where everything in the store was located, I knew the processes involved with everything.  It was easy.  That’s what it came down to.  Five years experience gave me a confidence in the place that I knew I wouldn’t have in another job.  The second was I couldn’t afford to be unemployed.  I was renting, in the midst of building a house, had bills to pay and a dog to feed.  If I still lived at my parents, it probably would have been a different story, but I was trying to be grown up about it.  Grown ups can’t just quit their job, even if it sucks.

The day started out like all the others.  I woke up, hated the thought of going into work, went in anyway.  Started doing my admin stuff, because that’s basically all I did.  I found comfort in it when I couldn’t in anything else there.  Out of the blue, I was told by the new manager that HR were here to talk to people about “stocktake results”.  I’d been on leave when stocktake was done, and I wasn’t even aware there were any issues.  I assumed that it must have just had a bad month or something and shrugged it off.  I kept going with my day, resenting every minute of it.  I remember texting my friend that morning saying that I should just hand in my resignation then and there.  I honestly felt like I was at breaking point.  I don’t even remember what exactly made me feel that way…I think it had just finally caught up with me.  Oh how I wish I’d actually handed in my resignation then.  Though I suppose it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, it was probably too late by then.

Anyway, for most of the morning I’d forgotten all about the HR thing.  I hadn’t seen them and I didn’t notice anyone leaving the store for extended periods of time (though it had been happening, I’d just assumed they’d gone on break or I’d just overlooked them).  One of the girls came back in shaken up, and it was only then I realized HR had been in the centre the whole time, quietly pulling people out of the store to speak with them.  That’s when I started freaking out.  I’d been through meetings with HR about six months prior and I knew it was bad news, especially because I had an overwhelming feeling it had something to do with me.  It wasn’t a huge leap to make – the new manager had only been there a couple of months, and the old manager wasn’t there any more, and I was the acting ASM.  I messaged the old manager and he said not to worry, it can’t be anything too bad as HR didn’t give notice about the meetings like they were supposed to.  He has a way of calming people (especially me) down, and I did feel a little better.

I remember the next part clear as day too.  I was on the floor, chatting to one of my closest workmates who’d just randomly cracked the screen on her phone, out of the blue.  She was really upset about it and we were trying to work out how it happened when the new manager interrupted and told me to go to my HR meeting.  I was a little nervous but I kept telling myself it was nothing.  I’d have known about it if something bad was happening, surely.

I headed into the meeting.  There was a guy I’d never seen before on one side of the table and a girl from my previous HR meetings on the other.  She was lovely; he was not.  The first thing he asked was if I was okay with the meeting being recorded.  The previous meetings I’d had with HR hadn’t been recorded…what was going on? The meeting turned out to be one of the single most traumatic experiences of my life.  He fired question after question at me, trying to catch me off guard, accusing me of lying, demanding things of me that my brain couldn’t keep up with.  I don’t do well in situations where I don’t have time to think.  I’m an introvert.  I like to think things through before I speak, otherwise who knows what will come out of my mouth?  The meeting seemed to never end.  He had so many questions, and the more he had, the more incriminating my answers became.  Some of the questions were so absurd or random that all I could do was gape at him.  He was a terrifying presence.  He enjoyed making me squirm, I could see it in his eyes.  After an hour and a half, he then finished the interview by asking if I’d felt intimidated by him.  What was I going to say?  If you’re intimidated by someone, you aren’t going to admit it to them.  Especially someone who would get enjoyment out of it.  Then the HR lady (who’d been quite almost the whole time) told me I had another meeting the following morning which “may result in suspension or termination”.  I knew what that meant.  We’d previously gone through it with another employee and my manager had to give him that line (word-for-word) over the phone.  I knew I wasn’t going back to work.  At the very end, the guy told me he’d be forwarding everything onto the police.  Well, if I wasn’t already shaking (and I was), that really got me.

I raced out of there and called my old manager, as he was just as involved in everything as I was.  He tried to calm me down but it wasn’t going to happen, not this time.  He hadn’t been there, sitting opposite a guy who spat questions at you, who wanted to make you upset.  As I couldn’t be consoled over the phone, he agreed to meet up at our other friend C’s house.  We talked for a couple of hours about everything, and although I was still reeling and shaken up, I felt a little better knowing I wasn’t alone in this, and that they thought I’d been treated poorly in the interview as well.

The next day came and I headed into the second meeting, with C coming as my witness.  I was terrified.  I could barely hold back the tears.  How could this be happening?  After five years of loyal service and hard work, were they were really going to give me the boot?  We wound up going to the wrong building and having to race down to the proper one, which didn’t help my frazzled nerves.  We were ushered into a tiny room where my area manager (the one who’d told me I wasn’t good enough to be ASM) and the HR girl from the previous day were sitting.  I was absolutely shitting myself – I didn’t realize my area manager was going to be there.  Looking back I guess I probably should have, and I was grateful it wasn’t the asshole guy from yesterday, but this wasn’t much better.  I actually went okay though, considering.  The area manager read off a piece of paper, she asked a few questions, talked about the findings and outcomes from the day before, they took a break, came back in and told me I was terminated effective immediately.  I handed in my keys and left.  It was all over within half an hour.  Considering the horrors of the previous meeting, this was actually quite good.

I was a mess for about a week afterwards.  I couldn’t believe I’d been fired.  I had so many emotions running through me.  Firstly, I was embarrassed.  I knew how everyone was there – I’d be hot gossip for sure.  Everyone would be talking.  I hated knowing that people would see me as a bad person…I hated knowing I was forever going to be the “manager that got fired”.  I was ashamed.  I didn’t like being caught out for something dumb I’d done a year before.  I didn’t like that I no longer had a way to support myself.  I was hurt.  So many people I’d trusted and thought were my friends had caused this to happen.  They’d ratted me out for no reason other than self-gratification or because they were bored.  They had no need to do it, but they did it anyway.  I was lost.  My whole world for the past five years had been that job.  I’d put in long hours, I’d do extra work, I’d treated staff like family, I’d spent my own money on things to help the store.  Now all that was gone, just like that.  I’d never use the systems I’d come to know so well again, I’d never get to say goodbye to the people I’d gotten to know so well over the years.  I’d sit and cry for hours.  What if I couldn’t get another job?  Who’d want to hire someone like me?

After about a week, my despair turned to anger.  I was furious that people had done this to me.  How could they?  Granted, sometimes I’m not the easiest person to be around, but they were supposed to be my friends.  I’d never done anything to them.  Nothing intentional anyway.  I was angry at the company.  Okay, I’d fucked up, but did they need to fire me over it?  After all the loyalty and long hours?  Where was my recognition for all that?  I felt like the last five years had been a giant waste of time.  I’d worked my ass off and this was all the thanks I got?  I was angry that my old manager had gotten out of it all scott-free.  Even as I was feeling it, I knew it wasn’t fair.  He was one of my closest friends and part of me was happy he’d quit before this all went down, but another part hated him for it.  He was just as responsible for it happening as I was, but he’s got a great job now and I’ve got nothing.  I had to go through that tortuous interview alone.  They couldn’t point the finger at him so I copped it twice as bad.  I guess mostly though I was angry at myself.  I’d had a moment of weakness, and instead of stopping myself, I let it happen.  I knew it was wrong but I did it anyway.  Coupled with that, I was angry at the people around me who knew what I was doing but didn’t stop me.  It was fine for them to tell me now that it was dumb, but they certainly weren’t saying that at the time.

After the anger passed, I just felt hopeless.  By this stage I’d been knocked back for the job I’d applied for a couple of months prior (you can read about that here), as well as a slew of other jobs.  I felt like that’s all I did all day every day.  Search for jobs, change my cover letter, apply for it, wait to hear.  When I heard, I’d go to the interview, and inevitably get knocked back within the week.  This happened time and time again.  It was made worse by the fact that the asshole interview guy had said he was going to the police with everything, and I had no idea if he was just being a dick or whether he was actually going to.  I hadn’t heard from the police at all, but I wasn’t sure what that meant.  A lot of jobs these days run background checks and I didn’t know what would come up on mine.

After three long months, I finally landed a casual job, and then within a week, a better, full time job.  I was relieved as I’d had to rely on my parents again up until then, which I hated.  I hadn’t had to do that for years.  I was still nervous though, as although I’d accepted my contract, they still hadn’t gotten the results back from my background check, and the contract would be voided if anything was found.  My old manager said that the police would have contacted me months ago if they’d been involved but I still wasn’t confident about it.  I went to my induction, each day expecting to be pulled out and told to go home.  It was stressful and it sucked because all I really wanted to do was celebrate my newfound employment but I couldn’t.

I finally knew I was in the clear when I tried to login to the background check website a week later and couldn’t.  That must mean it’s done and came back clear.  Phew!  The asshole interviewer really was just a sadistic bastard.  You’d think after all that I’d be celebrating my new job, but nothing in my life is ever that simple.  I was told I was going to be training two stores down from my old work.  I was terrified.  All it would take was one person from there saying something to someone and it was all over.  I didn’t know what had been said about me, or who knew what happened, or who was on my side.  All weekend I was stressing out, thinking that now that I’d finally landed a job, I was going to lose it and have to start all over again.  I didn’t think I’d be able to deal with that.

On the morning of my first shift back at my old shopping centre, I finally decided to stop worrying.  I’d come this far – I’d landed the job, passed the background check and reference checks, survived induction.  I’ll be damned if I’m going to keep stressing about losing the job again.  I also refused to let the people who dragged me down at my old job, drag me down at my new one.  It was out of my hands where I was told to train at and out of my hands what was said, but it was completely in my hands as to whether I let them win or not.  If I was going to stress the whole time, and avoid them, and let them ruin my time there, that was letting them win.  I’d been working in that centre a hell of a lot longer than them and they had no right to make me think I wasn’t welcome there.

I’ve been at the centre over a week now and it’s been fantastic.  I’ve run into one of the people I don’t like (which was awkward), but I’ve also caught up with quite a few of the people I do and they’re supportive and it was great to see them again.  The people I don’t like haven’t said a word to me and are unlikely to say something to anyone else, so my fears were unfounded.  I feel like I’m back at home again in the centre.

That being said, I still really miss parts of my old job.  I still have dreams where I’m working there, and wake up sad.  I miss the old team and the way we used to get on so well.  I miss being confident in my role.  It’s tough being the new kid again when at my old job, I was the person everyone would run to with their random, difficult questions.  I miss doing admin and rosters.  I miss feeling like I belonged there.  I know with time I’ll get that feeling back with my new job, but right now I just feel out of place – partly because I’m training at a store I’m not based at, partly because it’s a different company with different systems and policies.

It wasn’t until I read an article that I realized this was normal.  People do mourn for their jobs.  It seems like a weird thing, particularly when you hated it towards the end anyway, but it’s legitimately a thing and it’s exactly what I’m going through.  The article said even when you get a new job, the grieving doesn’t stop, and it’s true.  I guess it’s like anything really…you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.  I took for granted my job security, my knowledge-base, my passion for the job.  When it was pulled out from under me so abruptly, I didn’t know what to do.  I think if I had of quit and had two weeks lead up to the end, it might have been different.  I could have mentally prepared myself.  Instead, just like that, it was gone.  I didn’t know waking up that morning, it would be my last shift.  I didn’t get that luxury.

I guess the most important part in all this is to learn from it.  It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been somewhere, or how hard you work, or how loved you are, companies don’t show mercy for mistakes.  If it’s big enough, you’re out of there.  It doesn’t matter if you didn’t do it intentionally or if you didn’t benefit directly from it or if you were trying to do the right thing…if they don’t agree, you’re gone.  I’ve also learnt how tough job hunting is.  Oh sure, I’d heard about it enough, but until you go through it and get knock back after knock back (even for jobs that are basically identical to what you’ve been doing previously) it’s really hard to deal with.  You have to have a thick skin or you’ll sink into depression, or give up and go on benefits and never get off.  I have a new appreciation for how easy that would be.  Luckily I never had to go that far thanks to my family’s support.  Even on my low days, even on the sleep deprived days, I’ll never take having a job and an income for granted again.

As for moving on, I’m trying.  It’s tough having to walk past my old work five times a week, knowing that I used to spend so much of my time there and now I no longer do.  Everything is so familiar there, it’s like looking into my home.  I could tell you stories about every inch of that place.  They still have my hand-created posters up on the walls.  So much of myself is still locked in there and it hurts to know I was evicted.  That being said, I feel myself getting stronger each day.  I have my good days and my bad ones, but I think it’s really helping that I’m enjoying my new job.  Once I start feeling comfortable in it, I think that’s when the mourning will truely end.  Until then, I’ve always got my wonderful memories and amazing friends to be thankful for.  I now know it wasn’t a waste of time…if I hadn’t of worked there, my life wouldn’t be as rich and amazing as it is now.

IMG_0824

-JD

What One Song Defines Your childhood, Teenage & College Years?

The song that most takes me back to childhood is Aaron Carter’s cover of I Want Candy.  I know, I know, as if you’d chose this over Spice Girls.  Honestly, I never got into them as much as other people.  I was on the cusp of getting into pop music at that time (being only 6 or 7) and I never had their album.  Instead, mum got me my first completion CD – “Barbie Slumber Party Mix”.  This song was on it, and got a lot of plays.

6

Also on the CD mix was Steps – 5, 6, 7, 8,  *Nsync – It’s Gonna Be Me, S Club 7 – Bring it All Back (a close contender for this title!) and Len – Steal My Sunshine.  It may have been released under a cheesy name, but this mix is still pretty cool for 90s nostalgia. (Yes, I may have just spent 25 minutes tracking down all the songs and making a playlist.  Don’t judge me!).

The song the defines my teenage years is an easy pick – Simple Plan’s “Perfect”.  It was the first song that really got me and my teenage angst.  Plus, these guys were the first band I ever saw in concert.  I remember almost my whole year level went and it’s all we could talk about for the next week.  Such an awesome show.

Hmmm, a song that defines my college years.  I think I’m going to have to go with Taylor Swift’s Teardrops on My Guitar.  Although comparatively late compared to everyone in the US, I was one of the first to discover her all the way over in Australia, and this was her first song I got into.  I remember going to her concert and it was so small and intimate that there was maybe 300 people at most there.  By the time she came out the following year, she’d filled up a whole stadium.  It’s pretty awesome to know I was there before all that.  Look how close I was!

10400114_60306460775_4791870_n

What songs define you?

-JD

Harry Potter and the Muggle who Refused to Buy Into It (and Why She Regrets It)

So, Harry Potter has been famous for what feels like forever.  I remember vividly when I was first introduced to it, a few years prior to it becoming famous.  I was in primary school, maybe Grade 4.  We had one of those Book Fairs happening, and mum agreed to let me buy one book.  Do schools still do Book Fairs?  They should.  They were awesome.  Though I guess we didn’t have iPads back then, so maybe they aren’t cool any more.  Whatever, it was after school and I was in the library, looking at all the newly-erected temporary book stands filled with the latest children’s book titles.  One of the covers caught my eye, one with a blue flying car and two kids hanging out the window.  The librarian, Mrs Bourke, came over and said that she’d recommend the series, but that I was holding the second book and should probably start with the first.  In this case, I literally judged the book by it’s cover and decided against her suggestion, intrigued more by the flying car than the train.

I got home and started to read it.  Big surprise though, I couldn’t follow what was going on.  I tried multiple times over the next year to get into it, but would inevitably give up after the first few chapters.

The book sat on my shelf for two years.  Then – out of nowhere – everyone was talking about the series.  Literally overnight, it went from nobody talking about books to it being the latest thing.  I didn’t get it.  I couldn’t understand why everyone liked it.  I couldn’t get into it at all, and at that stage, I was an avid reader.  I’d demolish book after book.  It wasn’t like me to give up on them.  So I was really confused about the whole overnight phenomenon.

I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but within the next couple of months, I managed to get my hands on the first book that I’d turned my nose up at years before.  I started to read it, and suddenly everything made sense.  I read the first and second book within a couple of weeks.  I really liked it, and was glad I could finally enjoy the book that I’d attempted so many times.

It took awhile for me to get my hands on the third book as there was a giant waiting list at the library for it (it’s hard to believe that was even a thing, much less that it seemed perfectly normal at the time!).  I think I was at least halfway through grade 6 before I read it, and again, really liked it.  I remember that, even at that young age, I was perplexed that the hype for the series was still going strong.  I assumed (incorrectly) that it would fizzle out like most things did.  Every kid who enjoyed reading (which was a lot back then) was hanging out for the next installment.

The next book came out and by then, my sister had also gotten into the series so mum decided it was okay to buy it instead of waiting a ridiculously long time for a copy to free up at the library.  Despite being the longest book of the series (and the longest book I’d ever read at the time) I chewed through it.

As this book was coming out, so too was the movie.  The hype for the series grew exponentially, which seemed unfathomable as it was already so high as it was.  I didn’t see the film in the cinema, but my sister bought the VHS when it came out and I watched it there.  I was disappointed – I wasn’t used to seeing films based off books and I felt it was missing a lot.  I was young and couldn’t comprehend the reasons why they’d leave stuff out.

As the second film was about to come out a year or so later, the hype became overwhelming.  You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing posters or merchandise or people talking excitedly about it.  People on the TV and radio would talk about it, kids at school couldn’t stop guessing what it would be like.

That’s when I decided I’d had enough.

This was my very first taste of going against the crowd.  I was sick of hearing about the boy wizard, sick of seeing Daniel Radcliffe’s face everywhere and mostly, sick of people expecting me to be obsessed with it.  Granted, I did enjoy the books that I’d read, and the movie wasn’t bad (if lacking), but I felt like I had to fight the world.  Part of me was a little sad, but I refused to acknowledge it.  I didn’t want to be like everybody else.

My sister didn’t share my views, and ate up all the HP goodness she could.  She’d buy the books as they came out, see the newest movies in the cinema, even write fanfiction in her free time.  We were polar opposites (which is hardly anything new).

I fought the fight for over a decade.  I didn’t read any more of the books, didn’t see any more of the movies, refused to partake in discussions about any of it.  I told people I didn’t like the series, when actually it was the hype I didn’t like.  The more films that came out, the bigger the hype.  When the last book came out, I still remember the news reports with kids who lined up for hours to get their copy.  When they got it they hugged it and bawled their eyes out.  They’d stay up all night reading it to try to be the first in the world to finish it.  I watched the report, rolling my eyes and scoffing.  What was wrong with these kids?  It’s just a book.

Last month, I decided after all these years, to listen to that sad little voice that had been within me this whole time, who kept saying “you’re allowed to like the series along with everyone else!  Please don’t stop reading!  You want to know what happens!”.  I read the books as avidly as I had the first time.  It had been so long since I’d read them that a lot of the stuff that happened was actually surprising, which was pretty cool.  It was like I got a second chance to read it for the first time.  I managed to read all 7 books within a month, and it was only then, as I finished the last one, that I wish I’d read it along with the rest of the world.  Suddenly, I understood the hysteria.  I was sad – really, really sad – that I’d come to the end of Harry’s story.  I completely understood why people wrote fanfiction, why others were obsessed with the Pottermore site, why people would hold Harry Potter themed parties.  The series was magical, in every sense of the world.  Reading it so late, though, meant I’d missed my chance to talk to others about it.  The hysteria finally subsided, and I wasn’t going to be the one to desperately try to bring it back.

All I could do to try to keep the series going was watch all the movies, and I enjoyed them (moreso than I had when I was 12) but it wasn’t the same.  I expected them to leave a lot out and change things, which they did, and I just couldn’t get the same feeling back I’d had while reading the books.  I had to accept it, I’d have to move on with my life.  It seriously felt like a weird kind of mourning.  Partly it was a mourning because I could never read the books again not knowing what was coming next…and partly because I’d missed out on going through the excitement when I was younger.  That ship had sailed and there was nothing I could do to bring either thing back.

I’d finally learnt a valuable lesson, a decade too late – always be yourself and don’t let anyone influence your decisions.  If I hadn’t let the hype get to me, and if I had of listened to that little voice, I’d have enjoyed the ride with everyone else.  Instead, I’m left to enjoy it alone…and that’s no fun!  Better late than never though, I suppose.

-JD

Telco Horror Stories – Part Two

Welcome to my second instalment of Telco Horror Stories!  To read my first one, click here.  As I said previously, while telco can be a challenging industry, these stories are ones that stuck with me purely because they don’t happen all the time.  Telco isn’t a horrible career.  In fact, overall, I enjoyed it, but regular customers don’t make for interesting stories!

“You’re all scammers!” Bill Issue Guy

This was a customer I had to deal with personally.  He’d come in about four months prior and signed up for a home phone and internet package, which all went smoothly (I didn’t serve him but the girl who did said they’d been no issues).  Anyway, the transaction started off okay, he came in wanting to pay his bill.  No big deal.  I process it and grab his receipt and expect that to be the end of it.  Instead, he asks nicely, “I just want to know why my bill is this much?”.  This is a question we get at least once a shift from bill payment customers, so I didn’t think much of it.  I glance at the bill, and look at him.  “Well, because that’s the plan you’re on.  See here?  $100 plan, and that’s what they’ve charged you”.  I didn’t understand why he was asking me that.  Seemed pretty logical.  But oh boy, had I started something.  He stated that he’d been promised that it was actually $80 per month, not $100, the girl who signed him up told him so.  I was very confused – we can’t offer random discounts in store, and we didn’t have a plan at all for the price he’s describing.  When I tell him that, he blows up, saying we’re all out to get his money and he wasn’t advised that the plan he was signing was $100 (despite all the paperwork stating that was the plan he was going on) and that’s it’s too much for him to pay each month.  Trying not to escalate the situation, I ask him if he has the paperwork at home, to which he says he does.  I advise him that if the rep has written anywhere on the paperwork that there was supposed to be a discount, that I can investigate it for him, but unless he can bring that in, I can’t help him.  Honestly, I didn’t believe him, but I would have looked into it further with paperwork.  He says he absolutely does not have time to come back and he wants it fixed right then and there because “the girl who served me is a scam artist and lied to me!”.  The argument went on for a long time, going around in circles.  I couldn’t just take his word for it, the girl wasn’t working and he refused to bring the paperwork in.  He wound up leaving, saying I was in on it too and we’re all just dirty liars who want his money.  I thought that was the end of it – I’d caught him out in a lie and he’d stop trying.

Nope.

A couple of months later he comes in again and I wind up serving him.  I didn’t recognise him straight away because it had been so long.  Once again, he processes his bill payment before starting up again about how the store is ripping him off.  I recognised him then.  I cut him off before he could start on his rant, and asked if he’d bought his paperwork in.  He said that he hadn’t, but that I he shouldn’t have to prove anything to me anyway and I should help him.  I gave him a big smile, told him I’m not going to argue with him again and that I’ll see him when he brings in the paperwork like he was asked to, and moved onto the next customer.  He never came back.

“Prove You’re a Manager!”

This guy will haunt my telco nightmares forever.  I knew it was going to be bad the second I laid eyes on him, though I’d never have guessed how bad at the time.  In telco, you know when someone is coming back into the store with one of our bags that there’s going to be a problem.  Nobody comes back with the bag for no reason.  Add to that he’d arrived right on the dot of 9am when we open, and shuffled impatiently back and forth until the door was opened.  As it was a weekday morning, there was only myself and one other person working.  Despite not being a morning person and feeling like death, I plastered a smile on my face and asked how I can help him.

“Can we sit down and talk?”

Oh God.  Not one of these people.  Whenever anyone uses that line, you know you’re in for a long “chat”.  I agree and we sit down.  The customer starts off nicely (surprisingly so, considering he’s bought back something in one of our bags) and explains that he signed up the previous night with Ashleigh and she’s made a big mistake.  I kept my pokerface, but instantly I become sceptical – I know Ashleigh and she doesn’t make stupid mistakes.  Some of the staff do (from lack of experience or from not doing well under pressure) but Ashleigh is rarely one of them.  Anyway, he states that he asked for a 64GB phone, not the 16GB he’d been issued.  I just couldn’t believe that Ash would have made that kind of rookie mistake.  Firstly, I had a look at his paperwork from the previous night, to make sure she’d chosen 16GB in the system – the easiest way to see if the rep has messed up is if the paperwork says 64GB, because it means she probably just grabbed a phone from the wrong pile.  Nope, it says 16GB.  I check the paperwork is signed, which it is.  Then I start asking questions.

“So, when Ash went through this with you, did she quote this price per month?”

He said that she did.  I then advised that if he were to get a bigger model, he’d be paying more each month.  Well, that did it.  He went from Mr Nice Guy to Mr Asshat just like that.

“What do you mean, pay more?  That’s ridiculous.  I came in and gave her this and told her this is what I wanted!”

He shoves a scrap of paper in my face.  I glance at it.  It literally had 4 words scribbled on it.  “iPhone 6 $69 monthly”.  I point out that he’s been given exactly that – his plan is coming to $69 per month, and he got an iPhone 6.  For that price, he gets a 16GB.  If he got 64GB it would be more than that per month.

“No no no!  Look at the paper!  The memory size isn’t big enough!”

I try to stay calm in the face of his irrationalism.  I point out that nowhere on that slip of paper does it state a memory size.  “Did you tell Ashleigh that you wanted 64GB?”

“No, I didn’t know I needed that at the time.  My daughter wrote this out.  I got home and she told me they’d given me the wrong one!”

Gotcha.

“So you’re telling me that you didn’t know that you needed 64GB, and you handed this over to Ashleigh with the 16GB price on it, and she was expected to know you needed a bigger memory size?” That probably sounds like I was being patronising.  Maybe I was, but I was doing my best to sound professional.  He didn’t appreciate the question.  He completely flipped out, demanding to speak to the manager.  The manager – right then – was me.  He really didn’t like that.

“So you’re saying you’re the manager but you won’t let me swap my phone over for a bigger memory size?  Even though your girl messed up?”

“Firstly, you’ve opened the phone, so I can’t take that back.  Secondly, even if I did swap it over, you’d be paying more for the 64GB model.  Lastly, like I’ve already explained to you, Ashleigh didn’t mess up.”

“But before I came in I looked online and the 64GB price was $69 per month!” he was yelling in my face now.

“The website has the same prices as us.  If Ashleigh could have given you the 64GB at that price, she would have.  The 16GB and 64GB are never the same price.”

“THAT’S RUBBISH!  YOU’RE TRYING TO RIP ME OFF!  I HAVE THE WEBSITE PRINTED OUT AT HOME!”

I tried to stay calm, but was quickly losing my patience.  “Well if you do, then bring it in and we can discuss it further.” I knew damn well he was bluffing.  The website would never have had the 64GB at that price.

“I WANT TO SPEAK TO THE MANAGER!”

“Sir, I’ve already told you, you’re speaking to her.”

“I want a business card.  I want proof!”

I legitimately had run out of business cards.  We rarely order them because for the most part, we rarely give them out.  When I advised him of this, he raged harder, demanding again and again I produce a business card for him.  I offered several times to write my name and store number out for him, but that wasn’t good enough.  He then demanded I call my regional manager or the head of Optus or someone else who could change the situation.  I told him in no uncertain terms that it’s up to me and unfortunately, as the store has done nothing wrong, I wasn’t going to swap it (I wasn’t able to even if I wanted to since the box was opened, and I definitely couldn’t give him a bigger model for the same price).  Finally, I cracked.  By then there were other customers waiting and the other rep was already busy.

“Sir, we’re going around in circles and I’ve already told you many times I don’t have a business card for you and I can’t help you.  I’m going to serve someone else now.”

He kept raging.  Suddenly, the old lady who had been waiting patiently for at least ten minutes piped up.  “Leave her alone!  She’s trying to help you and you aren’t listening!” He didn’t like being called out on his rudeness, and finally stormed out.  I assumed that was the end of it.

I started serving the lovely old lady.  She knew I was upset from the previous customer and told me not to worry about him.  Customers like that are the reason why I like telco so much.  Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see the guy has come back with someone else in tow.  I sighed and tried to keep my cool.  The lady smiled at me and told me to serve him, she’d wait.

I got up and realized who he’d dragged along with him.  Someone from the shopping centre’s helpdesk.  I couldn’t even hide my surprise.  What was he doing?

I awkwardly said hi to her, then looked at him.  He started out on his tirade again, telling the poor lady that I was ripping him off and I couldn’t prove I was the manager and he had proof (at home) that the 64GB model was $69 a month.  I felt awful for her.  This isn’t her job.

I calmly turned to her (and completely ignored him) and explained – again – the whole situation.  She turned to him and said “look, this isn’t my job, but what she’s saying makes sense.  Why don’t you just let her write down her details and if you want to make a complaint, call the company directly?”

If looks could kill, we’d both be dead.  He huffed and puffed by finally agreed that I could write down my name and store number.  “You’re getting fired for this, mark my words!” he called after him as he left.  I quickly apologised to the girl, who shrugged it off.  The old lady who’d been watching the whole thing piped up “she did nothing wrong, he’s just a bully!”.  The girl couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Needless to say, I didn’t hear anything from him – or anything about his complaint through customer service – again…well, except in my nightmares.

Faulty Accessory Kid

This wasn’t one of my customers – thankfully.  A kid, maybe 16, walks into the store and hangs around awkwardly at the back.  We at first aren’t sure if he wants service or whether he’s waiting for someone. Eventually we work out he does want help, and Lisa goes and serves him. He takes a seat, pulls out his dirty iPhone 5 in a protective case and tells her he wants a refund on the case.  Lisa looks at the grimy, dusty case and asks what’s wrong with it. “It’s supposed to be a tough case but it’s broken”. He points to a slight crack on the edge of it. “It says there’s a two year warranty so I want my money back.”

Lisa looks awkwardly at him. It was pretty obvious he’d given the case quite a beating and therefore it would fall under wear and tear. Being nice though, she decides to ask more questions to be sure. She finds out he’s had the case well over a year, doesn’t have the original packaging, doesn’t know which store it was purchased from and – best of all – doesn’t know if his mum kept the receipt.

“I’m sorry but without a receipt we can’t refund it.” Lisa tells him.  He doesn’t take it well, and despite being only young, asks to speak to the manager.

The manager Kye comes out and the kid once again demands a refund. Kye tells the kid the same thing as Lisa, adding that if he doesn’t even know where he got it, there’s really nothing the store can do.

“But why is there a warranty on it then?!” He asked.

Kye – in his typical patient fashion – explained what warranty covered and how he needs a receipt to claim it and he also needs to go back to the store he got it to refund it as our systems aren’t linked. The kid wasn’t buying it, assuming we just didn’t want to help him. After reinteratimg once more there’s nothing we can do right now, Kye goes back to what he was doing. Instead of leaving, the kid decides to randomly hang around for an awkwardly long period of time, I guess hoping if he did someone would cave and refund it to get him out of the store. If only it were actually as simple as that. He finally left after about twenty minutes and we thought the drama was over.

The next day Kye gets an angry phone call from the kid’s mother, demanding to know why he wasn’t issued a refund. He explained the whole policy again, adding that if she can’t supply a receipt, she might want to contact the case manufacturer directly. Again, we all thought that it was over.

Telco lesson: it’s never over.

The following morning a lady with a double pram and two young kids is waiting impatiently out the front before we’ve even opened the shop.  When the shop does open, she marches in and asks to speak to Kye. He comes out and is faced with the lady on the phone from yesterday, waving around the damaged case and saying things like “I know my rights!”.  Kye was at a loss as she still didn’t have her receipt. He also found out the case wasn’t purchased from our store, so he couldn’t refund it even if he wanted to.  She didn’t like that answer and yelled and screamed about how unfair it was and how she didn’t want to go back to the the other store. Once again Kye told her to contact the manufacturer directly.  She left in a huff.

The following week Kye received several more calls from the upset woman, with her demanding her money back each time.  She came back into the store again, telling him that she’d spoken to the manufacturer and they couldn’t help her either (without a receipt that’s hardly a surprise).  Being the nice guy he is, he tells her he’ll speak to the people we buy the cases off and see if they can recommend anything.

Unfortunately, the rep was away for a whole week (terrible timing) and the calls came in daily asking what we were going to do. Finally Kye managed to get onto the rep who said as a once off, we could swap it for her without a receipt.  When Kye told the lady that, she was upset at first, saying she didn’t want it swapped because it will just break again, but finally agreeing to it when she realized it was her only real option.

She came in again and the swap was about to be done when we realized we only had white in stock and not black like she’d originally purchased. We couldn’t even order in any black ones as they were on backorder with no ETA of when they’d be available again. Once again, Kye was screamed at and once again, he told her if she isn’t happy then she’d have to deal directly with the manufacturer.  She begrudgingly accepted the swap and finally the saga was over, almost 3 weeks later.

Stay tuned, there are plenty more stories to come!

-JD

Telco Horror Stories Part I

Now that I’m no longer a part of the company I spent the past five years with, I think it’s safe to disclose what it’s like to be on the firing line at one of the places where customers feel it’s okay to verbally abuse young people for things they had no control over.

I know this can be said about most retail jobs to some degree.  Retail is all about grinning and bearing it, everybody who’s ever done a stint in that field knows it.  But when people ask where you work then immediately and without fail follow up with “oh, you must get yelled at a lot” or “that must be a tough job”…you know you’ve probably got it worse than the local checkout chick.

Before I get into the horror stories, don’t get me wrong.  I wouldn’t have spent five years in the industry (and an open mind to rejoining it if the option is there) if it was completely awful.  There are a large amount of lovely, easy-going, wonderful customers that make our days great.  There is also a feeling of family between staff members, because we know we’re in this together.  I’ve met a lot of wonderful people in that place.  The job itself is actually quite enjoyable, if you like sales and meeting targets.  It keeps things a lot more interesting than restocking shelves.  This side of the job isn’t interesting though, so I’m not going to talk about it.  Just know that it is there, and that these stories – though memorable – are a small part of the job.

Sir Scream-A-Lot

This one has stuck with me for a long time, purely because it was my first real taste of the dark side of telco. I had only been there maybe two or three weeks at this point, and only part time, so I was brand new.  I’d started with another girl on the same day.  We’d been specifically told not to serve customers alone, but it was flat out and customers will approach you if they think you’re just standing there ignoring them, whether you’re clearly a trainee or not.

Anyway, we were both standing at the front counter and he comes in to pick up his phone that had been returned from a warranty repair.  Now, keep in mind five years ago the phones were more basic, people chucked them around a lot more, they broke easier (well, if they weren’t Nokias) and on top of that, telcos never ever replaced phones.  Ever.  They’d always attempt to fix them under warranty.  It sounds weird now because most places just swap faulty devices with referbs but back then, everyone just expected their phone would get fixed.  Also keep in mind that because of this, the turnaround time on warranty repairs was a lot longer.  I’m talking between 3 – 4 weeks, and that’s if it was an easy repair.  It’s a long time.

Now, being newbies, we didn’t really comprehend any of that.  I mean we’d been told, but we hadn’t served enough customers to know what their thoughts on it all were.  So when the guy said he was there to collect his phone, we thought “great!  Something easy we can do!” and I promptly went to the cupboard and dug around to find it.  I bought it over and handed it to him.  Nice and easy, next customer please!  But no.  He took off the paperwork that phone was wrapped in and had a quick read through it.

‘Why does this say returned unrepaired due to liquid damage?’

That stumped us.  We looked at each other then I tentatively said “Unfortunately, if the repair guys found signs of water damage it voids the warranty”.  WELL, DID THAT SET HIM OFF.  He went from zero to 1000 in a second.  I’d never experienced someone screaming in my face like that before, and I scared the shit out of me.  I was warned on day one that customers could get angry, but I never expected this.  He demanded that I personally get his broken phone fixed.  He demanded that the company compensate him for the time his phone was away.  He raged about how the repair guys must have gotten it wrong or how they must have damaged the phone themselves.  Meanwhile, myself and the other newbie both stared at him, wide-eyed, shaking and not having a clue what to do or what to say.  Nothing he was saying was possible, I knew that even then, but I also knew I wasn’t going to be the one to tell him that.  Not unless I wanted the phone hurled in my general direction.

*Cue valuable lesson*

My assistant store manager, overhearing the screaming (it was hard to miss), rushes over and tells the guy in no uncertain terms that he is absolutely out of line speaking to staff that way and that we will, under no circumstances, deal with him unless he calms down.  I watched on, thinking that this could only escalate the problem.  He kept yelling, though a little bit of the fight seemed to have gone out of him.  Once again my manager stood her ground.  “Sir, if you keep this up I won’t hesitate to call security to escort you out”. I’d never heard that line before.  It was like flicking a switch.  He stopped screaming, just like that.  He was still fuming, but the noise had subsided.  He looked around and noticed that the whole store – all the staff and customers – were dead still and staring at him, waiting for his next move.  He grabbed his still-broken phone and stormed off.

I was a mess afterwards, shaking and crying and generally just in shock.  I did, however, learn a lot from that experience, probably moreso than any other during my stint there.  It’s okay to stand your ground and refuse to be belittled and disrespected. While some people will read this and be horrified that we don’t have to lay down and take abuse, it’s 100% true and something I made every effort of teaching new staff members from day one.  If they are making you feel uncomfortable or upset, you can ask them to leave.  If they won’t leave, you can excuse yourself and call security.  We don’t get paid fantastically and it most certainly isn’t enough to warrant that level of aggression.  Reality check, future aggro customers: it’s a fucking phone.  There are wars raging right now, famines happening, people dying.  A lot of people don’t even have access to basic supplies like clean water, and here you are, speaking to a random employee who did nothing wrong worse than you’d speak to your ex over a gadget that, while useful, isn’t keeping your heart beating or your tummy full.  Just saying.

Vodka Lady

Ask anyone who worked in my store between 2012-2014 who Vodka Lady is and you’d get the same upturned nose and grimace.  She was a repeat offender (and probably still is), an old lady who clearly has a lot of addiction issues and an aggressive streak.  At her peak, she’d come in once every couple of weeks, her hair all matted and breath reeking of cigarettes.  Normally, with regulars, you get at least a 30 second warning as they approach the store so you can mentally prepare yourself.  Vodka Lady never gave you that option.  She’d come in when the store was at it’s busiest (and trust me, when the store is busy you can barely find anywhere to stand) and march straight up to you, demanding service then and there.  It didn’t matter that you were halfway through a contract with another customer and there were clearly half a dozen people waiting to be served.  When you’d politely tell her that unfortunately nobody is free and she’d have to wait, she would absolutely blow her stack.  She wouldn’t just yell though, that we could deal with.  Instead, she’d go around to each staff member individually and try her luck with each of them, getting progressively more worked up as she received the same “you’ll have to wait” line each time.  Once she’d exhausted that option, she’d then go around to customers, bad mouthing us and the store and the company, standing awkwardly close and making everyone feel on edge and uncomfortable.  In between this, she’d also have screaming outbursts of swearing and calling staff members rude names.  Finally, when one of us cracked (and it was usually me) and we’d ask her to leave, she’d then start on the “you never want to help me” path.  If we were feeling especially patient we’d try to explain – once again – she’s come in on an extremely busy day and we can’t help her just now.  It wouldn’t make a difference though, she didn’t want to hear it and would inevitably storm out, saying she’d never come back.  If only that were true.

Once, she came in when it wasn’t busy (there’s a first time for everything), got served by the manager who has the patience of a saint, and asked why her phone wasn’t working.  The phone was dirty, old and missing it’s backplate, but he humored her and had a look anyway, and found there wasn’t a SIM card in the phone.  She muttered something about leaving it somewhere and left.  We both knew it was too good to be true.  Sure enough, she storms back in ten minutes later, raging that the manager stole her phone battery and demanding it back.  He had no idea what to say – she’d left with the phone and battery ten minutes earlier.  After explaining multiple times that he didn’t have it, she changed her mind and decided to ask how much a replacement backplate would be for her crappy old phone.  The manager advised we don’t sell backplates, to which he copped a berating of “why the fuck not?!”.  Once again she marched out of the store, though luckily we didn’t see her again that day.

My Drug Dealer Stole My Phone

This lady also became a semi-regular.  The first time she’d come into store, one of the politest guys in our team had screamed at her and stormed off.  We’d never heard TJ raise his voice like that to anyone, much less a customer.  She is one of those people who honest to God think they’re above everyone else, and have this horrible attitude towards everyone.  She’d come in, asking about a particular phone, and TJ began explaining the features and the plans.  Instead of listening (or saying she’s changed her mind and wants to look at a different phone instead), she began inserting snide remarks and comments after everything TJ said, getting progressively more offensive and patronising.  There was no need for it or any reason to do it other than she just got enjoyment out of watching him squirm and try to pretend he didn’t hear her.  After twenty long minutes of this, he snapped, telling her in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t going to deal with her horrible attitude any more and to look everything up online if she wasn’t going to listen, before marching off.  Instead of leaving (like most people would have), she stayed around, waiting for him to come back so she can torture him some more.  He refused.  The store was empty aside from her and a couple of staff members, so she then started saying really loudly how unprofessional he is and that she needs service and he just walked off on her.  Sensing she actually wasn’t going to leave without more service, Ashleigh approached her, expecting to talk about a different handset because the customer had spent the last half an hour bad mouthing the phone she originally came in asking about.  Instead, she decided to sign up for it.  It was at that time we realized that the two terrors who had been climbing all over the children’s ride out the front of the store were hers, as she insisted they come into the shop while the contract was being put through.

It was a nightmare.  She kept up her bad attitude the whole time Ashleigh was going through the contract, asking dumb questions just to get a reaction, and giving unsatisfactory eye rolls each time an answer was given.  Meanwhile, her two monster children clambered all over the furniture, screamed the store down, spilled food all over the floor and left rubbish scattered everywhere.  Not once did the customer tell them to be quiet or to sit still.  Finally, the contract was done and the customer left.  We thought that was the end of it.

Wrong.

She comes in about a month later, her terrible entourage in tow again, but this time with her husband as well.  TJ spots her and immediately dives out the back, refusing to deal with her.  A different staff member approaches her and asks her how they can help.  She says she’s lost her phone and wants a replacement.  The rep asks if she’s got insurance, which she does, and they are advised they need to make a claim then wait for insurance to send out a replacement phone to the store.  It should only take a couple of days.  This is not what the customer is expecting.  She loses it, demanding a phone on the spot “because my child is very sick”.  Hard to believe, what with them once again climbing all over the furniture, but anyway.  She rep apologises but explains that there’s nothing we can do about the policy in store, it is what it is, and we could give her a replacement SIM card with the same number if she wants to use her old phone (keeping in mind we knew she’d only just gotten her new phone a month ago).  She refuses to even acknowledge that idea, and asks to speak to the manager.

Once again, the manager with the patience of a saint comes out, and tries to calmly explain the situation again, trying not to seem like he’s yelling at her as he fights to be heard over the two brats’ screaming. She begins to sob hysterically, saying she absolutely can’t be without a phone and that her drug dealer stole her new phone.  Although tempting, the manager bit his tongue and didn’t suggest that maybe she should just pay her drug dealer the money and get her phone back that way.  Instead, taking his patience to a new level, he agreed to see if customer service would arrange a loan phone for her.  This isn’t usually offered for insurance and still wouldn’t get her a phone today, but he wanted to at least look like he was trying to help.  Customer service refused, as expected.  Their reasoning was that she’d have her replacement phone before they’d get the chance to courier one out to her.  Fair call.  She then got back on her high horse and said she didn’t want a loan phone, she wanted a brand new phone exactly like what she had, and she isn’t leaving without it.  Her husband started up then too, demanding the same thing.

It got into an argument then.  She just wouldn’t accept the fact that we couldn’t just hand over a new phone because we felt sorry for her (which we didn’t but she thought we did).  The argument dragged on and on, nothing changing.  She spoke with insurance who advised her exactly the same thing, then the billing department, then tech support.  The longer it dragged on the worse behaved and louder her nasty children got, though who could blame them?  They were bored out of their minds.  Finally, realizing that she’d spent so long getting nowhere, she agreed to purchase a cheap phone only if the company would credit her back for it.  Although this was going to be an uphill battle too, the manager jumped back on the phone and got the credit arranged, and she left, cursing and swearing loudly as she did.

These are just a few of the stories I’ve got, I’ll be posting more later.  Like I said, telco isn’t all bad and these aren’t your typical customers, just ones that have stuck with me.

– JD

Summer’s Coming

I’ve had a terrible year.  The worst of my life.  It hasn’t just been one big thing – that stuff happens but doesn’t make the whole year awful – but one bad thing after the other.  It feels like I’m a character in the Sims, where the game is being run by a bored 14-year-old boy.  Every time I find my feet and try to get back up, something comes along to kick me back down again.

It’s all a lesson right?

A lesson in accepting what comes.  A lesson in appreciating what you’ve got.  A lesson in trying to find the positive in everything.

RIGHT?

I don’t know.

The start of this year saw me in a job I was comfortable in, with great friends, a super cute crush I got to see 5 times a week, a healthy family, a reliable car and a gorgeous young dog.

And now?  A mere 9 months later?

I’m unemployed.  Not by choice.   My family has been touched by cancer.  I’m lucky if I see my crush once a month.  I’ve upset about half my friends unintentionally (my friendship group isn’t huge).  I had a car accident on my 25th birthday, though luckily (if you could call anything like that lucky) it wasn’t off the road too long.

It’s all a test, right?  If I survive this year, I’ll win a great 2016?

RIGHT?

And yet, despite receiving yet another phone call saying “sorry, you didn’t get the job, we found someone better” for the seventh time in two weeks, despite having no income with an upcoming mortgage, despite going stircrazy sitting around all day every day at home, I’m OKAY.

I’m not great.  There are days where I just want to throw in the towel, crawl under a blanket and refuse to participate in everything.  It’s only fair, right?  After everything I’ve been dealt?

But there are days – days like today – where the sun is out, the breeze is warm, and I feel like I can get through this.  That things aren’t so bad.  That I’m alive
and healthy and able to appreciate the fact that even if everything else in my world is shit, that summer is coming.  After a freezing winter, summer is coming.  Even if I don’t find a job, even if I get more bad news, the warmth is approaching and the days will soon get longer.  Nothing is going to change that.

And for some reason, today, just knowing that, is enough.

– JD