Monday, March 2, 2009

Secretaries and Other People Who Answer the Phone

I'm going to share with you my pet peeves about the way people abuse secretaries and other people who answer the phone (staffers, customer service representatives, receptionists, etc.)

First and foremost, I have no control over what my boss does, doesn't do, says, doesn't say, where he goes, or what phone calls, letters or other communications he responds to or ignores. None. Yes, he got your message/letter/fax/email. If he chose not to respond to it, yelling at me isn't going to change anything. If he responded in a way that you don't like, I can't do anything about it. Stop yelling at me. I just work here.

I talk to dozens of people every day. I do not recognize all of their voices. I don't know what your relationship is like with my boss. So stop getting pissy when I don't recognize your voice or know that you go golfing with my boss twice a week. When you're golfing, I'm here answering phones.

My boss does not have your number memorized. I do not have your number memorized. I take down dozens of numbers every day. If you want a call back, just give me the damn number.

Making the same request in different words doesn't change the answer. I don't keep my boss' calendar. If you want to make an appointment, you'll have to talk to him. Asking me if I "think" he "might" be available at a certain date and time won't magically give me knowledge of his calendar.

If I tell you that my boss is on the phone, not at his desk, or not in the building, you can't talk to him. Either what I said to you is true, or it's what he told me to tell you, but either way, he's not talking to you. At that point, it's not helpful to say things like, "but I was just talking to him". Well, you're not now.

Yes, I do know my boss' cell phone number, but if I give it to you, I will be fired. You will need a gun, some barbed wire and a mesh cage filled with tarantulas to get it out of me.

Just as a reminder, secretaries and other people who answer the phone work very hard for relatively little money. Abusing them is like kicking puppies or punching babies- they can't fight back, they just have to sit there and take it. So stop it.


  1. Oh, God, so much yes to this.

    I spent two wretched summers in college working as the (sole) customer service person for a small company. So many people started right off the bat with the accusations that I was somehow personally attempting to screw them over with their last shipment, even though all I did was answer the phones. I had to develop methods for reclaiming control of the conversation (primarily by asking for a bunch of information that sounded reasonable enough but that no one ever had, because angry people don't call customer service prepared with their customer numbers, invoice numbers, and so on- they just pick up the phone).

    It didn't help that the management of the company was actually trying to screw over their customers by overcharging for shipping, misrepresenting the turnaround time for orders, and giving me strict instructions on how many of our own mistakes I was allowed to admit to and fix per month. I had nothing to do with those policies of course- I just answered the phone.


  2. Ugh. It's even worse to deal with when you know the person you're paid to defend is wrong.

    General Rule number 143: The person who answers the phone does not make policy. (related general rules: 147, 295)

    General Rule number 147: The person who makes policy may not even have a phone, and they certainly won't take your call.

    General Rule number 295: The more power a person has to help you, the harder they are to talk to.

  3. Good God yes. To all of it.
    Every bloody day, that is my life too. I want to tell these people, "I can not help you talk to my boss. I am here so you don't talk to my boss. Duh."

  4. Uh, yeah. If he wanted to talk to people HE'D PICK UP THE DAMN PHONE.

  5. did i ever tell you that i used to work phone sex?

    i was a secretary both before and after the 3 year stint as a phone sex girl.

    i was treated better working the phone sex than i was being a secretary. including by the two stalkers i had. and the guy who want to (nonono, i will not go into detail. lets just say if i was EVER going to be a lesbian, that job would have done it. the sickest guys were PILLARS of the community. one was a paramedic who was ALSO a volunteer firefighter. not just in HIS town. he volunteered for every place in a 50 mile radius. he made crap pay, he worked something like 80 hour weeks, the local newspaper ADORED him, he was a total hero. like cooler than superman+Green Lantern hero. and then he called the phone sex line...)

    i can't even count the number of times i was called "whore" - not doing phone sex, but working as a receptionist at Qwest.

  6. Cool- wish I had the voice for that. (Anybody who wanted to jack off while listening to me is a pedophile, because I sound like a 7 year old.)

    I used to work at a porn website, back when there was big money in those. My greatest joy at work was telling women exactly what that charge on their credit card was for. Nothing like saying "" to someone. Or "". or the original:

    Do you know women used to try and tell me that their husband would NEVER look at porn? After a while, my reply to that was "Really? Is he blind?"

  7. "is he blind"

    i always felt bad for the wives who called trying to figure out what the CC charge was, or whatever. they alwys seemed so lost, so hurt...



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