Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shrewd Receptionist, That's Me.

In the last year or so, my workspace has moved from a cubicle in the back to the lobby in the front of the building, where in addition to my normal job, I answer phones and sign for incoming packages.

We're located in an industrial area of the community, so we get a lot of lost stragglers. When you enter our workplace, you will initially encounter no one. Make a left-hand turn towards the room with the light, (you know, where someone might be sitting) and you'll find me.

I usually hear delivery trucks pull up, or recognize the boss's signature slam, and have a general idea of who is coming or going. If an unexpected slam occurs, I'm out of my chair to see who's here. There's sort of a loop through the building, and I can end up following someone in circles if they buzz out of my sight before I get to the door. Right or left, which way did they go, George, which way did they go?

What amazes me is the number of people that have absolutely no qualms about entering the building and, instead of peeking their head through a doorway to look for a body, they just commence to yelling. "HELLO! HELLO IS ANYONE IN HERE? YOO HOOOOOOO!!! I'll be busy trying to track them down in circles, while alarmed folks from our second building come running to see what the commotion's about.
I'll catch up to said strangers to have them ask me: Is this "Acme Dynamite Company at 123 Main Street?" There's a giant mailbox in the driveway that reads Zenith Anvil Company, 456 Main Street. There is also a large sign on the door that you just waltzed into, that informs you that this is the Zenith Anvil Company. Does this freakin' look like a dynamite company to you? And stop that screaming right now.*

I direct them down the street to the dynamite company, whereupon many will ask me where they should park and which door they should go in. How the hell should I know? Seriously, if you can't figure that much out on your own, chances are your application is going to end up in a circular file, and you might as well head back home.

Ok, I'm really not that rude, I just practice keeping my guard up to deal with the telesales folks. I was pretty lousy at weeding them out when I first started phones. I don't like grilling people.

Turns out I don't like the evil eye from my boss even more, so I've developed a few personal rules of thumb:

1. If you cannot pronounce my boss's name, "BZZZZZzzt!"  you're not getting through. It's a "foreign" name, but it's an easy foreign name. If you can't sound out 2 little syllables without completely butchering them, my telephone starts sizzling and popping, and sirens go off, which, I'm sorry, means I have to hang up on you now.

2. Asking "Can I talk to the person in charge of ________?" will get you nowhere. If you don't know who you want to talk to, then you don't get to talk to them. I have thus far resisted asking, "and who might that be?"

3. If you do manage to get someone's name right, you have to pass another test: The "Can I Tell Him/Her Who's Calling?" Test. If you respond "daaauhhh, this is Bob."

     3.A. We're still not done, Bob. I didn't catch your last name? "Smith."

     3.B. And which company are you with, Bob Smith? "Coyote, Inc."

     3.C. Ok, Bob, one minute please.

          3.c.i. Place Bob on Hold.

           3.c.ii Go get a glass of water.

          3.c.iii. Return to phone, and choose Bob's line. "Bob, I'm sorry, but Jane isn't in her office right now; can I take your number and have her call you back?" Click. Bob hung up on me. How rude.

4. There are times when I'm not quite sure; I'll answer the phone oh-so-politely, "Zenith Anvil Company," and a friendly voice will rise up: "Hey, is [Boss's name, spot-on] around?" Hm. Sounds casual; this could be legit. Or is he too casual? It could be a trap! What do I do?

I lie like a rug. "Oh, he just stepped out; can I have him call you back in a few minutes?" A "no thank you, I'll call back another time" means I just thwarted a sneaky saleperson, and thus did not irritate any bosses or coworkers. Yay me.

If the callers hands over their first and last name, along with phone number, a Christmas miracle occurs: "Oh, you're in luck; he just walked in! I'll let him know you're on the line." Yay me again.

I don't always win. I don't catch a last name and slink into boss' office asking "Do you want to talk to John Flibberdy-Flabberdy of JingleHeimerSchmidt? He sounds like he knows you." I've hung up on a Rabbi, asked one woman, "Oh, is this Jane's Mother?" [it was not], and gotten snapped at by irritated callers that don't want to have to put up with me.

Only once has a salesperson ever called me back and called me to the carpet for hanging up on him. I put him through and the boss hung up on him. No yay me.

See, tele-sales people, don't get your panties in a wad. I know you're doing your job, but I am also doing mine. Here's how you have to look at it. Remember the Warner Bros. cartoon with Ralph and Sam? Ralph is the coyote, and Sam is the sheepdog, and they're both punching in to work in the morning? And then Ralph commences to trying to steal the sheep, while Sam spends the day thwarting him, until it's quittin' time. They cordially clock out and bid one another adieu at the end of the night.

It's just like that, see? I'm Sam, and you're Ralph.

See ya tomorrow, Ralph.

*The names of all companies have been changed to protect the innocent, and, generally, CMA for blogging about the workplace. If anyone asks, this particular blog was written by a guest blogger. That's the ticket.


  1. And that guest blogger is me. Cause I totally do that all the time. I also "lose" the line once in a while, because treat me like shit and you'll get it right back atcha.


  2. My bad. I wander around calling out "Hello?...Hello?" but only when I know where I am. I think. I apologize.

  3. An effective dragon at the gate is a wonderful thing. I would hire you in a minute.

  4. It's weird how much our lives parallel. I'm answering the phones more now, too. Thanks for the pointers. :)

  5. I always enjoy the opportunity to say to a telemarketer "That person's office is in a different building. The number is 384-8188. Ask for Mr. Bus." Or, when I get "May I speak to the person in charge of purchasing printing supplies?" Oh, we write everything out by hand.

    I got a ton of em.


Back talk! Comment here!