Fell down the office rabbit hole, met Muhammad Ali and Peter Pan

Last month, I started a job that is definitely the worst I’ve had so far, and I suspect, even with my limited prospects as an English student, will remain one of the worst.


I was working as a representative for a phone company. You know, one of those annoying people who everyone hates, that stands in a public place and accosts innocent passers-by in an attempt to get them to sign up to a contract with said phone company.


So far, I’m guessing you’re thinking; not much fun, but not that bad. That’s what I thought. But  it gets worse. I found myself working eleven-hour days, and not being paid. The reason for this, apparently, was that I was “in training”. Training would imply I was being taught; in fact, I was earning someone else commission on terrible phone deals. (Genuinely very sorry innocent passers-by.) Unsurprisingly, I was exhausted and miserable, and, since my “employer” couldn’t seem to specify a date when I would start making money, after five days, I unceremoniously quit.


What was interesting about the job though, was my colleagues. Everyone in the office, apart from me, seemed to have an almost frightening enthusiasm for promoting the company, and seemed convinced they were working for some kind of Greater Good. Each morning we’d come in and listen to one of the managers or senior reps talk about what inspires them in their work. My favourite weird anecdote was a manager comparing getting a new customer for the company to Muhammad Ali’s victory at The Rumble in the Jungle. While I remain unconvinced by this connection, I am grateful to him for providing me with an anecdote that explains the levels of self-importance in the office better than I could. This particular guy definitely had small man syndrome.


Images from Pinterest


There were weird, supposedly motivational office chants – way too loud for before eight in the morning – which I made no effort to learn the words to. Instead, I inwardly critiqued the all round poor efforts at Jazz Hands, and wished someone would pay me to teach dance instead.


My Team Leader was an interesting character. I think he felt some sort of affinity with Peter Pan. He was a Boy Scout as a child, then a Scout leader up until he started working for the phone company. He makes his team wear Scout badges, and is known by all as, yep, you guessed it; Scout. My guess is, because he never grew up, he was easy to brainwash into believing all the ridiculous sales jargon about how amazing the company was. According to him, my enunciation of “amazing deal” wasn’t sufficiently energetic and sincere, and I need to work on it. I simply can’t understand why.


As far as I could tell, they all had little to no social life, and spent all their time working. The highlight of their week was “Team Poker Night”. I thought refusing the invitation to what was presented as a momentous occasion might be considered rude, so agreed to go. Very strange experience. We didn’t even leave the office; Poker Night happened in a boardroom, and the majority of the conversation was about work. Initially, I felt the need to display my poker knowledge to my new colleagues, and won a few hands, but after an hour and a half of this riveting chat in a stuffy boardroom, I needed an escape plan. So, I “spontaneously” went all in on a hand of Royal Nothing in order to get rid of my chips, so that I could politely leave. (I know, not the most exciting of escape plans, but I was sleepy.)

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Images from casinocashjourney.com, random house.ca and fan pop.com


I understand that to actually make money in a job where your only earnings are commission – although exactly when you start getting this commission remains a mystery to me – it is necessary to be very (scarily) motivated and enthusiastic. My theory is either they were all high, all the time, or the only way they could deal with the job was to convince themselves that they were happy all the time. I tried to jokingly bring this up; “No one is happy all the time, right?” and was met with blank looks. I also encountered these blank looks whenever I said anything even slightly sarcastic, so I got used to them pretty quickly. It seems, in this environment, admitting that one is not feeling “amazing”, or even, as one excitable co-worker liked to say when asked how she was, “majestic”, is unacceptable.


Don’t get me wrong, I am a generally positive person, but there’s something about fake emotion that freaks me out. The most honest thing I heard in the office was “I love the company because it makes me loads of money.” Although this was a bit of a cold statement, I think it was the only thing that made me genuinely laugh in those five days. (Polite or incredulous laughter doesn’t count.) Maybe, if there had been a bit more honesty in the office, I might have stuck it out long enough to get past the indefinite “training” stage. I might even have learnt the correct way to say “amazing”. But truthfully, I doubt it. Life’s too short to pretend to be happy, and I enjoy my social life, sarcasm and real laughter too much to miss out.


Now, if anyone would like to employ me, preferably dancing or writing, that would be wonderful.


Kirsty x


One thought on “Fell down the office rabbit hole, met Muhammad Ali and Peter Pan

  1. Eek, sounds like you had an encounter with one of the Cobra Group’s recruitment scams =/ Do a bit of googling and there’s a lot of unfortunate horror stories from people who have gotten caught up in their pyramid schemes.

    They’re extremely shady and operate under many different names, I had an interview with an ‘Events Marketing’ company in Glasgow a couple of summers ago and from what I was told in the interview and the people I met, it sounded very similar to what you experienced. It’s like a cult, good on you for getting out fast!


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