Mr. Charity


This one happened after I’d handed in my two weeks notice (yay!). I was working at a center in Ireland that does outsourced customer support for a UK telecommunications company with a yellow and cyan logo. Specifically, I was doing billing support for home phones and broadband, so I got to hear every sob story you’ve heard of; if everything I heard was true, England is populated entirely by disabled single parents of autistic children who live on benefits. I was also party to the occasional person in a genuinely desperate situation. This was neither.


On this particular day, there was some sort of technical issue going on. All our systems were working, just i n c c r e d i b l y s l o w l y. Since God sees no reason reduce the number of bad things that happen when people who fix problems have issues of their own, people were calling in at the normal rate, which meant callers were commonly waiting on hold for upwards of 40 minutes. Oh, and somebody higher up, quite likely at the client, had decided there were too many people on broadband and had been gradually transferring people to mobile (who were, in fairness, perpetually understaffed). As such, on a normal day we had 0 green time. Zero. Nought. Náid. Zéro. Nada. Céro. So today was extra super-duper fun.

In mid-morning, a girl a couple of rows down got a clearly perplexing call. This guy wanted the client to make a donation to a charity that worked to restore sight to people who have lost theirs. A worthy and admirable request, but not one that was going to happen. Those of us who witnessed this chuckled and rolled our eyes. You speak to all sorts of people, working in a call center.

Main Story

In early afternoon, I get yet another call, this time from a man who we’ll call John Smith (not his real name). While we’re swamped, the calls up to now have been straightforward, and people mostly understood that even the Internet providers can run into network issues.

Me: Hi, you’re through to Yellow and Cyan home broadband customer support! My name’s Rhodoferax! How can I help you?

John: Young man, do you known I’ve been waiting on hold for the last half hour?

Me: Yes, I do apologise but we’re having some technical issues today.

John: Well I’m really not happy with having waited so long.

By this point I’d gotten the account up.

Me: Well hopefully we’ll be able to resolve your issue quickly. Can I get your name please?

John: John Smith.

Me: Thank you, and just for the Data Protection Act can you tell me letters 2 and 6 of your mother’s maiden name?

John: No, I don’t think that’s necessary. (Christ, he’s one of those people. No issues are going to be resolved quickly). You already have me open on your computer without me needing to give you any other information, so you know who I am.

Me: Mr. Smith, this is a legal requirement to prevent fraud. I just need to confirm your identity.

John: Tell me, how were you able to bring up my details without me telling you my number or address?

Me: When you called in it showed the number you were calling off on my computer. I was able to search by that.

John: So you can tell it’s me because I’m phoning from my house.

Me: Not necessarily. Without confirmation, all I know is that you’re making a call from Mr. Smith’s huse. For all I know you might be someone who broke in.

John: Well how do I know you really work for Yellow and Cyan?

Me: Because you called us.

John: And yet you don’t believe I’m calling from my own house. Tell you what, can you tell me your family name and then I’ll believe you.

Me: We’re not supposed to give out our surnames due to some people getting stalked on social media. (True).

I don’t clearly remember the next few minutes. There was a bit of back and forth which ended with us agreeing that I would hang up and call John right back. Like a fool, I did so. After some more ‘discussion’ as to the merits of the DPA, John calmly and quickly gave me the two letters of his mother’s maiden name. This was 10 minutes after I’d first taken the all, and our AHT target was 8 min 30 s. Also, for some reason we didn’t get ACW after any outbound calls, so I would have to scramble when this one drew to a close.

Me: Thank you. You know, if you’d just said that in the first place we wouldn’t have had to go through all that rigmarole.

John: No, that’s wrong. I’m trying to introduce some integrity to Yellow and Cyan.

(Yes, he said we needed integrity and that’s what he was trying to introduce. As an aside, this is why I liked DPA fails. I got to be full-on Lawful Neutral, since I had legal backing to tell people “no”. Since I’m not good with common sense, it was always a relief to be able to rely entirely on logic.)

Me: … Right. Anyway, Mr. Smith, how would you like me to help you?

John: I’m not receiving the service I’m paying for. I waited over half an hour to talk to you. The thing is, when you get to my age, money doesn’t really matter. What’s important is doing good in the world, and that’s what I’d like Yellow and Cyan to do. I support a charity called [charity name], and in light of this issue, I’d like you to make a donation of, say £15 to them.

(Woah, it’s the guy that girl had earlier. While he’s been saying this I’ve been reading the tickets and don’t see any actual issues on his end.)

Me: OK, I’ll see what I can do.

John: When you say you’ll see what you can do, that means you aren’t going to do anything, right?

(Shit, this guy’s sharp.)

Me: I’ll be honest, Yellow and Cyan aren’t going to agree to this, but tell you what. When I get home, I’ll make a personal donation.

(I might have done it, too. The charity did sound worthwhile, and if it wasn’t a scam that money might really have helped someone.)

John: Well that’s a very kind offer, but I’m looking for a bit of integrity from Yellow and Cyan over this issue.

Me: This issue… Mr. Smith, is the problem with your Internet?

John: No, my Internet is fine.

Me: Is your phone the issue?

John: No, my phone has no problems, I’m speaking to you on it.

Me: So wait a minute, the issue is how long you’ve been waiting?

John: That’s what I’m talking about.

Me: So just to be clear, you called in at 1:30pm today to complain about how long it took your call of 1:30pm to be received? Is that the case?

John: This is the service I’m paying for, and I’m not getting it. That’s my I want you to compensate me by making a donation to [charity name].

Me: Mr. Smith, I can’t do that. First of all, comensation is to return money that was taken incorrectly, or taken in payment for a service that wasn’t provided, it’s not to harm Yellow and Cyan. Second, you yourself have confirmed that your phone and Internet are working fine, so you’ve brought this on yourself. You wouldn’t have been waiting on the phone if you hadn’t called in the first place, and none of this would have happened.

John disagreed, and ultimately asked to speak to a manager. I got the nearest TL on the phone and explained the ‘situation’ as best I could. The TL raised his eyebrows in a disbelieving gesture and took the call, which was now over 40 minutes in. As the conversation progressed, I could tell from my TL’s body language precisely which conversational beats and topics John was bringing up again. At one point TL started explaining that the technical issues we were experiencing were an unpredictable one-off and it wasn’t practical to always have enough people on the floor to meet a single day’s unusual and unforeseeable demand. Still, the TL had immense patience and John ultimately hung up without getting any donations.

TL: That guy is not right in the head.


I copied the account number to Notepad and checked it a couple of times later in the day out of curiosity. John didn’t try phoning again.

Typing this all up, it might look like he was trying to scam the company, considering some shits do set up fake charities to con people’s goodwill. I don’t think he was, because if that is what he was trying to do, he chose a really inefficient way of going about it. He’d have been better off standing on a street with a bucket and asking people for donations. I’ve done that for legitimate charities, and it does work.

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Can’t you just do it for me?

If you try and blackmail me with suicide I will call the police.