This is a bit of a long one, but its one of my most vivid memories from my time in the call centre trenches. Before I was able to retreat to the general publicless world of software dev.
Over a decade ago I spent a few years working for a (now defunct) 24 hour tech support service in the UK. It was actually an attempt to bring a well known American consumer tech support service here in advance of the an attempted launch of an American big box store over here to. Both eventually failed but I think the branding is still used by some third party stuff. Anyway.
We’d been having an issue with prank callers. They had taken to calling us and other call centres from a voip service, merging the calls then muting themselves. Then giggling themselves stupid while two confused call centre workers from different companies greeted each other before they figured out what happened.
This started to piss all of us off for a few reasons.
1. It was really annoying when it happened to you.
2. They were posting recordings online with insulting descriptions. Usually referencing the names from workers greetings which made it especially irritating.
3. The first line support (which I was part of) had a monthly bonus based on various metrics. Each metric you met target on was worth a certain percentage. Sales of the support service subscription made up by far the biggest portion of this bonus and was based on a conversion percentage. Every one of these calls was one you couldn’t possibly convert, driving your percentage down and possibly costing you half of your bonus that month. And some nights you’d get a lot of these calls.
We complained to management that these calls should be excluded from our stats, but they told us that short of listening to every call that comes in, this wasn’t really possible. They didn’t seem to have any intention of doing anything about it. Until one evening when they stepped over a line.
One of my coworkers hung up a call, put himself in not ready, and slammed down his headset.
The floor managers head pops up like an angry meerkat. We weren’t meant to swear in the office even if we weren’t on calls, as it may turn up in the background of a coworkers call.
The coworker turns around looking supremely pissed off and says “THEY CONNECTED ME TO FUCKING CHILDLINE”. For anyone out side the UK, childline is an anonymous phone counselling service for kids. They speak to kids who are suffering bullying, abuse, mental health issues etc. They also help the kids get the help they need if the child chooses to. The fact that these dickheads were tying up lines for this service very much didn’t sit well with the floor manager. She stands up with a face like thunder, pauses for a second and they says “is there any way we can figure out who’s making these calls?”. One of the lads in second line puts his hand up. “I can take a crack at it”. She signs him off calls for the rest of the night and tells him to get on with it.
So if I remember correctly (and this probably isn’t exact). He managed to use the youtube account name to find other places online where that username had been used. It turned up on a bunch of video game forums. He read through a bunch of the posts and on one of em he had listed an xbox gamertag. He searched for that and found a facebook page where the kid had made a post saying that was his gamertag if his mates want to add him. A few mates responded with theirs and they matched the account names of the first few commenters on the first video. Mission accomplished right? Nope. Scroll through the posts. Find a women in her early 40’s with the same last name as his commenting on one of his photos that he “looks so handsome”. And now we know who his mum is. Even better, on her profile she’s posting about selling Avon. And has added her mobile number for people to ring if they want to put an order in.
So after about an hour this guy swaggers up to the floor manager. Hands her a post it with one of the prank callers name, his mums name, and the mums mobile number.
The manager rings it and in the sweetest customer service voice you’ve ever heard confirms who she’s talking to, introduces herself, and explains the situation. From her responses you can tell the Mum is just kind of apologising but not really taking it seriously. Until the manager mentions what they’d been doing this particular evening.
“Yes, so while I agree up till now this has been fairly harmless, I’m afraid this evening they were doing it again, except they were repeatedly calling childline and connecting our operators. I’m not sure they really understand the seriousness of monopolising that services time.”
The rest of the call was just mmhmm’s and “yes I agree’s”. Eventually the call ends and the manager notices we’ve all been turned around in our chairs following the conversation. She grins and says “that little shit is not gonna see daylight until Christmas. His mum was fucking livid”.
The youtube account hosting the videos was down by the end of our shift. And we don’t get any prank calls like that again. I do wonder if that young lad is still grounded.