My job is such total ass

I’m working on a contract basis for HHS, taking incoming calls from Medicare recipients with questions about (and to enroll in) the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. Leaving aside my feelings about this massive taxpayer-funded giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry…

We have a tool that we’re supposed to be able to use to help people select among the 40 or so regional plans that are available to them. Each of the plans (administered by insurance companies in another massive taxpayer-funded giveaway, but I digress) has to offer the same minimum coverage, so the only real differences between otherwise equivalent plans is which drugs are covered. The tool is supposed to allow us to enter the names of peoples’ drugs and narrow down the plans to those which cover those drugs. We’ve been taking calls for over a month. The first day the tool worked was last Thursday. Which means that for weeks we’ve been telling members of perhaps the most vulnerable and easily confused segment of the population that we can’t help them in making a decision which could potentially cost them thousands of dollars a year if they choose the wrong plan.

So the tool finally starts working, and it doesn’t work the way we were told it was supposed to. It doesn’t actually eliminate any plans; it instead gives an estimated yearly cost for the entered drugs, including full price for any non-covered drugs. This was never mentioned to those of us taking calls. Why? Because no one on the training staff, quality assurance staff or team management staff knew. Because the idiots who designed that shit tool didn’t actually tell anyone how it worked.

Enrollment starts 11/15. No one taking calls knows how to actually enroll people. Because we were never trained. We aren’t going to be trained; instead we’re going to be expected to “wing it.” With 80 year olds who are confused and frightened. We’re going to have to “wing it” because trainers, QA and team managers don’t know how to enroll people either.

We have scripts that we are supposed to use in response to particular questions and situations. Use of the scripts is mandatory and enforced by “quality assurance.” Diverting from the scripts by a single word means failing the call quality. Because it’s better to sound like a confusing robot than to actually explain things in a way that a human being who doesn’t write scripts for the government can understand.

Meanwhile, team managers are writing up call takers because they overhear the word “damn” being used away from the call floor. People are being sent home for being on the internet. And the reason we can’t be on the internet? Because other people working a different contract in another wing of the building can’t be, and management is afraid that they’ll walk through our area (where they aren’t supposed to be), see people online and get “jealous.” People who pre-arrange absences with team leaders get written up for absenteeism. Because writing people up and sending them home and generally stalking the call floor in search of petty rules infractions is so much the better use of managerial time than, you know, learning how to do the job and passing that knowledge on to the people doing it.

Not that I had any great level of morale after having my iPod stolen off my desk (and please, let’s not rehash that here OK?), but any shred of enjoyment of the work, the co-workers, the environment, the whole job experience has been wrung out of me. I hate the job and everything associated with it. If I drove in for my next shift and found a smoking crater where the building used to be, I’d dance a little jig and piss in the hole.

Says the Hunchback of Notre Dame to the gargoyle…

“Woe is Me! Woe is me… why am I not stone like thee?”

Oh by the way, the less you say, the more people listen. Ergo, the short version of your rant was “Holy Fuck my job sucks donkeys balls at the moment”.

The short version of your rant would be “Boo! Hiss! I don’t like you so I’m going to be rude to you for no reason other than the fact that you dared to speak up!” :rolleyes: I think you need to cut back on the caffine, get some sleep, maybe get laid and take a huge dump.

Serious question Otto, is there any place you could call in and be a whistle blower on this? Would anyone care, and be able to at least help people out after the dust clears and see to it that this kind of fiasco doesn’t happen again? It’s a pretty crappy thing that it’s the elderly getting shafted on medical coverage. :frowning:

I think you missed the part about how the government-run call center to advise elderly people on their options for government health care is unable to do so in any decent manner, which I think is fairly significant. There have been ads all over TV here about how the government is ready and willing to help old folks learn about their options; guess I’m not surprised they even managed to fuck that up.

No. Not quite. Simply stating “holy fuck my job sucks at the moment” is tired and old.

When it comes to pit threads, you need to put in details. We like to know why their job sucks. Not to mention just writing that your job sucks offers very little in the way of catharsis. Ya gotta lay it all out there. Get it offa ya chest.

FYI Boo, the less you say, the less you look like a colossal ass.

I am not sure where the hell Boo Boo Foo’s snipe came from, but I found the op frightening, angering and about par for the course for most government jobs. Out of curiosity, Otto, how much trouble would you get in if we were to forward your op to our Senators?

I’d be outraged if I could summon the energy to be outraged over yet another way the government craps on us citizens. Problem is, my list is so long right now (and so full to overflowing with Katrina-related items, not to mention the Social Security disability system that made my sister with Parkinson’s go through living hell for two years to get the benefits she so desperately needed) that it’s hard to find the wherewithal to get outraged over anything else.

But thanks to your description of what the call centers can actually do (or not do), I at least was able to warn my 85-year-old mom. So thanks, Otto, for helping at least one member of your target population understand why, when she calls, she won’t actually GET any helpful info. So she’ll know who to blame, i.e. not you wage slave flunkies at the other end of the phone.


I worked in a banking call center for a few years and I feel your pain. The quality control people were out of control - they fought to give us negative assessments. The scripts changed on a regular basis, and woe to the rep who didn’t comply exactly with the program.

When I moved to Atlanta I was determined not to work in a call center again. I make much less money, but I’m not as stressed as I used to be.

It’s good to know that someone with a conscience is there to sneak in some guidance for our elderly. I hope there’s a way to leak this to the media.

I’ll bet the government aren’t to blame for this - it will by my heroes in the IT industry - the used car salesmen of science. This will be yet another overblown, overhyped sytem that was going to do everything. A bunch of consultants will have worked gruelling, vastly overpaid hours to run the project so far over budget and behind schedule that no time was left for things like system testing, integration testing or user acceptance testing. The consultants will be gone now but soon they will hire new ones for the rewrite. In discussing the failure of this project someone on the new project team will mention that more than 60% of IT projects are over budget, overtime or both thus setting the stage for the outcome of the rewrite.

Eeexxxxcellent! Out of the crucible, a newly wrought civil servant! Smithers, remove the manacles, this one won’t trouble us any longer.

Otto, just start forwarding every call you haven’t been trained to deal with to your supervisor.

I would, except:

  1. We have not been trained on how to transfer calls within the unit;
  2. Even if we had been trained, team leaders are never at their desks;
  3. Even if team leaders were at their desks, we haven’t been given their phone numbers;
  4. My team leader was fired last Friday for not having “people skills” and the members of his team have not been advised to whom we have been re-assigned or if we have been re-assigned.

Just advise everyone to move to Canada. And if someone tells you to stop it, tell them to take it up with your (temporarily non-existent) team leader!

Is anybody else confused as to how the programmers managed to screw this one up? Am I the only one thinking:
Step 1) Enter data in database
Step 2) Write SQL queries
Step 3) Write a simple GUI

This is why I can’t wait to go to single payer healthcare.

61% of Medicare recipients say they don’t understand anything at all about the plan. It’ll be interesting to see how it all goes, and who, if anyone, gets blamed for it.

I hope you keep posting about it, Otto.

Don’t forget our Government put out a bunch of brochures for this plan that are incorrect! So they urge you to call their help line. Where they haven’t bothered to train people! OH, the joys of the lowest bidder!

Otto, have they put a time restriction on calls? Like…make sure the call is under 2 minutes!

When I lived in Madison, I worked for the Giant Student Loan Servicing Center from Hell. The following is an actual monthly review – slightly paraphrased:

“Yes, Lilacs, you have 100% quality on your calls, but you are .5 minutes longer than the average. So, you are going to be written up this month and if you get two more write ups, you will be fired.”

I feel your pain. I’ve also worked for a govt. contractor giving out info on Fed. Student Aid.

At least we were allowed to work without scripts…still… “I’m sorry, but that information is not in the scope of our contract.”


The nerve you must have. Imagine, actually providing customer service - I’m surprised that you haven’t been fired yet.