Monday, December 19, 2005


(I was thinking about just how crappy my old job was today, although it did result in some interesting stories. This may be out of date, considering I left that job over two years ago, but it still bears repeating).

Working the phones at an unemployment office isn’t fun. It’s like working at the lost luggage desk at the airport. You just don’t have a good day. People only call when they have a problem, and hold you personally responsible.

Dealing with any government office isn’t fun, but bear in mind that the people you’re talking to agree with you. We’re there not because we enjoy it, but because we need the paycheck. The saddest thing is that we only make a few extra dollars a week than the people claiming unemployment do.

Here’s an example of what we have to deal with:


“Hello, Social Security, Paulius speaking, how can I help?”

“Yeah, I haven’t got any money off you yet, what’s going on?”

“Ok, can I take your name and social security number please?”

“Why? What do you need those for? I don’t like giving out that information!”

“Ummm, because I need to know who you are, so I can look up your records.”

“No, you don’t need that. I spoke to Dave at the jobcenter.”

“Unfortunately, this is a benefits office, and we deal with over 10,000 jobcenters nationwide. We need your name and social security number.”

“I don’t like to give that out.”

“Well, that’s your choice. You can either give me the information or hang up. The choice is yours.”

“(Grumble, grumble, grumble.) Ok, my information is (deleted)”

“Ok, one moment.” (tappity, tap, tap.) “I’m sorry; we have no record of you. When did you claim? It might not have gone through yet.”

(I should make something clear here. All over the claim for it says it will take up to 12 days to process a claim. People would literally hand over their form and call complaining 4 hours later)
“I claimed on February 3rd.”

“February? It’s November now! You heard nothing for 10 months and are just calling now?!?”

“That’s correct.”

“Let me take your number, I’ll call you back.”

Cue an hour and a half of sorting through stored files. It turns out that she did claim in February, we wrote to her asking for information, tried to call her three times and heard nothing. I call her back:

“Yes Ma’am, we wrote to you because your form was incomplete, and didn’t get a reply.”

“I didn’t receive anything!”

“We tried to call you three times and left messages, and never heard anything back.”

“I don’t know how to work the answering machine!”

“Well, I’m afraid to tell you that if more than two weeks pass without a reply, your claim is terminated.”

(Cue twenty minutes of verbal abuse that we have the sheer audacity to not give her any money after she left half her claim for blank, and never got back in contact. We should also know better than to leave important information on an answering machine. I go to speak to my boss. He’s in a charitable mood, and goes against standard operating procedure, bends the rules and says to go ahead with the claim from the original date, and to get the missing information over the phone

I need to be absolutely clear on one point here. A new claim would have meant she would have been paid from that day. By completing her original claim, she’s get back pay from the date she claimed…which in this case was about 6000GBP:

“Ok, ma’am. We can go ahead with your claim.”

“Good!” (Click).


(RIIIIiiiiiing RIIIINnnnnng)


“Hello, it’s Paulius from social security.”

“(SIIIIGH) What do you want now?”

“I need the rest of the information for your claim.”

“GOD! Can’t you people do anything?”

“No. Unfortunately we’re not psychic.”

“Don’t take the tone with me!”

“I apologize; unfortunately we’re required to actually know who we’re paying money out to.”

(Cue 45 minutes to get her form completed. It should have taken five, but every single question I asked got me 5 back about why I needed to know it.)

“Thank you. Your check should arrive in about 3 business days.”

“THREE DAYS!?!? I need that money now!”

(I mute the phone while I swear loudly.”

“Ma’am, it’s been 10 months since you made your claim, and now it’s suddenly a rush job?”

“10 months because you fucked up!”

“I’m sorry?”

“We wouldn’t be in this mess if you people did your jobs properly!”

“Umm, Ma’am? The reason your claim was delayed was because you only filled out half or your form. Then you didn’t answer two letters and three phone calls. It’s impossible to pay a claim on an incomplete claim form.”

“Bloody forms! That’s all you care about! Forms! Forms for this and forms for that!”

“As I already explained, we can’t just give out money just because people want it; we need to know that you’re eligible.”


“Yes, but we don’t know that until you complete the form! You could be anybody. Unless you complete and sign a form, you could be a millionaire for all we know!”

“So now I’m a liar?!?”

“(Sigh). I’m not calling you a liar, I’m explaining why we need to you complete a form to get your benefits.”

“Well, I NEED that money today.”

“I’m sorry, but we only issue counter checks in extreme circumstances.”

“Like what?”

“Like we made the original mistake, or a person needs the money desperately.”

“I need the money desperately!”

(I should point out that despite the fact that being anything but ultra-polite to a claimant is a sackable offence, my patience was wearing thin).

“Considering you claimed 10 months ago, and this is the first contact you’ve initiated with us, I find that hard to believe.”

“(Ten minute, four letter tirade deleted to protect innocent sensibilities) I DEMAND TO SPEAK TO YOUR SUPERVISOR!”

(I go and get my boss, and explain the situation. He argues with her for ten minutes before hanging up.)

“Paulius.” He said. “Just issue the counter check, it’s not worth the hassle.”

(I swear under my breath. Issuing a counter check is a long and involved process. It has to be signed off by at least two senior managers, has to be called into the appropriate jobcenter, sent through the secure fax machine that needs a senior manager to authorize it.

Instead of going through the computer, it has to be done clerically and signed off on a few hundred times…this is because without all that authorization, anyone could write themselves a check for any amount and send it to any jobcenter they’d like. It’s essentially like printing money.

Basically it’s a pain in the ass..)

I issue the check (It takes two hours).



“It’s Paulius again.”


“Your check is ready to be picked up at the jobcenter.”

“You mean it’s not coming to my house?!? Unacceptable! I demand you have it delivered to me!”

(I come within an inch of losing it.)

“Listen, let me make something clear. We were well within our rights to simply say ‘You didn’t reply to our requests for more information, you didn’t complete your claim form. make a new claim.’ Instead, we’ve bent over backwards to get you this money, which quite frankly, under the law, you’re not entitled to. We also didn’t have to issue you a counter check today, and could have just mailed it to you. Now, after all this, you’re DEMANDING we hand deliver the check to your house? I’m sorry, but that’s just not going to happen! Either go pick up your check, or don’t. It’s up to you!”

“Uhhh, I, uuuh.”

“Anything else I can help you with?”

(We’re required to say that.)

“Uhh, I, uuuh.”

“No? Goodbye!”

I slam the phone down so hard, my coffee mug almost shatters.

A few hours later, the phone rings. The unfortunate stuck covering the phone answers it. I listen from across the desk, from behind the stack of claim forms.

“Paulius? Yes, he’s here. Just one moment.”

She looks at me.

“Paulius, there’s a Mrs. (deleted) on the phone for you.”

“Oh, FUCK!”


I explain the situation. However, as she transfers the call, I start to think:

Maybe she realized that I spent my entire day to get her the money that she wasn’t technically entitled to. Maybe she thought long and hard, and once she got the great big fat check, she thought she’d call you apologize, or at least say thank you.

“Hello, Paulius speaking?”

“Hello, I don’t know if you remember, but you organized a counter check for me yesterday.”

“Yes, I remember.” Tappity, tap tap tappity. “Yes, the check was issued, for 6475.23, for unemployment benefits between the 4th of February to November 18th.”

“Yep, that’s the one.”


“It’s 4GPB short.”


“No, ma’am, the check is correct.”

“NOOOO!” Said like she was talking to a retard. “I worked it out.” (I could hear her calculator beeping in the background). “It’s 4GBP short.”

In the end, I had to take her day by day through 10 months of payments, all for the sake of 4GBP, in a check for almost six and a half grand. I was right. She was wrong. She didn’t care.

“You people are nothing but a bunch of criminals! You should be ashamed of yourselves, (More 4 letter tirades).”

I hung up.

Imagine getting a six and a half grand check for doing absolutely fuck all, a check you’re not actually 100% entitled to, and then calling to complain, and calling the person who gave you the money a criminal, because he proved that your math was off.

…and people wonder why the people at benefit offices tend to be short tempered. We deal with this shit every day.

1 comment:

Kato said...

Wow. That's pretty much all I can say to that.

Hope she bought something nice with that six grand.