How To Tolerate A Ranting, Swearing Telephone Caller (NSFW)

The video below features an audio recording of a ranting lunatic swearing repeatedly at VicRoads a call centre worker until the harassed staffer is forced to hang up. The takeaway here is not that you get more results with politeness than screaming, though that is a point we have made before; it's that people working in call centres can be forced to put up with ridiculous levels of abuse.

Call centre worker picture from Shutterstock

It's not entirely clear that this is a genuine recording, but it imparts a lesson regardless: empower staff to tell someone unpleasant that their concerns will not be addressed. No-one should have to put up with this kind of rubbish. Pedant note: Croydon is spelt with two Os. (Again, don't watch this video in the office without headphones in or if anyone else can see your screen.)


Comments

    Oh gosh, the memories... I used to work in an I.T. support call centre, and thank goodness our manager had a zero-tolerance approach to abusive callers. If someone started swearing, we could tell them that sort of language was not tolerated and we were terminating the call. I understand that people get frustrated when they can't deal with problems themselves, but geez, don't take it out on the poor person at the other end of the line. That jobs sucks enough as it is.

      The way I see it, I don't think people see us as real people.

        I've done this job and have seen people who take it personally, but I can't understand why.. I mean, who cares what some dick says. Utilise correct call control within your guidelines, get control and don't take it personally.

        It has nothing to do with you, usually they are upset about their situation, especially if you can't help them with what they need.

        Personally back in those days I used to just quietly mute and laugh about what a d[u]ckface they were :P

          Oh, by us I meant IT people in general. I don't do phone support, I unfortunately have to see the people in person.

            Haha, it's largely the same thing there though - they aren't upset at you, they're upset at the situation and take it out on you. Take the highroad, ignore their banter and get to what the actual issue is. Getting involved in their argument will only involve you in something that has nothing to do with you, you're only there to deal with the actual issue.

          this. spot on. I've worked in this environment for close to ten years and I've never hung up on anyone.

            Yeah, so I used to work for an electricity company and I took delight in when they hung up on ME. Don't worry, I was always polite and reasonable.

            My favourite was the guy who was shitty about his power bill. I worked for the retailer who just dies the billing and doesn't handle the poles and wires. This guys starts swearing and carrying in, so I settle in for a long call. Eventually the ranting increases in pitch till he stops and says:

            "Take me off the power!"

            Me: you mean, close your account, you'll still need a retailer...

            Irate caller: no, take me off the grid!

            Me: sir?

            Irate caller: you heard me! Take away the wire!

            Me: well, we can't do that, you'll need to call an authorised electrician to get that arranged.

            Irate caller: and who will pay for that?

            Me: (knowing where this is going and grinning to myself) why, you will need to pay for that sir

            Irate caller: what the *%#%*# - I ain't doing that!

            Me: well, I can't remove the service wire

            Caller: yeah, how you gonna stop me? What ta gonna do if I take an axe to it?

            Me: nothing. You'll be dead!

            Caller: (long pause)

        Well if I can't see you... you aren't particularly real to me.

    People can really suck. :( One of the only upsides to this sort of abuse that you get, as a call centre worker, is seeing with amazing clarity just how much the person screaming at you is undermining their own cause. So often I have had angry people on the phone completely shoot themselves in the foot by doing ridiculous things, like telling you that they hung up and re-dialled because the queue was too long - thus guaranteeing even longer time waiting on the phone. Or like going on and on with pointless complaining when you know for a fact you could resolve their problem in a couple of seconds flat, if only they would shut up and give you the one peice of information you can actually use. You don't feel particularly sorry for them when that happens.

    Two types of angry callers: those who call spoiling for a fight with someone who can't fight back, and those who are angered by the incompetant service they are receiving. I am a mild-mannered person but there are plenty of times I've come close to losing my cool on the phone with a call centre, simply because I've been jerked around so badly.

      Agree with "spoiling for a fight". In my past life in various call centers, I remember so many customers who would deliberately an obnoxiously challenge really minor things to get a rise out of me. You could almost hear them get deflated whenever I told them "Sure, we can fix that right now.... and done." Sometimes even then they'd have one last parting shot about how long it took to get through or my "stupid accent" (I'm from Brisbane and sound completely Aussie lol)

    I work at a servo and recently a feral toothless mentally handicapped man attacked a customer and got his ass handed to him. Afterwards he he got up and started harassing and threatening other customers so I ushered them behind the counter. From in front of the counter this large man repeatedly screamed at me "you fucking Australian dog!" and from his toothles now bloodied gums he hocked a massive loogie onto my chest whilst some of the female customers I had stowed away behind the counter began to cry. He screamed some more and spat at me again then left. That was my worst customer service experience.

      the trick i like to do is pretend to play timid and quiet (im usually calm and quiet anyway)

      then ALL OF A SUDDEN GO PSYCHO SHIT RANDOMLY LIKE A MANIAC

      usually they go wtf?? and go quiet.

      Then you go silent again and pretend nothing happenned

      then everytime they talk, you repeat the process.

      What you say or do doesnt have to be relevant at all. Just show you do not care about what they are saying and that you are more psycho than they are.

      Works everytime and is fucking hilarious when you switch back to insanely calm instantly

      Please explain, "... got his ass handed to him." I've never heard that before.

        "got his ass handed to him" means that toothless man got his ass kicked by the customer.

    Being on Hold is infuriating, it's not the wait, it's the voice that tells you your call is important every 30 seconds. Just play the bloody music and tell me when I'm next.

      It can be infuriating, especially Centerlink, Optus and Telstra, the three worst offenders. But that guy has rage issues and no business being anywhere near a phone, a car or humanity.

        While i've been on centerlink before and the wait times can be quite bad at certain times of certain days (I managed to get through in under a minute half of the time at about 10-11am, 2-3 was quite good too) - but in the end of the day.. It's free money.

        They have enough staff to process every request, every week.. If you're unemployed, even an hour of your time really isn't that consequential when it's paying your rent that week. Not to mention they've streamlined most processes, so parents etc etc hardly ever even have to interact with them except to cancel their payments. Not exactly objectionable.

        (I know it was only a small part of your post, I just like to point this out. With optus etc etc it's definitely a bad thing)

        Don't get me wrong, I'm not excusing his behavior. But when I finally got through to somebody I politely told them how much their call waiting system had pissed me off. It was GoVia BTW. And I argue it's worse than the three you mentioned.

        The guy in the video sounded drunk and angry, being on hold would have done nothing to improve the matter.

          Absolutely and I agree. Oh man Govia and I had a history around two years ago when they charged me 50 dollars for tolls in victoria.

          I live in Qld and haven't ever driven a car in Victoria. lol.

            I can top it, Brisbane City Council charged me a parking fine on my stolen car. The Police cancelled all the speeding fines, all the red lights etc the thieves did. I took in a photocopy of the police statements about the stolen car every week for months, they finally stopped asking me for the money only to have it referred to SPUR (They make sure you pay your criminal fines). I'd call SPUR, explain it to them (They had very helpful and understanding people on the line) they'd re-validate my license. I'd take the proof to the council and than a few weeks later it came back.

            In the end I payed it by accident, got a speeding fine, paid it and than when the BCC renewed my parking fine it took priority and the speeding fine became unpaid. Again I took evidence in had it cleared had the fine removed, which meant the speeding fine was paid. Only a few weeks later the speeding fine became unpaid again. This time the BCC did something different which meant despite the fact I proved the car was stolen, I had paid the fine and thus couldn't be refunded. And since it was the first fine it got paid retroactively.

            Ended up paying both fines. Now I'll cop to the speeding fine. But I'm still pissed the BCC tricked me into paying a parking fine for a stolen car. The principal of the thing is I wish I could have afforded a lawyer to get me out of it just to prevent them getting money they did not deserve (From me at least. The car thieves should be publicly flogged and forced to pay.).

              Jesus christ... that's unreal. Sucks that happened to you :\

              Dad got charged for tollroads in Western Australia...

              Western Australia doesn't have tollroads :O

              Must've been a trial thing in the system or something, we thought it was hilariously bad still...

    Wow. Just wow.

    That is an angry, angry man.

    I don't think that's the best way to end a call though. I've worked in call centres and I've also worked security. If you just cop that abuse, eventually it starts to get to you. It's better to try and turn it around. I know it sounds lame but it boils down to "really, is that what you think?"

    It leaves you feeling a lot better at the end of the day/night. Because I am rubber and you are glue.

      It was the correct way to end a call but the main problem was he let it go on and on. The call should have been terminated within the first 15 - 30 seconds of the man talking like that. By letting him go on, the operator exacerbated the situation and helped in making it worse himself. Having also worked in Call Centers, the operator would have only likely been a level one front line attendant (operator) who usually are not trained to deal with abuse. They have the right when being *overly* abused, to end calls. You have to weigh up the calls and in that case, the potential safety of the driving instructor. Personally, I would not organise anything except a driving test accompanied by a police officer given his raging. He's also got the problem with the line 'I'll kill every cop'. IF anything were made of that call, he could get in a nice little piece of trouble for a threat like that. As soon as threats of violence are made over the phone to ANY call center operator in any business, the call is 100% allowed to be terminated.

      (I've worked for GE Money for a few years in the past, believe me, I got my share of abuse and never caved from it, but man... the experiences...)

      Last edited 23/04/13 9:49 pm

        Not only could he get in trouble, call centres in Australia are legally mandated to have emergency identification and reporting procedures in place for such calls (and others like "there's a bomb in your call centre"), but you do need to keep them on the line and try to get as many details as possible under most such processes though I know some companies do just completely ignore them as they're 99.999% of the time complete bluster.

          Exactly right, too true. I still say the operator had a small part in making the call worse, but 90% of the blame rests on the idiots shoulders. We had numerous bomb threats at GE, weekly even, not one ever was real. Someone even sent in talcum powder in an envelope. YAY for an early day due to the hazard people... lol

            I think the operator did surprisingly well. After the caller had made threats to kill, he asked for his licence number - bingo! Guaranteed identification of the caller so the police know for certain who to go and harass ;)

              As someone who has trained people to deal with those situations indeed that piece of information was valuable, again however he did let the call go on too long and potentially let the man wind himself up too much. Do I think the operato should get in trouble? Hell no. Possibly just schooled a little in crisis management on the phones in a friendly manner but definitely in no way should he be in trouble or have it held against him.

    Holy crap. This audio is almost as old as the internet itself.

      This. Easily 10-15 years old.

        2007 if you listen to the start. But not everyone has heard it, so I am glad, yet saddened to see it.

    Geez what a low life :/

    If you remove the f** ,c*** ,and a**hole from this conversation he only says about 3 words.

    Massive rant followed up with "Okay, so you're after a driving test sir?"

    How many chances in your life will get get to do your joke and poke the bear simultaneously? This operator is a champ! Haha!

    Oh my goodness! That was hilarious! I so admire the phone operator; I would have been laughing into the phone. Oh dear, that caller has some big mental health issues.

    This is what you people call a "rant"??? Meh! I have worked at the Australian Taxation Office as a call center operator. Nuf said.

      I worked in an ATO call centre for a while too, but their callers were nowhere near as bad as the crap I took in my next two call centre jobs - Telstra and the Child Support Agency. This guy is an amateur compared to some of the scum I dealt with at CSA.

        True, CSA trumps ATO in this issue..

    So, when does he get arrested for threatening to kill police officers?

    I would also assume he was driving an unroadworthy car, driving without a license and all sorts of other illegal activities.

    Hope he got what he deserved.

    Wow. I've had some terrors, but Mark at VicRoads deserves a medal ( and I hope counselling ) after that horrible call. I had to stop half way, you could hear the distress he was in yet still carrying on professionally.

    It's so common though, I don't know why Australians are so racist, nasty, rude but it's become the norm and it's being fed more by our politicians, using hate to turn us against each other with hate directed towards Muslims and Refugees. Even as a white multi-generation Aussie I am really starting to hate the way this country is turning into a bogan paradise.

    That call, the videos of the people threatening guests in our country with slitting their necks, both Abbott and Gillard trying to outdo each other on being nasty to people... This country has gone to the dingos.

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