Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August Chick Lit Review: Confessions of a Call Center Gal


For this month's Chick Lit Plus Challenge I've decided to tackle two debut novels, just for fun :) The first I read was Confessions of a Call Center Gal by Lisa Lim (and by the way, it is incredibly difficult to be Canadian and type "center"...it goes against how I learned to spell!) I really enjoyed it and want to thank Lisa for sending me a copy of her book to review.

Here's the review from Goodreads:

A fun chick lit romance that may appeal to fans of Sophie Kinsella. Bridget Jones meets The Office. Madison Lee is a fresh college grad, ready to take on the world of print media. But she has zero luck landing a job. Unemployment is at ten percent and on the rise. Desperate and left with no other options, she accepts a position as a service rep at a call center in Pocatello, Idaho. At the Lightning Speed call center in Spudsville, Maddy plunges into the wild and dysfunctional world of customer service where Sales is prided over Service and an eight hour shift is equivalent to eight hours of callers bashing her over the phone. Oh sure, the calls are bad. But Maddy manages to find humor on the phone and off the phone. And with all the salacious drama behind the calls, there is never a dull moment at the Lightning Speed call center.
Lately . . . Maddy has been pining for her smolderingly gorgeous co-worker Mika Harket. Now things are heating up on the phone--and elsewhere. Don't hang up on this novel. Working at a call center has never been this garish . . . or this delightful.

I think the synopsis has the right idea - this novel was definitely a mix of Bridget Jones and The Office. The main character, Maddy, isn't perfect but is lovable anyway and she works in a place that most people can't wait to get out of. I really understood how frustrated Maddy was about not being able to find a "real" job after graduation because I was in that same boat when I graduated from university (and then college after a one year program). Not a exactly a good time. Because I knew what she was going to, I found I was able to immediately identify with Maddy which was great.

It wasn't just the lack of a real job that I identified with but also the job itself. While I've never worked in a call centre (yes, I had to switch back to good ol' Canadian spelling!) I have worked in retail. Maddy talks about now knowing how the person on the other side of the phone feels. Everyone has probably had a bad experience with a telephone customer service agent. This novel should make you realize that those people on the line are people too. Read this little excerpt and you'll see how Maddy's point of view has changed, and hopefully yours will too:
In the past, whenever I called Bank of America, FedEx, Delta, Anthropologie or J.Crew, I was always the customer. And I never thought twice about the person on the other end of the line.
But I've now had a peek behind the Iron curtain.
I've lived in a world that we all experience but seldom bother to understand once we hang up the phone...
I think working in a call centre is another one of those jobs that everyone should have at some point in their lives, retail and food services are two others. You really understand how hard it is to do these seemingly menial jobs once you've worked in them. If you can survive at least one Christmas in retail, you can do almost anything (and I've gone through three of them...but the last one almost killed me!) I worked in a book store and there were customers who thought I should know everything about every single book (Sorry I can't name every single author who you may like because I haven't actually read the entire store) and those who thought I didn't know a thing (why yes, I do actually know that Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb are the same person. No need to tell me that six times in the same conversation. True story). Because of this, and multiple other issues, I try and be polite to every salesperson and understand when they're the only one on the floor and I have to wait a moment. The only time I get annoyed is when they really seem to hate their lives. I know retail can suck but you're at work, deal with it until you're off the floor, ok? Sorry - I sort of veered away from the review but I feel like this is something that everyone needs to think about. Those customer service people you deal with on a daily basis are just like you so treat them like you'd like to be treated...ok? Ok. Back to the review!

Like I said, I did enjoy this book. Maddy was actually quite easy to like. You think I sound surprised? Well, I was. Even though I knew what she was going through I didn’t think I was going to like her when I first started the novel. I don’t think there’s anything I can really put my finger on, but I thought she was, well, stupid for getting drunk and going to work. And continuing to drink at work. I get that it was Christmas and it wasn’t going to be busy etc. but really? Talk about jeopardizing your job. Eventually Maddy really did grow on me. She is a smart and clever girl and it was fun to read about her escapades.
I loved the little romance that happened in the novel. It was expected but I did find myself worrying that what I thought was going to happen maybe wouldn’t happen! I applaud Lisa for being able to pull that off.
There was an interesting cast of secondary characters in this novel. Kars was Maddy’s best friend and featured prominently in the novel. She was also lovable because she is like that friend you have who sometimes bothers and embarrasses you but you love her anyway. Mika was downright adorable and seemed like such a great guy. There were also a myriad of other call centre folk who spiced up the novel with their crazy antics.
While I found that some parts of the novel seemed to get off track (when Kars has surgery on her jaw and the whole debacle with the jealously of the cafeteria girl – whose name I can’t remember…oops) overall, the book had me laughing out loud in several parts. I enjoyed it and think others would as well. You have to have the right sense of humour though, because some people could get offended (and Lisa told me they’ve actually written her nasty emails. Not cool). Pick this book up for a fun read and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. If nothing else, think about how you treat customer service agents (whether on the phone or behind a cash register) and please treat them with respect, ok?
Happy reading! :)

4 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this book as well. I worked at a call center for many years. It was not for one specific company, but a wide variety, and the callers ranged from cool to downright psychotic. The cast of characters was a lot of fun and just an enjoyable read.

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  2. Thanks so much Kaley for this lovely review, I really appreciate it!

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  3. This sounds like such a cute and interesting read. This is probably my biggest fear: not being able to get the kind of job I want when I finish uni. *shiver* Great review though. You totally made me want to read the book :)

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