by Peter Wilson
The air is humming with activity at the Serco Call Centre in Aintree, Merseyside as hundreds of employees answer the questions, queries and threats of the British public. But that’s not the only thing in the air.
‘This is the greatest job I’ve ever had’, shrieks Angela, 29. No she’s not insane; she’s been dosed with Apathanol.
Recently trialled in the United States, Apathanol attacks the Ambition Centre of the cerebral cortex, producing contentment and giddiness. Serco are the first company in Britain to apply the wonder drug, released in aerosol form through the air conditioning system.
Andrew, 39, one of the Deputy Floor Managers has been amazed by the results “It’s incredible, no more sick days, everyone’s doing overtime for free, some people even refuse to leave”. I mention American doctors had noticed withdrawal symptoms amongst test subjects but Andrew insists “I’m sure it’s just their chemical dependency on customer satisfaction.”
After we donned our protective breathing apparatus, Andrew introduced me to some of the staff or Acevisors toiling on the Floor.
Becky, 21, is a trainee Customer Service Advisor. “I didn’t think I’d enjoy debating replacement guarantees on bread makers with Cornish OAPS for half an hour at a time but now I love it, I don’t think I could do anything else now. Really. I was going to be a nurse.”
The walls of the Call Centre are covered in posters advertising Friday’s upcoming Hawaiian Luau. People are clearly excited, with most wearing their floral shirts and grass skirts days in advance. Angela has been sheathed in pineapple rings for 59 hours. “When you remove the unpredictability of fun you can only make it better. Karaoke at 17.35 anyone! I’m only kidding, it’s at 17.50.”
She’s clearly keen on Serco’s social side so I ask, ‘do you think the thrice-weekly re-enactments of shit parlour games in the canteen takes away from your normal social life?’
At this she twitches. “No of course not! Who needs the pub when you’ve got limbo at 18.30, 19.30 and 20.25! It’s limbo night! Come, for god’s sake!”
For Michael, 56, the fun has even leaked beyond the company’s strict parameters. “The other day, Marge printed off the TPS reports in quadruplicate! We couldn’t stop laughing for about 15 minutes. Then it began to hurt. Sometimes I cry and I don’t know why”.
Regardless of concerns, productivity is up 37% while suicides have increased only marginally. Its seems Apathanol will soon be seeping into a pore near you.