Confessions of a benefits manager: Thanks but no thanks

The phone rings and I jump. It is getting to the point where I am afraid to answer. I take a deep breath and lift the receiver. “This is Mumble Somebody from Mumble Somebody Associates,” they say, so quickly that I can’t catch the name. I think it may be deliberate; if I don’t know who is irritating me, I cannot very well complain. “We work with the Pensions Advisory Service to provide assistance to companies on latest legislative changes,” they tell me in a rush.

I quickly jump in to say I do not need help with company pensions as we pay a firm of consultants for advice. I start to form the word “goodbye”, but they are not put off. They tell me (again) that they work with the Pensions Advisory Service, and work with pensions consultants to advise on latest legislative changes. They are clearly trying to make it sound like they are an official body, but I am sure they are not. For goodness sake, how can I get rid of these people? I don’t need any advice on legislative changes, I tell them again, through gritted teeth. My pension consultants give me full advice on how to implement any changes like that.

Actually, this is not strictly true. Smarmy Consultants will send me a five-page unintelligible email about draft legislation. We then end up ringing them (on heavily-chargeable time) to unravel what the email was about, only to find it has no relevance to our firm whatsoever. But to say this would only open the door to Mumble Somebody Associates. I repeat that we have all the pensions advice we need, thank you.

But they will not be beaten. They tell me, rather impolitely, that I have not been listening properly. Their role is to advise people working in the pensions industry, including consultants. I wonder what would happen if I tell them to ring Smarmy Consultants directly, but that would surely come back and bite me. I feel like I am trapped in a perpetual sales call. I am dangerously close to hanging up on them, but this might reflect badly on my company, and, more importantly, someone might actually report me as having been rude. I resort to lying and tell them I have to go to a meeting right now and do not have time to discuss it further. Phew.

A friend of mine once told me she gets out of these sales calls by telling them a fictitious Mr Justin Case is in charge of whatever it is they are selling. I decide to try that next time.

Five minutes later, the phone rings again. Thankfully, it is not Mumble Somebody Associates, but it is Mumble Thingy Medical Intermediaries. Worse, they have been given my name as the specific person in charge of medical benefits by my colleague, Creepy Caroline. Grrr.

Naturally, Mumble Thingy Intermediaries tell me they can save our company thousands of pounds by optimising our medical insurances. I tell them I don’t need any help, thank you. Am I saying I do not want to save my company thousands of pounds? They sound incredulous, and go on to ask me if my manager would support that view. I can imagine them phoning Big Bad Boss to tell him about my lack of concern for company finances. Yikes. We have a very competitive medical plan already, I insist. They want to know who we are insured with. I really cannot give out that information, I say. Well, they can assure me they can save my company thousands of pounds just by reviewing the contracts. They just want to know who we are insured with. Really, they are quite insistent about it. I already work with a broker, I blurt out. That was a mistake. Brokers, they tell me, in a most patronising tone, do not get anything like as good rates as Mumble Thingy Intermediaries, which specialise in insurance plans just like ours. I feel like a cornered rabbit. I flee to another imaginary meeting, knowing it is a cop-out. They will surely call again.

They do, or maybe it is another firm. This time the caller has such an inadequate command of English, I have no idea who they are. But working in a second language is no barrier to a call-centre representative with a script to follow. They ask me how much we are paying for medical insurance. I say it is against company policy to give out that information. This is not in their script, so they repeat the question. I repeat the answer. This goes on for several minutes until the caller is so frustrated, he is actually shouting the question. Then he realises he can simply move on to the next screen. How many people do we have covered? I am not going to tell him that either, so he repeats the question. I have had enough of this, and I ask him to remove my name from their list. This is not scripted and he does not understand. He asks me to spell the word “remove”. At that point, I hang up, and hang the consequences. Let them fire me. I have had enough of working here already.

Aaagh. The phone rings again. It isn’t the call centre but a local printing firm wanting to know who is in charge of ordering brochures and leaflets. Perhaps we would like a better deal on our plan documents for employees. Well I don’t, thank you very much. But wait a minute: Creepy Caroline had some lovely glossy files printed for one of her training programmes last year. I am sure she will be glad of his call. What comes around, goes around, don’t you think?

– Next time…Candid finds somewhere to park.