Saturday, June 12, 2010

Transitions and Explanations

I realize I've been completely ignoring the good ol' BAFW since February of this year. Just to reassure the one or two readers that might have been following this blog on a semi-regular basis: nothing terrible happened to me. I didn't break all my fingers or lose the ability to string words together to form sentences that in turn form paragraphs that turn into postings.

What I've been going through is a period of transition. As some of you might have known already, when I was writing regularly, I was employed by a bank. That relationship ended in February of this year. In case anyone was wondering, I worked at the time for Bank of America. And for the most part, despite being a thankless and totally unrewarding job, it payed the bills and I didn't hate it. Well, there were days when I wish I could personally knock on some of their customers' doors to give them a piece of my mind due to the way people tend to treat complete strangers over a phone line. I like to call that "telephonic courage". Some of the things Bank of America customers said (and in some cases, yelled at me) over the phone I've always wondered if, being face to face with them, they would have acted in the same manner.

I was with Bank of America for 3 full years. If you were to track down any of my managers they would have told you that I was hard working, results-oriented and goal driven. During my first year as a customer service representative for the Checking and Savings dept I was awarded with their prestigious "Associate of the Month" award in May of 2007. Mind you that I had only started working there around the end of February of the same year, and at the time, Bank of America's training program lasted 2 months. So right out of training I was already, in their eyes, great. I continued to do good work in that dept, always ranked in the top ten amongst my peers. This is no hyperbole.

I transferred in November of 2007 to the bank's credit card dept. There, I worked early to mid-stage to late-stage collections. I hit every single goal they presented me with, not missing bonus a single month, and, with the efforts of my team-mates, saved the bank millions (yes, millions) of dollars in potential credit card losses. Even when the whole housing market crashed and people were getting laid off, I was still able to save a large number of accounts and I actually helped a ton of people either repair their credit with reduced payment programs or offered them a way out of their debt with very generous settlements that ranged in the 20 - 35% of their total debt with the bank.

In September of 2009 I felt like I needed a change, and an opportunity arose in the then fledgling new Mortgage dept that was created when the Countrywide and Bank of America merger was completed. I didn't spend much time in this dept, since my working relationship with the bank ended the following February, but while I was there, I felt like I was doing some pretty excellent customer service. Not a day went by when at least a couple of customers thanked me profusely for being so helpful.

But, my time with the bank ended on a sour note. I made a misstep. And I willingly admit that it was a lapse in judgment. If I hadn't done this, I would not be typing up this blog entry right now. What ended my career with the bank? Did I steal customers' social security numbers? Did I steal money from the bank? Was I giving out false information to customers? Nope. None of that. This one silly little mistake prompted Bank of America to just cut me loose without considering all the good things I had done for the financial institution. So . . . what did I do??

I hung up on an irate and verbally abusive customer. A customer that from the start not only was mad at the bank for whatever reason, but for some reason decided to attack me as a person, completely unwarranted. Now, when something like this happens, a customer service rep is supposed to get a manager and pass the call along, but I don't know if I just had had enough by then and maybe that's what made me ignore protocol, but after repeatedly asking the customer to please stop verbally attacking me, I just hung up. He called back, got in touch with a manager, and pretty much told them I was rude and condescending and that I had hung up on him because of his Indian accent. Total bullshit. I hung up on him because he was an asshole and he deserved to be hung up on.

Big mistake I guess. The following day, I get pulled out of my cubicle by the Unit Manager who starts his interview with me about the incident by saying these words that are forever etched into my psyche (and I'm quoting you Hugo Ayala, if you have a problem with this, you can drop me a note in the comments section, that is, if you're not too busy trying to look like you're a member of the Buena Vista Social Club): "What made you think you had the right to hang up on a customer". As soon as he said this, my heart started pounding. I knew I was in deep shit. I tried to explain what happened, even went so far as to ask for clemency and practically (short of getting on my knees and kissing this bastard's feet) begged for my job. Mostly out of fear of the uncertainty that comes along with unemployment in an economy where the unemployment percentages are in the double digits.

I found out the next day that they decided, between all of them, to let me go. I fell into a slight depression. A man needs to work. If I can't provide for my family, then what good am I to them? At the time though, I thought that this was "end-of-the-world" bad. That I was going to lose everything. My wife and I would be out there, living in the streets. But, of course, that's not how it turned out. And to tell you the truth, getting fired from Bank of America is one of the best things that happened to me. I'm not going to go and thank the fuckers for letting me go. But in retrospect, it has led to bigger and better things.

About a month after I got fired, I got a communication from a recruiter from AFLAC. Yeah, the duck you've seen on commercials. I figured I had nothing to lose other than an hour or two of my time while I was out job hunting. I met with a Regional Sales Coordinator in an orientation that was supposed to be for a group of people, but I was the only one that showed up. So I had a very positive meeting with him, but since his office was in the LAX area, and I live at least 45 minutes away, without traffic (and that's Southern California traffic, the worst traffic known to man) he didn't think that I would like driving so far every day. So he referred me to the office that I now work out off in Pasadena.

That second meeting with AFLAC went well as well. I was encouraged to take the Life & Health certification class. I did it. I went to the California Insurance office in downtown Los Angeles and took the test and passed it on my first try. I was appointed to work with AFLAC on April 12, 2 months to the day that I lost my job with Bank of America, and I have to say that I am now much much much happier than before. I'm a small business owner now. I have no hours that I really need to adhere to and the support I get from the AFLAC folks is second to none. I now have a career, instead of a job, and I find it extremely rewarding, specially since I'm actually doing something that helps people in their time of need.

So . . . that's what happened. That has been a condensed (yeah, this post could have been longer) version of the last 4 months or so of my life. Now that things are settling down and I'm getting into a routine that I'm comfortable with, I should be able to come back to the good ol' BAFW and post things from time to time. I toyed with the idea of just ending the blog and deleting it from its little corner of the internet. But I changed my mind. I want to keep this going. I don't just want to throw almost 5 years of blogging away, casually discarding it like Bank of America casually discards their quality representatives for really minuscule offenses (in my case with no previous track record of misconduct).

But I'm not bitter or anything. They also lost a customer, but what do they care right?


Anonymous said...

You're my hero, dude. I got laid off and shit hasn't been the same since. I'm starting to find a path through the bullshit, though. Inspiring post - Analog Medium needs to make a comeback. Good work, sir!

Jaime said...

Yeah, I was wondering just what was going with AM and my good buddies up north. Good to hear from you again. Keep the dream alive.

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