My second worst job ever (or maybe the first)


I noted WAY back in 2005, my worst job; it was working in a box factory. But in some ways, that might be incorrect in that I quit that position after only two weeks. A real bad job would have equal parts suckiness and longevity. By that criteria, that would have to be working as a customer service representative at a major insurance for 13 months from February 1989 through March 1, 1990; I’ll call it Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Actually it started off well. We spent the first month in training, where I learned, among other things, a number of prefixes and suffixes relating to medical conditions. Early on at the desk, it wasn’t too bad. But the managers rode the CS rep who was the slowest, and that was disheartening. She eventually quit.

At some point, EBC/BS switched from a dental claims software that was perfectly adequate to one, rumor had it, that was created by some company bigwig’s brother-in-law; in any case, it was awful.

Then in December, there was this purge. The CS reps used to have clerks who would pull the case files for us, but they all got laid off. This made our job obviously more time consuming, yet we were supposed to be just as productive, and the manager started harassing me. I was very sad not to be laid off.

The medical claims were going to be switched over to a new batch processing system, which, in retrospect, was a good thing, but the timing was terrible. There was supposed to be a two-week period when the old system was down, then the new system would be up. It ended up taking SIX weeks, from the end of December to the beginning of February.

People called us during this period, asking, not if their claims had been processed, but if their claims had been received. The official line was to ask folks to wait patiently, because the truth of the matter was that there were 40,000 claims or more waiting in the basement. The customers started getting irate; they wanted to figure out their medical expenses for their 1989 income taxes. People wanted me to go downstairs and look for their claim, which of course was impossible. When they inquired if they should resubmit their claim, the official response was supposed to be “no,’ though the new system was supposed to kick out duplicates. At least on one occasion, one really exasperated customer said, “I’m just going to resubmit, OK?” and I said, “Sure, go ahead” and got dinged by management for failing to follow the company line.

Finally, the new system was in place, and claims were processed, and rather quickly, I must say. BUT when the records were inputted, they did not indicate how much of their claims, for each family member, had previously applied to the deductible for 1989. So for claims on the new system, many charges were applied to the deductible, even when the deductible had been met. This led to a new round of highly irate customers. When a customer complained more than a couple times on the same topic, it became a supervisor call; at one point, the majority of calls were supervisor calls. I always suspected that this was a deliberate, cynical attempt for the company to save money, figuring some folks would not notice how much of their deductible had been already met.

Now, a customer service rep would have done this process somewhat differently. He would have sent out letters to the customers saying that the system would be down starting the fourth week in January, “so get all your 1989 claims in by that time,” noting that 1990 claims, which people were less concerned about, would be processed on the new system, as well as any straggling ’89 claims. THEN make the switch.

Also, during this period, we were scheduled to switch buildings. One day, I could see the new building had an ambulance in front, then two, then another, then a bus. Apparently, there was something wrong with the ventilation system, and they took some folks to local hospitals. The day we moved into that building was the day I gave my two-week notice. I did not want to be working there by my birthday, March 7, but I did stay until March 1, for then I would have health insurance until the end of April; had I left the day before, I’d only have coverage through March 31.

Interestingly, while only 3 of the 16 people in my training class were still with the company, the five CS reps who had been there before that time remained when I departed. They were built of sterner stuff than I.

I’ve been told that the organization is MUCH better now, FWIW.

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4 thoughts on “My second worst job ever (or maybe the first)

  1. Something else we have in common. My very first job was during the summer before I started my sixth form at school and was also at a box factory. They made all sorts of boxes and the job varied from collecting them off the machines to bundling them. I remember they had an automatic string tying machine that was forever breaking down. I managed to last three before I quit!

  2. Customer service sounds like a terrible profession, worse than retail or fast food because majority of people you deal with are probably upset from the beginning.

  3. I’ll add this to all of the other horror tales about working at BC/BS in the 1980s. I heard stories like this when I lived in California, so it must have been a system-wide problem. I even got to observe the BC/BS employees and their working conditions in a building where I also worked, it reminded me of a welfare office. Is it truly a better place to work now? Short of a terrorist attack it couldn’t have gotten much worse.

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