Tmobile Call Center Bans Kleenex

Update on that outsourced Tmobile call center that banned paper and pens earlier this week: our insider reports that Kleenex is now verboten as well. He furthermore notes that, “paper and pens, if they are to be used, have to be signed out from a supervisor. When signed back in, the paper is shredded by the supervisor.” Any reps feeling the need to cry about their vaporizing dignity can use the back of their sleeve, after their request form is approved. A comment from our previous post explains why this might be a bad idea…

KarmaChameleon wrote:

The way most systems in call centers are set up, you can’t have multiple screens open to view info, so writing things down is a necessity if you don’t want to have to keep clicking back and forth between workflows. I can’t imagine the nightmare it would have been working at Chase and not being able to write things down when working accounts.

PREVIOUSLY: Tmobile Forbids Use Of Paper and Pens In Call Center
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. AstroPig7 says:

    Do what I do: open Notepad and use Alt+Tab to quickly switch between open windows. On the other hand, McAfee provides much better working conditions, so I have the free time to think of such crafty things.

  2. fluiddruid says:

    Ok, this article makes no sense. Are they forbidding employees from bringing in Kleenex, or, are they saying they will no longer provide it? Because, after working in a call center for years, I’ll tell you – they never provided us Kleenex. Call it a cost savings measure so they can pass the savings on to you.

  3. donnie5 says:

    I would sneeze some nasty snot-booger thing on my supervisor. They would then reconsider the tissue ban.

  4. syncpulse says:

    you know after having been a victim of a bit of credit card fraud because someone copied my personal data from a call center computer I can’t help but applaud the intent of Tmobile. The method is draconian and way to extreme but at least they are trying to do something. When i contacted the offending company in my case all i got in response was “take it up with visa”

  5. Laffy Daffy says:

    No Kleenex? Hello, consumerist … someone is pulling your chain!

  6. wring says:

    new market for hankies!

  7. donnie5 says:

    @boones farmer: Just wait man, the no toilet paper ban is coming!

  8. Pasketti says:

    So grab a roll of TP from the bathroom. Or are they going to ban that, too?

  9. Pasketti says:

    @donnie5: JINX!

  10. world-inferno says:

    Screw pen and paper… use yer DS to Pictochat CC numbers outta there!

  11. gomakemeasandwich says:

    Nice selective quoting of the comments in the last article.

  12. donnie5 says:

    @Pasketti: Great, both of our minds are in the toilet.

  13. jchabotte says:

    Next they’ll ban network access.

  14. nadmonk says:

    But the reps can still write! They need to chop off their fingers.

  15. Jaysyn was banned for: says:

    Too bad for T-Mobile that the person that is actually stealing info has an edetic memory.

    Next up: Mandatory lobotomies for new hires.

  16. Dobernala says:

    No wonder call center reps are so cranky and lack enthusiasm. You take away every basic liberty from them and their spirit & ethic shows it.

  17. weakdome says:

    @nadmonk: Better cauterize the stumps or they could write our CC numbers on their bodies with their bloody wounds!

  18. weakdome says:

    @Jaysyn: Next up: Mandatory lobotomies for new hires.
    : I thought this was already the norm for call centers? Seems like it.

  19. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    The other reason why it’s a bad idea that management collects the paper and pens is that they have a process whereby paper which might have ordinarily been thrown directly into the trash is now being turned in. They’ve created a system which destroys the fact that they had possible notice of additional facts pertinent to disputes. Thinking that might eventually bite them in the ass.

  20. Televiper says:

    Gee, just when you start to wonder why factories unionized so long ago.

  21. travelina says:

    I think the supervisors need to sit under one of these nanometer wave machines and chill out:

  22. NightSteel says:

    @syncpulse: It’s not about protecting you. Cogito Ergo Bibo is right, it’s about protecting THEMSELVES. A lot of call centers prevent their employees from writing certain types of notes that could be beneficial to the customer in their call notes. I’m sure this is just an extension of that idea.

  23. smallestmills says:

    Maybe it should be read literally, as in Kleenex the brand name. Puffs are probably cool, as are any generic store brand of facial tissue. Just no Kleenex. That’s how the unsarcastic version reads in my head, anyway.

  24. dragonfire81 says:

    Call centers are amongst the most terribly managed businesses in the world, seriously.

    At my center they were not this stringent, but we did have shredders and were required to shred any and all sheets we had written on at the end of the day.

    But we were certainly allowed pens, pencils and papers at our desks.

    They did not provide kleenex (you had to either bring your own or use toilet paper or paper towel), heck they didn’t even provide paper or pens! You had to supply your own there too.

  25. I worked in a call center. We never had anything like this in place. Obviously we wern’t supposed to write account or credit card numbers down, then forget to recycle them. If you did that however, no one would ever care, or even say anything. The worst part is that after we left, the cleaning crew could read any of the account numbers if we left them laying around.

    In theory this seems like a good way to protect data….oh wait, no it doesn’t because anyone who wanted to really steal data would just type it into their phone, or pda, or find some way to get around this stupid system. Better screaning of employees and better management I say.

  26. flamincheney says:

    Too bad there is such fear over job loss because this situation is screaming for a wildcat strike to shut down the whole center, well at least until they route the calls to Bangladesh.

    You think management 101 would tell that treating employees so poorly actually increases the likely hood of an employee trying to do something detrimental to the company. If an employer respects its employees more times than not the employee reciprocates by respecting the employer. All they are doing is supplying the employees with a motive.

  27. frankadelic says:

    At the call center I worked at I often used a small notebook to take customer notes. I’m sure I was the only person who regularly shredded those notes, though. Everyone else just threw out the books when they filled up. Most of my notes were fragmentary and didn’t include information to directly ID someone but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to enact a policy that forces employees to protect customer data.

    At a certain point, thought, at that call center job I started keeping my notes in Word documents. Because our metrics were really tight and I could lose a bonus to a bad call I would save these Word docs so I could call them up easily when it was review time. It was nice that it also saved paper.

  28. vliam says:

    “paper and pens, if they are to be used, have to be signed out from a supervisor.”

    Signed out?

    How? Dude, if I had a pen to sign the damned thing out, I wouldn’t need to come to you.

  29. mrsultana can't get a password to work says:

    You have to sign the pens out?

    “I would like to request a pen.”
    -“Okay, sign these forms here.”
    “Can I borrow your pen to sign the request?”
    -“Okay, sign these forms here to borrow a pen…”

  30. Rachael says:

    Like Frankadelic, when I worked at a call center I was given a small notebook. We each had a steno pad to use during the day and while I wasn’t religious about shredding, I typically wrote only item numbers down because that was what usually gave me trouble in the system.

    I am an incredibly fast typer but even with that taken into consideration, my job would have been very difficult with no means to write down information. Our computers were very old and didn’t have any programs like word that I could flip through while in the order screen.

    I get the paranoia since this is a common problem but it pains me to see that people who already have somewhat thankless jobs are made to suffer even more. How much fun can it be to work in a place where the heads have made it clear they don’t trust you in the slightest?

  31. gomakemeasandwich says:


    Except phones are usually banned in call centers like this anyway.

    As for better screening, how do you think the call center industry operates? The company contracts the company for each rep at like $15 an hour, and then the call centers hire the cheapest possible person in order to turn a profit.

    While I’m not saying that all or even most people who work with sensitive data for $9 an hour will steal it, there are plenty who will. Screening isn’t going to do much for you if you have a limited pool of applicants in the first place in an industry with high turnover.

    Again, for all of you geniuses shitting on this idea, it’s for YOUR protection. Employees are almost always provided with a digital notepad program in the computer to do their jobs. But I guess all of you rocket scientists would like people to be able to write down whatever the hell they want, like your credit card number maybe? God, there’s a sucker born every minute.

  32. gomakemeasandwich says:


    Call center managers respecting an employee? LOL you’ve clearly never worked in the industry. I once had a situation where, I shit you not, my manager had to ask her manager a question on my behalf, and the douchebag (who was talking to another guy at his “level”) ignored her for like 10 minutes, during which time she ignored me. It was almost like a disrespect chain of command. I almost laughed at it while we were all standing there.

    If you’re a call center employee, you’re generally treated like shit. Why do you think that as a customer you’re generally treated like shit?

  33. gomakemeasandwich says:


    I should clarify something: a company, or client, contracts the call center company…

    That looked a little confusing.

  34. gomakemeasandwich says:


    Do you want to know why call centers are so terribly managed? Because most of the managers are simply the CSRs who stick around long enough to get a manager position. And of course, call centers will usually hire anyone.

    I’m not saying that all long term CSRs are incompetent, but usually a call center job is a bridge to a better job or a college job because of the relatively good pay and easy working conditions.

  35. gomakemeasandwich says:


    “A lot of call centers prevent their employees from writing certain types of notes that could be beneficial to the customer in their call notes.”

    Um, no. I’ve never seen that.

  36. gomakemeasandwich says:

    @Cogito Ergo Bibo:

    Except all of the calls are usually recorded…

  37. gomakemeasandwich says:


    “: I thought this was already the norm for call centers? Seems like it.”

    Actually that could apply to the customers too. It’s really shocking that you must get a lot of shit with your condescending attitude.

  38. gomakemeasandwich says:


    Sorry to hear you got screwed, but it happens all the damn time. There are so many stories, but one that stuck out in my mind was the idiot who would collect money from a lot of the people in the call center to order food and then use a customer’s CC so that she could pocket the money. As you can guess, she got led out in handcuffs.

    If the company you contacted was that cavalier about your situation, you could hire a good lawyer and have a go that them. Those companies are responsible for your information, and if they can be found negligent, you might have some revenge.

  39. thepennyblack says:

    @syncpulse:Wouldn’t it be a better idea to properly screen those that work in call centers? I work in one now and I went through the most thorough background check I have ever had in my life.If a person had been turned in for a hot check they could not work here, etc. That is how to keep information safe; not making someone’s job more difficult.

  40. Pink Puppet says:

    @gomakemeasandwich: I have, in a call center doing Sprint customer service.

  41. jimv2000 says:

    When you treat your employees like crap, your service goes to crap. Way to go T-Mobile!

  42. mwahaha says:

    I’ve worked at a couple call centers now (almost 5 years) and have never been provided any stationary or tissues. There’s always been a bathroom with paper towel so it’s not really a concern regardless. It sounds like this is lost in translation somewhere and is sensationalised. I can’t possibly imaging bringing my own pen and paper and my coach asking me to take them home. Or having a tissue in my pocket and using it to sneeze.

  43. drjayphd says:

    @Pasketti: John Spartan: I’m happy that you’re happy, but the place where you’re supposed to have the toilet paper, you’ve got this little shelf with three seashells on it.
    Erwin: He doesn’t know how to use the three seashells!

  44. gomakemeasandwich says:


    When you said Sprint it all made sense.

  45. thalia says:

    While I’ll agree, it’s annoying to have to browse through windows, the pen and paper is probably the reason why every time I call Chase and they tell me they’re making a note of something on my account, they don’t, because they just throw the paper away without double checking. Doing it all on your computer is the only way to guarantee they’re actually putting it all in there where it’s meant to be.

  46. TechnoDestructo says:

    Next they’re going to be suing employees who wear magenta.

  47. CyberSkull says:

    Just sneeze on the cubicle walls.

  48. KarmaChameleon says:

    For the folks who say “just use Notepad”: that works, except in call centers where the computers are so locked down, you can’t get into anything except for whatever proprietary software they use for account servicing. At a different call center I worked at, agents literally could not get into anything except for the outgoing dialer and the servicing program.

    It’s just more corporate stupidity from management.

  49. KarmaChameleon says:

    @nursethalia: The point is not that it’s “annoying” to switch between windows, the point is that due to the horrendously bad and counter-intuitive set ups a lot of call centers use for their software, switching between windows takes far longer than it would to just write something down. If you can even do that without logging out in the first place, and on some systems you can’t. Plus every second counts because management is all about the handle time metrics.

    I learned how to type from playing MUDs and other text-based games for over 10 years. I type faster and with better accuracy than anyone I know. And if I had to rely on Notepad (assuming I could even get into it) I can guarantee you my handle time would have skyrocketed.

  50. lizk says:

    Any company that’s interested in call handle time and any other efficiency metric has a decent UI for their reps to access customer information. It’s not rocket science that good software translates to improved production. I’ve worked at call centers for years, and I’ve never seen a UI that doesn’t allow a rep to do their job pretty easily if trained appropriately.

  51. LUV2CattleCall says:

    Just to clarify with everyone, I talked to a US Based T.Mo supervisor with this a few hours ago to get the entire scoop:

    As the previous article said, this only applies to a select few outsourced Canadian call centers.

    The call centers in question deal exclusive with billing issues, meaning 99% of their calls involve CC numbers, SSNs, and the like.

    They HAVE had problems in the past which is why they are taking these measures

    I’ve been a T.Mobile customer since the Voicestream days and have never, ever had a bad experience with their CSRs. They seem genuinely happy, which explains their super-low turnover rates.

    Whenever I call a customer service line, for any company, I make it a point to put in a good word for the rep with a supervisor if they were better than your average CSR at an average company. Whenever I call T.Mobile, the service is so good that it’s almost a ritual! (Similar experiences with 1-800-Contacts and Southwest Airlines).

    Too bad Verizon didn’t do this with toilet paper…then the reps could REALLY see how “materially adverse” the effects of missing $0.15 worth of stuff can be!

  52. strathmeyer says:

    Luckily they already have a work force generally unable to remember things.

  53. Rusted says:

    @LUV2CattleCall: I’ll bet it was Convergys. Remember them well.

  54. GrimaceXL says:

    I work for this aforementioned “paperless” center and its generally true, no papers and pens (outside of training), but not the Kleenex, we’ve got Kleenex. Don’t worry.

  55. pigeonpenelope says:

    So I’ve asked friends, no call center in California and certainly, TMobile doesn’t outsource Business Care (business credit, yes).

    I agree with a previous post that the Consumerist is getting its chain yanked. There is no reason for a call center to ban kleenex. The next thing you know, they’re going to ban keyboards.

  56. RedSonSuperDave says:

    Do what I *ahem* I mean, what this one guy I once knew does. I, I mean he, yeah, HE writes the credit card number on his arm under his sleeve when the supervisor isn’t looking.