Uncle Nev’s Swansea Fun Factory

Nev-Wilshire

That Nev Wilshire, eh. What a cracking bloke. Total legend.

Because if you’re going to do a soul-sapping, low-paid job for an odious boss – it’s important to have a giggle.

And having a giggle is pretty much all that happens at Nev’s companies. Sure, they’re call-centres but, as the BBC doc shows, they’re more like an adult version of a Charlie Chalk Fun Factory. Non-stop fun, buffoonery, japes and giggles.

The only difference here is that instead of jumping into pits full of coloured balls, you’ll be hassling poor people to sign-up for a variety of things they don’t need, or can get free elsewhere.

And while Nev’s out in the car park, pumping up the bouncy castle, you’ll be having to hit brutal sales targets for the number of people in debt who you can persuade to get into more debt. Wahoo!

That’s because one of the Nev’s companies is called debtsreduced.com. It will charge you, at a rate of 17.5 percent, for the privilege of moving your debts into the hands of cuddly Uncle Nev.

It may be a nasty and immoral form of work but still…it’s a cracking laugh because you can wear funny hats and stuff.

Nev you fat b*****d you know you have bountys on your head and its only a matter of time!!! [Tyrone, Who Calls Me]

And that’s what The Call Centre is all about – it’s about novelty hats and banter and hilarious office pranks. Wahey! Wahoo!

It’s a waste because there is a genuinely interesting story to be told about Welsh call centres. How and why they’ve taken root in Wales; what life is really like for the 30,000 or so Welsh people who now work in them.

But the BBC is more interested in entertaining than informing and educating. They were looking for a real world The Office – and with Nev Wilshire they found a consummate salesman prepared to tell them whatever they wanted to hear.

If Carlsberg made call centres

Everyone’s happy – the BBC has a boorish clown to play the David Brent role; somebody to help create their Carlsberg ad version of life in a call centre. And Uncle Nev gets a five-hour long promotion funded by the licence payers.

And viewers are loving it. Nev’s a hero. Working in a call-centre is probably the best job in the world. Save Britain Money had 2,500 applications, in the days after the first show was broadcast.

It’s the kind of generous handout Nev may need once his 15 minutes is up. Because Nev’s from the ‘crash and burn’ school of business management – he was made bankrupt in 1996 after another similarly rapid rise.

And he’s running something of a basket case organisation. He has 14 different companies, but they’re all doing the same kind of thing – which is blagging on an industrial scale.

They have no real products or services to sell. So they exist in a shady world of grant applications, surveys and eco-schemes. To survive, they need to find ways of monetising things people can already get for free – price comparisons, financial advice, energy saving grants etc.

It’s like standing outside a bookies and pestering passers-by to stick a bet on. If they agree, you tell them it’s a really complex process, but you’ll fill the betting slip in for them – and then take a healthy slice of any winnings.

I’M COMING FOR YOUR NEVILE!! I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE. I WANT MY MONEY AND YOU WILL PAY ME!! [Paps, Who Calls Me]
It relies on the companies adopting a cuddly outward appearance, which the BBC has very kindly helped them to achieve, while cynically scrabbling around for various ways to rattle money off people.

So away from the fictional world of The Call Centre, you can find lots of alternative opinions about Nev and his businesses. Not everyone’s quite so smitten with him as the BBC seem to be.

In fact, Nev has already made a big name for himself on a website called Who Calls Me? This is where you can check up on numbers who’ve cold-called you.

Here you’ll find pages and pages about Nev and his companies. There are comments from former employees who talk about how the scenes were being staged and set-up for the BBC cameras. About the ugly side of call-centre work which remains unseen – the rubbish pay, the constant pressure to hit targets and the grind as you slog through 200 calls per day.

And then there are the hundreds of complaints from all the people on the other end of the line. People plagued by automatically dialed numbers. People who are called despite having listed their number on the Telephone Preference Service.

But still, that Nev, eh. What a character. Brilliant bloke. And if you love wearing funny hats and don’t mind scamming people then…it’s just the job.