Sign in, please.

From 2005 to 2008 I maintained a blog about my experiences working in the drug test industry. Every Sunday I revive one of those experiences here. The following was originally posted July 19, 2005.

Sign in, please.

People don’t know what to do with my sign-in sheet. I’d say about 75% of my clientele fits into this category.

The sign-in sheet is not hard. It has three columns: one for your name, one for your employer’s name, and one for the time. At the top in ginormous letters it declares “PLEASE PRINT CLEARLY”.

But people don’t print clearly. They furiously scribble their name in the first column and ignore the rest. They write their first name in the first column and their last name in the second. They print one and sign the other. They fill out all three lines with random stuff, then declare: “Where do I put the date?”

I like to believe that people are not inherently stupid. They, like me, simply do not take note of their surroundings sometimes. These are the same people who blow a gasket when their double cheeseburger is 38 seconds late or the person at the bank spells their name wrong, but right now they’re just having an all-too-human brainfart.

My own paperwork needs to be done before I can take a collection, so I usually just let people figure out the sign-in sheet for themselves. When I’m done with my first page (containing the company name, my phone and fax number, my name and today’s date twice) I’ll check on them. I point out any errors they’ve made. I pretend the sign-in sheet is some kind of Mayan glyph puzzle that requires a degree in indianajonesology to decipher. I try not to make them feel stupid. I start my second page of paperwork. Most times I can finish before they do.

Sometimes people ask pertinent questions. “Do you want my supervisor’s name? Or the name of the company?” Since the sheet only says “employer’s name” I can see how this would be a sticking point. This is a person who has read the form and wants to make sure there are no errors. This is a person after my own heart. But these people are few and far between.

The time is a big sticking point. The only clock in my office is displayed conveniently behind the person signing in, so I either have to point it out to them or tell them the time myself. Sometimes they don’t ask. They start scanning the walls, first right, then left, then right again, then left again, their neck craning a few more degrees with each oscillation, their waist joining in, until finally their impromptu aerobics reveals the clock behind them.

Then they write down the wrong time. Everyone writes down the wrong time.

I suppose people think they’ll get rewarded for getting here a few minutes early (or punished for being late). If they show up at 2:15, they’ll write 2:10. Even if they ask me, they’ll shave five or ten minutes off their time.

People love to feel like they’re getting away with something.

At one point my largest client, the one that makes me open a half hour early once a week for their scheduled testing days, decided they wanted me to keep a sign-in record for them in addition to the one I already keep. So now I have to juggle two sign-in sheets. It is not uncommon to hear me remark, exasperated, “Please print your name on both sheets. There are two sheets. You need to print your name on both.”

We won’t get into what the many illiterate or non-English clients I see daily do with the sign-in sheet.

The sign-in sheet acts like a gate; it tells me how slow I’ll have to talk or how many times I’ll have to repeat myself once we get to the harder parts of the collection process. This is where I determine whether I can breeze through your collection or if I’m going to have to hold your hand and take you step-by-step. The way I figure it, if you can’t write your name properly there’s not much hope for anything else.

In other words, if you screw up on my sign-in sheet I won’t really think you’re an idiot. But I’ll still treat you like one.

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