Insurance v Blackmail

Anyone who worked in an office in the 1960s, 70s or 80s will be familiar with this scene.

By Wendy A

I left school in the mid 1960s at 16 plus with three very poor O levels. My parents were very upset that I had not achieved better results that would have enabled me to either do a course at Technical College or be taken on for some sort of apprenticeship or in-house training.

I had a series of dead end jobs, as a waitress, shop assistant, shelf stacker, etc. Most of these jobs were part time and outside normal working hours of 8.30 till 5.00. At times I had more than one job, wages were low but I managed to earn enough to pay some rent to my parents, buy clothes and have a few nights out with friends.

After a year or so my parents had had enough of me switching jobs and for ever complaining that a robot could do most of my work rather than a human with a brain. One evening after dinner when I had no shift to work, they sat me down in the lounge with a glass of martini and started to ask me what I really wanted to do with myself. They were exasperated with my continual moaning about dead end jobs.

It appeared they had done some homework on the possibilities of Technical College. Provided I could get some good references from my employers, they had discovered that despite my poor exam results, some colleges would consider me for courses. The next question was what courses. They were inclined towards secretarial and office management courses as there was an ever increasing demand for office workers. Sitting at a desk all day typing did not appeal but the carrot of promotion did.

After further checking and interviews it was decided that I would enrol for a secretarial course. The course was for one year and included not only typing and shorthand but also book keeping and office management. I would live at home, pay no rent and my parents would give me pocket money, this could be supplemented by some evening and weekend work.

Although I had some doubts, I set off on the first day in a positive mood particularly as I would not have to stack any shelves that week.

The College was a short bus ride from home and housed in a new building. The students were mostly girls although there were a few boys who mostly aspired to being journalists and required shorthand. I soon made friends and we enjoyed a good social life. The work was not difficult and well within my capabilities. It could be a little boring at times but this was compensated by the social life. It was a little like school but there was no uniform or corporal punishment.

As the year was almost complete I had several interviews with both the College staff and recruiters from large companies in the area that were potential employers. My main tutor seemed to be very pleased with my progress and exam results, I had always been in the top 3 or 4 when the results were announced. She thought that I should apply to one of the larger companies in the area which offered in-house training and where the chances of promotion would be higher. In particular she suggested I should apply to the three insurance companies with headquarters in the centre of the city.

Knowing little about insurance but with her recommendation I duly applied, had interviews and two of them offered me jobs that would start a few weeks after the end of term. I chose Industrial Mutual because their Head Office was on a direct bus route from home and they paid slightly better than the other one.

After a few weeks, which included two weeks holiday on the Isle of Wight, I presented myself at the reception of Industrial Mutual. I was told to join a crowd of others all about my age, both boys and girls. I was pleased to see a couple of girls from my College and joined them for a chat. After a short while we were ushered into a lecture hall.

There were a whole series of lectures, the history of Industrial Mutual, the range of insurance policies they handled, internal organisation, staff conditions, etc. We had a break for lunch in the canteen, I was grateful to have the company of the other two girls from the college and we were joined by several other girls. After lunch it was explained that our training would last one year during which we would be on probation, in other words we could be sacked or leave without notice. Each of us would be assigned to a mentor and our progress or lack of it would be discussed once every two months, any serious matter would be referred to the Training Manager assigned to our group who would arbitrate in case of need.

We were informed that there was a uniform stipulation for all junior staff and those in contact with clients below the rank of Supervisor. For girls, this consisted of a navy skirt, blazer, white blouse with a scarf and navy shoes. Stockings were to be flesh coloured. For boys it was grey flannels and a similar blazer with a white shirt and tie. We would be fitted out with our uniforms on the second day.

Finally we were advised that we would be split into two sections, one for boys and one for girls; however for some training we would be mixed. Also as part of our training we would be seconded to the various departments within the company for some hands on experience.

It all sounded a bit formal, a little like school, and this was compounded by the wearing of a uniform. Still I had made some friends on that very first day and would have evenings and weekends free.

The next morning we girls were directed towards a room that was set up like a classroom at school. A man entered, followed by four ladies of various ages from what looked like 20 to 40. The man introduced himself as Mr Clark, our Supervisor, and the ladies as Simone, Maud, Sandra and Julie; they would be our mentors during the probation year. He then called out the names of the students who would be allocated to each Mentor. Maud, the youngest looking of the four, would be my mentor and one of my College friends, Susan, would be in the same group.

Mr Clark then moved on to the subject of sanctions. These could apply for such things as lateness, not complying with rules, being rude to our Mentors or himself, inappropriate behaviour, drunkenness, poor performance in tasks. We were then handed a list of examples where sanctions could be awarded and a column with numbers of 1 to 4. He then explained that each penalty was the equivalent to half a day’s pay, so a sanction of 4 would be equivalent to 2 day’s pay. Sanctions would be applied by our mentors or himself and after discussion with the individual concerned. An appeal to Mr Clark could be made but with the risk of an increased penalty. Penalty points would be displayed in our office on a sheet showing all our names and broken down into weekdays, more than one sanction could be applied in a single day.

For gross impertinence or drunkenness more points could be awarded after reference to Mr Clark. Penalty points would be totted up each Monday and the appropriate level of penalty applied once a week, such points would then be cancelled.

Mr Clark cleared his throat, an indication that he was going to address a delicate matter. “I know that a financial penalty of more than a couple of points may be difficult for some if not all of you, rent to pay, etc. I am willing to consider an alternative sanction for you girls, one stroke of the belt for each pair of penalty points. I will administer the strokes and your Mentor will act as a witness. The strokes will be applied to your bottoms with your skirts raised or removed.”

I noticed glances from the girls near me with a questioning gesture on their faces.

He continued: “If any of you are not prepared to abide by my rules then you are free to call an end to your probation with immediate effect. I will be available till after lunch to discuss any matters with you, if after that I have received no notice then I will consider that you have accepted these terms, you will be asked to sign a contract. Also after lunch you will be measured for your uniforms, you will be issued with two blazers, three skirts and three scarves and you will be responsible for having these items cleaned regularly. If I consider that you are not neatly dressed then I will apply a penalty.”

After that he went into his office and we were split into groups with our Mentors. Introductions were effected and Maud set out the tasks for the first few weeks. Most of our time would be taken up with typing and shorthand. Other subjects included types of insurance policies, general office routine, filing, telephone etiquette, etc. She then showed us four adjacent offices with desks for five of six students and a table for the Mentor. Two were set up with typewriters and two with empty desks.

At lunch that day the talk was in whispers and restricted to the sanctions, especially the belt. For my part I thought that such punishment was behind me since I had left school. All those I spoke to had been slippered at school and were not keen for such punishments to continue. Despite some girls saying they would leave immediately, after lunch we all signed our contracts and were measured for our uniforms.

By the next day a discipline chart had appeared in the main office and by the end of the week several penalty points had appeared. On the second Monday a second list had appeared showing the total number of penalty points next to each girl’s name. Several of us had only one or two and the consensus was that we would accept a reduced pay on the following Friday. If we agreed to a salary deduction then we had to indicate this on the sheet and sign.

One girl in another group had 6 penalties and we noted that she had put an X in the column and signed. Maud explained that this was how a spanking was notified. At 5.00 that evening she was hanging around with her Mentor.

The next day at lunch she was the centre of attention and was bombarded with questions.

It appears that five minutes after we had all left for the day she was called into Mr Clark’s office, was told to remove her skirt and bend over his desk. She had worn thick cotton panties in anticipation. She said that he did not hit her as hard as some of her spankings at school. It was more the embarrassment of having to remove her skirt and then bend over in front of Mr Clark and her Mentor.

There were other spankings from time to time but I avoided the indignity and accepted the deduction of a half of one day’s pay. That is until near the end of our first year. It was a Friday and Susan’s birthday. Rather than going to the canteen she invited us to a pub close to the office.

We each ordered a drink and a sandwich and sat in a corner. The problem was that the other girls insisted on buying a round of drinks. I was obliged to follow suit and we each had four drinks. The result was that we all became giggly and our voices were raised, this drew attention from others in the bar.

We returned to work on time and tried to calm ourselves down with a cup of coffee. About half an hour later we were called with our mentors into Mr Clark’s office. Our Mentors were told to take a seat while the four of us were left to stand in a line in front of his desk.

Mr Clark started by saying that two senior members of staff had seen us in the pub and considered that we were acting in a drunken state making a nuisance of ourselves. The fact that we were wearing company uniform clearly advertised our provenance and reflected badly on the reputation of the company.

He asked each of us in turn whether we had been in the pub at lunchtime, we all replied positively.

He continued: “You have each worked hard and shown a high degree of cooperation to complete your work in a timely manner, your work as team has been exemplary. This lapse is clearly an exception but you have sullied the reputation of the Company by your stupid behaviour.”

“I could sack you all but that would be a loss to the Company; you are all destined to be given more responsibility as your careers progress. It would also result in a waste of your Mentor’s hard work over the last year. I am going to give you an alternative. If you each accept six hard strokes of the belt then I will consider the matter closed and your lapse will not appear on your record with Staff Department. I expect your answers on Monday morning but would mention that you will all have to accept the same punishment. Given your present state I suggest that you leave now and discuss my proposal amongst yourselves.”

We filed out of his office, collected our things and headed for the exit. We were stopped by the Sergeant at arms who then referred to Mr Clark. After a brief telephone conversation we were allowed to proceed.

We decided to go to a small coffee bar near the office. At that time of day it was almost deserted.

Susan took the lead. “So what is it going to be, six with the belt or the sack?”

It was clear that none of us relished having our bottoms belted, only one of the other girls had received a couple of strokes a few months earlier. On the other hand the alternative was not really an option. Our parents would no doubt have to be informed and it may be difficult to find another job with a reputable company. We were almost at the end of our probationary year and due for a good salary increase. The final conclusion was that we would all opt for the belt.

The weekend was far from happy; even my parents asked if there was something wrong. I feigned a stomach ache; my Mother gave me a couple of pills to swallow.

Monday morning was even worse. News travels fast in an office full of girls and we were bombarded with questions. There was no point hiding the truth. Some of our colleagues were sympathetic whilst others seemed to get a kick out of our predicament.

5.00 came very slowly. As the rest of the staff packed up for the day, we went to the main office with Maud. The other two and their mentor were already waiting. Mr Clark called us in and the four of us stood in front of his desk, this time the two Mentors stood to one side of his desk.

He then told us to remove our skirts and blazers then place them on a vacant chair. This was a slow process as none of us wanted to expose ourselves to the others, the thought of what was to come also discouraged rapid compliance with his instruction.

Eventually we were back in line and he told us to stand to one side of his office. He called Susan out first and told her to bend over the desk. She complied hesitatingly and her panties came into view below her blouse. Mr Clark took the belt out of his desk and came round to where Susan’s bottom was displayed. He lifted her blouse so that it was well clear of her panties and tucked it into her suspender belt.

He lined himself up and let go with the first stroke. Susan yelped and made to stand up. Maud had been expecting this and quickly pushed her back down. Mr Clark warned her that she would receive extra strokes if she moved again. Maud kept her hand on Susan’s back as Mr Clark set about beating her hard. Her yelps got louder and by the third she was in tears and breathing heavily. After the sixth, Maud helped her up and gave her a paper hanky to wipe the tears and blow her nose. She finally moved the few feet to join the rest of us.

The other girls were called forward. I was destined to be last. Both reacted in a similar fashion to Susan. Mr Clark was clearly determined to hit us as hard as he could so we would never forget our ordeal.

Finally it was my turn. My stomach was churning and my legs wobbly. I felt Mr Clark lift my blouse clear of my panties and tuck it into my suspender belt. Fully exposed with just a pair of white cotton panties to protect me, I waited for the first stroke. It was not long in coming. The pain was awful. It was all I could do to remain bent over his desk. Another one; I yelped for all I was worth. It seemed to be far harder that the few times I had been slippered at school or spanked by my mother with her hairbrush. I was crying after the second stroke and tried to get away from the third. It was then that I felt Maud’s hand on my back. The next strokes were a haze of tears and fire in my bottom.

Our ordeal over, we were told to dress and to make our ways home. We stopped at the toilets and tried to do our best to make ourselves presentable, not easy with red eyes and very red bottoms.

It was not till I got home and in the privacy of my bedroom that I had an opportunity to view the damage. The whole of my bottom was ablaze and there were darker red blotches where the tails of the belt had cut into my upper thigh.

Fortunately my Father had a meeting that evening so there were just the two of us for dinner. My Mother was very sympathetic and suggested that I put cold cream on my bottom before going to bed.

I reached the end of my probationary year without any further serious mishap. We were each called into Mr Clark’s office with our Mentor. It was the first time I had been back in his office since the belting, a strange feeling. This time he asked us both to take a seat.

No mention was made of my belting. He positively glowed as he congratulated me on my results. He then informed me that I would be posted to the Marine Claims Department. This was a small unit but very important given the value of most claims. The Department was headed by Mrs Evans, assisted by two staff, and I would be the junior. Given the importance of the Department I would receive a significant pay rise, £500 per year. There was also the possibility of a bonus in December each year depending on performance.

After work I almost skipped all the way from the bus and burst into our house. Both my parents were there, my Father had finished early that day. I was bubbling with excitement and it took a while for the facts to sink into their brains. They were both delighted and my Father offered me £50 to spend on a holiday that was due the following month.

The training was completed a few weeks later and I had met my new colleagues, Mrs Evans, the boss, Sally, the senior, and Julie, a relative junior, who had only completed her probation a year before.

Two weeks holiday with three friends travelling by train round France and I was all set to start my new job.

On the first day Mrs Evans called me in to her office. She gave me a brief summary of the work of the Department and how the work was organised, Sally would be charged with my training assisted by Julie. She then touched on office discipline. This could extend from a reduced bonus in December to dismissal subject to one month’s notice. She added that she would apply the belt if I stepped out of line and mentioned that she was aware of the belting that Mr Clark had applied. The difference was that she would belt on the bare bottom.

The interview over, she took me to the office which I would share with Julie. She showed me where everything was stored and how the filing system worked. She then gave me some contracts on which there were corrections in pen. I was to retype the contracts. She stressed that there should be no mistakes, otherwise I would have to do the work again; accuracy was more important than speed.

I had completed two contracts when Julie suggested that we go for lunch. My work was handed in to Sally for checking and we headed off for the canteen. I broached the subject of the belt. She blushed and confirmed that Mrs Evans would regularly use the belt whenever there were mistakes. This made me feel very vulnerable and uncomfortable. When she had joined the Department, both her and Sally were belted. Initially she had been belted at least once a week but this had reduced as she now made fewer errors. Sally was no longer belted; apparently she had discovered an error in an expenses claim submitted by Mrs Evans. She had submitted a claim for a meal for four people but there was no business lunch arranged for that day. It transpired that Mrs Evans had invited some friends.

On returning to our office, the contracts I had completed earlier were back on my desk. Unfortunately there were several errors that Sally had corrected in red. I set about re-typing the pages concerned and substituted the new pages. Shortly before 5.00 Sally came into our office and informed me that Mrs Evans wanted to see me.

The two of us stood in front of Mrs Evans’ desk. She said there had been eight errors in my work that morning and that she would normally have given me four strokes of the belt. However on this occasion she would just issue a warning.

During that first week I was summoned to Mrs Evans’ office twice for a belting. Unlike Mr Clark, she tended to belt a culprit on the day of the mistake. On the first occasion I was called in with Julie. There were several errors in my work and she considered that Julie had not given me correct instructions. We would both receive two strokes.

She told us to remove our blazers and skirts. We stood to one side of her office with just our panties and stockings on below our waists. I had on a pair of plain white panties. Julie however was wearing a rather fetching pair of black French knickers. She took Julie first and told her to bend over. Julie went to her desk and bent over, stretching her arms out and gripping the far side. Mrs Evans took the belt out of a drawer in her desk and came round to where Julie was waiting. She slipped her fingers in the waist band of her knickers and eased them down. They fell all the way down to her ankles. She then lined herself up and gave Julie two hard whacks. Julie hardly reacted to this punishment although her bottom was now bright red. Mrs Evans told her to get up. She stood upright, recovered her knickers from her ankles and pulled them up. She then moved to stand next to me.

Mrs Evans drew a breath and told me to get into position. It was uncomfortable to stretch out over her desk and I wondered what to do with my legs. In the end I kept them tight together and straight out behind me. Next I felt her fingers in the waistband and had to lift slightly so that she could slip them down. They stuck over my thighs as I squeezed my legs together.

A few seconds later the belt landed on my bare bottom, followed by a second stroke. She hit hard, but less so than Mr Clark. I did not make any noise and no tears flowed. She told me to get up. I reached back and recovered my panties which were still round my thighs. We were then dismissed.

Back in our office I suggested that we go for a drink. Julie apologised as she was due to meet her boyfriend. She did agree that we could go for a drink the following evening.

Mrs Evans belted me again the next day, this time alone and with three strokes. Back in our office we collected our things and set off to a pub some 20 minutes walk from work, this to avoid seeing any colleagues.

Our main discussion was how we were going to stop the beltings. It was humiliating and hurt like hell. Neither of us had any real idea of how we could force Mrs Evans to give up belting us, she clearly enjoyed the power she had to humiliate us.

It was several weeks later and several beltings later that Julie was veritably bubbling over. It appears that the previous afternoon she realised she had left her purse in her desk. She returned to the office after checking in with security. On walking along the corridor she heard noises coming from Mrs Evans’ office. She stood outside her office for a good few minutes and came to the conclusion that Mrs Evans was enjoying an intimate liaison. She recognised the man’s voice; it was David, who worked for the Yacht Claims Department on the same floor as our office.

At lunch that day we found a table well away from other employees and discussed our plan. I would buy one of those new Polaroid cameras and we would surprise the two of them, take a photograph and then make quickly for the exit. We could make some copies of the photograph as a backup in case of need. One problem was to know when the two of them would next be in flagrante delicto. We wondered whether we should involve Sally. In the end we decided that she might warn Mrs Evans in order to ingratiate herself and gain some further lever to receive a higher bonus or other favour.

We decided that twice a week one of us would return to our office on the pretext of having left a bag or some other item. The other would wait in the toilets near the main stairs. If there were suspect noises coming from Mrs Evans office then whoever had returned to the office would return to the toilets and the two of us would surprise Mrs Evans and David using the connecting doors between our office, Sally’s and that of Mrs Evans. We also decided to leave the office a little later than our usual 5.00 and linger for 5 or 10 minutes in the toilets. This should allay any suspicion.

10 days later, on a Friday evening, I was the one to return to our office for my umbrella. I heard the tell-tale noises and quickly returned to the toilets. The two of us quietly walked to our office, opened the door to Sally’s office and went in. My heart was pounding as we went over to the door to Mrs Evans’ office. I had the camera in hand and Julie slowly turned the handle. It was not locked and she threw it open as I took a photograph.

They both reacted immediately: “What are you doing?”

With that we turned and ran out through the offices and headed for the main stairwell to reception and out into the street.

We half ran and walked to a coffee shop nearby. The photograph had printed by then and we both stared at the image. They were both in their underwear and in an embrace. It was just what we needed. I rang Sally at home that evening and asked her to meet us before work as we had something important to discuss. Julie had agreed to approach a friend to duplicate the photograph and bring a copy to our meeting with Sally the following morning.

I hardly slept that night and had wobbly legs as I walked to the coffee shop near the office. Sally and Julie turned up together; we ordered coffee. We then showed the photograph to Sally. She did not appear to be totally shocked by what she saw as she had apparently suspected such a liaison for some time. We told her of our intention to use our discovery as a lever to stop our beltings. At this she smiled and wished us well.

We then went to our office. Minutes later the door swung open, it was Mrs Evans.

“My office immediately.”

We followed her to her office. She opened the door to admit us and then closed and locked it.

“So what do you think you were doing last evening?”

We had expected her to continue but there was silence, she was waiting for us to respond.

I started by explaining that we found her style of discipline to be humiliating, unacceptable and it had to stop.

She considered our complaint for a few seconds and said: “So you thought breaking into my office and taking a photograph would make me change my style of discipline, a style that is regularly used in this company on young girls and in many other companies? Well I have an alternative proposal, to sack you both this instant.”

At this, Julie held up the copy of the photograph. Their state of undress was clear to see. Mrs Evans’ face was turned to the camera even if David’s was slightly obscured. No one could doubt that the photograph had been taken in her office.

Julie spoke next: “If you decide to sack us both then we can but take revenge by sending copies of this photograph to our bosses and perhaps even your husband.”

At this she told us to go back to our office and get on with our work. An hour later, Sally appeared in our office. She had been to a meeting with Mrs Evans who had decided that neither of us would henceforth be subject to beltings. The photograph had not been mentioned. We breathed a sigh of relief.

There was an unpleasant atmosphere in the office for a few days and Mrs Evans kept to herself. All instructions came to us via Sally. The next time either of us had a conversation with Mrs Evans was for our 3 monthly appraisals. She was glowing with praise for us both and marked us as excellent employees fully warranting a maximum bonus at the end of the year.

Was the photograph an insurance policy or was it blackmail?

The End

© Wendy A 2015


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