John O’Connell is a bingo caller at Mecca Forge in Glasgow. He recently spoke to the Metro newspaper about working as the club’s Bob – or bingo caller! We’ve popped the interview below so if you didn’t grab a copy on your morning commute, you can have a read at your leisure.
Do bingo callers still use phrases like ‘two fat ladies’, ‘two little ducks’?
We don’t tend to use a lot of the old rhyming slang anymore, as some of them aren’t very PC anymore, like two fat ladies!
When did you decide you wanted to be a bingo caller?
I started working at Mecca Forge when I was 18 and once got to help out covering a caller’s shift. I really enjoyed it, and now seven years later it’s my full-time job.
What other careers did you look at?
I’m a singer, so a career revolving around music would’ve been ideal, but I guess standing up on stage calling numbers is still a performance in itself, entertaining the customers.
Do you feel like a young person in an old person’s world? If yes/ no any examples?
Growing up thinking about bingo, I did think of it as an old people’s place, but there are a lot more younger customers playing the game these days.
Does it feel like bingo will stick around for a long time to come?
Bingo will be here forever, no doubt about it.
What does the job entail?
You must be confident and a good listener. You’ve also got to have good people skills and know how to keep the players’ attention. A caller’s got to know when to joke and when not to joke, and they have to keep players hooked by building a rhythm.
Some numbers I read high, some numbers I read low. Some fast, some slow. It’s more musical than just shouting them out.
What do people not know about the job?
A lot of people, especially friends, think calling the numbers is an easy job, but there’s a lot more that happens behind the scenes, especially if someone wins a life changing amount. The feeling you get when you’re the person who’s called out those winning numbers is one of the main perks of the job.
What misconceptions are there?
Well it’s not all blue rinses and grannies. We’re getting younger and younger customers coming in, especially when we have our Bonkers Bingo nights, where the club turns into an absolute mad house with dance offs and quirky prizes. We had 5ive performing in the club recently.
Can you go home richer?
I think people that are new to the game find it surprising not just how much fun they can have playing with Mecca, but also how much money they can actually win.
What are the hours like?
The hours can sometimes be unsociable, but it’s okay because I’ve made so many friends, both team members and customers. They always make it fun.
Have there been any particularly memorable moments?
Seeing a customer’s face light up when they realise they’ve won a life changing amount of money. It’s such a great feeling if you’re the person calling out those winning numbers!
In the past year alone, we’ve paid out over £4 million in prize money to customers visiting the Mecca Forge club…that’s a lot of happy customers!
How do you deal with a room full of bingo-crazy punters?
Stay calm and make them laugh, it’s all about timing and giving your customers a fun, entertaining and memorable experience.
What advice would you have for anyone wanting to become a bingo caller?
Confidence is key, as is a good set of ears!
What can go wrong?
To be honest a lot could go wrong at any moment, but we’re trained on how to fix it as quickly as possible.
What do you love most about the job?
Well I see my colleagues more than I see my own family; bingo brings everyone together. I can honestly say there are not many jobs where you can have such a laugh while working.
Do you meet lots of people?
You also meet so many people in this job. On an average week at the Mecca Forge club we can have over 8,000 customers through the doors to play bingo. It’s a real buzz when you’re up calling the numbers – everyone wants to win money and have a good time.
What is people’s reaction when you tell them about your job?
“Oh are you the boy that calls the numbers? You must hate being about old grannies all day every day!” I just laugh because they couldn’t have got it more wrong.
What do you not like so much about it?
Maybe the occasional unsociable hours, although there isn’t much not to like to be honest!
What’s your best bingo catchphrase?
I have many but one of the ones I use more frequently is – “Well that was shhh….ocking!” it’s funny seeing everyone’s faces!