If I was properly paranoid, I’d think that somewhere down in Bavaria, in a forest, deep underground, a big, whirling, throbbing, mainframe computer that has a nice big red light on top has my name and details in it. And when anyone who has to offer any kind of customer service types my name into their computer, electrical fizzes go down the wires, connect with the big über-computer, and back comes a flashing message on their screen: Please Fuck With His Mind, It Is Amusing. He’ll Get Frustrated And Start Chuntering In English Because He Can’t Remember The Words To Argue Back.
I’m not that paranoid, though. I just find that some German customer service is woeful. Sure, it can be bad in the UK, too; I’m not making a point about Britain being great and Germany not great, cos I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to be. It’s just that sometimes, there’s a complete lack of humanity. No willingness to offer a sympathetic apology if certain situations are uncontrollably unhelpful, and a seeming willingness to jump straight in and get chippy when reasonable thought is presented to them.
Two examples from the last couple of days.
My video camera had broke. The tape wouldn’t eject. So I make the long journey (two trains and a bus) to the Canon Service Point, explain the problem and they say it’ll be a few days. Fine. But I forgot to take the guarantee card with me. Fine, again, they say, you can just fax it to us in the morning. Good. The next day, they call me: my camera is ready, the problem was simple to fix, but they need me to fax the guarantee card.
“Can’t I just bring it with me when I come and pick it up in the next hour or so,” I reply.
“No. You have to fax it to us.”
“But I’m gonna come straight away.”
“No. You have to fax it to us first”.
Leaving me mumbling to my self …shit… all the way to the …fuck… copy shop where I get a photocopy, then pay for it to be faxed.
I understand that they need a copy of the guarantee, but, y’know, don’t Canon make photocopiers? Couldn’t they quite conceivably do a copy themselves? I’m pretty sure that they might have a copier in their office… Or is this a big clever plan, where they get people to use other photocopying machines so they break sooner and have to be replaced, thus potentially increasing sales of Canon products?
So, about an hour later, I’m stood there picking up my camera from a woman far more interested in getting back to the cigarette that’s burning away in the ashtray than she is about me getting any kind of good service. She plonks it on the counter, and shoots off back to her fag and her desk. I have a question, I say excuse me, and she just bellows “What?” from fifteen feet away, absolutely not gonna get out of her chair again, nowaysiree. I shout my question. She shouts her reply, I slink off chuntering.
Example number two, and this one is purest Curb Your Enthusiasm.
The ear infection that I keep getting (third time this year, hu-fucking-rrah) is back. So a trip to the ear nose and throat doctor is needed.
Now, I like the doctor a lot. He’s a very very nice guy. Really friendly, we always have a lovely chat and teach each other medical words in English and German.
His receptionists, though, are cunts. Utterly. Put lipstick on a prize-fighting pitbull, and that’s the level of service you’d expect. Now, I can never remember the hours the doctors keep. It seems quite random for doctors in Berlin. Some days it’s mornings only, some afternoons, other days it’s both or parts of both. You have to fall ill at specific times of the day, anyway.
So I go there, and notice I’m ten minutes after they’ve stopped practising. But I go in anyway, on the off-chance that he might see me, do his usual two minute inspection and give me some drops.
The first words out of the pitbull’s mouth, after she’d given me the you’ll-be-lucky-pal glare, “Feierabend” (meaning, in an ideal world, “I’m terribly sorry, sir, but we’ve closed for the day”; but she says it like she means “Go fuck a cement mixer, shithead”).
Okay. I try a little pleading, “Any chance…?”
“Feierabend. We’re open again on Monday.”
“Is there another ear doctor in Prenzlauer Berg [my district of Berlin] that might be open?”
“Then where is the nearest one?”
She writes down an address that, while not in Prenzlauer Berg, is actually closer than the far-side of Prenzlauer Berg.
“So, can I make an appointment for Monday anyway, just in case this other place is feierabending, too?”
Without missing a beat, “Nein, we’re fully booked on Monday. In fact, all week. No appointments next week.”
In my head the scene now plays out with me trashing the place. In reality, I chunter under my breath in English, leave and cycle to the other place, which, as it happens, was also Feierabending.
But, it’s not all bad. A couple of weeks back I was in the car and got stopped by the police for a random check. I shit my pants cos I knew I didn’t have my driving licence or car regsitration details with me. Two policemen ushered me to park up near their van. I managed to stall the car in the middle of the street and splutter my way to the desired location.
They asked for my papers, I acted out a little play for them, like “oh, they must be here somewhere…”
When I came up from the glove compartment empty-handed, I got the sound of two policemen sucking air through their teeth and shaking their heads saying, “Not good… not good.”
I’m shaking now. A bit nervous. Me. Driving. Police. Not a good salad.
But, as it happens, I managed to get stopped my two friendly coppers. They were kinda toying with me. I think they noticed my German wasn’t superb, and that I was a bit confused, and decided to be lenient. One went to his van, the other asked for my name and address. They had a little conference, and after a “hey, next time, take your papers with you, dude,” I was back on the road. Yay!
So, that’s the end of today’s blog post. It was more an exorcism for me than an interesting tale for you: sorry about that. By way of an apology, here’s a link to the very pretty mascots for the Beijing Olympics. I especially like the panda and the fish.