Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Customer disservice

This second day was one of contrasts. I learned a lot and not all of it good, but the most important lesson of them all is, "Hey, shut up, that's my cow."

A preface -- I love Jerusalem. I love Israel. Really, deeply and sincerely. That having been said, this place is getting me down and that's not cool.

I was up early (4:30 ish) and when it was a more civilized I laved and donned. I picked Maddie up and we set off on a day of errands. I insisted that we stop off for coffee. This is vacation and I won't be tense without copious amounts of caffeine, dagnabit. We stopped at a coffee place and I, sensing the approaching heat, saw a sign saying "Ice coffee" so I ordered that. What came out was a thick sludge-mix of soft serve coffee ice cream and a milk based coffee slurpy. It was offensive to the tongue. I had to find another store (Aroma Cafe) at which to get a scalding cup of bitter stuff to cleanse my palate of the sickly sweet intrusion that masqueraded as coffee. Do people really drink that stuff?

Maddie bought dried pineapple, attesting to another of my parenting failures.

We started pricing hot plates, standing fans, microwaves, hot water urns and such and then started buying -- not the big things yet, but a curtain rod for the shower, a Sabbath lamp, some cheap plastic storage pieces, towels and like that. We seemed to find each thing in one store. There are 17 different stores which all appear to sell the same thing. The difference was the one product we needed. Even the bigger stores didn't have all the things we needed. The closet rod was found in one housewares store because one woman recognized the bracket I carried with me and happened to have the exact bar made for it. It still had to be cut to size and that had to wait until some guy who worked across the street showed up but it got done. That pointed out 2 real ins for the Israeli stores -- in the small stores, the proprietor knows every piece of product and where it is, no matter how messy or cluttered the store appears, and every worker is more than happy to take time out to help you search, if only to tell you that you are doing the job wrong. Also, people from one store were very comfortable going to ask for help from people from other stores. The idea of cut throat competition is reduced. To get everything back we needed a cart so the guy at one store lent us his and just asked that we return it as soon as we could. We stopped off at a cell phone store to sign Maddie up and get a SIM card for her phone, the metal closet bar, freshly sawed fell and gouged my glasses, and we got back. It was about 1PM.

I started fixing up parts of the apartment with the pieces we bought and Maddie went to go get the address of the bank branch so we could got later in the afternoon and open an account. When she did so, she found that it closed at 2PM! So we jumped back up and, still sweating and tired, we ran to the bank. At 1:45 we looked for help and were directed to get a number from the machine that sets up the queues. We did -at 1:47 - M103. The system which called the "next" customer then jumped over our number repeatedly. So we sat and waited. At :20 a woman asked us why we were still here. When we explained that we were trying to open an account she was amazed. She said that the bank was closed. We reminded her that we got a number when it was still open. She was shocked that we had even been let into the bank and said that one does not simply walk in and start an account. She asked how we got the number M103 and we said, "we pushed the button on the machine." She asked, "What button" and we said, "The one that says 'Open a new account.'" She was flummoxed. It doesn't work that way, she insisted. We had to come back first thing tomorrow. We said we couldn't but asked when the bank closed on Wednesdays. 2PM was again the answer. What about Thursday? 4PM but don't come in the afternoon. So with that annoying piece of advice we are planning on being first in line Thursday morning.


Maddie had emailed the bank last week to confirm that I could write a check from my SU account in order to populate her new account. They said, "sure can." It seems that it was opposite day and no one told me. I asked the same question, just to confirm and the woman insisted that, not only couldn't I pay by check, but I could even have my US bank wire the money over. I have to walk in with the proper amount of cash (minimum 10,000 Israeli Shekels, approximately $2,500. But where am I supposed to get that money? She had no idea but told us that that was the way things worked and goodbye. We hear that bank branches are highly cliquish and if you don't come in with an existing customer who can vouch for you and your coolness, you can't hang out with them. We had no such intermediary so we have to go find the nerd-geek bank.

A note about bankers and other Israeli workers -- they don't dress up the way professionals do in the US. Everyone dresses up like it is the weekend -- some in casual-Friday clothes, some in sabbath garb and some in Sunday at the beach clothes. All just to leave the house. And for the larger institutions, there is no such thing as customer service. Nomi and David explain it as a middle eastern cultural affect but I think that they are all jerks who should be nicer to me. In Israel, everyone is so keen on copying the US: Phone numbers (which have only 1 plus 9 digits) are reformatted to make them look more like American numbers. Stores have names that that take English words (the word "pharm" is found in many drug store names, the Hebrew word "minimarket" is "minimarket" and other words like "cheap" and "best" appear everywhere. English is ubiquitous.) In fact there is a store named "Ricoshet" because they just took the word "ricochet" and vocalized the final letter and transliterated. But for all the copying, they have not tried to include the American sense that the customer is always right. The small stores tried to help but the big ones were horrible.

Speaking of which, my sister called Ikea today. Remember Ikea? There's a blog post about Ikea. The 3rd party company responsible for delivery of orders placed on their website called and they said that they don't and won't deliver. It's a long story but the bottom line is that my sister reminded this company that their entire business model is delivery for online orders. It took a number of calls but eventually one nice woman said that she would do her best to wait until tomorrow to crush Maddie's dreams of sleeping on a bed, with a real pillow.

We walked back to the shuk, returned the cart and met up with the Lauderdales at Beer Bazaar. They sell beer there so Maddie got a lemon ade. And a large pretzel. I got spicy beef jerky and a nice stout and Steve got a pastrami sammich and an ale Now it is like you were there! This was my first meal in the shuk and it was interesting. We spoke with the Lauderdales and worked on some possible solutions. No details here -- someone is always watching. Suffice to say, I am incredibly appreciative even if this doesn't work out. Maddie fell asleep after her food but eventually I woke her up, we said goodbye to Steve and headed back. On the way she bought more dried fruit and we found other little items (crazy glue, a small digital clock, a charity box and a washing cup, suction cup hooks etc.) We made it back to wash up (I worked on furniture for 5 minutes and Maddie unpacked a little, or at least thought about it -- got that, Julie?) and then went to visit Nomi and David. We reviewed the day's craziness and made some plans for tomorrow (if Ikea doesn't come through, we have to rent a van in Tel Aviv and drive to Ikea ourselves and then drive back to Jerusalem. Crazy, right?) I helped Maddie clean up and set up more and then took her garbage out. She was too tired to eat so I said goodnight and walked to Moshiko where I ate everything, and came back.

Tomorrow, my elder child takes her first official step towards her army service. I have much to say about that but wish that while I said it, she at least had a bed.

1 comment:

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