Friday, January 26, 2007

Customer Service Wows and Woes

First, it was the burger place.

We've been ordering burgers for three years from the same place, probably around forty weeks each year. And unlike most Israelis, we almost always tip delivery service.

They mess up the orders occasionally, which is to be expected, and they generally correct them with a bit of arguing. This time, one of our members received a hamburger with mayo when the request was specifically to not include mayo, as the member can't/won't eat with mayo.

We called, and rather than coming with a new burger and taking the old, they were busy so they asked us to eat it and then they would send a new one next week. But nobody wanted to buy it, and our member was still hungry, so we refused this.

For some unknown reason, this resulted in them be willing to come and pick up the old burger (to ensure that we didn't eat it) but not to deliver a new burger that the member could eat. They agreed that they still owed us a burger next week. We ended up feeding this member from our fridge.

The next week, we reminded them that we were owed a burger, and they sent our order, but when I added up the tab, it included the price of the burger. I didn't realize this until after the delivery person left, unfortunately.

This week when we ordered, we pointed out the discrepancy, and they argued that they gave us a free burger last week and weren't going to give us another free one. Of course, we were at an impasse, since it was our word against theirs.

Of course, there are several things to remember here. Number one, even if the burger place was right and we were wrong, they didn't "gave us a free burger" last week, because we had paid for it the previous week and then they took it back. So at most, we would be getting one free burger.

Number two, we had been ordering from them over one hundred times; is it really worth risking several more years worth of business over a burger?

Unfortunately, I despaired. This was Israel, and very likely they didn't care. The Israeli socialist mentality is to give away nothing, because you're a monopoly. So to my surprise, after over fifteen minutes on the phone and then telling them that we're not sure we're going to order at all, they finally relented and sent out the burger for free, after warning that this was the last time they would do it.

Mixed feelings. I'm amazed that they gave in and realized our loyalty as customers, but of course I still had to argue about it for fifteen minutes.

That's Israel, for you. If they know you, they're willing to bend the rules a bit; not for the sake of good business, but for the sake of loyalty. But you get nowhere until you yell.

Now it's the Insurance

Someone broke into our car - again - but this time they pried open the entire door frame, ripped out the ignition and apparently tried to hot-wire the car, apparently to no avail.

Rachel found the car in this condition. Truth be told, I'm just happy that they left the radio, CDs, and my winter coat.

First our insurance agency tells us that the deductible is 1700 NIS, but that if we use a certain garage it's only 1500 NIS. So I have to call them and remind them that I paid extra for less of a deductible, and they check and say oops, I'm right, and it's only 1150 NIS. Still pretty high.

Next they tell me that I have a choice of "using" the insurance for costs over the price of the deductible, but then being subject to three years of increased payments on insurance, or simply paying for it myself anyway.

Everyone out there is going to laugh at me, but I said that that sounds like blackmail. I'm not a bigger risk now, just because someone broke into my car. And if the insurance company is going to raise my rates after making a payment to me, isn't that the same as simply giving me a much higher deductible? Furthermore, why can't I just get the final sum? What is my cheapest solution, tell me that, and that's it. Why do I have to play this game of figuring out over the cost of three years what will be the cheapest option?

The answer to all these questions was, of course, "Because, that's the way it works". And furthermore, every insurance company in the country does the same thing, which in my language we call racketeering and price-fixing.

So I was surprised when they told me that, at the very least, I could have a replacement car that I would ordinarily not get until Sunday. Mixed feelings again. A nice gesture, even though I only got it because I was arguing for another twenty minutes.

And Sony, too

My daughter bought a Sony 1MB Bean mp3 player for $110 from Amazon about six months ago, which broke. We sent it off to America for fixing, and they sent back a choice of fixing it for $77 or sending it back to us at no charge.

I said that $77 sounds like the wholesale price of a new player. Isn't mine still under warranty (for a year).

They said warranty for parts is for a year, but for service is only 90 days, and $77 represents the cost of the service only, but they could give me a 10% discount.

$70 still sounds like the wholesale price of the player to me, especially since the price probably dropped in the last six months since I bought the player. How much service is involved in simply wrapping up a new player and sending it to me? Given the price, I would prefer they send me back the player and I'll get it fixed locally for less money or just buy a brand spanking new one for the same price as the service.

I'm waiting for an answer to that one.

I know some people don't watch the news, but still ...

By the way, when I went to get my replacement car this morning, the girl behind the counter showed me on a map that I wasn't allowed to drive in the "pink" areas, which are the areas now under Palestinian control.

The map she showed me was an old map, however, because a third of Gaza was still marked as green rather than pink, which meant Israeli control. I pointed this out to her, and she said "It is? I don't know anything about that [Gaza having been given to the Palestinians]. I don't listen to the news."

Jaw drop.

And this is a native Jerusalemite.



Anonymous said...

Sadly, insurance companies are like that everywhere. I agree with your take on it, but they do the same thing in America. And I suspect they do it everywhere else, too. I often wonder it it's worth it at all.

Anonymous said...

Some people have better things to do with their life than worry about politics.

Yehuda Berlinger said...

But ... but, Anon, not knowing about what happened in Gaza would be like living in America and not knowing the name of the president AND not knowing that there had been a flood in New Orleans.

No, worse than that, because there were hundreds of demonstrations in every city in the country that shut down the city for about a year prior, plus banners, bumper stickers, posters, news broadcasts, clothing, armbands, car ribbons, radio speeches, and God knows what else for a year or more, and months afterwards.

To not even Know about it is unbelievable.