Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Week of Perpetual Incompetence

Two Sundays ago we were invited to a nice dinner with a family and another couple from church. We were all Americans save for one German, and we got on the subject of German professionalism. I complemented the country, pointing out how seriously people take their jobs, and with such pride. German products are generally known for their high quality, which I attribute to the fact that Germans generally have one career for life. There is no waitressing to pay for tuition, no second job to make ends meet. If you are a bank teller or a garbage man, its because you chose that career, trained for it, and will have it for the rest of your life. There is an incentive to be good at what you do.

But that teaches me for stereotyping, even in a positive sense. Ryan and I have been battling a variety of companies this last week who display a stunning array of incompetencies.

Friday we were due a visit from Deutsche Telekom, the company that owns all the internet connections in the country. Although we have our internet from Vodafone, DT has to come and set up the connection. We had to wait 16 days for this appointment, and after the technician left, it didn't work. Several phone calls later, I was given the answer "maybe it will just start working over the weekend." Right. I love it when electronic gadgets fix themselves.

Surprise surprise, still broken on Monday. And meanwhile Ryan's company still hadn't gotten our reimbursements back to us and our bank account was dwindling quickly. Monday Ryan set out to tackle that problem while I spent more time on the phone to Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom, each of whom denied the internet problem was their fault. After going back and forth with them for several hours, I was told to wait until noon on Tuesday, then maybe it would work. The logic here is stunning.

Tuesday afternoon I ring Vodafone again and they promise to send a Vodafone technician...tomorrow. I explain that I've been waiting since Friday and before that for two weeks, but "nothing can be done today." Ryan managed to get the email of his HR person's supervisor in Canada who is very apologetic about his expense report and promises to send the money herself immediately. Then surprisingly, a Vodafone technician shows up at 6pm. He tells me Deutsche Telekom has made a mistake and he will get another technician out tomorrow. He also fixes one of my electrical sockets, which was nice of him.

Wednesday morning the internet miraculously works. HR tells Ryan the money should be in our account today. All is right in the universe!? Not quite. Deutsche Telekom still wants to send a technician out and I spend a few phone calls explaining we don't need a technician anymore. And the money doesn't show up in our bank account. Ryan investigates further and comes to discover that Deutsche Bank has mysteriously removed his name from our account, and that's why we can't receive his salary. I spend some time on the phone with Deutsche Bank, then rush down to the nearest branch (3 subway stops away) and they have just closed, because its Wednesday, and that's the day it arbitrarily closes 2 hours early. Blech.

So today I'm off to correct that situation, as soon as the bank opens at the lazy hour of 10. Its been a bit of a stressful week to say the least, but I'm hoping that these things won't be a problem in the future. I'll probably get a new bank account since this isn't the first time that Deutsche Bank has screwed up our account. And luckily we won't have to deal with Deutsche Telekom or Vodafone much in the future since we are now installed. That is a good incentive not to move. There has been a big row in the finance department at Ryan's company's headquarters over the expense report and that situation has been worked out. So there is hope that our experience with German companies will go back to being smooth and delightful.

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