Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Can I get any service around here??!!

Ok, I know it is always good to generalize with the few experience you have, but seriously, based not only on my experience but those of people around me, the Dutch really have to look up the word "service" in their dictionary.

People who are working in the "services sector" have no idea what they are getting paid for around here.
Just a few things you must remember about services in the Netherlands.

Firstly, you must serve them, they own you, not the other way around.
When I started working in the research institute, I have asked our secretary to provide me with a key, a desk and asked her to get some stuff for me.
Of course not only did she not get them, she did not even reply to my request. I was talking to a wall. It was clear that she was not there to help me at all. I had to get everything I needed myself.
I was told later that she is an "office manager" and you have to serve her as a superior to get ANYTHING done.

Secondly, do not think they will be courteous or just plain nice.
I have heard so many times how foreigners got offended by someone at the counter or someone who were supposed to serve them. I myself as well. I had my bank guy smash his fist on the table and shout, because the central computer system was down and he decided I was the closest thing he can set his anger upon. My friend was told to "fuck off" by a shop clerk in Albert Heijn, the biggest supermarket chain in the Netherlands, just because she asked her if she can use her air miles and why not. She asked for the manager, and the manager had told my friend, that their clerk was having a bad day so she should understand this, and ofcourse go fuck off.

I was also snickered at because I had stood in line without getting served for ten minutes(there were three lines that one person had to serve and she kept forgetting our line for the fourth time)even if I was the first in line, and asked if I can get one beer. She literally threw it at me.
Today I got a phone call from the services sector of an airline, low grumpy voice asking me to give them a new credit card number because the one I gave them didn't fall through. After I told them I don't feel too comfortable giving it out on a phone, especially because I cannot be sure if it is the actual airline, she yelled "then go and cancel the flight!". I asked if there was any other way, she told me there wasn't. I later found out, all I needed to do really was to call my bank and ask them if the charges have been made and let them make it, by topping up my credit.
A guy in a shop just turned his back towards me waving me off like a fly because I wanted batteries and he didn't have.
Should I go on? no.. there is just too much.

Thirdly, don't expect them to give you information, and even if they give it to you, don't trust it. Most of them will not even bother to give you the information, such as my secretary who has kindly not told me anything about the frindge benefits I can get at the institute even with serveral requests because she just cannot be bothered withit.
I also ended up paying 40 euros for my phone connection, when I have specifically asked the guy who was signing us up if there was that connection fee, and he said no. I asked again, saying I've heard from people that there was a fee, he told me again and again there wasn't.. well there goes my 40 euros.
Also I have asked if I can get a refund for a train ticket I didn't use and wanted to get refunded. I asked if I can get a refund for the tickets, showing her the ticket, and the person behind the information counter said yes, and gave me a form. Later on, I found out I couldn't. I think they just answer you yes or no, because they don't want to go in detail about it. Its something like "let's just give the foreigner a short reply.. Don't' matter if it is right or wrong".

For similar reasons I was sent back and forth to different cities when I was trying to get my visa, cuz people just didn't tell me exactly where I needed to go, or what process I needed to go through, but kept sending me to another person, in another city which is atleast an hour by train and bus, who tells me I was supposed to be in another place another city to get what I needed, ofcourse this is after waiting for an hour to talk to this person.

Also it takes them forever to do things. My friend had something wrong with her laptop. She asked to get it repaired - had warranty on it. They took it a couple of weeks after she had requested it, took it for a couple of months just to tell her that they do not have the part that they need to fix it and that they will send it back after three weeks. Great.

If you call the 0900 service lines, they will hang up on you....After making you wait 30 minutes. Had that happen several times. First they pick up, after hearing "alles onze medewerkers zijn in gesprek een ogenblijk alsublief".. which means, all our workers are busy, one moment please... for about 10~20minutes (which the call cost 30 euro cents per minute on top of the normal fee). And then when you start talking in English, they pretend to forward the call to someone, and then you wait again for another 10 minutes or so, and then you hear the sound of the phone being disconnected... Happened so many times, not only to me but others.. am so used to it that everytime I speak to someone, I plea to them not to hang up on me.

There are other things, but I think I have made myself clear. Should I go on further?
HOwever, I have talked to my Dutch friend about this, and was told that it is not because of the fact that I was a foreigner, they are like that to everyone. So here is another cultural SHOCK.

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