I know I know, I’ve gotten a bit lazy updating the blog. But, to be honest, not much noteworthy has happened in the last week … except of course that Ute is with us again. Those of you that have been following along for a few months might recall that she travelled with us through Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and had left us in Peru in February. Now she’s back and we’re all very happy to have her here … one more person to keep the kids in check.
Lara and Finn still go to school every morning, Anna and Ute spend time shopping and in the spas … and I sit in internet cafes and deal with logistics for our return. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s very frustrating. German companies seem not to react to e-mails at all. Isn’t there supposed to be a recession under way? Why then don’t I get a single reply to e-mails that I sent off to (several) car dealers “Hi, I’d like to buy a car from you. Could you tell me what you have available?”. How about a three-liner along the lines of “Sure, we have these three on the lot, come by and have a look” or “Sorry, none of that model right now, but we’ll send you a mail when we do”.
Getting a health insurance arranged bordered on the surreal. Of course there was never a single reply to my e-mails (send via the cheery “contact us” form on their web site), and the person I finally reached on the phone buried me in insurance terminology I just didn’t understand.
“OK, please try to explain this to me as if I’m your 10 year old son. We’re arriving in Germany on this date and need a policy for one week (until I’m covered through work)”
After a few conversations, and a few overseas faxes back and forth, we were down to the question whether we fit into category x or y. Determining if we are eligible for the cheaper of the two would require another 10 page questionnaire.
“Excuse me, could you give me a rough idea what the cost difference would be”
“Oh, I would have to run both through our pricing models. That would take an hour. Could you call me back”
An hour later I called back and after a while I actually got connected to the same person again.
“I did the math and we are looking at a price differential of about three Euros”
“You mean that:
– we had three expensive calls (I stayed awake into the early morning in New Zealand to reach you during business hours)
– I wrote a few faxes that cost me 5 Euros a page to send from Samoa (of course you don’t work via scans or e-mail)
– we wasted a few hours each
to determine whether I pay 3 Euros more?”
“Yes. Should I fax you that new questionnaire now?”
Unbelievably, this very health insurer got the highest rating for customer service from the German version of Consumer Reports last year.
Real estate agents seem a bit better … but not by much. Why does someone publish an e-mail address if they won’t even respond to a direct query about a house they are renting (and will be collecting a EUR 3000 commission on)?
On a completely unrelated note, I just can’t stop myself from taking pictures of the fields outside our house … here are two dozen more. Don’t click on the link if you can’t stand looking at more rice fields 😉