Monday, January 22, 2007

The Customer Is Always...What Was That Again?

I love living in Israel, but there are some things that drive me crazy about this country. Although it has improved over the years, and some businesses have changed their attitude, in general most Israeli businesses put customer service way down on their priority list. If in America the prevailing wisdom is "the customer is always right", in Israel it is all too frequently the opposite.

Last week westbankpapa and I went to rent a car from a place which we have used before. We filled out the paperwork and went out to the parking area to get the car and check it out. The worker got in the front seat and put the key into the ignition and tried to start it.

Nothing. Dead.

He jumps out, opens the hood, and calls to another worker for some jumper cables, and says to us "the battery must have frozen this morning".

Westbankpapa and I just gave each other this look, and I said to him, "what does he think this is, Wisconsin?"

You have to understand. Even though it was the middle of January, this was a beautifully sunny day - in Bnei Brak. Even though I am usually cold, I was completely comfortable in just a light sweater. Compared to what I was used to in upstate New York, where in January there usually was snow up to here and a warm day was when it got up to freezing, that day was practically tropical. And here he was trying to convince us that the weather was responsible for the battery being dead.

Instead of apologizing and rushing to get us another car, he wanted us to take this one. Westbankpapa looked at him and said in a very firm voice, "we are NOT taking this car!" He then got the message, and we ended up with a slightly larger model at no extra cost.

I guess part of the problem is that for many years there was no competition - many businesses were monopolies and didn't need to work for customers, so this attitude became ingrained. This problem persists in some areas - the electric company, for example, is a monopoly and abuses its customers, and we have no recourse. (Many people do not realize that electric company workers receive free electricity. Which means that the rest of us, who do not work for the electric company, pay for their bills by having to pay higher prices. They are also notorious for paying their employees outrageously high salaries).

Another reason for more Anglos to make aliyah!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be fair, the workers get a certain amount of electricity free. It's not "all you can burn" and it's not enough to comfortably heat a high ceilinged home on electricity, but it still is a heck of a lot more free juice than you or I get.

9:34 AM, January 22, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

glad to see that you're sticking to the blogging despite the new job.
From what i read and hear, i thought that customer service was a far bigger problem in US than in Israel.
The biggest problem here is indeed the remaining monopolies, mainly the electric company and the 3 banks which practically own all of us, and of course Yediot Ahronot.

2:08 PM, January 22, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am glad you were able to get a new car- I have to say that I have seen less than satisfying customer service at the rental car places here in the US. They know you need them so why even bother...

9:35 PM, January 22, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It isn't all you can burn now, but it used to be only a few years ago. People used to hook up their neighbors.

LOL about the battery being frozen. The last time it got close to freezing around here was 15 years ago.

12:42 PM, January 23, 2007  
Blogger westbankmama said...

moze - why should they get any free electricity at all?

jerusalemjoe - perhaps I don't remember, but I thought customer service was fine in America

regina - that surprises me!

mother in israel - I know, we are spoiled (although it is colder where I live than where you are)

3:33 PM, January 23, 2007  
Blogger kasamba said...

Wow! Something to look forward to!!! ;)

Again-thank you for the nomination!

10:08 PM, January 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I'm closer to Bnei Brak.

10:44 PM, January 23, 2007  
Blogger aliyah06 said...

To our surprise, we haven't had any "customer service" problems in Israel (nor did we have them in the States, but California has absolutely draconian consumer protection laws, also).

Sorry about the battery, though--it ruins the whole day. Good for you for getting the upgrade!

7:29 PM, January 24, 2007  
Blogger ann said...

LOL... my son made aliyah over three years ago.. he loves Israel... can't stand the Israelis...

I visit there at least four times a year obviously to visit my grandbabies, but nothing much has changed in the Israeli psyche from when I first went there almost 40 years ago...

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I don't agree that customers are always right, however, getting the best services when he is paying for it is his right.

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