Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Un Día Malo [A Bad Day]

Neither BetterArf nor I were surprised when we turned on our computers this morning and discovered that the Internet was not working. The landline phone was also kaput. See, we've had these services for about six weeks now, and not paid a bean for them. This is not because of any ideological hatred of Telefonica, it's just that we have not yet figured out how to give them money. BetterArf has tried several times to pay on the Internet, but despite her not-bad-at-all Spanish she has been completely unable to figure out how to do it.

Never mind, I said, I'll go to one of their shops and do it. I had to wait until 10am to do this, and at 10.01 I marched through the door of our nearest Telefonica shop (I knew from previous experience that going to the Telefonica HQ would be a total waste of time). The guy in the shop was surprised to see a customer so early in the day, and astounded when I explained that I wanted to pay my bill. Nono, he says, we only sell mobile phones. You must go to a Post Office or a bank to pay your bill. Oh, right, sorry.

No problem, there's a Correos office just around the corner from us, so I go there. Well, it's Correos (Spanish Post Office) alright, but it's just a sorting office: there's no retail activity going on there. Bugger this. I phone my Spanish-speaking buddy to find out how you actually pay your phone bill. Oh, he says, banks. But only between 8.30 and 10 on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Hmmm. Don't worry, he says, I'll call Telefonica. So he did: he had good news. We have not been disconnected. And bad news. It's a line fault: it'll take anything up to 24 hours to be fixed. Right.

I'm wandering around the middle of town, and I remember that there is an actual Correos in the basement of El Corté Inglés. I go there and present my bills, half-expecting to be told that they only deal with these things when there is an x in the month and only if your name is Ignacio. But no, once we've established that I actually want to pay both bills, the very helpful lady taps various numbers into the computer. It won't accept the CIF/NIE/pasaporte number that is on the bill. Hmm. I call BetterArf, and we remember that her old passport was stolen, and Telefonica do not have the new passport number. She gives me the number, and I go home because I've just realised that there's a few things that I need to post: I get them ready and then I return to the Correos. I get the same lady and she taps in the correct passport number. Still no joy.

Pointless bureaucracy part 1
Now, can somebody tell me why this ID thing is so important to Telefonica? We know what the account is, based on the phone number: what is the point of the CIF/NIE/pasaporte number? I'm sure if Osama Bin Laden wanted to pay my phone bill, he could organise it much easier than I can.

Anyway, as I was heading home in the afternoon (having spent half an hour in an Internet Caff making sure I had no earth-shattering emails), my mobile rang and it was a Telefonica engineer asking if my phone was working now. I said I'd be home in ten minutes. It was working when I got back, but he was still in the vicinity and came up to check. And an hour later I had a phone call from a computer at Telefonica suggesting that I press 0 if the problem was fixed, or 1 if it wasn't. So that was pretty good service: the challenge now is to fix things so that we can actually give the buggers money.

Pointless bureaucracy part 2.
This one really irritates me. When we moved into our apartment in Dubai, five years ago, we had to pay a 2000 dirham deposit (current value €370: original value, well over €500, due to the fall of the US dollar, to which the dirham is linked) . We would quite like to get this money back before the dollar plummets further and our deposit ends up completely valueless. Initially, when we moved to Madrid, it was not important: I kind of assumed that the landlord would eventually get their act together and pop the money into my bank account. But nothing happened for several months. Eventually I emailed them via their website. No response. A month later I called them. Oh we sent you emails! Really, which address? The old Dubai-based one, the one that I had disconnected a few days before I left. Not the nice shiny GMail one that I had gone to great lengths to make sure they knew about. Hmmm. Anyway, it's our fault, we didn't give them a final bill from the electricity and water company. Indeed we did not, because the luz y aqua did not turn up to take a final reading until the day we moved out, rather than the previous day that we had booked them for. So, as it was then the weekend, they had no office open that could actually produce a final bill.

Well, says my landlord, that's not my fault. No, says I, and neither is it mine. I email the utilities people asking for a final statement. A week later they email it to me and I copy it to the landlord. The utilities company owes me money from the deposit that I had paid them, which I or an authorised representative can collect at any of their branches. Yeah, right.

Refund please, oh landlord? Now you have to fill in some forms. OK, I say, email them to me. And they did. Three completely fucking pointless forms.
1) Bank details: same as ever. You've had these on file since before I moved in.
2) Lost document disclaimer. This is crazy. Because I'm not an anally-retentive asshole who keeps receipts for five years and more, I no longer have the receipt from them that says I actually paid them the deposit. They undoubtedly do have a copy on file, both paper versions (which they are very fond of) and on the computer. But I have to sign a disclaimer that says I am a stupid pillock and in the event that they actually refund the money, I promise not to claim it again. What perverted mind came up with this, I wonder? And the logic: they have always charged this deposit, they do not let their flats to anyone unless the deposit is paid, therefore I must have paid it.
3) Some kind of tracking form: yes, I returned the keys, yes I'm moving out, some other crap.

Anyway, I get these idiotic documents and I email the landlord and say I'll sign them and fax them back. Ooh, no, she says. We need the originals back. Or I'll print them off, sign them, scan them an email them to you. We need the originals back. For God's sake; are they collecting Biro ink? I know from many years of experience that the UAE Postal Service is one of the worst on the planet. I have a bit of a look at alternatives - FedEx (and I hope to God I've got this wrong) want over €100 to do the job. Correos have alternatives that are faster/safer than regular post, but none of them seem to work outside Europe/America. In the end I settle for regular post, and no doubt I'll end up regretting it.

I hate bureaucrats.


Katie said...

hahaha--you had me laughing out loud (sorry). very accurate description of the way things "work" in this country.

Alexander said...

The arm of the Emirates' bureaucracy is long indeed...

Jin said...

Gawd, what a bloody performance, on both counts! Every 'green inspired' man & his dog is pressurising the world to make this a paper-less society, but not the UAE. It's time for Hubs to re-licence the car & what any other place would see as a relatively quick process, guaranteed he'll have to produce a dozen 'original' documents! I'm just wondering if I should have a bet on with him, that despite having everything necessary, someone within the depths of the licencing dept will tell him he's missing something!

BuJ said...

oh, sorry to hear that.. u know next to the arab countries.. no one does bureaucracy better than em latinos :P

oh i can't wait to tell u about catalunia... the uncivilised wannabe-frenchies!