Thursday, January 27, 2011

The wonders of multidimensional German phone contracts

I wrote this, and then reread it. I don't want to be posting lots of negative entries at the moment, but for now it's the most amusing, and culturally intriguing stuff for me. I'm still very happy here, despite the occasional hiccup and I'm slowly managing to meet a lot of very interesting people, and when I get the apartment sorted (news to follow) I'll actually be able to dive into the work that I've only been able to do halfheartedly for the last couple of weeks.



I almost lost it today. I was about 5 seconds away from doing something I would have regretted. Thankfully the situation was defused and all, in the end, was ok, but this was about as close as I get to boiling point.

I received a rather surprising email yesterday night. Two weeks ago I'd been into the O2 shop to get a mobile phone contract. I spoke to the woman behind the counter for half an hour, worked out the best options and the best phone for me, decided on the tariffs etc. then signed the contract. I then had to wait for half an hour while the phone was activated so I went off and did some exploring of the city. Half an hour later, plus a half hour wait in the queue, I was told, without a hint of apology that I had been refused a contract by O2, and it was because I'd only just arrived and had no credit rating (this, despite giving them a copy of my contract). I asked if there was anything I could do and they simply said no, that was the way it was. I left the shop pretty shocked at the treatment, having, half an hour earlier been very impressed by the sales people.

The next day I mentioned this to my bank manager and he said no problem, he would write them a letter explaining that all was good, and though I have no credit rating here, I wasn't a liability. He faxed it off, and I waited to get the phone through the post. Instead, two days later I received an email saying that this second attempt had also been unsuccessful.

Disappointed, but understanding that the rules are pretty unmalleable I was resolved to get a pay as you go phone, and gave up on the idea of the contract.

So, it was with some surprise that I received an email from O2 yesterday night telling me that they had taken the first month's payment for the contract out of my account and they hoped that I was very happy with the service so far. Shocked, but faintly amused by the stupidity of it I told myself that I'd go at lunchtime today to the O2 shop and tell them of the silly mistake that they'd made and we'd all have a good laugh.

Lunchtime today and I stroll into the shop, ready to tell the story. I wait, and eventually get greeted by a dour looking guy who seemed pretty annoyed that I couldn't speak German (this is one of the few occasions where I've had this - in general people are wonderfully friendly and seem to have no problem about speaking English. Note that this guy's English was perfect). Anyway, I explained the situation to him and he said, straight out, that there was nothing that they can do for me. I was in the middle of saying 'what the...!?' when he got a call from his girlfriend who spent the next five minutes giving him an earful, while I stood there confused and beginning to fume. Five minutes later I asked again, and he said that because I signed the contract I couldn't cancel it, and the fact that I'd been refused a phone was a separate issue. Flabbergasted, I repeated what he'd said, just to make sure: "So, I'm locked into a two year contract, but you won't give me a phone?". Yes, that's correct sir. You signed the contract and you can't get out of it (though he was sullen on the outside, I could hear the chuckles coming from within).

I asked him what he was going to do about it, getting close to boiling point. He paused for a second and then said again, sorry, there's nothing we can do, but that I could buy the phone for 120 euros if I wanted. What?! I said. But I signed the contract knowing that I could get the phone with it (It seems that I was wrong about this, and this was part of the problem, but at this stage I didn't know). I told him that I wanted to see the manager, and wearily he trudged over to the office and went in, telling me to take a seat. 20 minutes later, and feeling like he may have been fobbing me off the manager finally showed up and I ran through the problem again. He told me that it would be very hard to cancel the contract to which I basically told him that that wasn't my problem.

He explained that sometimes this happens and that, because there are really two contracts - one for the phone, and one for the use of the phone, that sometimes a client is refused the phone but not the service contract. I told him that I hadn't been told that and it seemed to be a pretty important piece of information when signing a contract. It was at the point that he said that it was my word against the woman who sold me the phone as to whether she had told me or not, that I almost blew up. Not only was I being told that I was stuck in a contract in which I wasn't allowed a phone to use said contract, but I was being accused of lying. I stuck to my guns and asked again what they could do. He explained, as the first guy had, that I could buy the phone for 120 euros. Again I stated that part of the reason for getting the contract was in order to get a decent phone at a very low price.

It was then that the confusion started to resolve itself (I think...I'm still wondering whether I've ended up getting screwed anyhow). The second part of the contract was for me to pay five euros a month for the phone itself (I had thought that this was within the first part of the contract, but apparently not). This is what had been refused. In fact by buying the phone outright I wouldn't be paying more than I would have done otherwise, it was just an upfront payment instead of a contract payment (a contract to rent the phone, in effect). Thankfully my red face and searing eyes let the guy know how angry I was, and he cut a quarter off the price of the phone.

I didn't have the strength by this point to argue about the first two weeks of the contract that I'd had to pay for without a phone, and I left the shop, new phone in hand and finally able to connect within Germany. That was painful!


Anonymous said...

What the fuck??????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I would have definitely lost it!

Take care, Jon!

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