Berlin Germany Life Stories

Where the Customer is Always King

It may have been a long day but the anticipation for the book I had just recently ordered kept me motivated to walk all the way to the post office instead of returning home right away.

The line at the store was short and the employees in a good mood. Before I knew it, I was back home, my feet almost killing me thanks to the heels of my shoes, my gift card eleven euros poorer but my collection for the planned personal library one item richer.

I opened the parcel and looked inside. I took out what was there. Looked at it. Looked again. The book I held in my hands was in French, something I definitely did not order since my last French class was years ago and my basic vocabulary nearly down to zero. The author was not known to me either. The title of the book even less so.

I leafed through the book I did not order, as though the mere act of letting the pages slide past my fingers would turn it into what I have been awaiting for the past week. But no. The book was still in French and I was still totally confused. I looked at the sticker on the back. There it was, A Line in the Sand, James Barr, but as I looked at the cover, there was again the French title of some thriller I have never heard of. I felt as if I was holding a banana with a label clearly saying potato on it.

“How could you not see the difference between a non fiction book in English and a thriller in French?” I wondered angrily as I filled in the returning form, making a huge tick at the ‘wrong item’ box. The fact that I had to pay for it to be sent back to the store did not brighten my mood either. Here is to ‘the customer is king’, I thought, thinking of how everyone praised Germans for being so precise and punctual.

A week passed and my mailbox stayed empty even though the delivery status on my account said the item was returned. I checked the balance on my gift card, assuming that the amount of money I paid has now been returned to me but that was not the case either.

Even though I am a rather shy person and have never really liked phone calls because no one ever gets my last name at the first try, it was time to call customer service and get the issue resolved.

Dear newcomers to Berlin, if any such inconvenience happens to you as it did to me with my order, I really suggest you call the customer service.

Not that this idea does not exist where you come from but I have noticed that many people who settle down in Germany for the first time, from somewhere far, far away, assume that when something goes wrong, that is just the way it is supposed to be. It’s not just about buying books online or any such thing. That is also about official things like welfare or child support or governmental scholarships or mail that has been sent but not received.

Mistakes happen here every now and again. Unfortunately there are quite a few people who just don’t have the time or the nerves to make a call and find out what’s wrong. Therefore, some institutions even assume that no one is going to bother to check on the mistakes and people remain with less than they deserve.

I called the customer service of the book shop and explained the situation, wondering why I had received a second bill for a book that I had already paid for but did not receive. After a little back and forth, the woman at the other end of the line, surprisingly pleasant and friendly, informed me that there has been indeed a mistake and that the shop would send me the right book while refunding the money I paid with my gift card. In the end, only one call later, I got my book for free.

So yes, dear readers, if you notice that something is wrong and does not go as it should have or as it has been promised, just call the responsible place. The person on the other end may be annoyed or friendly and patient but in any case, you should always try and make use of your rights as a customer. As I tried to explain to some of my collegemates from abroad: if there is a mistake concerning you, you are the only one to fix it because no one will go all the way back to see if everything was done correctly.

And with that, enjoy all the online shopping. 🙂

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