Israel is not renowned for its customer service, nor any other type of service. Many feel that Israelis for the most part are sadly unaware of what customer service is really about, both on the part of those receiving the service, as well as on the part of the service providers.
In this column, I hope to share with you my ongoing personal experiences both good and not so good and would be happy to include any stories you may wish to share.
Supermarket – not skinned alive
On one of my trips to the local branch of a large supermarket chain – Shufersal’s Tagore Street branch in Tel Aviv – I bought a packet of their house-brand prepackaged veal schnitzel. Having bought it before as a lockdown treat (and it was indeed delicious), I was overjoyed to find it in the refrigerator section again.
A day or two later, I decided to make it for lunch and opened the packaging. Unfortunately, one of the slices still had a thin skin across one side, while all the other slices were perfect. My knife skills are not the greatest, and by the time I had removed the skin, there was not much left of the slice. I took several before and after photos and after speaking to a customer service representative, emailed the photos to them.
Within 24 hours I received an apology stating that they were looking into my complaint, and within 48 hours I received an email thanking me for bringing this matter to their attention and an assurance that a credit for almost the entire amount of the package would be given automatically the next time that I purchased anything at any of the chain’s branches.
Sure enough, on my next visit to the supermarket, this amount was automatically credited at the till without any further ado.
What a pleasure!
To spit it out or not – that is the question
And yet another lockdown story.
While shopkeepers were crying out that their businesses were suffering (understandably so), I had this surreal experience.
This happened at the local branch of a small chain that stocks dried fruit, spices, cheese, nuts, oil and the like. A friend had mentioned that she had bought a delicious cheese at the neighborhood branch of this chain. In order to break the monotony of the lockdown, I decided to put together a cheese board as a light Saturday evening meal. On Friday morning, I bought two types of cheese there to complement the other cheeses that I had at home. On Saturday evening I served the cheese. One of the cheeses purchased from this shop was indeed delicious, but the other was decidedly off. My guest and I both spat it out rather unceremoniously and then threw it away. I later wrapped the cheese (minus what had been thrown away) placed it in the original bag, and put it back in the fridge. On Sunday morning, I went back to the shop and explained that the cheese was off.
The first question was, “Do you have the receipt?” Fortunately, I always keep my receipts and handed the receipt over to the saleslady for inspection. No apology, no reticence. She then took the cheese, weighed it, and asked if I would like anything else instead. I replied in the negative, and asked that the amount be credited to my card. I don’t usually have a head for figures, but the amount on the receipt was NIS 44.10 – something which was easy to remember.
The saleslady then informed me that she would be refunding NIS40 – in accordance with the current weight. I asked her whether she honestly expected me to return pieces of cheese that had been spat out, especially during this period of corona, to which she replied that I was free to take something else in exchange, to the amount of NIS 40.
This was one step too far for me, and I politely informed her that if she did not refund the entire amount I would not be visiting their shop again.
Eventually, grudgingly, the full amount was refunded. Never forget, the customer is always wrong. What a shame!
Post office blues
With the shops closed here, I decided to explore online shopping. I happily found the baking tin I wanted online and ordered it from the UK.
After a week or so, I received an SMS (on a Sunday), that my parcel had arrived. I was not able to get to the post office the next day (Monday), so immediately went online and booked a time to pick it up on Tuesday. I could have chosen almost any time up to and including 2 p.m. I chose 12:45 p.m. The following day, I received another SMS informing me that I had not yet picked up my parcel. I was well aware of this, and as I’d booked a time to do so via their website, so should the Israel Post. I also received an SMS reminding me that I had booked to be at the post office at 12:45 the following day.
Tuesday morning I again received an SMS that I had not yet picked up my parcel. OK guys, I get it! Give me a chance! This was followed by another SMS reminding me that I had booked to be at the post office at 12:45pm.
On Tuesday, not wanting to be late, around 12:30 p.m. I was almost at the post office when I recognized one of the employees walking in the opposite direction. I presumed that she had probably left early, and continued walking. Imagine my surprise when I reached the post office, only to find it in complete darkness, with a sign on the door that due to corona, they were only open till 12:30 p.m.
Now I had booked online for 12:45 and received several reminders in this regard. How exactly could this happen? Israel Post has numerous employees, IT people, other people, managers and the rest, so why could they not manage to a) update their website with the correct opening times (really not that complicated in this day and age) and b) update the times that one could book an appointment, accordingly.
So naturally, I had to return the next day to pick up my parcel.
Feeling like an unwilling participant in a scene taken directly from Chelm, I wrote a detailed letter to the Israel Post. After almost a month, I received a totally irrelevant reply informing me that the matter had been forwarded to the branch in question. The entire fiasco was not the fault of the branch, but rather of the Israel Post as a whole. This is what is known in Hebrew as kastach (covering one’s backside)!
Customer service? Not an expression that the Israel Post would be familiar with.
Since first penning this article, after booking an appointment at a post office branch (by selecting an available time slot at that specific branch), an SMS is sent to the person who booked the appointment, advising them to check the opening times of the actual branch. Again a case of sheer “kastach”, as the responsibility is placed firmly on the shoulders of the customer. If the website indicates that the branch is open at certain times and the website allows the customer to book times outside these times, well of course this is the customers’ problem and not that of Israel Post.
Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose – or loosely translated: Come on guys, this is Israel, what were you thinking!
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