Shabbat Goy: Why I moved to Israel

It wasn’t that Mrs. Goy was unhappy in England. But what got to her was the relationship between customer and service professional...

Shabbat Goy 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Shabbat Goy 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Aquestion I’m often asked is: So, why did you move to Israel? And I scratch my head and try to figure out something sensible to say. I mean, Israel isn’t exactly the most tranquil part of the world, and if one were to pay any attention to MK Danny Danon... actually, I’m going to save Danon for another day, when I’m stuck for material. Being mean about him is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.
So why did I move to Israel? Why, the wonderful customer service, of course. OK, I’m stretching things a little bit here; but it seems as good a reason as any other.
And, beyond this, Mrs. Goy wanted it thus...
It wasn’t that Mrs. Goy was unhappy in England. For one thing, we both earned much more than we do now; there, monthly pay packets go further without the need to call for a consumer boycott.
Then there’s London’s cosmopolitan character, which makes it one of the more stimulating places in the world to live in. Let’s face it, there aren’t many places in the world where it is possible to engineer a relationship between an Israeli Jew and an Anglo-Nigerian... but enough of this travel brochure stuff.
Not quite everything was perfect for this Israeli abroad, unfortunately. The weather, for instance; and the less said about that, the better. And the vexing issue of English bathrooms.
If there is a single thing that unites foreigners of all races in the United Kingdom, it’s that they can’t comprehend why English bathrooms lack mixer taps. (I put it down to the British character – you know, cold showers, stiff upper lip, etc.) Stuff like that never sat well with Mrs. G. But I think the thing that aggravated her most about living in England was the relationship between customer and service professional.
Take English plumbers, for instance. For some odd reason, we constantly had problems with our plumbing (and no, this is not the start of an off-color joke).
So what? you may ask: Call a plumber to sort it out, right? Yeah, right.
A brief précis of a typical transaction between customer and British service professional: Plumber arrives, “sometime between 10 and four.” Plumber demands horrible milky tea with three teaspoons of sugar. Plumber peers under sink for four seconds, shakes his head and repeats the word “dreadful,” looking at you accusingly.
Plumber pulls out mobile phone and summons backup. Plumber demands another cup of horrible milky tea with three sugars. Plumber ogles half-naked model in tabloid newspaper, sipping horrible milky tea.
Back-up arrives, bearing what looks suspiciously like recycled parts wrapped up in new packaging. Plumber dives under sink, emerges eight seconds later and tells you that everything is sorted. Aside from the bill – roughly equivalent to your monthly pay packet. Plus VAT. Although, he continues cheerfully, he’d be happy to knock a bit off if you pay in cash....
This, and similar indignities, happened to Mrs. Goy repeatedly, so one could hardly fault her for complaining ceaselessly about the curious English attitude to customer service.
Besides, she assured me, Israel was a veritable professional service Valhalla compared to dear old Blighty, a gleaming beacon for customer service and a light unto the nations.
Reader, I believed her.
Now not very long ago, Mrs. Goy had cause to speak with our telephone provider. We normally don’t have any contact with them – we use the phone, they send the bill, the money goes out of our bank account automatically, and everyone is happy. But we wanted to tinker with our phone and Internet package, and to do so we actually needed to speak with a real live person.
Which – as is ever the case – is the moment when illusions begin to dissipate.
The irrepressibly cheerful customer service lady was all sweetness and light, trying to coax Mrs. Goy into taking up a more expensive package (Mrs. G. conducts all transactions of this nature – not because my Hebrew isn’t up to it, but because I can be bamboozled in any language into spending money I don’t have on things I don’t need).
Then Ms. Customer Service says something about the savings we’ll make on our second phone line if we take up this wonderful, exciting new package.
Our second phone line. We only have one phone line.
“No, you have two,” replies the now-slightly-guarded-but-still-irrepressiblycheerful Ms. Customer Service. “It says so right here.”
“No we don’t,” replies Mrs. Goy. “I live here, I ought to know.”
Somehow, our telephone provider (who shall remain nameless, in order to protect the guilty) had somehow conspired to sign us up – without our consent, express or implied – to a second telephone line, three months previously.
“Never mind,” Mrs. Goy continues, quite calmly considering the circumstances.
“I’m sure it’s all a dreadful mistake which can be resolved once you refund the money taken from our bank account without authorization...”
“We can’t do that,” Ms. Customer Service replies, a sudden edge of steel creeping into the sweetness and light. “You’ve paid for the phone, and the money is now ours.”
“We paid for a phone that we don’t have and didn’t ask for,” Mrs. Goy points out.
“Give me back my money.”
“No,” Ms. Customer Service snarls, all pretense at politeness gone.
I won’t bore you with the details of what followed. Let’s just say that harsh words were spoken by both parties. Mrs. Goy had the edge because she can curse fluently in English (thanks to me!); but Ms. Customer Service kept her advantage through a refusal to accept a truth universally acknowledged: that one can’t charge for a service that was neither solicited nor supplied.
And as they went on at one another, voices rising every minute, I thought to myself: I know why I moved here. Because it’s the same as everywhere else.