18 Oktober, 2021

Today’s post has probably been written 20,000 times by 20,000 different people. It is something that practically every person over the age of 25 has experienced at least once but more likely multiple times. I wish I could tell you I have pictures of the beautiful hike Julie and I took this past weekend or inviting prose about the wine tasting we went to Saturday evening. There will be only one slightly entertaining section of how bad my language skills are. This is a story that could (and did to one extent or another) happen to me back in the US. I guess to relate it to being an Expat it is simply proof that somethings never change. No matter the country, the culture, or the time.

So my story starts a couple of weeks ago. The last post I made I told you about the cable TV problem we were having. I ended the story with a new cable box coming out. Well unlike the US, the package arrived exactly when it was promised. I got the new box installed, and was very happy to see that there were new features with the new box, that were not part of the old one. For example, during setup the cable box immediately recognized what television was hooked up. The set up process asked if I wanted to tie the TV and speaker system into the remote. This of course was a HUGE plus, to be able to put two of the remotes in a drawer made me happy. The menu looked different, and I was even able to set up different captions; so that on some channels I could listen to the TV in German, but have English sub-titles. I figured this would help me learn. So I was really happy until 7:12 the next morning.

If you remember, the old cable box rebooted every morning at 7:10. I was watching the BBC for my morning news, when… the whole thing rebooted. I was slightly peeved, but wound up greatly relieved when it only rebooted once. Sunday morning, it rebooted four times, and this morning it rebooted again three times. So since I already had to give up my morning run. I decided to call UPC and try and work through customer service. I called at 9:30. Next comes the obligatory bad language skills part of my story.

I started the call speaking German. I got through the whole address, customer number, even was able to talk about the box rebooting. I did have to look up to learn the german word for reboot was Neustart. (Side note: another example of how the german language really makes a lot of sense. The word describes exactly what happens.) I even remembered that neustart would be a split verb so The UPC box reboots every morning becomes Die UPC box startet jeden Morgen gegen 7:00 Uhr neu. I was feeling pretty good. I did explain to the technician that I only spoke a little german. He was fantastic with me, and easily slipped back and forth between german and english flawlessly. I was also very appreciative of the fact that once he realized I was trying to talk in german he really slowed down, and was very helpful. I also appreciated that before he handed me off to the next person, he asked if I wanted a german or english speaker. This unfortunately was the end of the good parts to my story.

He put me on hold to wait for the next technician. I was on hold for 45 minutes, when the call disconnected. I went downstairs put the laundry in the dryer, and called again. The next person very quickly transferred me to the next level…. Unfortunately, I spent the next 3 HOURS on hold. I admit I wasted about 30 minutes sitting doing nothing. Finally I started doing something else. I mixed a loaf of bread, swept the floors, sharpened all the kitchen knives, got a load of laundry put away, and completed most of my daily housework all while listening to the awful hold music. After three hours on hold the call disconnected. I will call back again tomorrow. If I have another 3 hour wait; then I will be calling Swisscom.

I am a very loyal consumer. The first mobile phone I bought through Verizon, and I still have the kid’s cell phone plans through Verizon. In the past I have switched between cable TV and satellite a couple of different times, for service related issues not simply to save a dollar. The first time I switched to satellite because the cable company was not going to carry the Big Ten Network, and I really needed my Indiana Basketball fix. Ten years later I switched back to cable, because Direct TV had just released their new DVR and whole house system. I wanted to upgrade, but since they were giving systems away for nothing to new customers, I was unwilling to pay full price to upgrade. (What really ticked me off about that is the day AFTER the cable company had installed the new equipment Direct TV called and said they give me the new customer deal!) I have stayed with USAA for over 30 years. I switched once to save some money in 1989 and in 1990 was back to USAA.

One bad experience outweighs a lot of really good ones. UPC has been good. We have only had one cable outage in two years, and no internet outages. When Julie was working from home, we had a lot of wifi problems, but UPC helped us diagnose and solve the problem. They sent out new and extra equipment to make sure Julie was able to function from home during the pandemic. The service people have been extremely nice. So why am I considering changing companies?

It was simply the three hours of being forgotten. If they would simply have a live person come on every once in a while and let me know they were still around. Even some kind of timer that would say ,”There are 3500 people ahead of you. The wait will be 2 days and 21 hours.” Even better would be an automated system that says, :”We apologize for the wait . We have your contact information, Press 1 and we will have an agent call you when they are available.” It truly does not take that much to let the customer know you care about their time as well. This is going to sound petty, but I was not even able to get my laundry done today, because if I had gone to the basement the call would have dropped and I would start all over again. I also could not leave the phone upstairs, because if they had answered I still would have to start all over again. The bottom line for me is: DO NOT WASTE MY TIME.

Hopefully I have not wasted your time today. I hope you had a smile or two.

I have finally crossed the Swiss threshold for scheduling things. I had emailed one of the couples that we do things with, and was trying to find an evening to get together. We realized that weekends for the next three months are already booked. They have friends visiting from the US the next two weeks, then I am back in the US for deer hunting. When I get back we are spending the next two weekends in France and Czechoslovakia, then Christmas ( we are headed to the US, and I believe they have family coming here ), and then our kids will be here for a few weeks in January. I never realized how busy we are. Getting back to our friends; we agreed to have dinner on Wednesday. 🙂

I will end with something I learned about Switzerland just today. When you die in Switzerland, you rent your grave site for a term of 20 or 25 years. At the end of the time surviving family is given the tombstone if they want it, your remains are then dug up and disposed of. Most are simply incinerated. In most cases though there is not much left. The Swiss do not use vaults like in the US, and I am pretty sure the bodies are not embalmed like in the US. The caskets are simple wood boxes. With the amount of moisture and no preservation there is usually not much left after the 20 years. The exceptions to this are if you are from a really wealthy family that has purchased a large plot or if you are famous. If you are wealthy, the bodies are not moved, they stay in the family area. If you are famous. The remains might be disposed of, but the gravestone is kept in a place of honor in the cemetery. I hope that last thought was not to morbid for you.

Talk to you soon.

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