Monday, July 13, 2009

What's that sucking sound?

That'd be every last cent leaving your pocket while you try to make any sort of business or government related phone call in The Netherlands. I am continually amazed and appalled at how businesses here try to suck money out of merely-potential consumers in a way that'd be a death knell for an American business. I'm not thrilled about it, but I understand that actual physical space here is limited enough that I can't expect free parking everywhere I want to shop. I will thus happily trade proximity to my parcels for historical and environmental preservation. Paying money to find out when a business is open, though? Are we the only ones who find it a bit counterproductive for a business owner to charge us to find out when we can come in and spend our money?

Here, in no particular order, are my favorite (most ignominious) examples of having to pay for phone calls.

1.) The website that touts itself as having the cheapest airline tickets available does not have the capability of searching multileg flights (a la every non-Dutch travel website I've ever checked). If you want to book city to city, you have to call their 0900 number and pay 45 cents a minute. Yes, that includes that half hour you have to hold before they answer.

2.) When we first moved here, we purchased the majority of our new little European household at IKEA. We didn't have a car and couldn't quite get the beds and bookshelves onto our bikes (ha), so we paid through the nose for delivery several days hence. On the appointed day, the kids and I sat in our curtainless, light fixture-less, telephone-less (don't even get me started on utilities) condo for eight hours waiting for the delivery truck to arrive. After hours of sitting on bare concrete floors, the truck never showed. My only option was to call their 0900 number and pay an additional 25 cents per minute to be told that our delivery truck driver LIED and told them he came and we weren't there and that we'd thus have to pay another exorbitant delivery fee plus a penalty if we wanted the thousands of euros of our stuff we'd already bought. Talk about adding insult to injury. In the end, we (Jeff) convinced them that it'd be in their best interests to attempt delivery ONCE before attempting to charge us more money for our stuff, but they got their money for the phone call, by golly.

3.) After having paid over €800 in fees, we were still required to pay 25 cents per minute to make the mandatory phone calls to check on the status of our immigration applications. That really added up when you figured in that we had to call an office to make an appointment for a slot of several hours one day when we would have to sit by our phone waiting for a call from another person at that office who would... make an appointment for us to call the person we needed to talk to. I honestly could not make this stuff up if I tried.

4.) And last but not least, my absolute favorite: If you witnessed a crime and want to assist the police in solving it, you can pay 20 cents a minute (that's a discount!) to call their crime solvers line. Yes, I'm sure it weeds out some of the false leads, but I have a feeling that there are a few people out there cheap enough that they don't particularly feel like paying a witness tax to help the police do their jobs. Holy counterproductivity.