The struggle to get reimbursed by my Internet provider for a mistake they made has required me to scream, make threats and get personal just so that someone in a position of power will listen to me. My unfortunate take away is that in many cases, the powerless can only get through to the powerful through force.
In mid-April, I experienced some problems with my internet connection at home that required several technicians from my provider (a company called HOT) to come to my apartment within the span of a week. I was so unhappy with my internet reception – which I rely on for the work I do – that I was considering leaving the company. But because the alternatives in Israel are sparse and not necessarily better or cheaper, I didn’t have much choice but to wait it out and try to save myself some time and more headaches.
The third or fourth technician who came to my house during that week was very nice. But unfortunately, he was also careless. He needed to move my laptop from my desk to the floor where the router is, in order to connect it – and after doing so, he was shuffling around with some cables, rushing, and managed to accidentally step on my open laptop with his heavy work boots.
When I saw him kind of fumble I thought, ok, that was close. But since he didn’t say anything I figured all was ok. But then a few minutes later, while he was on the phone with his manager still trying to figure out why my internet connection was so unreliable, I went over to my laptop and noticed that the trackpad was completely crushed. I turned to him, in shock, and said “Hey, you stepped on my computer just now and broke it and didn’t even bother to tell me?!”
He said he didn’t realize he actually broke anything when he stepped on it – which I couldn’t bring myself to believe – and immediately told me he is sorry and that the company would pay for it. I appreciated his sentiments but did not for a moment think it would be that easy to get the company to pay for this mistake he had made. Since I work freelance, I depend on my computer for everything and was understandably upset.
I demanded he sign something admitting he broke it and that the company is obligated to pay for it, and had him list his I.D. number, phone number and whatever else I could get from him. I took a picture of him and the damage. Document, document, document, I thought. That’s the only way there’s any chance I will be reimbursed for this. He immediately called his manager and told him what happened and relayed to me not to worry – that the company would reimburse me. I asked to speak to this manager but he said that would not be possible. I asked to get his phone number or have him call me, but I was told this is outside the bounds of the protocol – that I could only refer to HOT’s customer service.
On the day it happened, I spoke to customer service immediately to report the incident and was told that once I get my computer fixed I should send them the receipt and would be immediately reimbursed. I insisted that not a shekel should come out of my pocket since this was their fault and their responsibility and that I don’t have extra cash laying around. So I demanded they provide the exact amount based on the price quote I get and pay it directly. But of course they informed me this was impossible. Luckily my entire computer was not broken and I could still use it, despite the track pad being completely shattered - but what would have happened if the computer was incapacitated, the computer I rely on for my income day in and day out? Who would provide me with an alternative computer or compensate me for all the working hours lost?
I proceeded to go to the trouble of figuring out the fastest and most efficient way to repair my computer and on May 23, I had to pay NIS 1,000 (nearly $300) out of my own pocket to fix my computer.That is a lot of money for me.
It has been nearly three months since my computer was broken and over a month since I paid for its repair, and I still have not been reimbursed. On the same day it was repaired, I faxed over and emailed everything I needed to and received confirmation that it was being handled.
In the last month, I have been on the phone countless times with various customer representatives and more managers than I can count. Each conversation I have had has taken anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour, due to the regular wait involved in such calls, my needing to go over my story over and over – despite it supposedly being documents by them in their records – being transferred to every single department because each one shirked responsibility for it, and being forced to plea with these representatives that they give me some answers on how I’m going to get this money, or transfer me to a manager who can help me. Just trying to reach a manager who has some authority to move the process forward was a challenge.
Without exception, every time I have spoken to a customer service representative or manager from this company, the only way I received any service or answers, was through force. First i would speak with them politely and calmly, yet assertively. Their responses were always the same: We assure you we are doing everything we can and will get back to you. More times than not, they do not get back to me, but when they do, it is always a different story. I have heard everything under the sun about the status of my reimbursement: that it is being approved by the finance department, that the check has been written but needs to be signed by the entire management staff before being released, that it has already been sent (that was two weeks ago, and nothing), that a check is not being sent but rather has already been reimbursed to my account, and along the way, i have had several managers tell me that because I didn’t report on the incident within two weeks of when it happened, that it was too late to have it reimbursed. All have been pure lies.
I have had to resort to screaming, threats and personal slights in order to move things forward. (And often ended up in tears because of the state I had to resort to to get any service). Sometimes that didn’t even work, and then I had to resort to making it personal, saying things like “I am sure you are a good person with a family at home, but you work for a lying cheating company, so if you have any integrity or moral compass, you will stop lying to me and make sure this money is reimbursed to me.” That worked some of the time. But when it didn’t, I had to resort to pure threats: “I have recorded all these conversations, I have a lawyer and will sue the company and report you as well.” It’s unbelievable – a polite and assertive demand to speak to a manager never worked – but personal attacks and threats always worked. Like clockwork.
The latest news today is that the check (again) has been put in the mail. This is just two days after I was told that there was no check being processed but instead they would credit my account. Well, I guess I’ll wait and see if anything actually arrives. I told the last manager that if it doesn’t come, he can go to sleep with the knowledge that he is a liar and works for a repulsive company.
I really have very little power or leverage against this large company, for which NIS 1000 is nothing, and for me, a large chunk of my monthly income. I could turn to a lawyer and legal proceedings, but that is expensive and timely and who knows what will happen. The bottom line is that there is almost no sense of accountability on their part and whether or not I get the money back depends largely on the whims of the people dealing with my issue. Ironically, my Internet has been working great since my computer was broken.
This story feels to me like a microcosmic metaphor for the state of affairs in this country, in which communities who are severely disenfranchised and hold no economic or political power in this society must turn to extreme acts of civil disobedience and resistance in order to get their voices heard. Otherwise the powers that be simply don’t feel the need to listen.
Unfortunately, there are too many examples in the world in which, when capitalism and political power are combined, the only way to get things to budge is through force.