Sunday, February 17, 2008

Customer Service

Well, once again it seems I have been slacking on the blog writing. I do apologize. I think it is because I have been doing so much over-communicating for work, that my personal communicating has started to slack, which is lo tov (not good). I am going to try very hard to stay on track with the blog now... maybe even schedule some "blogging time" in to my handy little blackberry calendar. I must admit, I tried going without a blackberry for my first two months here, and since I got it in November, it has so hugely simplified my life that I can voluntarily say that I am dependent on it and dread the thought of losing it or breaking it. I will never forget when my former boss called us (us being my office) to tell us that she had dropped (or thrown) her blackberry in the toilet and my former co-worker/one of my favorite people Heather had to fake power of attorney (you can actually print off these documents online) in order to get my boss another blackberry. However, I digress...

Things here in the holy land have been rocking and rolling- literally. On Friday, I experienced my first earthquake! It was pretty minor- a 5.3 on the scale, but it was the strangest sensation and I didn't even know what it was until later that day when I saw it in the news. I was just sitting in a cafe (Max Brenner, for those of you who can appreciate how wonderful the cafe was that I was sitting in) reading the newspaper and all of a sudden, I felt like I was sitting on a floating dock, like the floor below me was kind of bobbing up and down in a gentle rolling motion. I looked around to see if anyone else noticed, and no one seemed to, though I saw that my coffee and orange juice were oddly swishing around in their glasses. As quickly as I noticed it, it stopped, and I wondered briefly if I had some sort of equilibrium imbalance, and then shrugged and went back to my newspaper.

On the work front, things continue to be busy. I spent the past 3.5 weeks trying to figure out how to get paid by 5 separate clients who want to be invoiced in 5 different ways and at 5 different times and in 5 different formats. It doesn't help that two of the groups are two of the most bureaucratic organizations in, probably, the entire world- the Knesset and the United Nations. And, of course, the Israeli mentality doesn't help the situation, as they seem to have no sense of urgency when it comes to paying someone.

It was due to this situation that I had my biggest "battle" since the Mango "incident." The United Nations, being incredibly bureaucratic, required not only a formed filled out with all sorts of random bank information, but also required a letter from the bank verifying the different information... in English. As you may know, the banks in Israel are one of the biggest pains to deal with and something I dread. Part of it is the fact that very few people at my bank speak any English, but even more so, the bank system here is about 20 years behind the US bank system. For example, because I opened my account at the Sheinken branch, that means the only branch I can do anything at is the Sheinken branch. Although Discount Bank has many many branches around Tel Aviv, if I wanted to deposit a check at the Ben Yehuda branch of Discount Bank, they look at you like you are an alien and the conversation goes something like this: "we can't do this, we are not your branch" and then I say, "but, you are still Discount Bank, so you should be able to deposit this check into my account" and then they say "but we don't know you" and then I say "but you have my ID to verify that I am Deborah Stein" and then they say "but, we don't KNOW you." Silly, right? But as silly as that sounds, they are actually serious when they say it.

So, I knew that getting a letter in English from my bank verifying my account information was going to be a miserable task. Oren came with me, and we explained my situation to a man at the bank, and his reply is "We don't write letters here." Oren explained to him that I need this letter in order to get paid, and he stares back at us again and says "We don't write letters here. Bank policy." So, conveniently (or sometimes inconveniently), my bank branch is split in half by a street, so it is one branch, but is two buildings on either side of the street. So, we walk across the street, and approach someone in that building, and ask them for a letter, and they say "sure" (so much for bank policy). After handwriting for them what the letter should say, they give me a copy (with still a few typos, but I was ready to take what I could get), and I fax it to the UN people. A week later, thinking I am all set and done with the letters and crap, I get a call from the UN saying that my bank information does not match because I have two account numbers and they cannot accept this. Now, this is true, I do have two account numbers... for no good reason except that when my bank merged with another bank, they neglected to coordinate their computer systems, so I literally have two account numbers for the same account at their bank, and because it is completely irrational, the UN is having none of it.

So, at this point, I am ready to cry, because I cannot bear the idea of having to go back to the bank and try to get another letter from them in English, so Oren suggests I try using my bank in DC, PNC Bank. I figure, I have nothing to lose, so I give them a call. I am not exaggerating when I say that, within 5 minutes, the friendly woman at PNC was able to give me all of the information I needed, and then offered to fax, email, and mail a copy of a letter verifying my bank info to both the UN and me. I was so overwhelmed with appreciation that I almost sent this woman flowers, but instead opted for a glowing email to her manager going on and on (literally) about how amazing she was and how helpful their bank was, etc. It still makes me smile as I write this because it was such an amazingly positive experience. Sigh.

In other news, we hope to be moving on March 1 into our new apartment. It is finally starting to look like a real apartment, with windows and walls, and such. It is getting very exciting and I can hardly wait!

Alright, I am now going to go start figuring out my flights for my March trips. As I mentioned awhile back, I will be in the states for some work and fun on the following dates:

March 15-16- DC
March 16-17- NYC
March 18- DC
March 19- Chicago
March 20-23- MN
March 24- Chicago
March 25- Boston
March 26- DC
March 27- Back to Tel Aviv

It's going to be a crazy 12 days, but I hope to see many of you while I am the respective cities.

Hope all is well, and I promise to be a better blogger in the future!