The customer is not king
It’s a bit like flogging a dead horse to comment on the abysmal state of customer service in Germany, but once again I have experienced something here that just has to be recorded somewhere.
On April 27, I ordered a BahnCard from the Deutsche Bahn online. A BahnCard gives the bearer discounts on rail travel for a year and has been around for over ten years as a product. The card requires a photo, which I uploaded from my computer as part of the registration process. The site informed me that I would receive the physical card within nine days.
It has now been fifteen days since I ordered it, and of course I have no card. I visited their site and attempted to contact their customer service to ask about this. Alas, one must have a valid BahnCard number to use the online form to ask a question about a BahnCard. Apparently, in their infinite wisdom, the bureaucrats at the DB never considered that the question might be “where is my BahnCard” or perhaps “what should I do when I lose my BahnCard,” since in both instances one will not have the magic number.
This required me to call the DB, something any sane person here dreads. As is common here, I get to pay a not insignificant sum to call their customer service. That’s right: they screw up, and I get to pay to share this news with them. That people in Germany put up with this says a great deal about something, but I’ll back quietly away from saying more about that.
So I called and resolved the issue fairly quickly, which is the good news. The bad news is that if I hadn’t called, I would likely never have received the card. I got a story about needing to put things into motion, and that it had been held up pending the photo. When I pointed out that I didn’t send it by mail (an option), but rather uploaded it at time of order, she didn’t miss a beat but came up with some technocratic explanation of what had gone wrong (sounded a lot like watching Star Trek in German: “Kapitän, die Warpantriebsfluxinduktionsmatrix muß rekalibriert werden!”). Whatever, it’s on its way, finally.
Apparently the Deutsche Bahn has the capacity to spy on its own employees, but offering customer service is beyond them. No wonder they bleed money and lose customers, while German roads grow ever more crowded. Sad, really, since they have some good services and some of their employees really give their best effort under less-than-ideal circumstances.