Customer Service in Israel

It’s almost a national joke. Everyone complains about customer service in Israel – mainly that all too often, it seems that there isn’t any. I recently wrote about the Jerusalem Post (still unresolved) and others on an email group list joined in with their complaints about government agencies, health funds, telephone, etc.

And I wrote this response and decided I liked it enough to post it here:

Customer service – it differs from company to company, day to day, industry to industry. I walked into a small store years ago in the middle of Jerusalem to try clothes on with my daughter. We were there longer than we expected. She was in the dressing room…the meter was running out. I didn’t know what to do…bombs were exploding, you see – in Jerusalem and elsewhere almost every day. What would I do if my daughter and I were separated…stupid, right? Should I leave her? Should I just get the darn ticket?

I looked at the storekeeper; I need to put money in the meter, I explained. This is a man who had seen it all…so many times…he understood immediately. Go, he told me. I’ll keep her inside here. Don’t worry.

I ran to the car listening for an explosion; threw in my change listening for an explosion and ran almost the whole way back – listening for an explosion. Is that customer service? I don’t know…but that is so much Israel.

I made an appointment with an event planner at the Kotel last January to guide us through my youngest son’s bar mitzvah. We finalized the time in the morning – a busy morning when there would be dozens of bar mitzvahs because it was a Thursday…the week when many American yeshivot have off and their parents come here with their bar mitzvah-age children. But then Israel went to war…my oldest son was called down to Gaza and everything started going crazy. I had to deal with a bar mitzvah…who could think about that in the midst of everything else?

The organization called me up wanting to confirm 8:15 a.m on Thursday morning. I started to cry. My son is near Gaza, I explained. He might be able to come home. The war should end…maybe…but if they don’t let him come home before, maybe they’ll give him a few hours, but there’s no way he could get to the Kotel by bus in time…I might be able to drive down there and bring him back for a few hours…but I don’t know if I can get there and back before 8:15 a.m. Traffic…I don’t know. And the woman said – go…and don’t worry. And when you get there – whatever time, we’ll do this. Is that customer service? I don’t know…but that is so Israel.

I would put these two events above all the Bezeks and Jerusalem Posts and Kupat Holim stories.

To me, it all boils down to one issue – I’d take the worst customer service in Israel…just to have the joy of living here. I’ll fight Jerusalem Post (who has now confirmed that we canceled in February but hasn’t confirmed they are returning our money). I’ll fight kupat holim or Bezeq. Sometimes, I’ll win…sometimes I’ll lose.

And when I lose – I’ll think of the storekeeper and the event planner because really, what they gave me is worth more than whatever money other companies may succeed in cheating me out of along the way.

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