My First Go ‘Round With Customer Service In French

Every expat in Geneva has laundry horror storiesblogs are full of them.

  • Washers are tiny, and hold about a third of what they do in the US.
  • Sometimes, entire buildings share them with each resident receiving 3 hour slots each week (or every other week) during which they are permitted to use them.
  • Doing laundry at a laundromat is astoundingly expensive (give or tai $5 for a tiny load).
In November, I opened our dryer to find broken glass in with our clothes and a wire hanging down into our dryer.  During the cycle, the bulb had come loose, been tossed around and broken.  I called the repairman who came to fix it.
We bought our dryer when me moved here and it is still under warranty, so I was shocked when I received the significant bill for the repairs.  Nothing gets under my skin like wasting money, so I prepared myself for a giant test of my French skills and called to dispute the bill.
My repairman didn’t have a snazzy uniform like the one above. Ladies, don’t you want to get your man one of those?
I was transferred around from one customer service representative to another.  Finally, I got to speak to someone with some authority.  Their first question was “what did you do, that doesn’t happen.”  They may as well have asked when I stopped beating my wife.  Of course I did something, I used the dryer to dry my clothes.   Try explaining that you didn’t do anything wrong (a) in another language, (b) to someone who doesn’t want to hear it.
Yep, that’s me.  Cheap.  They told me that it wasn’t covered by the warranty because it didn’t render the machine inoperable.  I told them that although, in theory the machine might still have been able to dry clothes, no one will put wet clothes in a place with wires hanging down and turn it on.  Therefore, you can’t operate it and it should be covered.  Seriously, we went around and around on this for about a half an hour.  When I hung up, I burst into tears (probably from suppressed anger as I remained polite and did not use any of my nice collection of French naughty words).

The next day, someone from the company called me. As I hadn’t conceded defeat the previous day, my file landed on their desk.  I went through the whole story once again and…success!!!!  We don’t have to pay.  When I asked them to send me something confirming this, they replied, “this isn’t America, we don’t go around suing people.” 

I only wish I had spoken to them on a hamburger phone…

In the US, this would have been a single item crossed off a “to do” list. Here, this was a huge victory for me. First, I’m super cheap and would rather spend the money on something else.  Secondly, it was hard to figure out a way to tell the story (including describing all the washing machine parts) in French and persuasively explain my side.  I felt like shouting “I made fire” a la Tom Hanks in Castaway.

 

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Sunday Funday

No work on Sunday, Funday
There are many things that are not permitted on Sundays here in Switzerland. They include:
  • vacuuming
  • Laundry
  • Running a Dishwasher
  • Mowing your lawn
  • Washing your car
  • Pulling weeds in your garden
  • Pretty much all work whatsoever

As a result, most stores and businesses are closed on Sunday.  What are you supposed to do on Sundays in Switzerland?  Here’s a list:

  • Hike (one of the most quintessentially Swiss activities)
  • Ski (the other one)
  • Boat
  • Bike
  • Have a drink at a cafe (the drink is often alcoholic), after church or otherwise
  • Going to church not required or encouraged, but permitted for individuals to choose
  • Spend time with your family
  • Watch a movie
  • Listen to music
  • Enjoy a nice meal
  • Enjoy the weather
  • Enjoy not working

As an American, this is a very foreign concept. The up side, it is remarkably easy to get used to.

 

Our Obligatory Laundry Story

If you read Swiss expat blogs, you will soon realize that everyone has a laundry story.  It is inevitable and they are usually humorous.  Ours arrived ahead of schedule…

Having heard laundry horror stories, we decided that it was essential to get a washer and dryer immediately.  We hadn’t even been in the country two hours when we were investigating our laundry hookup to buy a machine.*  Above is what we saw.

The former tenant removed everything, and I mean everything. The man at the appliance store had to arrange for special plumbers to come and install them.  They were installed the day we were on our last pair of clean underwear!

*We met our realtor immediately after landing to pick up keys to our place. This is very, very unusual. When I tell people this they get a shocked look on their face and their jaw drops.