What Customer Service?

It seemed like such a simple thing. How could it have gone so wrong? And why isn’t the system better?

We needed to make changes to our bank account, which necessitated a trip the the branch around the corner. I normally do my banking online.

The teller asked for our ATM cards. They do that in Canada too – it is a way of proving you are who you say you are.

I wasn’t expecting her to cancel the cards. That wasn’t what we came for. It shouldn’t have been a big deal though.

I suggested she reverse the process. That couldn’t be done. The manager tried calling head office. They didn’t pick up the phone.

I remember in Canada needing to get my bank card replaced because it was cracking. I had a choice. They could issue me a new one immediately, on the spot. Or, if I wanted to keep the same card number, they would mail a new one to me, but that could take a week.

In Sulzburg, with a canceled bank card I suggested they just issue me a new one. That’s not the way they do it in Germany. It has to come by mail.

The legendary German efficiency is actually just German bureaucracy – and is anything but efficient. Instead of getting a new bank card immediately, I would have to wait – a week or two.

First would come the letter with my new PIN number. No, I can’t keep my old one. Then, a few days after that my new card would arrive.

In the meantime, I couldn’t access my account. Making online transactions requires the debit card and a scanner. At least they allowed me to withdraw some cash since I no longer had a debit card for things like food and gasoline.

I was told I could view my account online, but couldn’t make any transfers. That is how most bills are paid here, through bank transfers.

I could fill out a paper form for transfers and drop it off. There’s a charge for that – but the manager assured me she would be monitoring our account and reverse any charges. I believed her – but she was about to go on vacation, I didn’t want the hassle.

Turns out I can only view recent transactions online without the card. I tried to look up a summertime bill, but wasn’t allowed. The card didn’t come in the first seven days.

So it is now my turn to be on vacation (which they knew) – with no bank card. I am not impressed with Sparkasse, which is a major German bank.

The error was forgivable, though the clerk seemed less than apologetic. However, you would think though that in the 21st century it wouldn’t take a couple of weeks or more to issue a bank card.

In Germany it does – because apparently, all too often, the words “customer service” don’t translate into German.


One comment

  1. ouch!

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