German efficiency

by Lorenzo Piccoli

When you are in Italy you will always complain about bureaucracy and very poor services. And you would often be tempted to make the case of other countries, take Germany for instance, where everything works well. I myself believe this is generally true. But there are, of course, exceptions.

Today I had to reserve an international train ticket from Brussels to Berlin. I made filled the online forms, proceeded with the payment, but never received my online ticket. I called the contact centre and I was told they would have sent me the ticket in a matter of a few minutes. They did not. I called back and this time I was told me there was a problem with their electronic system and asked me to hold the call for a few seconds, which turned out to be ten minutes – the cost of the call is 30cent/minute. Eventually, they told me I would have to buy a new ticket. I said no way, my payment already went through, it is your fault therefore you have to fix it. They apologized and told me they would have tried to fix the problem and I had to call them back. I told them they were the ones who had to call me back once the problem was fixed and I hanged up.

One hour later I receive my online ticket by email only to discover that it appears to have slightly different details than those I agreed upon when originally made the reservation. The departure station is now different from the one I picked (Brussels Midi instead than Centraal) and the price is higher (150 euro instead than 140). Of course, these are relatively minor differences; but, I thought, they represented a big blow for German efficiency. I was getting quite annoyed only to realize, eventually, that the entire system had not been managed by the German railway company, but by the Belgian one instead. Of course it makes much more sense: even though Belgium starts being nice to me, the country still remains even more annoying than Italy when it comes to the efficiency of bureaucracy and services.