Wednesday, August 21

Business Weak...Italy's Trains, Planes, & Automobiles

I've read all those Economic posts. Italy's economy is weak because of poor institutional environment, labor market problems and finances.  And while I could say that the most solid institution being the Mafia is going great guns (a concern estimated at $80 billion in revenues - of course, they don't pay taxes, but heck, neither does Silvio's Mediaset), I'd like to venture forth with an entirely different take on the matter.
Italy's economy is the 10th largest on God's Green Earth, no. 5 in the Euro Zone.
Although stagnating since oh, about 1992 (funny, since I got here), and with a Debt to GDP ratio over 100%, I love to fantasize what I'd do if I were Minister of Finance (That's where the Trains come into this post as in Train Wreck).  In my wildest dreams, I would propose a two-pronged economic formula:
1) Flexible hours & ability to have sales would boost the economy three-fold.  In my neighborhood, I can't bring clothes to the dry cleaners on a Saturday. Talk about pent-up demand. I hand-wash instead.  Now, they've tried the liberation of store hours in Rome.  Thousands of businesses closed anyway, because retailers all teamed up and decided NOT to open at lunchtimes and on their "off" days (don't ask), and on Mondays and weekends [that's due to the labor costs].
But, take a look around you.  Those business-savvy Bangladeshi guys are open morning - noon - and night.  And I'm sure by now more than a few of them have returned home very wealthy men.  Every day another Italian shop closes only to be re-opened by the Chinese trinket guys or the green market Bangladeshi.
2) Employ True Customer Service.  No, not the gals & guys working the phone lines that cannot for the life of them go off a one-word script of "NO!", but real customer service.  I'm convinced that people don't buy things anymore knowing that nothing will come of it if something goes wrong.  When everyone is cynically ripped off, they become cynical shoppers.  I, for one, would prefer to order by mail everything - even trusting that it will arrive thru that true customer service provider, The Italian Postal System.  This worked fine until the Italian govt caught up with us, and levied an automatic 21% sales tax on everything we were bringing into the country.  I started a courier service thru friends worthy of a Colombian drug lord.
Need more proof?
- The vacuum repairman convinces you you need a new motor. Still doesn't work & then tells you you have a 'new' issue and, of course, he 'never would have changed the motor if it hadn't needed it in the first place.'
- Your electricity bills are inflated or your phone co. overcharges and then charges you $1.50/minute - putting you on hold for over 28 minutes - just to tell you that they can't help you.
- Or, in my recent spat with SIXT CAR RENTAL, who charged me a nominal 25 euro above & beyond my confirmed cost on the car, ignoring my a) proof of rental agreement b) my email requests and c) their very own Customer Service line, which, to their credit was at least a free call. To get an answer, an accommodating gentleman in the UK office working the twitter lines is helping me resolve the matter.
-  When I was given the wrong battery for my car, the shop guys refused to exchange it.  I contacted Bosch headquarters in Germany, and was given a VIP treatment - on a Saturday no less - by their head tech guy in Rome as if I were Mrs. Mercedes herself.
- When my router didn't work, I tried everything.  I was told to pay about $100 for a technician to come and 'see' what the problem was, when the entire time I insisted it was because I own a mac [The Apple guys / the Telecoms guys and the router guys all said "That had nothing to do with it."]  I finally contacted the Tech guys at D-Link Australia who finally sorted me out giving me the correct codes over the phone (a 25 cent phone call).
Must one really resort to going to the UK or Germany or - gasp! - Australia to get some requisite customer service?  In the Capital City of the 10th largest economy on earth?  People have stopped partaking in the process because they think it's futile. Why pipe up about the trash or the gypsies or the graffiti or the roads or whatever when you know nothing will be done?  You simply shrug your shoulders and move on.
Product picture
From Premier Portfolio

Ahhh...but I mentioned planes.  On the flip side, I purchased a tiny model plane of this snazzy Virgin Atlantic Boeing jet at WH SMITH in Luton Airport (London).  It was on sale.  Back home, I discovered why that was. It was missing the body and the fuselage, along with it's cute little stand.  I didn't contact WHSmith because I didn't really want a refund, just another plane body (I was now the proud owner of the wings & tail fins).  So, I contacted the suppliers on the package, Premier Portfolio instead.  And without even having submitted my sales receipt and photos of the missing airplane body, within about 3 hours I received a return email:  Sorry to hear that you have had problems with our Scale Model Plane.  A replacement will be sent today via standard Airmail.  Apologies for any inconvenience caused.  Kind regards, 

I teared up.  Truly.  With this kind of service Italy would set the world on fire.  But first, I just need to make sure the customs officials don't charge me 21% tax and service charges on top of it.   


Irreverent Italy said...

Email from SIXT UK:

Thank you for your patience whilst I investigated your query.

I have received confirmation from my colleagues in Italy today that the additional 24.68EUR was added to the invoice due to a system error. This was due to the vehicle type being read wrong by the system. The 24.68EUR has been refunded today, this may take up to 5-7 working days to appear in the account due to the banking process.

Sixt Italy would like to pass on their sincere apologies for any inconvenience this has caused.

The only inconvenience was not the overcharge -- but rather, Sixt Italy refusing to do anything about it.

Irreverent Italy said...

Now *THIS* is one way to approach a problem...too bad Italy's defamation laws are strictly enforced !


Rachel said...

This is great!