Customer Support Paradise
Ah, an interesting day! My electronic dictionary was burnt out by a faulty USB on my old computer almost two years ago. So, on Thursday, I took it to the Nurian Service Center, which is actually at Tesco’s Home Plus in Yong-San-Dong, in Daegu. This Home Plus, one of Korea’s first, is enormous and opened during my second trip to the peninsula, around 2003. So, I hand them my white elephant of an electronic dictionary and head back home.
On Friday morning, I discover my internet connection isn’t working which means not just no internet, but no telephone or television. And then, to compound matters, my washing machine is leaking, not seriously but enough to wet my feet and cause a nuisance. I telephone my boss from the school office at 9.30. By 10.15 , forty-five minutes earlier than arranged, I receive another call from my boss telling me the internet repair man is waiting outside my one-room. Five minutes later, I find not one, but two internet engineers sitting outside my building in their van. One of the engineers is a woman and her uniform is not much dissimilar to that of an airline stewardess. The first thing they do, without checking anything is to replace the modem. Twenty minutes later, a washing machine repair engineer arrives and a new hose is fitted in the back of the machine. The cost for this job is 40000 Won (£20).
Now several years ago, I had to get a new washer fitted to a tap but there were complications as there is with anything in that shitty country, the UK. Firstly, you have to be to be fairly wealthy to afford to pay for any breakdowns you want repairing after 5 pm. The cost of a the new part, a washer and some other device which fits inside the tap, was 8000 Won (£4) but the final bill 380.000 Won (£190). The next day a local plumber told me if I could have waited, he’d have fitted a new tap for around 150.000 Won (£75). The second problem you always face in the UK, and not much dissimilar to our health care, is often having to wait weeks to get it repaired. I pay nothing for service maintenance in Korea but in my UK property I cover plumbing, the heating system, electrics, gas and my items such as refrigerators, washing machine and cooker, with maintenance and break down insurance. Despite the monthly fees, any breakdown can see me waiting up to two weeks for the required attention. Of course, if I want it repairing within a few days, I can pay an extortionate fee which for an item like a refrigerator, will almost make it more cost-effective to buy a new one. ‘Instant service’ in the UK doesn’t exist and unless you call out ’emergency’ (after 5pm) engineers, you generally have to wait and that will involve taking a morning or afternoon off work because they can never give you a specific time other than before or after 1 pm.
The washing machine engineer leaves after my paying him a paltry 40.000 Won (£20). By now the internet engineers have repaired the fault but using my computer to translate from Korean to English, tell me they want to disable my anti-virus and install a different one. The different one, when loaded, is in Korean but they spend a further thirty minutes trying to install the program in English and when it transpires this is not possible, proceed to write out instructions, and show me, how to use the program in Korean. Non of this is their responsibility!
It is now 11.30 – exactly two hours since I first phoned my boss and informed her of my problems. At 11.35 my phone rings; it’s Home Plus, my electronic dictionary has been repaired and is ready to be collected. It’s been in their possession for less than 24 hours. The fee, 10000 Won (£5), is exactly the same price I used to pay my local electrical store to investigate a problem and provide a quote and it had to be paid even if you decided not to go ahead with a repair. However, that was five years ago and I can assume it is now significantly more.
12.30, or thereabouts and the doorbell rings. It is the gas company who regularly visit, perhaps at three or six month intervals, to check the system. They carry a small detector and poke it around the room, then around the gas range and piping, and finally, all around the boiler. I pay for a regular check in the UK the last one of which I have just paid at a staggering £52 (110.ooo Won). In Korea it’s part of the service.
Finally, on the way to school, in the afternoon, I stop at the small computer shop near my one-room because I want them to scan some paper work and transfer it to a USB memory stick. The job takes around 5 minutes and when finished I take out my wallet to pay but I needn’t have bothered as the service is free!
© 林東哲 2010 Creative Commons Licence.