The Bill in the Night
It's not a good idea to leave the Holy Land for any real length of time if you live here.
At least, it's not a good idea if you have not first deposited a very large amount of money into your bank account to cover standing orders left with utility and credit card companies. It has taken more than six weeks for me to untangle the mess I encountered upon my return this time around, and I am still working out the snarls.
The latest is a wrestling match with the country's telecommunications giant, Bezeq. Dealing with customer service from this firm is a little like trying to hang on to an oiled seal in the surf. Here's how it went this time around:
"Hi, I'd like to discuss my phone bill. I know the line is cut off for non-payment -- I was out of the country for an extended period -- and I need to straighten out the finances."
"That's fine, please give me your identification information."
This is already a problem because I have spent the past year trying to get the phone company to change the name on the account. My husband, of blessed memory, left this world nearly two years ago. But Bezeq is dedicated to perpetuating his presence by refusing to change the account to my name. I explained the problem, and it took 15 minutes to convince the representative it needed to be dealt with.
"Please send me a copy of your identification card."
"I do not have a fax machine and cannot send you a scan by email because you have cut off my phone and internet line."
"Oh, right. Well, you need to pay the bill and then we will restore it."
"Fine. But please change the name on the account."
"No problem. Send me your identification card, please."
You see the way this is going.
"Is there a way I can pay this bill in cash? The bank has bolixed all my credit cards and everything else on the account."
"Then how can I pay you?"
"You will have to come to a service center. The closest one is in Be'er Sheva (an hour away)."
"I am not spending half a day in order to pay a phone bill, sorry. Find a better solution."
"You have to pay the bill. Find a credit card. Or pay it online."
"You have cut off my internet line, and anyway I have no credit card. I am perfectly willing to pay it in cash, and you must have some outlet where I can pay this bill in cash here in town. This is ridiculous. Figure this out. That is YOUR job, not mine."
"It is YOUR bill, YOU pay the bill."
"It is YOUR company, YOU figure it out if you want me to pay it. YOU find a solution to this problem. It's not my fault you have a stupid policy. Figure out a way for me to pay you in real money for a change."
"Hm. Well, let me check this list here.... okay. There is a store call Tzeing . . . have you heard of it? It is located in the business center in your town, and it is open from 7 pm to 11 pm. You can pay the bill there in cash."
"You're kidding, right? I am nearly 60 years old, alone, and you want me to go to a kiosk that I don't even know, that is ONLY open from seven to eleven at night, to pay a bill of hundreds of shekels, in the dark center of town? REALLY?? SERIOUSLY?? With all the Sudanese here in town?? What planet are you on?"
"That is the only place that is on this list where they accept cash in payment without a paper bill. You were getting emailed bills."
"Hey -- that is not MY fault. I requested mailed bills months ago. Why weren't they sent? And why am I being billed for services I never received? For that matter, why am I being billed for a month in which my service was cut off??"
"You have to pay this bill. I cannot help you until you do. Then I can talk about reducing the fee."
"This is garbage. I think I am going to simply change companies altogether. I don't really need this line. We never use it anyway. I just need the internet."
"As it happens, when you pay it, there is a new package with a reduced rate."
"That's not doing me any good if I cannot pay the thing. Figure out a solution or we are NOWHERE."
"I don't have a solution."
"Then it's not getting paid and we are both screwed."
"Why don't you go to the post office and get a one-time temporary credit card? A lot of people use those."
"Huh? What's that? Explain."
"There are credit cards that you can buy for a given amount of money, and then you simply use it to pay the bill."
"SO WHY THE HELL DIDN'T YOU SAY SO IN THE FIRST PLACE?????????"
"I didn't think of it. Sorry."
"I'll go get one now."
"Great. Call me back. We'll cut the fees by 20 percent starting next month."