German Customer Service – with a twist

November 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

First — sorry for that weird link post. Hit the button too soon.

I use my cell phone all the time here, as I don’t have a regular landline in Berlin. I bought a gizmo manufactured from the German company hama ( — that’s the link I sent, and the gizmo broke.

The unit is kind of an odd thing. The part on the right gets plugged into the cell phone and the broken part on the left gets attached to your shirt. It has a microphone in it — you can see the tiny speakers on the table — the result of the unit coming apart. You can plug headphones into the gizmo on the left and listen to the conversation. Folks hear you via the microphone — normally embedded in the black part on the left.

I bought the unit at Saturn, which is about as close as Germany gets to Best Buy. I took it over there and asked for an exchange. I’ve only had the unit for about two months.

The salesman said he didn’t think he could do anything because by looking at the unit it appears that it was deliberately broken.

I said, “You’ve got to be kidding. Could you tell me how I could have broken this?” My suspicion is that the black part on the left wears out because it’s not made that well and is used quite often to clip and unclip to a shirt.

The Saturn sales person said the Hama representative happened to be in the store and he would ask him. He went upstairs, came back down, and said the Hama guy said the unit was broken by someone.

Normally I would have fought this on the spot, demanded to speak with the Hama guy, and gotten the thing resolved. I was tempted to pull out my press card, let them know I am a ¬†journalist and that I’d be making a complaint to headquarters, but I didn’t do that. Instead I gave him an angry look and left.

Back home, still fuming, I called up the press department of Hama and explained the situation. I spoke with Susanne Uhlschmidt, who heads the department. I explained that while I understand that customer service in the U.S. is different than in Germany, I was still miffed that I was accused of breaking the unit. I am not that talented, I assured her.

And then — in a twist — Ms. Uhlschmidt took things into her own hands and said she’d replace the unit and would deal with the Hama representative. I had failed to get his name, as I was so annoyed at the store that I just left. She said she’d figure it out. Within two days I not only had a replacement, but an extra unit on top of that.

I don’t like to “pull out the press card” because I think everyone – not just journalists — should get good customer service. But sadly sometimes that’s still necessary here.


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