Corina Chirileasa learned the hard way what it takes to get things done in Romania, and what should one do when faced with the 'impossibles'.
If I were to name a single feature that gets the job done in Romania, and solves things better than anything else, that would be persistence. Being persistent is a must have trait of character while living in Romania. If you don't have it yet, train yourself to be more persistent. It will work miracles.
I wish I had known this growing up, and working my way through jobs, and through bureaucracies of all sorts. It would have saved me lots of trouble, and would have kept me saner at times. It would have helped me land a better job or get more things done in my business.
Many things which you might believe to be normal, or you'd take for granted elsewhere, may seem impossible at first sight in Romania. But don't walk out on them when they do. I have plenty of examples, and anyone who has lived for at least a month in Romania will have similar examples.
Take for example signing a new cable and internet contract with the largest company offering these services in Romania (yes, it's RCS RDS).
An agent working with the company comes to our house and we sign a contract on March 1. I am a bit worried as he does not seem to understand everything in the contract, nor explain things very well, makes a few mistakes when filling the form, but by the end of it, we sign for the services we actually want. Then we wait – it will take a week to have the services installed, he says, someone from the installation team will call you.
We went for the speediest internet on their offer, which promises to be the speediest in Romania (which should be something, considering Romania has among the highest internet speeds in the world). It turned out to be a funny, yet at times bitter story – the speediest internet arrived in our house at a very slow pace in the end.
A few days after contract is signed, I get a call from the agent, saying there is a problem in the system, as another contract still appears to be valid at that address – even though we had canceled it. After I complain saying it is really not my problem, and that he should make sure our contract is registered, he says he will. Two more days pass, no phone call.
I ring the company's call center to check the status of my contract, why am I not being called for installation? They try to find my contract number in the system, tell me there is a problem and that I should go to one of their offices, to talk to a commercial agent. Complaining that this does not seem at all fair did not help. Here I am queuing at the office – half an hour later, the lady tells me I was given a wrong contract number, which had been already registered for another client. I get a new number, a bunch of new papers, and I am sent home to wait a bit longer for the installation team to call.
Two days later, nothing. I call the customer service again, only to find out that indeed, my contract had not been registered in their system, which is why obviously the service cannot be installed. Obviously!
Back to the office, another half an hour queue wait, and here I am in front of the same nice lady who had helped me the first time. “You did not registered the contract,” I say. “No, she says, I sent it for registration. There is another department that registers new contracts into the system,” she explains.
Well, they must either have a lot of coffee breaks, or a million and one contracts to fill in, as my contract hasn't been registered for over a week. After I threaten to go to the competition who will install me the next day (which is true, and they knew it), the nice lady makes two phone calls – but not the kind of phone calls to another department, asking them to do their job, rather the kind of phone calls asking for a favor from a work colleague. After a bit of flirting on the phone, she promises my contract will be registered during that day, but I should call the call center in the evening to make sure everything is ok, and to speed up the installation.
At this point I should say I believe none of the above should be part of any respectable company's services. It's a series of mistakes which should have sent me running for the competition, not a week after, but two days after. But I really wanted the speedy internet, so I decided that once I joined the dance, I'd better move my legs to the music.
As advised, I call customer service again – by this time they should already know my name and probably have a note in the system saying I have called several times and unless helped, I will terrorize them with calls.
Side note: being persistent doesn't necessarily mean being aggressive; I usually try to keep a calm tone, even when saying I will go for another supplier, or when complaining. If you get angry, not only it will harm your mental state, but they will also most likely block you and your persistence, as your anger will enable them to place you in the 'crazy customer' pile.
Being nice, however, and always there, reminding them to help you out, will make you 'the annoying nice person who has to be helped out'. Remember, this is not how things should be – try to keep your anger at bay – but rather how things are (in many places, and in Romania too), and how they can be solved.
Back to my internet and cable contract – call center confirms the contract was registered – hurray, a small victory! – and they make a note in the system to install the services more urgently. As they fail to give me a targeted timeline for the installation – call center people play it safe and usually read their scripts – I decide to go for the competition if not called the next day. I have had enough!
Sure enough, the next day they call me to schedule the installation, and the day after that, the team arrives as promised (by the way, if a team of workers is due at your place between, say 15,00 and 18,00, be sure they will arrive at 17.50 or so; if you happen to leave for an hour at the beginning of your time interval, this is when they will usually arrive; this has been tested in Romania).
So, 12 days, two trips to the company's office, and four phone calls to the call center later, I do have internet and cable TV. In my book, in today's competitive world, I should have had the services two days after the guy came to my place to sign the contract.
I should perhaps add another trait that is useful to have while in Romania: patience. It goes hand in hand with persistence.
Corina Chirileasa, email@example.com