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For those who know me, I have an intense dislike of poor customer service. As I live in a country in which customer service is near the bottom of the priority list of most companies, this is a challenge for me. While in an ordinary situation I might just get up and walk out when treated like garbage by someone who is taking my money, in Israel there is not really anywhere else to go.

One commonly experienced example of this is service in the grocery store. I’m sure you all have crazy stories of horrible grocery experiences, but we don’t have much a choice if we don’t have cars to go to a farther store.¬†There are countless incidents shared which tell the stories of dealing with the services of our beloved cell-phone companies. I do not wish a trip to the cell-phone store on my worst enemy. I’ve heard of people threatening to switch, and in fact have threatened my service provider on several occasions. But it is an empty threat because I know I wouldn’t be better off elsewhere. It is also not uncommon to be yelled at by customer service representatives of various industries. Lately, I’ve been experiencing issues with customer service (or lack thereof) in the transportation realm.

As I live near Tel-Aviv and work in Jerusalem, I have quite a commute to the office. My husband, Ayal, recently started a job in Jerusalem as well. It has been really wonderful getting to take the long bus rides together. When I was taking the bus alone, I never really noticed how absurd some of the things the bus companies get away with are. But waiting for over an hour on a regular basis for a bus that should be coming every ten minutes is a bit ludicrous. Until today I had been content with the waiting because it was just reality and I didn’t really consider that there was an alternative. So what caused me to open my eyes? Last night we were waiting for the bus for about 45 minutes before concluding that even if the bus did finally come there were too many people waiting and we wouldn’t stand a chance to get a seat. We decided to go into the Central Bus Station, where we could get a bus with a slightly longer route that isn’t scheduled to come as often, run by a different bus company. We figured if we went at that moment, we’d arrive right on time for the bus. Boy were we wrong. Well, in theory we were right. The bus was supposed to come when we got there. But we, along with 30 other people waiting there, watched as the display board flashed that the bus was departing (twice) with no bus in sight.

Every night Ayal says he’s going to write a strongly worded letter to Egged, complaining about their terrible service. He would like to call them, but there is nobody to answer the phone in the evenings and even if someone was there it wouldn’t make a difference because we know they don’t care. Last night was the final straw for him. This afternoon, he actually called them. It went a little something like this:

Ayal: According to your website the bus is supposed to come every 10 minutes, but we wait for hours and if any bus does pass by, it is full.
Egged: The buses leave every ten minutes but if they are full they skip stops.
Ayal: Would you consider sending more buses, knowing that so many people are waiting to get on the bus at that time of day?
Egged: No, just take another bus line. You can get a Dan Line bus from inside the Central Bus Station.

Thank you, Egged. How productive. It’s not like the goal of your company is to provide transportation to people who need it. Oh wait… Yes it is. But the thing that really got me frustrated was that this morning, for the first time since I started my job in April, the bus actually came on time. It arrived at my stop on schedule, and missed all the terrible morning traffic at the Jerusalem city entrance. I was able to make my connecting bus, and got to work in an hour and fifteen minutes. Usually it takes me at best an hour and forty minutes, and at worst it’s taken up to two and a half or even three hours. Knowing that I can get there in less than an hour and a half but usually have to spend an extra hour because of their incompetence made me realize how terrible their service truly is. And then to hear their response: “Take another bus line” is just enraging. Why don’t you care about your customers? Because we have nowhere else to go. The bus that comes “every ten minutes” is my best option, and they know it.

A large number of Israeli citizens have moved into tents to protest the high cost of housing. They are upset because they cannot afford to live near where they work. I was very confused by this because I do not live near where I work, and I’m fine with that. But then when I understood today how terrible the public transportation truly is, I understand why they do not feel comfortable buying homes too distant from their workplaces. Purchasing a car is extraordinarily out of the question, given the 100% tax on the¬†exorbitantly priced cars, and they are not willing to wait three hours for a bus that should come every ten minutes. Perhaps these things would be more productive issues to tackle than trying to get the government to subsidize living in expensive cities.

September 2020

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