Israeli Retail, Global Politics and An Unfortunate Symmetry

Was going to finish up the Credo Quia Classificandum series, but Oktober ChemoFest and some related nuisances got in the way. Will be back next week with a story so old that even dead fish refuse to be wrapped in it. Meanwhile, once again, my wife, Erin Solaro, author and journalist in her own write, fills in.

Most every Israeli has horror stories to tell about dealing with retailers. Few, however, think to ponder the international implications of all that rudeness and dishonesty. Still, our sages teach that everything has multiple levels of interpretation. So . . .

I wanted a new laptop for my birthday. My husband and I agreed that I also needed a smart phone, maybe a new desktop, certainly a new printer and peripherals. So I decided that shopping for my birthday present would be a good way to discover who would get all that upcoming business.

Phase 1: You’re a Repeat Customer, Let Me Infuriate You.

Several years ago I bought a desktop from a very large chain. So obviously, they’re my first stop.

I tell my sales person I’m in the market for a laptop and what does he have? He gives me a quote and specs. I’m not ready to buy yet, but I do need a headset and camera. I take his recommendation and hand over 90 shekels for the headset.

When I get home, the headset literally falls apart the first time I use it. I try to return it for a replacement. My clerk tries to up-sell me. I tell him I want a refund or a replacement. He tells me, neither, it’s my problem, since I hadn’t opened the box in the store. I tell him that’s illegal. He tells me to contact Corporate.

I contact Corporate by phone, email and Facebook. They say they’ll “investigate.” No response has ever been received. I also contact the German manufacturer of the set. They never respond, either. Their website does not list Israel among the countries they ship to.

Phase 2: You’re a New Customer, Let Me Cheat You.

Got a referral to a local seller.

I explain about the recent event, and that if they treat me right, I would buy more stuff from them and refer others.

The owner tells me he understands.

I want a new computer. My husband always says that when you buy used electronics, you’re buying someone else’s troubles. Not true, but in Israel it never hurts to quote your husband.

We settle on a laptop and accessories. I hand over my credit card. I’m in the taxi when I spot the red sticker.

“Refurbished. 90-day Limited Warranty.”

I take it home and check it out. “Congratulations on purchasing your refurbished Asus.” No mistake.

I call up the ganef and, most unlike my placid self, started shouting. “You sold me a refurbished computer for the price of a new one!”

“You misunderstand,“ he bleats.

“There’s no misunderstanding. If I had wanted refurbished, I could have bought one from Office Depot—which was straight up about things like condition.”

“What do you want to do?”

“Complete refund. I’m on my way!”

Back in the store, the owner gets whiney. “If I wanted to cheat you, why would I do that and leave the sticker on and…?”

“Because you thought you could get away with it.”

I get the refund. Also, more exit whining.

You deceived me. Never again.

Phase 3: You’re a Referral, Let Me Sell You Something Very Overpriced.

I get several positive referrals to another local company. Word of mouth, unpaid advertising. Nothing better. Off I go.

So the guy quotes me 2600 for a Toshiba. Which they don’t have. We’ll call when the delivery comes in. This is Tuesday. Wednesday: no computer. Thursday: should be in around 11. We’ll call. Eleven comes and goes. No call. I start poking around on ZAP and see everyone else is selling the exact same model for about 600 shekels less. Umm…no. Just no.

Phase 4: It’s Not in Stock, Let Me Sell You Something More Expensive.

Walk on out to the local Big and find another mega-chain, which takes a bit of doing because the location on Google maps is wrong. But the Dell is in stock, factory new, with a one-year warranty, as well as the same model, with a 3-year warranty. “Of course, that will be more expensive,” he says.

I say, of course. And it is. By 100 shekels. Fine by me.

We go over the specs and then, because I hate to spend money, I need to work myself up to it. So I go see what the nearby competition has.

One of their floor models is an HP with nice specs for about 2600 (the price of the Toshiba). Turns out, they have to order it. Of course, they do have another, in-stock HP. Same specs except for a newer processor, for 2800.

I just sit there, disgusted. When I have control of myself, I say, no. I say Thank you. And then I get up and leave.

I return and buy the Dell. With the three-year warranty. Unopened, factory new. Competitive price. From a salesclerk who politely “refuses” to sell me accessories I think I need but really don’t. He explains why. I know who gets my business now.

Phase 5: You Went Elsewhere, So Let Me Offend You.

Monday, the Toshiba guy calls. They have it in. Thanks, I’ve purchased from someone else.

The man begins to argue with me, reminding me I had come to them because of their reputation for sales and service.

I think about saying, “I’m sorry, but I checked your prices and you’re way high. That’s not good service.”

I think about saying, “You told me you should have something for me on Thursday. It’s Monday. That’s not good service, either.”

I think about saying, “Look, Moses took forty years to deliver the Israelites. When something doesn’t come in on schedule in this country, who knows when it’ll arrive?”

OK, so what’s the deeper meaning?

People often act, willingly and willfully, against their own best interests. Except for one store, these clerks, owners and corporations chose to cheat, complain, argue and blame me for their own failures, problems and misdeeds. It cost them.

My story is me. But I’ll bet you my next batch of peripherals that lots more people than me have walked out of lots more places for the same reasons.

Moral of the story. This is how Israelis, too many Israelis, choose to treat each other. All in the family, I guess. One Israeli doesn’t get the business, another will.  But the world is not our family. Habits of dishonesty, argument and game-playing – well, people just get tired. “We get away with it” is not a good way for Israel to deal with the world. It catches up. It has.

P.S. I’ve omitted names of the companies because I don’t care to deal with corporate vengefulness and small-retailer ire. However, if you’d like referrals and don’t-go-there’s, please contact me at my Facebook page.

About the Author
Philip Gold made Aliyah from USA in 2010 after several decades as a Beltway "public intellectual" of sorts.
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