I fired off a letter to Deutsche Bahn this morning before I packed for tomorrow's early-morning trip to Paris, using their service as far as Cologne. Here's what I wrote:
Dear Deutsche Bahn:
Thank you for your quick reply.
I should have known that, in typical German fashion, this incident would be made to be my fault. After all, it’s a byword of doing business here that the customer is always wrong.
I should never have expected that a Deutsche Bahn employee would volunteer the information that taking another train would allow me to save money. After all, that would be helpful, and who has time for that?
Nor should I have expected guidance from your website, which could easily have pointed out this fact. And I suppose I shouldn’t have expected you to address my question as to why anyone would buy a ticket from a website which doesn’t tell its customers how much a ticket costs. It’s too much to ask from a company which has no competition.
I will almost certainly be required to go back to Paris a couple of times this year, and for that I will fly. I don’t particularly like flying, but at least I can find out how much my ticket costs, and I haven’t been discourteously dismissed by any of the airlines yet.
Kundenfreundlich is a German word. You might like to contemplate it. My English-language readers may not know it as such, but I have no problem teaching it to them.
You have lost a customer. And I don’t think you really care.
We'll see if there's a reply. My guess is there won't be; that foreigners don't really count with them. This is more than just an idle guess; of the Big Three services, Deutsche Post, Deutsche Telekom, and Deutsche Bahn, only the latter is still semi-attached to the government, and it hopes to go public with its stock later this year or earlier next year. I can tell you from personal experience that Deutsche Post's service improved humongously when it went private and snuggled up with DHL (in fact, the yellow mail trucks are now DHL trucks), and, although I haven't had much contact with them in the last few months (and that's a good thing), my friend the dancer insists that they've become easier to deal with of late. But when they were still under the shadow of being arms of the government, with employees who could never be fired, with workforces up to 20% redundant as a result, they treated their customers with contempt, their foreign customers like contemptable retarded people. The thing is, most Germans took it, and the rest took it for granted that their institutions hated them. They didn't expect any better. But that's another rant, for another day.
Right now, I have to throw a couple of things in a suitcase and get out of here at an obscene hour in the morning. The camera's going with me, and I'll be back late Friday night. Stay tuned.