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Why Systems Crumple?
"Postcards from America - Postcards from Israel" ^ | August 24, 2010 | Ari Bussel

Posted on 08/28/2010 10:58:42 AM PDT by Ari Bussel

Why Systems Crumple? by Ari Bussel

We were going out to dinner in Tel Aviv, where there are thousands of restaurants catering to every taste and pocketbook. Living the moment has its benefits – midweek, eleven o’clock at night and all the restaurants are full.

But the story is not about the economic success of Israel, nor is it about the culinary experience that was quite enticing. Rather, it is about the failure of attention to details, and people who simply do not care and do not take pride in their work and their word.

Israel has excelled in promises, what some call “marketing.” Walk through a shopping center and a young, attractive, energetic and promising attendant will persuade you to sign up for a daily delivery to your doorstep of the largest daily paper. You will even get a present (a book valued at about $20, from the same publishing house of the paper). Try to subsequently cancel the subscription, and the person on the phone will threaten, beg, massage reality and do whatever is possible to retain you. When all else fails they would turn to your Jewish guilt: “OK, I will have to absorb it from my own salary.”

Sign up for a plan for your cell phone or cable TV or home delivery of spring water and try to cancel. Once hooked and committed, all becomes permissible, except – so it seems – good customer service. Suddenly, one discovers that initial promises notwithstanding, that was then and the present is an altogether different story. Do not be surprised if the charges to your credit card continue long after you cancel the service.

The excellence of marketing techniques has not yet proliferated into customer satisfaction and retention. Lure them into the trap then kill!

As we were going for dinner in Tel Aviv, I wanted to make reservations for eight o’clock, but the restaurant we chose accepted reservations either for 7:30 PM or for 9:30 PM. I made a tentative reservation for the earlier time then called to cancel after I found another alternative. Suddenly they became flexible: “Why did you not say so before, I will see what we can do to accommodate you.”

My alternative choice was actually slightly more accommodating. Since there is a nation-wide restaurant week, they do have two nightly seating to meet the intense demand. They made reservations for 7:30 PM and would have allowed us to stay until 10 PM, but then we would “have to leave.”

I was somewhat limited by choosing a Kosher restaurant, but I was told that if we do not mind dairy rather than meat, there is an even better choice among the participating restaurants. One of the invitees even knew of the chef at the third kosher choice. What could be better?

They accepted our reservations for 8 PM without issue and did not warn us about a need to vacate our table at a certain time. I called to cancel the previous reservation, and again the ironic attempt to persuade, “let me ask the manager to see what we can do as to not throw you away at 10 PM.”

We arrived ahead of time, and despite my having the name of the person with whom I had spoken, the directions and other information she gave me, the hostess was unable to find a reservation under my name. I knew it was too good to be true.

“Maybe the reservation is under ‘David Ashkenazi’?” she asked. “No, how about …,” and so she embarked on reading me name after name, hoping I would find one to my liking. I was not very amused, as some of my guests were already there. I retorted: “My name is Ari Bussel, that’s spelled A, R, I. It has not changed for several decades, and I gave both my name and cell number yesterday when I made the reservations.”

The restaurant was not full since it was still relatively early by Israel standards. After a short consultation, we were seated. We were given menus, the regular menus of the restaurant. When I asked about the special campaign, the waitress brought different, very attractive menus especially printed for the week.

Why participate in a nationwide campaign if the restaurants are such unwilling participants? Rather than feeling enticed to test new, top-caliber restaurants, it felt like pulling a tooth. One of my guests explained they make more money on the regular menu. I was astonished: At $50 per person, dinner was not cheap by any standard, Israeli benchmarks excluded.

Newspaper, cable and telephone subscriptions, home delivery and restaurant reservations are not the only areas of former excellence-turned-frustration. Ask the cashier at a train station about the next train to Haifa. “It is at 7:56 AM.” You have three minutes to get to the correct platform, but the extra sentence “please proceed to platform number three, through these doors and down the stairs,” is noticeably absent.

As you sit on the train to Haifa and it stops at one station after the next, you realize it is not an express. So the trip takes an hour longer than on the next train, which left 20 minutes after the one you boarded.

Make no mistake. The cashier is very familiar with the platforms and schedule, but did not see the necessity to go the extra step. You asked. You received an answer. Be content. Be happy, you are on a train destined to Haifa. Enjoy the air conditioning. After all, it is hot outside. So what if you need to spend another hour, becoming familiarized with each and every stop? This is all for good! Traffic outside is a mess.

I know, I must be naive, expecting a service provider to go the extra mile without being asked, begged or even prodded to do so.

Elegant service takes ownership of the customer, from beginning to end. It does not end at the marketing stage when the consumer is lured into a binding contract. Service should be automatic when a problem arises, not as a result of the customer complaining to a consumer advocate on TV or the radio or at newspapers.

I recall one such powerful instance during Operation Cast Lead. Rockets were launched at Sderot, a city 15 seconds away from launch in Gaza. I was visiting on Friday afternoon preceding the land invasion into Gaza. A woman appeared out of nowhere who was obviously incoherent.

She was not bleeding or otherwise physically hurt but was in visible trauma. I started talking with her, held her hand and walked with her to the nearby army post that took over some municipal buildings in the center of town. The door to emergency mental health care was locked so I entered another room where numerous officers were congregated. A young officer came out and took charge of the woman. When she assumed ownership I knew the woman was in good and capable hands.

Having been trained in preventing PTSD, my heart filled with pride as I observed the young officer in action. She remains unknown to me, but her approach will be forever engraved in my heart as an example of the proper way to handle a situation.

Should such behavior not be the norm? How is it that we have become so accustomed to mediocrity? Lack of pride in one’s work seems to be increasing and as one reads other people’s problems, we are left to wonder: Who runs these companies? How do people – exactly like you and me – allow such horror stories to happen? There seems to be not even the slightest consideration of any type.

It starts small when promises are made without any intentions to fulfill them. It continues with actions taken without any consideration of the consequences. The mortgage fiasco in the United States is not much different. We roll the problem onto someone else’s shoulders. Funny that at the end the bill always lands in our lap. A total disregard for honor, pride and dignity infect the system and spread quickly throughout the entire body.

In Israel, not unlike the United States, a consumer is often powerless against very slick, sophisticated campaigns and organizations. In both places, no one takes ownership, control or responsibility. No one is held accountable or responsible.

The USA has experienced a financial meltdown as a result of this disease. What is in store for Israel? It begins with the smallest things, poor service and a missing smile, lack of accountability. In the end it grows and manifests itself from within to topple down whole systems that we once considered fool proof.

### The series “Postcards from America—Postcards from Israel” by Ari Bussel and Norma Zager is a compilation of articles capturing the essence of life in America and Israel during the first two decades of the 21st Century.

The writers invite readers to view and experience an Israel and her politics through their eyes, Israel visitors rarely discover.

This point—and often—counter-point presentation is sprinkled with humor and sadness and attempts to tackle serious and relevant issues of the day. The series began in 2008, appears both in print in the USA and on numerous websites and is followed regularly by readership from around the world.

© “Postcards from Israel—Postcards from America,” August, 2010 Contact:

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Israel
KEYWORDS: accountability; responsibility; service; systemfailure

1 posted on 08/28/2010 10:58:45 AM PDT by Ari Bussel
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To: Ari Bussel

Dang it Ari! What did you have for dinner and how was it?!

2 posted on 08/28/2010 11:52:08 AM PDT by IrishCatholic (No local Communist or Socialist Party Chapter? Join the Democrats, it's the same thing!)
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To: Ari Bussel

I had to cancel a savings account once because i could not cancel AOL that kept sucking 30 bucks a month out of it.

3 posted on 08/28/2010 11:54:27 AM PDT by mowowie
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