25 August 2014

Persistence and Awareness Required!

Unless you enjoy being overcharged and ripped off, you have to pay close attention to any transaction involving money here. In my last post, I reviewed the many ways Eircom has ripped us off. I would estimate that we have paid them around 60 euro in fees that we should not have had to pay, but it would have been more than that if Bill had not been persistent and if we had not paid attention to our bill and questioned the mistakes.

He was on the phone with Eircom again this morning to demand that something be done about this 15 euro plus VAT charge for "invalid payment type" on our most recent bill. This came about because they did not properly take care of setting up the direct debit. The first guy he spoke to was rude, did not listen, was most unhelpful, and suggested that the problem was probably that we did not have money in the account. When Bill kept repeating that the bank has no record of a direct deposit being set up, the information fell on deaf ears. Bill asked him what the cancellation fee would be and was told that it would be whatever is left on the contract. Bill ended the call, took a few deep breaths, and called again, hoping to speak to someone different. This was successful and he spoke to a much more competent person who was not rude, who listened, and who proposed a solution. He said that this is a not unusual problem and that while he was not authorized to take the 15 euro plus VAT charge off the bill, he could issue a credit on next month's bill, which he did (or so he said). He also said that he would send Bill paperwork so that the direct debit could be done over. In the meantime, Bill paid online so we would not get hit with more fees if they tried to do direct debit again. There is nothing we can do at this point except watch the bank statement and wait for the next Eircom bill and whatever drama will be included.

Eircom seems to have a particular gift for incompetence and/or dishonesty, but you have to be quite diligent all over where money is involved (I must say here in all fairness that the electricity people seem to be competent and we have never had one problem with them--you can plug in with confidence!).

The bank charges fees for everything--even using your debit card to pay for something. Every time you use the card, it's a 20 cent fee. If you want to talk to a live person, it's 40 cents. That could add up, which is why you often see lines at the ATMs--especially on Friday afternoons. The ATM is in the bank and people go in to get their money for the weekend--or at least I assume so. We were told by the woman who set up our account that Friday afternoons are always crazy. The fee seems ridiculous, especially because they are pretty unreliable, but they are up front about them--if you read the fine print, you'll find them stated.

It would appear that things are taxed at different rates here. We don't shop much and have only had a few instances where tax was charged and then only at one of the grocery stores. Aldi seems to tax stuff that Tesco does not and some of it is taxed at 10% and some at 23%--I have no idea what gets taxed at what rate. I have bought stuff like a slow cooker that I expected to pay a tax on and there was none. I bought some gum at Aldi and was taxed. There is a VAT on the electric bill and although this is included in our Eircom bundle price (in theory, anyway), they added 3.44 euro VAT to the invalid payment fee of 15 euro.

I am bummed that the local grocery store just down the street from us has also become quite unreliable and we now have to pay very close attention when paying for our groceries. They seem to have a problem with the programmers who input prices and stuff that is supposed to be on sale does not ring up at the correct price. Since I buy a lot of their sale produce and it can be as much as half off, it's easy for me to be overcharged. It does not seem all that simple for the checkers to fix this at the register, either. There have been several occasions when I've pointed out a mistake and the checker has stood there trying to do some kind of calculation in her head and then figured out how much to charge me for the next item to make up the difference. Tesco is better with this kind of thing. I have had an issue once with someone scanning coffee 3 times when we only had two bags. I didn't notice this until we got home,so we saved the receipt, went back, talked to the woman at the service desk, and said we'd take another bag of coffee instead of a refund. She was fine with that. People do try to make it right and at SuperValu, it's certainly not the fault of the checkers--it's the computer programmers or the people who input price information. They will often have sales that are mix and match 2 for a euro or 2 for 2 euro. If you buy one, you don't get the sale price--you have to buy in multiples of two. But then the register rings the items up at full price and takes all the discounts off at the end. This makes it harder to watch what is going on as things are being scanned. For someone there alone, who also has to fumble with their cash and bag or box up their groceries, it can be easy to miss these overcharges and they can add up fast.

So whether you are paying for a product or a service, you have to pay close attention and you have to speak up when it's wrong--which seems to be quite often. If you don't get a satisfactory solution the first time, you might have to try again with someone else. People usually try to make it right, but it takes some effort to keep an eye on everything! It's quite easy to shrug it off when it's a little here and a little there, but then those little bits start piling up and pretty soon, you've paid out quite a bit of money that you should still have in your pocket. I shrugged it off the first few times at the grocery store or I opted not to go there on the first day of the sale, when things often scanned wrong. But the problem just kept on happening and getting worse, so now I don't shrug it off. I also don't shop there as much, but when I do and when they make a mistake, I politely call their attention to it. I am tired of overpaying!


  1. Does not sound very efficient. You are a good watchdog consumer!!

    1. You are right--not efficient at all!! I don't think efficiency is very common here--at least I haven't seen much of it :-) This is not easy for me as someone who highly values efficiency and lack of drama, but I am learning to adapt!