The Deutsche Bahn can apologize

I am dumbstruck. I didn't think they could do it.

I got a call during dinner this evening, a Friday. It is usually telemarketers, so I had my prickly voice on.

It was the Deutsche Bahn (DB). They were calling about my complaint. Was I satisfied now?

Let me gather my wits. Where's the file on this little spat? Must be about an inch thick. Let's see if I can put together a digest for my readers:

  1. I am going to spend a week in Sweden on an Erasmus exchange. For complicated reasons I am taking the train. I order my tickets by telephone and they arrive in good time. This is how I want things to work.
  2. It snows. As in really snows. As in it snows so much in Sweden that they have curtailed service for the train I am planning on using. And they can't tell me if my train will run because they aren't God and are busy shoveling out from under all this surprising snow.
  3. I panic and make other arrangements, i.e. long drive up by car. On Feb. 24 I send the tickets back, before the first day of validity for a full refund. I purchased fully-refundable tickets. I spent 30 minutes in a hotline to ask how to do this properly. I paid 14 cents a minute for the advice I got. Paranoid, I made copies of the tickets before I sent them back.
  4. The drive up is wonderful, I have a nice time in Sweden. When I come back I see that the DB hasn't moved. Oh well, there's work to do.
  5. After about a month I notice that there still is no refund. So I try and call the DB. They play telephone ping-pong with me, sending me from Erstattungsanträge to Entschädigungsanträge. And dropping the line occasionally, so I get to call again. I dig out an email address and send a stern email.
  6. The bot answers that they will deal with my case shortly.
  7. Two weeks later I request a definition of "shortly" from the email address, including the number I was given by the bot.
  8. The bot is silent.
  9. I week later I call the telephone number. "This number is not in service, please check your listing." Duh.
  10. I write another email, sterner than the first.
  11. The bot answers that they will deal with my case shortly.
  12. Three days later I call again, and play ping-pong. Unsuccessfully.
  13. The next day (April 19 by now) I have a message on my answering maching. The DB is so sorry for this mess and will refund my money shortly.
  14. I write an email and set a deadline: If I don't see the money by then and then, I will consider legal options.
  15. The bot answers that they will deal with my case shortly.
  16. I get an email that has a person's name on it, but it is just a bunch of canned text. The same email comes twice.
  17. I write back that if the money isn't here by the end of May, I will get a court-mandated payment order.
  18. The bot answers that they will deal with my case shortly.
  19. I get another email from another person sending me back from Erstattungsanträge to Entschädigungsanträge. We are now playing email ping-pong.
  20. I call again, and when they interrupt my sentence to send me to the other department I get very loud and nasty. [Ask my students - I am generally nice, but when I get nasty, look for cover.]
  21. I write a real letter, describing the mess, and set a final deadline for the refund.
  22. I get a real letter saying that they will deal with my case shortly.
  23. I give them two weeks past the deadline, then I get mad. There's an online form for putting together a court-mandated payment order. It costs 23 Euros and an hour to put together and 1,45 € for the stamp to send it off. In a fit of rage I walk it to the post office.
  24. The court is exceedingly fast. They find an error in my form and request a correction just a few days later.
  25. I suddenly get a letter from the DB saying that they are so sorry this has taken so long, and the money is being refunded to my credit card and here's a 25 € gift certificate for my next trip. Okay, that about pays the telephone calls.
  26. I withdraw the court-mandated order, but have to pay anyway. Drat. The moment I would have had that court order I was planning on marching down to the Grundbuchamt and putting a lien on some nice DB property and then insisting that that property be auctioned off to satisfy my debt. I wouldn't see a penny (I've done this twice before, the debtors are served in order and usually there are lots of them in line before me) but would have been immensely satisfying to irritate the hell out of them.
  27. I chalk up the 23 Euros to letting off steam.
  28. And now, on July 9, over 4 months later, a guy calls and apologizes and asks if everything is okay now. I say that I still had to pay 23 Euros. He professes to know nothing about the court-mandated payment order I applied for, but quickly offers to send me 23 Euros right away. Who am I to say no to this?
And so, the snow saga concludes. The question remains: how much money does the DB keep from people who are not stubborn enough to keep bugging them?

Update:  Yes, the 23 Euros arrived promply. And for Falko and others: Online-Mahnantrag is what I used.


Anonymous said...

the answer to your question is either ALL or 42, depending...

Anonymous said...

the answer to your question is either ALL or 42, depending...

Falko said...

What is the URL for the court-mandated payment order online form? I guess it is always handy for your readers to know the address in case we get in a similar mess :)