Let me tell you that writing this post literally made me sweat in agony. Experiencing this in real life however was something else altogether. The customer service here can only really be understood by someone who has had the "privilege" to experience it.
Like those moments when you called the plumber to come "plumb" something, he comes and pours water on it and says "ma'm it's plumbed".
To give you a better idea of how things work (or don't work) in the Magic Kingdom, read this encounter with SAMSUNG Riyadh customer services.
Our a little bit over a year old Samsung washing machine breaks. An error message appears on the computer screen when the machine tries to start rinsing cycle. I inform husband. We suspect a problem with the drain or filter. Husband calls plumber and cleans filter.
Plumber arrives, checks drains. Pours water in them. "Kulu kweis. Mafi mushkila."
Husband calls Samsung maintenance service telling them our machine is broken. They promise to send "someone".
The first Samsung maintenance dude arrives. Cannot diagnose problem, finds no issues, machine appears to be working when he checks. Note he checks the machine with no laundry in it. DUH!
An hour after his "check-up" I run a cycle of laundry, it happens again, husband calls him to come back. Dude says he will come back Saturday and order the spare parts to fix the computer board. As if the problem is in the computer screen itself and not the actual machine. Silly me for thinking that when an error message appears, it means there's a problem somewhere else. The maintenance dude naturally knows what he is doing right. RIGHT?
After about 192 calls to Samsung that week the same dude finally comes and changes the computer board. They test it, now with laundry inside (which my husband insisted to put in) and it seems to work. Charged 700 SAR for all this.
I start doing laundry. The same freakin problem comes up and I scream a little bit inside. I am starting to have a huge pile of laundry by now. The laundry room has started to stink.
Husband calls Samsung and says the machine is broken again. "We will send someone" they say.
The someone comes after about 36 phone calls to Samsung asking when is mr. Someone coming.
He tries to check the machine, opens up the backdoor and takes some wire out. Diagnosis: The lock and the computer board has to be changed.
Excuse me? Samsung dude #1 already fixed it and we paid for it.
Dude #2 says when dude #1 changed the computer board he should have also changed the lock because if he doesn't they're both going to break.
OK so you're telling me he kind of un-fixed it? Like, as in BROKE it more?
Dude #2 leaves saying he has to now order the spare parts from somewhere (maybe somebody will hand carry them on foot from China?)
Husband calls Samsung, nobody knows anything.
Laundry room has now started to seriously stink. Stink as in MOLD stink. Plumber comes. Says the nasty smell is coming because we're not using the washing machine which normally would flush the drains. Pours water on drain, leaves.
Thank you Samsung for the lovely TOXIC home odors.
The same dude comes back again after a few days with a co-dude. They change the computer and the lock. Next he cannot locate the wire which he had removed the first time for reasons not understandable to people with logic. (try looking in your arse perhaps? ) After an hour searching an area of about 3 square meters they finally relocate the mysterious wire. Dude #2 puts the thing back in.
Machine does not work.
Another two hours goes by and either dude #2 or #3 can figure out what's actually wrong with the machine.
"Too much work, can't be done here" he says. "we need to take it to the workshop".
Husband says sure, take it. "Oh but we don't have a car big enough to transport things in."
Wait a second, WHAT? You're telling me you're a maintenance dude for SAMSUNG which mostly makes large home appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators, and you drive around in what? A Morris Mini or a Toyota Corolla? Somebody tell me this is a joke right?
They leave and say someone will call you tomorrow.
Big surprise! No news from Samsung! Husband gets upset and refers to Samsung customer service as "piece of crap". He calls them to schedule a pick up. Samsung Riyadh say next available appointment is following Monday. This is totally unacceptable after waiting two weeks already and especially after the unprofessional maintenance disservice. Husband demands to talk to manager. "No manager here sir". Husband asks to leave a message for the manager to call him on Saturday.
The smell of mold in the laundry room is getting stronger and stronger. Plumber arrives. Pours water in drains and also on the floors. Smell of mold the spreads to entire apartment.
Toddler is now down with a bad flu and vomiting all over the place.
Saturday rolls along.
Husband receives SMS from Samsung Saudi call center saying your appointment has been CANCELLED. Husband goes nuts. Is now referring to Samsung as "piece of s**t".
Calls Samsung, asking for maintenance manager. The employees at call center are all Saudi females with the same default replies:
"we don't have a maintenance manager, only a call center manager"
"we can only reach the manager by email"
"I will send the manager an email and he will get back to you"
So to reach these managers (all Saudis of course) who seem to enjoy the status similar to some sort of untouchable, unreachable mafia Godfathers, the call center ladies have to send emails. The Samsung Godfather then either gets back to you, or doesn't, depending on his mood or how busy he is with his other ahem, "businesses".
Later that day, the phone rings. Lo and behold, it's the SAMSUNG Godfather. He listens to my husbands complaints and promises to call back. The Godfather named Raed Al-Something NEVER calls back. He probably got busy smoking cigars or just didn't bother.
The toddler is very sick now, vomit and diarrhea is everywhere, no washing machine. Funtimes!
Husband calls Samsung customer service call center everyday, over and over. Same monotonous replies from the call girls. No signs from Godfather.
Child is still sick.
Plumber arrives to "flush the drains". This time is met by crazy Finnish woman who tells him some facts about plumbing, drains, mold, moisture and health. After the Plumbing-101 quick course the plumber laughs in disbelief but does what the woman instructs him and opens the drain up. He tries to remove the mold and then pours Chlorox in the drains. The smell is gone.
Fed up and furious, husband goes to the Riyadh Samsung store
The Godfather, Mr. Raed Al-Hamaad is smoking in his office when husband enters. It is hard to see the Godfather from all the smoke in the room. He doesn't look up the entire time from the computer screen. I guess he was busy reading emails.
The same day around 2 pm someone calls saying he's on the way to pick the machine up. Really? Could this be it finally? Did the Godfather push some buttons?
The Samsung dude #4 asks for directions and husband explains the way to Diplomatic Quarters. The dude does not know where it is. The sucker gets lost and calls husband. They try to figure out where the dude #4 is but dude doesn't have a clue where he is. Husband spends the next hour on and off the phone trying to locate the hopeless case. He is Yemeni so his understanding of Arabic is not the problem.
It's 4 pm now and we do not know where he is nor does he know where he is. Husband asks the dude to stop somewhere and give the phone to someone around him. Dude does and then husband tells them this clueless dimwit needs to be sent into the DQ. Turns out he was right next to it.
A stubborn camel would've made it from the SAMSUNG store into DQ by this time.
Husband specifically instructs the sucker what to say at the gate and IF the security doesn't let him in, to STAY at the gate so husband can fetch him. It's now nearing 5pm and there's no sign of the dude, husband calls 15 times in a row before the dude picks up. He left. Went back to the store. AFTER 3 HOURS OF DRIVING AROUND YOU FINALLY FOUND IT AND THEN YOU LEFT? O-M-G.
Turns out the Godfather had not sent one of his official men but an Iqama-less random Yemeni dude to us. Husband is now referring to Samsung customer service as "%$#@ piece of *#%# s**t".
Husband leaves to Samsung store to kill people but on the way there Mr Someone calls him says we are on the way. They actually come, make it inside the gate and have a big enough car to take the machine. "A few days", they say.
Newborn baby is now sick. Smell of mold still lingering in the house. Smelly laundry in the baskets and on the floors. Plumber says "you need a washing machine". You don't say??
Saturday rolls around again, husband calls and Samsung says tomorrow, inshallah. We've all heard that before. The next day it's still being fixed. Same thing the next day.
Without asking if anybody is actually home, the Samsung dude calls in the middle of the day and informs they're on their way to bring the machine back.
Machine arrives and the dude starts checking if it works. I tell him we need to put laundry in it and wait the entire cycle to see if it works because the problem arises when it's full of water and clothes.
He doesn't get it and keeps pressing on the buttons. I try to explain again, this time speaking veeryy sloooowly. Now he thinks I don't understand how a washing machine works and starts explaining the process in full detail. I give up trying to explain and hope for the best.
Out of interest I ask him what caused the problem in the machine. He tells me it was.....wait for it...a MOUSE that had chewed up the wires in the machine. EXCUSE ME? A mouse ate my washing machine?
You're telling me a mouse entered my house? A house that's full of cats? Wouldn't they kill the mouse before it passed by all the delicious foods awaiting in the kitchen cupboards and made its way to the irresistible wire it was craving to chew on? Would it not leave droppings and some signs of itself?
Has anyone ever heard of a washing machine eating MOUSE before? I thought so. Do mice even live in Saudi-Arabia?
I felt so sorry for him for not coming up with a better excuse. It might have been more convincing had he blamed at least a gerbil because I had gerbils as pets when I was a kid and boy do they know how to chew things up. But a mouse? Get real dude. So DUMB. It's like when a seven year old comes to his parents saying "a mouse chewed up my homework".
I have a pretty good idea who "chewed up" that wire, Shamsung!
Well at least the machine seems to be working now and I don't know what we would've done without our amazing friends and neighbors who helped us do the laundry during this whole anguishing ordeal.
What words would you use to describe this service?
P.S. If you like this post and think Blue Abaya should win the best Saudi expat blog title, then PLEASE vote for me here: http://www.expatsblog.com/blogs/566/blue-abaya