Berlin Apartment Search Ends, Part 2

August 9, 2017

Ah so where were we? Oh yeah, DHL.

Scheiße!  One word it didn’t take me long to learn!

DHL is the worst delivery company in creation. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think I might have mentioned that before. There’s a reason no one uses it in the US. They have a monopoly here in Germany basically because they are primarily owned by the German government.

Let’s talk about irony here. Germany, supposedly known for its efficiency, owns a company where, if you’re lucky enough to get your package on time, chances are it will be delivered far, far away from where you intended it to be delivered.

If you aren’t going to be home, they have these things called pack stations. Ingenious, actually. Automated boxes where you can get packages delivered and have access to 24/7. But if they try to deliver to it and it’s full, it starts you down the rabbit hole. DHL, rather than contacting you (or the shipper) to find out where you want it delivered, instead just delivers anywhere the hell they feel like it. Pack station 40 minutes away by train? Let’s put it there. It’s on our route.

So the DHL saga starts with the mattress and goes downhill from there. Because here’s the other thing. If you live up any flights of stairs, they don’t want to deliver to you. They will pretend they rang your bell and no one answered, only to deliver to someone on the ground floor.

Note to German architects: When planning a ground floor apartment renovation, make sure there is room designed for a package holding center. Because when you rent a ground floor apartment, you’ll be getting tons of DHL deliveries. And if you’re lucky, maybe even your own.

I’m on the first floor (2nd floor U.S.). Because of this inconvenience, I discover the mattress I ordered was delivered to the business on the ground floor. Now this thing is pretty heavy. And as I am dragging the box through the hall and into the courtyard, it is disintegrating in my hands. Now there’s nothing to grab onto. So I have no choice but to flip it end over end and up the stairs.

This would establish a pattern that would culminate with my new 55-inch TV from Amazon being delivered to a store three blocks away. Yes, in that case, DHL never bothered to even come to the apartment building. Mind you, this is after I wasted two days for DHL to not deliver it at all when tracking said it was on its way. Oh, they just dropped it off with a bunch of other TVs and boxes at a beverage store. I’m sure it was funny to everyone else who saw me drag this box for three blocks. It wasn’t funny for me.

A lot more than “Scheiße” was being uttered.

Aside from meeting my neighbors to pick up my packages, I’ve had them delivered to the pie shop down the street, post offices 20 minutes away, shops I never knew existed and am convinced are laundering operations hidden behind piles of Amazon boxes.

FedEX, I plead with you. Please expand in Germany!

Okay, so that’s DHL. Next up? The electrician.

I had a friend test my bell connected to the downstairs door buzzer to see how the thing worked (instructions in German only) and it didn’t work. I could buzz someone in if it lit up but couldn’t hear it ring.

And DHL, don’t think this was an excuse not to deliver my packages. I literally stood in the hallway and watched and waited for that thing to light up if someone rang it. Or, for a break, I stood outside waiting for deliveries. Talk about torture. Not to mention my neighbors now thinking I’m a lunatic.

Anyway, I contact the landlord. He emails me to say he doesn’t deal with it but “forwarded it.” Okay wait a second. When I signed the lease I could have sworn you said your father handles maintenance. When I noticed the light and fan over the stove didn’t work and emailed that too, he again said he can’t help me but forwarded it too. Forwarded it to who?! If someone was contacting me for something like this, I would think, “I should probably tell him who to contact.” But all he wrote back when I asked was, “it’s on the first page of your contract.” Gee, thanks. Now here’s the confusion. The last name listed on the contract is the same last name as the landlord! And it’s the same address. Let me guess…it’s your father!

Anyway, the correct person writes to me (hey, dad ;)) and gives me the number for an electrician. I call and, you got it. No English. Again, my German is improving but not to the point where I can tell an electrician the problem and schedule an appointment. So I write dad…I mean, the manager to ask if he can set the appointment. He does. Easy. Done.

Not so fast.

The appointment is made for the next Wednesday at 15h (that’s 3pm for the Americans). Great. Can’t wait. But on Tuesday I get a call from the electrician and using my little bit of German understood he was changing the appointment to “Morgen, dreizehn Uhr“.

I confirm, “okay, Morgen dreizehn Uhr.”
Ja, Morgen
Sehr gut. Morgen.” The appointment had been changed to Wednesday at 1pm.

And so I hop on the train to visit my good friends at Ikea.

On the way back, I get a call from…the electrician. Asking if I am “zuhause.”
Nein, WTF happened to Morgen dreizehn Uhr?
Damn, my German may suck but I know I got this right. And besides, it was 2:30 so if I had gotten it wrong, he was an hour and a half late! But I know I didn’t. So he says, in English, “I call you tomorrow.”

Now it’s tomorrow (Wednesday). Electrician calls and says he will come “Montag. Acht Uhr.
I repeat, “Montag, acht Uhr, ja. Montag, ja? Montag.
He says, “Ja. Montag acht Uhr.” And for good measure, says “Monday.”
So now we’re set for Monday at 8am. Sehr gut.

And so I go about my day. Away from the apartment. Until the phone rings at 3pm.

The electrician is there and asks me to open the door. WTFin F? He showed up at the very original time? But this was a different guy who spoke English. He said he was never told about any change of time and that he was scheduled to be there at that time all along. OMG! He says he will come back tomorrow at 10am. Okay good.

Next day, he shows up at 10am and fixes everything. Now I have a working bell and a working exhaust for the stove.

But here’s the kicker. Monday at 8am? My bell rings. It’s the other freaking electrician! Oy.

Okay, so we’ve got Ikea delivery, DHL, electrician. At this point, the appliance delivery that was three and a half hours late seems quaint. Now let’s talk internet.

The good thing about Germany is, you can get much faster internet than in the US. And cheaper. The bad thing is, you have to wait about a month after ordering to get it connected. And so I order from O2 and wait. I use up all my phone data. And buy some more. And some more. And still some more.

The date finally arrives for the Telekom rep to hook up the DSL line. He arrives on time–I know, shocker–and says he will find the line and be back. So he disappears for what seems to be a really long time, only to return eating a sandwich. Yeah, clearly he found the line in about 30 seconds, then headed over to the backerei to pick up a bite to eat.

The line is hooked up and says now all I have to do is connect the laptop. But he stops me in my tracks when I picked it up because that I do on my own. Okay fair enough. He’s with Telekom, not O2. So he has me sign and…wait for this…yeah, this is good…

He asks me for a tip. What?!

First of all, in the US we don’t tip the guy whose job it is to connect a phone line. Second, I know he did it because I was American and we tip everyone (except the guy who hooks up the phone line!). Third, if you wanted a tip the least you could have done is make sure I’m all connected. And fourth, how about cleaning the crumbs from your goddam sandwich you’re eating in my apartment!

So I give him five euros and send him on his way. Yeah, I’m an idiot.

And then of course…you got it…I can’t figure out how to connect the internet on my computer. I’ve been waiting nearly a month, counting the days until I get connected. Scheiße!

I mean, in the US you get your modem connected, find the router in the wifi list, put in the password, and you’re good to go. No, not in Germany. You have to get into the internal settings and set up the box online. Except I didn’t know this and because someone with the same router name was already listed, when I tried to use my password I got to a page that I thought had a warning that someone was trying to hack into an account and quickly clicked off. Google translate is good but far from perfect.

It was only when my friend (who I will owe beers to for the rest of my life for all the help he gives me) came the next day to set it up did I learn that I was actually doing the right thing. I just translated it incorrectly. Hey, when you’re living on a visa you worry about these things!

How do you like the “coffee table?

So I’m getting there. I have a sofa in front of a TV that is sitting on the floor. I have a bed and a wardrobe. And one curtain up.

Home sweet home.



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  • Reply Simon August 11, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    Mike, I can’t wait for part three. Is that where you end up hauled in front of The Hague for hoovering on a Saturday?

    • Reply Michael August 11, 2017 at 4:40 pm

      Don’t give them any ideas!!

  • Reply AL Belmont August 14, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Michael, luckily you have the patience of Job or else the screaming could have been heard across the pond! And we get mad when the cable guy is late…
    Sounds like you live in a Keystone Cops world as an ex-pat (not missing the USA?).
    Enjoyable article.

    • Reply Michael August 14, 2017 at 4:01 pm

      Thanks Al! And if there’s one thing I do miss, it’s American-style customer service. But the good outweighs the bad here by far!

  • Reply Ruth September 16, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Hi Michael –
    Your experience is BEYOND unbelievable. It reminded me of an old film by Neil Simon – THE OUT OF TOWNERS. These experiences may be funny in a film but in reality, they’re just horrendous.
    Glad it’s over. Miss you – love you. MOM

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