And the Polandian award for worst organised Polish company goes to…..

THERE’S MORE LIKE THIS ON OUR NEW SITE – POLANDIAN.COM

My vote has to be given to the dearly beloved Telekomunikacja Polska S.A. or just TP as they prefer to be called these days. Admittedly, Poczta Polska provides tough competition for my vote with a strong performance in number of packages lost, sourpuss sales ladies and in worst queues, but my recent experience in trying to get Neostrada in the new home proves that it is going to take truly world-class incompetence levels for anyone to take the top slot away from TP.

Whether their incompetence is due to the 48.6% ownership of France Telecom or the 51.4% owned by Poland we can only speculate but I suspect it is the Polish side. If the French ownership was over 50% then TP would work reasonably well but only for 30 weeks a year and the rest of the time they would be on strike in support of the farmers. As it is, they work at a consistently low level for the whole year which suggests a Polish influence.

We want to install Neostrada (2Mb internet connection) into our new home. We have received and paid for this service in the old apartment for a few years now and my wife has signed contracts with them under a power of attourney from the owner. We thought this might make things easier this time around. We were wrong.

Tangent. I’m shocked at the different approaches we have now in Poland regarding what documents are needed to sign a contract for something – Neostrada, satellite TV service, mobile phone, etc. Used to be that everyone, without fail, was going to need a full Polish ID (dowód osobisty) before they would even talk to you. In other words if you’re not Polish, piss off! Those days are gone and we seem to now be in a kind of limbo-land somewhere between the old communist regime of the past and the new liberal freedom of the future. Some, like TP, still insist on maximum papers to be shown, others are okay with nothing, others with my karta pobytu (visa) and some with my UK passport but there is certainly no consistency.

So, off I troll to the TP shop in Arkadia to buy me a Neostrada, or actually to transfer the Neostrada I already have to a different address. I join the inevitably long and painfully slow queue. These “shops” are the nadir of the TP customer experience. They have at least three sales positions plus one for TP Biznes but they only ever have three humans. One human is the manager who never leaves the little enclosure at the rear and certainly does not interact with customers. The TP Biznes counter is always unmanned, so that leaves two humans for three sales positions and and a very long queue of customers who all need to do things that, for TP, will require max paperwork. The end result is that a 15 minute wait is minimum, often much longer.

I finally get to talk with Mrs Stropface the sales lady. “I need to transfer this contract to a new address please”.

“What are the current and new phone numbers?”

“022 123 1234 and 022 567 8910”

“Are you Mrs M?”

“No, I’m not but my wife has power of attourney to be Mrs M when it comes to phones.”

“Are you Mrs T?”

“No”

“Then I can’t help you!”

“Thanks for that, but what exactly is it that somebody else has to do? I mean is it even possible to transfer that contract (like most civilised countries would allow) or are you going to make my life as miserable as you can?”

“I’m going to make your life miserable. This contract has to be canceled by Mrs M, with penalties to pay for early termination (face lights up) and a new contract must be taken out for the new place, but this can only be done by Mrs T.”

“Thanks for nothing, goodbye.”

“My pleasure!”

Empty handed, as usual, I leave the TP shop. My wife, armed with dowóds and powers of attourney goes later and manages to cancel the old contract. We have a choice of a fine in excess of 1,000 PLN for canceling the contract four months early (monthly cost is about 120 PLN) or we can just keep paying the monthly bills until November. We opt for the 480 PLN option. It is not possible for them to send the bills to our new address and it is not possible for them to issue one final invoice with four monthly payments on it. We have to keep going back to the old apartment to collect bills until December. My wife is also unable to open an account for the new address because she is not Mrs T.

I talk to Mrs T, who is on holiday but there is a Mr S in Warsaw who is also on the KRS (company register) as a board member and can sign papers on behalf of the owner of our new telephone number. I find Mr S who speaks no Polish and so I drive him down to spend the afternoon queuing in TP shop.

We manage to avoid Mrs Stropface this time and get someone who likes nicer. “We’d like to order Neostrada for number 022 567 8910 please”

“Okay, what do you want?”

Looking at the number of “LiveBox” modems being returned that day, I decide to avoid anything fancy. “We’d like 2Mb with USB modem for one year please.”

“Oh dear! There’s a problem. This phone number is part of a TP Biznes account and we can’t deal with it here.”

“You are chyba joking, right? This is my second visit here for heaven’s sake! There’s a sign above that empty counter saying ‘TP Biznes’, what’s that all about then?”

She makes a phone call and asks someone else about the situation.

“This can be done easily over the telephone, just call 9330 and they will come and install it.”

“We’d rather try to do it now, being as we’re here.”

“Are either of you people; Mrs T, Miss A or Mrs B?”

“Obviously not. Why do you ask?”

“Because they are the only people we have in our database for that company.”

“But Mr S here has a signed copy of the KRS and all his papers!”

“Sorry, can’t help you. One of the people on our database needs to call 9330.”

And so ends the second fruitless journey to the TP shop to try and give them some new business.

In the end we called Mrs T on holiday. She called 9330 and they are coming to install the Neostrada – in one week’s time!

While I’m here I should lay claim to a third place contender with Cyfrowy Polsat. Allowed me to open an account using only my visa and PESEL number last time around over the telephone. Went, in person, to get a second decoder and told I have to have a dowód osobisty. Had to send my wife, again bless her, who managed to get one but it’s impossible to join the two decoders together (despite being at the same address and surname) onto one invoice. So now I have to make two transfers each month to Cyfrowy. Will it never end!

Does anyone have better candidates for this award?

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34 thoughts on “And the Polandian award for worst organised Polish company goes to…..

  1. Poczta Polska, hands down.

    Why did you CHOOSE to work with TPSA? That just seems like madness. We previously had crap internet service through Airbites so switched it over to UPC. Cable TV, too. When it came round time to renew the contract they called up and asked if they lowered the bill by a third if we’d stay another year.

    I would suggest the following for maintaining your sanity: never, ever, EVER do business with a Polish state-owned company unless you can’t avoid it. Whenever you have to, cast everything that you know about doing business with a real business out the window and triple everything: the amount of time it will take to get something done, the amount of frustration, the amount of surliness of the people you deal with, etc.

    If Poland ever lets InPost operate post office boxes, we’ll also switch over to them so we don’t have to ever talk to some over-paid bitch at Poczta Polska. And since the EU (god bless!!) demands deregulation of the postal service by something like 2013… eventually the number of Polish state-owned business we’ll have to interact with will be down to zero I think.

    PS: Polish (not Polish state) owned businesses are something entirely different. Some are bad, most are basically ok, a few – like Alma – are amazing.

  2. scatts says:

    I just got back from a trip to Aster City. Took me 40 minutes to walk in, give them back a decoder and leave. Probably an hour when you include walking 3km because there’s nowhere to park anywhere near their “customer service” point. I was assured that I had chosen a good time to do this as the queue was short!

    There was some entertainment at least. Three people arguing about who was next in the queue and one guy who totally lost it, tore up some papers and threw them at the sourpuss.

  3. adthelad says:

    I would love to have a rant on this subject have to take the 5th for my own good.

  4. Jubal says:

    …and this is one of the main reasons I really enjoy the Irish way of doing business with the customers. I rented a house in Dublin recently (at a modest price that would be outrageous everywhere else), and all that I needed to open new accounts for gas and electricity supply, and to transfer the broadband device to my customer account, were three phone calls. [OK, the broadband guys made some errors with my order, but 1) this did not stop the service and 2) after second phone call it was resolved to my satisfaction.]

    [TP. Don’t just tell me anything about TP. I hate them guts!]

  5. […] And the Polandian award for worst organised Polish company goes to….. « Polandian. […]

  6. Robert says:

    A tie for first: The Polish Immigration department on Ul. Długa – the worst of the worst. The rank and file staff tray hard and care, their management has their heads up their bums

  7. scatts says:

    Ad, go on! Nobody ever looks in here and I promise not to tell on you.

    Jubal – that sounds more like it.

    Robert – I’ve been there a few times and I have to say I was reasonably happy (relative to other such places) with how it went.

  8. iceteajunkie says:

    If you feel like visiting a House That Makes People Mad[1], I’d suggest going to Polish Revenue office, with an objective of getting useful information on some real, but not directly obvious situation. Not only you’ll not get one, make thousands of kilometers being sent from room to room, but in the end you’ll get a notice that all information that you’ve got, is not official, and if you’d follow it, you may be as unsure of your situation as you were before. If you want an official interpretation of given piece of tax law, you need to submit your question in writting, and wait copious amount of time to get the answer. Which of course might be just consisting of ‘no, you’re wrong’ without saying what’s right :)

    [1] the one from Asterix :)

  9. jakim says:

    That’s exactly the damage that years of monopoly cause. You lose the competition gene and simply stop caring about customers. At least now TP has competition popping up all over the place and while it’s still shy and somewhat marginal, there’s at least hope.

    (Aster has been around for a while and last time I checked – well, it’s been two years… – it’s pretty good)

  10. guest says:

    Scatts,

    TP.SA is owned by France telecom with 47,5 % and the Polish goverment has only 3,87% ;)

    http://www.tp.pl/prt/pl/o_nas/o_firmie/udzialowcy?_a=502148

    http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telekomunikacja_Polska_SA

    The Polish goverment hates TP.SA more than you. ;)

    http://www.uokik.gov.pl/en/press_office/press_releases/art101.html

  11. I didn’t mention actual government services. There was (or is?) some bitch over at the visa/immigration office that literally said my English (I’m a native American from the west coast the US (Oregon)) was worse than even the English that Turkish people spoke. There were other various insults and derogatory comments made towards me or Americans while I was dealing with her.

    My crappy business of the day is UPS: they missed us yesterday so we scheduled them to stop by between 10-13. At 1315 we made several calls and eventually found out that the courier didn’t even have the package with him and there was the vague hint that UPS wasn’t sure exactly where the package was but for sure it would be here before noon on Thursday.

    The only decent courier company I’ve come across was Polish-ran. I can’t recall whether it was DPD or GLS. I want to say it was GLS but won’t swear to it.

    My sooper-dooper Polish business of the day is the Citroen dealership in Piotrkow Trybunalski. Every time we’ve called them about something they’ve bent over backwards to accommodate us – and we’ve called them a LOT. The Citroen dealership in Krakow, which we physically visited several times, regarded us with indifference at first and, when attempting to compare offers, suspicion and contempt.

  12. michael farris says:

    Well if she deigned to use English at all you should be grateful, Polish immigration officers are under no legal obligation to accomodate the Polish-challenged (apart from handing out printed translations of poorly written Polish laws).
    And of course by ‘worse’ she meant ‘harder to understand’. Of course Turks speaking slowly with limited vocabulary are easier for her to understand.
    But I have to say I really have no complaints about the immigration office in Poznan. They ranged from average (never had any bad experiences that I could attribute to them) to extremely helpful, whether I was taking care of my own business or along to interpret for co-workers.

    As for the phone company …. in the early 90’s when I was adapting to Polish realities nothing could send me into a blind rage quite like trying to make a simple phone call and finding myself connected to a different number or different city (or Romania, as happened once).

    I think a lot of privatization in Poland was handled poorly with a lot of viable state run enterprises being sold to foreign competitors who shut them down while the towering inferno of incompetence and customer-hatred that is TP was coddled and protected.

  13. While someone at the IMMIGRATION office may not be required to speak the language of the immigrant’s country of origin… it is pretty damned stupid not to speak English. As it was clear that every single person in the immigration office speaks Polish or English – I’ve never heard anyone attempt transactions in any other language.

    The immigration office isn’t a complete nightmare; just that particular bitch who was just being willfully rude. Other people in the Krakow office have been helpful.

  14. Pawel says:

    Speaking of TP: selling it to France Telecom killed it.

    Back in the days when TP had real offices, with real customer service (not those “fancy” unhelpful “shops” in shopping malls), you could do everything smoothly with them. One visit at the office, and you had it settled, whatever it was. New line, complaint, invoice etc.

    When FT bought them and decided to cut costs closing the offices and opening the always incompetent telephone lines where no one cares nor is responsible for anything.

    My dealings with them were simlarly entertaining as yours. Two examples:

    1) I moved from a village in the town outskirts to the town centre, which required a change of telephone number. We bought neostrada with livebox. Everything was fine for two years. Then came the time to renew the contract. So I called their 933-something number – they guy on the other side checked me up in his system, and I wasn’t there! He asked me: – “so you already have a neostrada?” “And do you have a telephone with us?”
    – “yes, I am calling from this telephone!”
    – “but I don’t have you in my computer”
    – “so why do you send me telephone bills then?”
    – “is your number 056678…”
    – “no, 056623…”

    I had to wait a month, send them photocopies of all the previous dealings around my address change, and when they changed everythinging in their computers I could finally have my internet back.

    2) A court decided that TP was unlawfully charging their customers for having 0700 numbers blocked. I had it blocked and was charged ike something 1zł a month. I completed a relevant form to have my money back. I was surprised to receive 27 seperate letters, each containing a correcting invoice for minus 1 zł.

    TP definetely gets the first place.

    PS. Scatts why won’t you get the 45zł/month mobile internet from PLAY? They are less trouble than tp..

  15. scatts says:

    Pawel,

    I think that was the thing I looked at while I was waiting for Cyfrowy Polsat, (they sold Play stuff at the same counter). In which case:

    1/ The sales people said it was not very good and higher cost than Neostrada. Perhaps not fair to call them “sales” people then?

    2/ I find all these mobile things to be good in an emergency (such as we have right now & I’m using Era Blue Connect) but not as good as a fixed connection.

    I just checked and the max speed is 1 Mb, which is too slow for my needs. Neostrada costs 62 PLN for a 1 Mb connection (2yr contract) so Play does seem to be cheaper although even if I were happy with 1Mb I’d still go with a fixed connection.

  16. Michael B. says:

    My favorite is getting a letter telling me to go to Dluga to get my decision, only to take the day/morning off of work, get there, wait at least an hour to be told they don’t have my decision and I should come back. When? I ask, to which they usually have no idea. I love it.

    The other thing I love is when I went to an RTV/EURO shop on Plac Zbawicela(sp?) where I once bought batteries. I had to point out the batteries I want, where they printed an invoice, after which I had to walk to the back of the store to pay, (get another invoice) walk back up to the front of the store, give them the new invoice and then wait for the clerk to finish with the world’s slowest customer to finally receive my batteries. I know they’re not the worst organized Polish company (or even Polish at all as far as I know) but it’s still pretty unorganized…

  17. pinki says:

    Very funny conversation between a women form TPSA and some old lady:)
    I mean: funny for people who speak Polish :)

  18. scatts says:

    Michael B, RTV/AGD still has the same wonderful system involving the walk to the kasa. It is the most noticeable use of this system but by no means the only one. For example, yesterday in Aster City they had the same thing; queue for the customer service agent who then gives you a chit to take and queue again at the kasa.

    I think it has something to do with trust & money.

    pinki – I wouldn’t say I speak Polish but I did enjoy that! The more crap these tele-sales people have to put up with, the better.

  19. michael farris says:

    I first came across the long involved process of getting a chit, taking it to a cashier and taking the cashier’s receipt back to the person that gave you the chit (or somewhere else) in communist times (though I think western stores had a similar process before WWII.

    One reason it hung on so long in Poland, it was explained to me, was that it helped maintained communist ‘full employment’ figures (also the reason for having one or more toilet ladies for every restroom in the country then).

    I also think it was a way to discourage theft, especially if bad relations between the cashier and other employees can be maintained (not hard to do). I hadn’t come across it in Poznan in 10 years though. I’m amazed and gratified to find out that it hangs on in Warsaw (the antykwariat on ujazdowska used to do it too).

  20. scatts says:

    It is a system almost as lovable as the Faktura VAT!

  21. Robert says:

    Anyone been here long enough to remember when you could only purchase western liquor at Pewex or Baltona and only for hard currency?

  22. Romain says:

    Great blog, I’ve enjoyed a lot to read all these anecdotes about Poles and Poland, a couple of weeks yet before having the occasion to check them ;D you’ve made me feel even more impatient to arrive in Krakow. Keep the good job !

  23. scatts says:

    Robert – not me although I know all about the Pewex from taking to my Polish family.

    Romain – thanks! Glad you’re getting something useful/interesting from Polandian. Be sure to let us know how you get on when you arrive.

  24. guest says:

    Pewex was something like an oasis in the desert. If you had the money it was a real oasis and if you did not then it was only a fata morgana…

  25. TPSA, or Zimbabwe Telecom as I call it, takes my vote too. They phone me up to see if I want to extend my broadband contract. “Same price, twice the speed”. (OK, so will be only double the price and half the speed of a typical UK broadband service, but hey, this is progress). “OK”, I say, “I’ll sign”.

    The outbound call centre operative informs me that a courier will send it to me. The courier will track me down and physically hand me two copies of the contract, one to sign and keep, one to sign and return. Why they can’t just send it to me by post is Puzzle Number One. When the courier finds me (in between meetings), I am informed that he will require two proofs of identity. TWO proofs of identity. WHY? A UK passport, on its own, will hasten my transit into the United States of America. So why, just in order to receive two bits of worthless paper, does the courier require to see two proofs of identity?

    For me, TPSA is an amalgam of a) rapacious business (OK if it’s efficient) and b) sadly inefficient public service (OK if it’s cheap). They’re crap and they’re expensive.

    Last month I heard about a company operating across the CEE region that’s moved it’s back office to London. Main reason – competitive telecoms service!

  26. scatts says:

    Timely comment, Michael.

    Yesterday was the day I would get my Neostrada connection in the new home. Or so I thought.

    Told to be home between 12-16 to await the installation, I was there at 12 exactly. At 20 minutes to four o’clock I suggested the landlady call to check they are on their way. She started telling me “this is Poland….blah blah” (as if I don’t know that and as if that isn’t exactly the reason I want her to call). “Okay” I say, “I’ll call you again at 16:10 when they still haven’t arrived and then you can make the call!”.

    At 16:10 I made the call and so did she. They were on their way and expected in 30 minutes. Over an hour later a courier turns up with a modem in a box and no ability or intention to install it. He requires someone from the company to sign AND stamp the delivery docket. That’s another 10 minute delay while we find someone. Similarly to Michael, I have no idea why any signature won’t do for the courier man. I also have no frigging clue why I had to wait a week for a modem in a box that I could have picked up from their shop quite easily a week ago??!

    I read the instructions, install the software and plug everything in. The software tells me it is unable to connect and that I should ensure the cable is connected “with a filter”. The paperwork diagram shows a connection “without a filter”. I try both and neither works. I call 0800 102 102.

    After a further hour on the phone with those guys we establish that it definitely doesn’t work and that nobody knows why. I am given a number to identify my problem and told an engineer will look into it “probably tomorrow”.

    After more than a month while the landlady did bugger all and a week while TPSA did bugger all and EIGHT hours waiting and trying to make it work, all I have is a modem that won’t connect and a number to give people the next 56 times I have to call them and ask what’s happening. I’m seriously depressed.

    I await news from the engineer.

  27. polak says:

    First of all – I don’t defend TP.SA, I don’t like them too, but…

    “This contract has to be canceled by Mrs M, with penalties to pay for early termination (face lights up) and a new contract must be taken out for the new place, but this can only be done by Mrs T.”

    … I don’t like when someone writes whatever he wants just to write something. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or false.

    “Mrs Stropface” couldn’t have said that. Yes, in that kind of situations the contract have to be cancelled but you do NOT have to pay any penalties. It’s written in the contract, if you’d have read it you would know that.

    Second thing:

    ““Are either of you people; Mrs T, Miss A or Mrs B?”

    “Obviously not. Why do you ask?””

    And what were you thinking? That anyone can cancel the contract just like that? Let’s asumme I have a friend and I know his name and phone number. Let’s assume that I have his contract, not even a copy but an original (let’s say I don’t like him and I stole it from him). And that gives me power to cancel that contract? Hmm.. great policy!
    Only the owner or an authorized person can change or cancel the contract. And that makes sense to me. And it’s ALL written in the contract. I suggest you read it for at least once and try to understand it.

  28. scatts says:

    There was no news from the engineer. I called them on 0800 102 102 and was told to either:

    1/ Upgrade the “centrala”
    2/ Replace the “centrala”
    3/ Resign from the contract
    4/ F*** off and die

    I asked how I am supposed to get either 1 or 2. I was told to call 9393.

    I called 9393. They told me to call 9330.

    I called 9330. (Guess what comes next!!) They told me to call 0800 102 102.

    I called 0800 102 102 AGAIN and they had never heard of me or my problem before. Eventually they found me and after much wailing and gnashing of teeth told me an engineer will call tomorrow between 10-11 to explain what can be done.

    I’m not holding my breath.

    This REALLY is a joke.

    Netia said no problem to do internet on my line but max speed is 1Mb/s and it will take 3 weeks to get.

    Ho hum.

  29. Pawel says:

    Honestly Scatts, you should make a big fuss of of it. Otherwise none of their workers will care.

    Call the papers, tvn24, polsat news, gazeta wyborcza, everyone, and tell them about it.

    This might make the company take some action. Might. They could be afraid of bad publicity. Although everyone knows already how sh** they are.

    BTW. I’m still shocked how badly those large companies arebeing run. How come they still have profits is beyond me.

  30. scatts says:

    Polak,

    I have read the contract. At least the important parts.

    Firstly – there ARE penalties to pay because we took a contract for Neostrada on one of their multitude of “special offers”. It was free for 6 months and then cheaper for a while and then normal price. This was a deal for 2 years which we wanted to cancel after about 1 year. Therefore they calculate what the price should have been if you only had a contract for the period up to the time you cancel.

    Secondly – the person with me was a member of the board of the company in question and was authorised to deal with contracts on behalf of that company. We had with us a current version of the KRS that stated this fact and he had all his identification documents. For any other instance in Poland, including legal matters, court matters, police matters, government matters, this is the only and best evidence of who is authorised to act on behalf of a company and who is not. So, we were NOT trying to do something tricky, this was a board member of a company trying to get an internet connection for his firm. Apparently, for TPSA, this is unimportant, what matters is who they have in their computer.

  31. scatts says:

    Pawel,

    Lack of serious competition. Lack of investment in the infrastructure outside of central Warsaw (and presumably central Poznan, Wroclaw, etc).

    I’m giving TPSA until 11 today, as they requested. After that I’m calling to cancel the contract/order and to order a 1Mb/s service from Netia. The 3 week wait is manageable as we’ll be away on holiday for two of them.

    Hopefully someone will upgrade the “centrala” in the future to allow faster speeds. We’re 15 minutes from Pałac Kultury here so to be limited to 1Mb is crazy.

  32. […] Thursday, 14 August, 2008 Filed under: DAILY JOURNAL | Tags: The Spectator | In stark contrast to recent encounters with Polish companies, can I just say what a relief it was to achieve something very quickly and […]

  33. Robert says:

    I know their business cold. I was COO of a company like theirs before I retired and started my consulting business in 2001. What is quite interesting is if you look at their ads that offer the service, the ads (unless they have recently changed) do not say: ‘service only available in selected areas’. As a result, I would hope some smart person would request their service (in writing), get the ‘centrala’ or no service in the area excuse then take them to court to force them to honor their advertising – hopefully somebody who is tens of kilometers off their network so they are forced to string a heck of a lot of copper to provide service. Probably won’t happen as most Poles are too passive to try to take them on. (plus the government watchdog is a sleep at the wheel)

  34. scatts says:

    Well, I can’t promise you a battle royal but I’m not letting them off the hook just yet.

    They didn’t call between 10-11, of course, but when I called I did get to discuss the problem with someone who almost knew what they were talking about. They are now looking into ways of switching or routing that might allow me to have a reliable service at the speed I ordered.

    Going the Netia route I’m worried that I’ll wait 3 weeks to then be told there’s a problem with the TP line and ‘centrala’ and end up back at square one.

    I’m now waiting for someone not to call me between 6-7 on Monday evening.

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