Complaining to a watchdog/newspaper about a firm

15 posts in this topic

I am not new to Berlin, nor is my German knowledge limited, but my knowledge of the 'customer service' and complaintes procedures in Germany is.

 

The story:-

 

I was registered at SuperFit gyms (East Bank Club GmbH) and signed into a years contarct with them. 9 months into the contract I was refused entry because they 'didn't have my correct address on their system' - even though I had moved BEFORE I signed their contract. Living quite far from the gym and having already paid the amount to the end of the month I asked if I could come in and bring my Anmeldungsbescheinigung and passport the next day (this was required for them to update my address and I didn't have either with me - who does!?). They refused me entry and said that I could not come in until I'd updated my address. Note that I lived around 5km away from the gym and the girls working at the reception AND the manager knew me from going there daily. Anyway, the next day I brought my passport and Anmeldungsbescheinigung and was allowed to use the facilities - happy days!

 

The following day I arrive at the gym after work and am told by the exact same girl "unfortunately, we don't have your correct address so you can't come in. You need to bring your passport and Anmeldungsbescheinigung to update our system then you can use the facilities"... I HIT THE ROOF!! I'm not sure if this girl could not actually remember 2 days before or she was simply doing it because she could, but she insisted that I had not brought in my details and that I could not enter. I spoke to the 'Manager' but she couldn't have cared less and simply told me to go and would not even register the fact that I had brought what they requested and that it was there mistake. Again I asked if I could enter the gym and bring my passport etc AGAIN the next day, but this was again refused despite it being their error.

 

Anyway, after a long and heated conversation I gave them the membership card and told them I didn't need it any more and that as they were refusing their services to me on no clear grounds what so ever to simply cancel my contract as of now (this was the beginning of the month and I had already paid for the following 4 weeks). This was followed up by a long complaint to the company itself (in English) to which I received a very standard response (in German) with no remorse or sympathy, that simply stated 'you still have to pay, your membership card is waiting at the gym for you'. Emails went back and forth with the same reply from the company over and over and now a year later, I am receiving letters from KOHL Forderungsmanagement asking me to pay the outstanding amount plus their fee - I AM NOT A HAPPY BUNNY!!

 

Now I knew customer service in Germany was practically non-existant, but to refuse someone service, TWICE, for no reason (i've never known a gym to need your address updated so rigidly as long as they're getting paid) and then threaten legal advise for owing a measly 70 EUR is rediculous!! And yes, it's not a lot, but I will not pay this out of pure principle (it's now 140 EUR incl. fees). Out of sheer good will they should have waived the remaining months on the contract as they already broke it!

 

Anyway, what I want to know is:-

 

Is there some kind of watchdog for this kind of this that I can write to?

 

or

 

Do any of the newspapers/TV programs here help in these kinds of situations?

 

This was a long rant, so if you made it this far, THANK YOU!! Any help would be much appreciated.

 

By the way, the gym was SuperFit in Charlottenburg beside Wilmersdorferstr. Great facilities, but if you want to join, just remember never to move house! ;-) I am now at McFit (half the price and much closer) and when I registered, they never asked for my passport or andmeldbescheinigung - simply my bank details, name and address, so this is clearly not a requirement for the companies.

 

Looking forward to your response.

 

DD

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er... i kind of wanted to add a native's perspective actually... although I'm not German. This is what my friends tell me and what i've come to recognise and accept. i hope it helps you too.

 

Germans find it very rude and annoying to be constantly asked by a sales person what they want. They just want to browse in peace. Maybe they're window shopping. Who knows?

 

I know back in our own countries (where it's consumer orientated market), it's the total opposite - your needs are tended to by a sales person but you have to remember you're in Germany and they find it rude.

 

Once you understand how they think, it gets easier to accept. If they are rude, be calm and polite. They will react nicer towards you :) buuut... be careful not to over do it by acting the fake US/UK way. Stereotypically speaking, Germans are direct because they are honest and being insincere alienates them.

 

lol i called them natives... they sound like village tribal people now.

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Stereotypically speaking, Germans are direct because they are honest and being insincere alienates them.

 

Same old canard: Germans being direct. How then can you tell when a German is being rude?

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I too have experienced this many times here...horrible service and they could care less. I found a very funny blog that discusses these "games" the Germans play and thought about it when I read this thread:

 

Do you ever wonder what's going on when you go to the department store and ask a clerk for help? This is just another one of their wonderful games! It goes like this: you look for a clerk and see two of them together, deep in conversation. You can go up to them, but do not, I repeat - DO NOT - interrupt them until they have finished, otherwise they can be dangerous. When they have finished, you can ask your question. Invariably, you will hear, "I am not responsible for that, please go over there and ask my colleague." When you go to the other side of the store to ask the colleague, he will repeat the same words. This is a game, lighten up, don't be so stuffy! You are being given the opportunity to be involved in one of the most popular games in German culture!" Aggravate the customer", it's called! Just play along with it! Although they are having a great time and laughing at you behind your back, eventually they will answer your question. Just give them time and don't be such a foreigner!

 

Coming from America where the industry motto is "the customer is always right" to a place where it SEEMS they could care less has been a real eye opener. I look forward to seeing what others contribute as a means to learn how to get the most out of "the game"...then again I shouldn't "be such a foreigner!" B)

 

Peace

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Hi DD,

I sympathise with you because i have experienced a little of the same kind of German "customer service". I heard my husband once mention a certain newspaper that is interested in such topics but i cannot for the life of me remember the name as it was in german :) . I will be sure to ask him later today and post it. Question, are you planning on paying or are you going to do the legal dance with them? From what i hear, it can go back and forth forever...

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I heard my husband once mention a certain newspaper that is interested in such topics but i cannot for the life of me remember the name

The Bild Zeitung, perhaps? They can sensationalize anything.

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@Westvan: The Bild Zeitung doesn't really ring a bell but it could be...he said they tend to be rather radical in their approach.

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I have a complaint about a hospital. Does anyone know the exact link of a particular newspaper site where I can write to?

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