Our gas heater gave us a scare last night, so we decided to call the service place first thing in the morning. This morning, we pulled out the warranty booklet, which listed the name of the store where the heater was purchased, and the name, phone number, stamp and signature of the servisní mechanik who personally installed the heater in our apartment on March 21, 2005 and who was listed under the Important Numbers/Service Center. I’ll call him Mr. Vácha. Below is an abridged version of my phone conversation with him from this morning.
On the other end: “Hello?”
It is common for private Czech service providers to answer the phone with a mere “Hello”.
Me: “Is this Mr. Vácha?”
Mr. Vácha: “Yes.”
I introduce myself and continue.
Me: “We bought a gas heater from you a year ago and something happened with it last night. There was a small explosion and we could smell that something had burned. We were wondering if we could get someone to come and take a look at it.”
Mr. Vácha: “You didn’t buy it from me.”
Not a good start. I’m annoyed but keep my cool.
Me: “Proheat on Moskevská.”
Mr. Vácha: “Oh yeah, Proheat. What’s the model?”
I read the model number off to him.
Mr. Vácha: “And what is the heater doing? Are any lights lit on it?”
Me: “The light on the left is lit orange. The other lights are off because we haven’t been using the heater since last night.”
Mr. Vácha: “It’s fine then. If it was broken, all the lights would be off.”
Me: “Yes, but last night the heater made a loud noise and we could smell something burning.”
Mr. Vácha: “What were you doing when it happened?”
Me: “I ran hot water.”
Mr. Vácha: “So run hot water.”
I run hot water.
Me: “The heater’s behaving normally and a light turned green.”
Mr. Vácha: “So it works.”
Me: “Yes, it seems to work, but I’m saying that it looks like something burned inside last night.”
Mr. Vácha: “It must be dirty.”
We bought the heater 14 months ago and still consider it new.
Mr. Vácha: “Yes, it may be dusty inside and some dust may have burned.”
Me: “So a gas heater needs to be cleaned yearly?”
Mr. Vácha: “Maybe yearly, yeah.”
Me: “I see… Do we need to clean it?”
Mr. Vácha: “Well, I don’t know if YOU should clean it.”
Me: “Should we call someone to clean it?”
Mr. Vácha: “I can come on Tuesday and clean it.”
Me: “So do you think that it was just some dust that burned and not a wire or some connector inside the heater?”
Mr. Vácha: “Everything is possible.”
Mr. Vácha: “Everything is possible.”
Mr. Vácha: “Absolutely everything is possible.”
I’m starting to feel like Alice in Wonderland.
Me: “Ok, so in your opinion, can we continue to use the heater or not?”
Mr. Vácha: “Well, it works, doesn’t it?”
Me: “Yes, it works, but is it safe to use it?”
Mr. Vácha: “I don’t know. It’s as if you asked me if it’s safe to drive a car.”
Me: “I mean, is it safe to use the heater in the next few days?”
Mr. Vácha: “I said, it’s as if you asked me if it’s safe to drive a car.”
I feel I’m losing it. I start speaking slowly and clearly.
Me: “Based on what I have described to you that has happened, can you tell me if we can use the heater before you come on Tuesday, or do we have to shower somewhere else? We don’t want the heater to blow up on us or something. I’m just trying to understand…”
Mr. Vácha: “I’m trying to explain it to you! It’s as if you asked me if it’s safe to drive a car! I don’t know if you can use it or not. The heater is secured. If something should go terribly wrong with it, it’ll just break. It’s not broken, is it? If all you need to do is draw a bath or take a shower, maybe it’s fine to use it for short times like that. But if you have a five-year old kid, maybe you should turn it off.”
Me: “We don’t have a kid. So I guess we’ll just keep an eye on it and continue to use it and if something happens, we’ll stop.”
Mr. Vácha: “Yeah.”
You are sooo patient! I would have lost my cool half way through the conversation. I usually have my husband do these things because he can somehow keep his temper in check when dealing with really stupid people. (He only kicks the furniture when he hangs up)
Yes, well, I wish I was patient. Then I wouldn’t have to walk around the apartment taking deep breaths and calling this guy names for five minutes after I hung up. I don’t think it’s necessarily stupidity that I was confronted with. I think he simply didn’t care – as is so often the case in the service sector here. Needless to say, I can’t wait to deal with him in person on Tuesday. And you’re supposed to tip these people!
You have the patience of a saint! Needless to say keep an eye on what he does to your heater when he visits (he must check the wiring). Keep us all informed and tell us how it went. Best of luck.
Once again you have taught us all a little bit more about The Czech Republic. I always enjoy your comments and observations no matter what the topic. It is neat the way you show both the good and the not so good parts of Czech culture.
Thanks, Ted. 🙂
As far as “Mr. Vácha’s” visit goes, he was actually pretty ok in person. A man of few words, but he did explain what he thought the problem was and even recommended what to do as prevention so that the same thing doesn’t happen again. I was glad that my expectations of an irritating personal encounter did not materialize.
So even Czechs (and Moravians :)) have to deal with such rubbish service. There’s hope for us foreigners yet! I don’t know how you managed to keep so patient. That idiot was beginning to sound like one of the chaacters from the famous British comedy series ‘Yes (Prime) Minister’