The Hunger

This page written circa 26 October, 2006.

It is hell trying to get anything done here in New Zealand. People do not seem to want your custom. Tradesmen will come to do a quote, but then you do not hear from them for weeks. When something does get done, it is not the whole deal. All the little hiccoughs are your problem.

For example, we order new kitchen benches; after two weeks and several phone calls, the company that has the particular granite we want actually send someone to measure. If this had happened in the states, we would have got sick of waiting, found another source, and all would be done before the first guy got there to measure the kitchen. But not in NZ, no sir. When the kitchen guy finally rings up to say the benches will be ready by such-and-such a day, he asks "who is going to take out the old benches?". Kay replies "Until you said that, we assumed you would do that", but no, they actually only install the new ones, they don't remove the old ones. They have learnt that you have to mention this to customers, as you might expect. They handled the fact that they had incorrectly measured the positions of cooktop and sink, but the sink is supplied with only one plug assembly, and that is our problem.

It isn't only tradesmen, either. I fill in some documents and put them in a reply envelope to go back to the states. The envelope is clearly marked "VERY URGENT" and "Global USPS". The envelope pickup number is a US 1-800 number, so we figure we will let the mail room send the package out, after all, that is what they are there to do. Very bad idea. Somehow they repackage my envelope so that it no longer says "VERY URGENT" and then they send it to the wrong courier. After a week I get calls, and I manage to figure out that the courier is confused because he is from the wrong company. I get the package sent back. The mail room then tell me they cannot send the parcel. They do not know the number to call, they do not use that courier company (I have told them it is Fedex). So I get the number, I call Fedex and arrange the pickup. It bounces because by now the details are on paperwork from the wrong company. After more calls I finally explain to the dimwits in the mail room that they have to fill out Fedex forms. I never find out what happened to the original ones that were on the package when they got it. By now I have given them the company name, I found the correct 0-800 number, I arranged the pickup, I got the confirmation code, and now I have to tell them to fill in the delivery forms, and all this took 9 instead of 1 days. How come UoW puts up with such utterly incompetent mail staff?

Similar situation with spare parts. We order a belt for Murray the tractor. It arrives labelled "37x86", which we think is correct because Murray clearly needs a belt about 86 inches long. Take it out and it is way too small, measuring 83 instead of 86 inches. Take it back and it is "sorry, that's just the way it is". Mr Google and I eventually uncover the correct part number and I wind up ordering one from the US directly, cheaper even with air postage. It's all a bit too much trouble for the locals.

The problem is that people are not hungry enough here. There is no incentive to be good at your job, because there is nobody waiting to take it from you. You can do a slack job and nobody does a better one to steal your business away. There is no accountability in the University system to reward the mail staff. Employees are almost unfirable, and hey, if you did get fired the government isn't going to let you starve. There may be no beggars on the street but there's no service either.

It is the same with getting the bathroom done, the fencing, and the house extension.

People moving slowly can be annoying, but like Dan says you get a chance to smell the flowers, it has a redeeming side and it isn't a major impediment to life and success. This "all a bit too much trouble" attitude is serious and it is ingrained. I won't be surprised if Danny tells me that England is the same.

If you can't beat them, join them. I figure it will be longer than my lifetime before the problem is cured. In the mean time, I'll just get on with being a gentleman farmer.

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