The flat I had moved in was only a temporary home. After four
month I had found a new place. One day before I would finally
switch to the new flat, I called the Swiss Telecom to terminate
my current telephone account. Since I was going to share the new
flat with a colleague and a telephone was already in place, there
was no need to apply for a new account---the very thought of which
caused my spine to shiver.
When I had left Hamburg, I had been able to terminate my telephone
account with a single call to the German Telecom. Not so in Switzerland.
I was informed that in order to terminate my account I would have
to fill in a form and send it in. And, what's more, I should have
done this one month ago, since this was the minimum amount of
time which it would take to switch off my account---of course
I would have to pay for the additional month.
Having learned not to argue with Swiss Telecom officers, I
asked where to find the form and whether I could fax it. The woman
somewhat indignantly pointed out that I could find the form on
the last pages of my telephone book. One more faux-pax---obviously
it is part of proper behavior to read the telephone book on Sundays,
so I should have known this.
She finally gave me a fax number. I found the form, prepared
it, put it into our fax, and dialed the fax number the officer
had given to me. Somewhat amazed, I listened to a friendly voice
telling me that the number I had dialed was out of service and
that I should contact my Telecom officer for further information.
Three coffees later I was finally able to face the situation:
I would have to call the Telecom once more. I did so, but was
connected to another woman this time, since I had dialed a general
service number. She turned out to be an angel sent to my rescue.
Having said only a few words, she concluded that I wanted to terminate
my account. She asked me for my name and telephone number and
said that the account was being canceled now with a final bill
being sent to me some time next week.
This friendly woman was right, and indeed I received a bill
for my account. As it turned out, however, it had been a fundamental
mistake that I hadn't asked her for her name and phone number.
No chance now to make some private calls, send her flowers, and
get a little hand in dealing with the Telecom.
What was missing on the final bill was my 500 Swiss Francs--the
security I had lent the Swiss Telecom for not taking one of their
telephones. Calling the Telecom once more I was informed that
the final bill was not the final bill but only a preliminary final
bill. Another really final bill was still to follow, on which
I would get back my 500 Francs. To be precise, it would be exactly
500 Francs plus interests minus a fee for terminating my account
Terminating my account early??? It took a while until the officer
was back at the phone. He obviously maintained a safe distance
between his ear and the receiver now. He explained to me that
I had used my account for less than six month which meant undue
administrative costs to the Telecom. Statistically speaking, these
costs were not covered by my phone bills, and I therefore had
to pay a fee of 80 Swiss Francs.
He told me that I should have known this, since it is stated
in the "Gebührenverordnung für das Schweizerische
Fernmeldewesen" (or something like this, I forgot the precise
title) which I should have ordered from the Telecom headquarter
in Bern. I pointed out that I was eager learning the telephone
book on Sundays, though I admitted that I wasn't yet ready for
the advanced stuff like the Gebührenverordnung. Unfortunately,
he showed no mercy.
What's left, some 400 and something Swiss Francs showed up
on my bank account two month later, but I'm still waiting for
the really final bill to explain that deposit. I once made a weak
attempt to ask them for the bill, but I was asked in return how
I were able to call from home if my account was actually terminated.
I silently put the receiver on the hook and dedicated a prayer
to my colleague, the owner of the telephone I was using.
Dirk Riehle, December 1995