One of the most intimidating things for me is making phone calls. If possible, I always prefer to talk to a real person. It’s so much easier to understand– seeing their face, their mouth moving, anything they might have to show me– I usually leave with a fuller understanding of what the situation is and what I need to do, if anything.
Plus– if you don’t manage the phone call well, you might end up making things worse. Or having to incorporate a 3rd party.
We pay most of our bills via cash (Japan is still primarily a cash society) at the local convenience store. But more and more, everyone wants us to pay via bank transfers or credit card and send a little explanation page with this “easy” bank transfer option.
Since we deal with banks on two continents, different accounts in Japan, and have to keep good records and budgets and all that fun stuff, it’s just easier to deal with cash.
Anyway. I got a fancy-looking bank transfer slip from the electric company a few weeks back. It looked kinda important, and seemed like it was a new way to pay that they were offering. It had certain codes and all that. I browsed over it, but didn’t get the impression that it was mandatory.
Still, I stored it away with my stack of “questionably important Japanese paperwork” that I’m not always sure what to do with.
We were getting ready to go to “the ‘Merica'” as my 3 year old calls it, and I was attempting to make sure everything everywhere was accounted for and taken care of before we left for a month.
I kept waiting for my electric bill to arrive.
It was about 10 days late. I had an uneasy feeling and the clock was ticking. So I went back to my questionably important pile, re-read it more carefully and lo and behold- it was not an optional payment method.
I needed to register my phone to receive a link to pay online. Complication #1. I didn’t recognize the last digits registered for the phone number. I guess when we moved and a friend helped us get our utilities set up, they registered the account to their own phone. Complication #2. And now I’m late on receiving my bill. Complication #3.
So I did some fiddling online, tried to change the number registered and sign up for the fancy new service. I hoped I had it taken care of.
A day later, and two days before departure, I still had no resolution and no way to pay my bill. I didn’t want to arrive back to Japan with our electric off in the dead of winter.
So I broke down and called. Eventually I heard the word “operator” and pressed the number accordingly.
A long explanation of “my situation” with its complications, long periods on hold while the operator checked with his manager about how to handle us (Japan is very by the book– and we usually don’t fit in the books!)… and 30 minutes later we had a solution.
I felt really satisfied at how far we’ve come in being able to get things done and manage affairs in Japan– even so far as making phone calls! Still, pride goes before the fall, so I don’t want to get over-confident, because I’ll probably botch the next one.