Thursday, September 10, 2015

BCC: Bullshit, we Can't Convey anything

The Dutch are infamous for terrible customer service.  Customer service, it is said, is rude (probably true, by American standards), can never help you in the way you want to be helped (likely to be true), and just generally makes a bad situation even worse (maybe this is true).

Somehow, though--maybe it's because I do most of my customer-service interactions when people are actually bright ad perky--I've managed to avoid getting too screwed over in terms of getting service. At the very least, (gemeente official business notwithstanding) I've come to terms with the fact that if I'm getting bottom-euro prices it's not because they've hired Service Sally to man the desk when it comes to complaints.

But even my luck runs out, and in our case, it was with BCC.  You'd think that a web retailer--and a major web retailer, at that--would have the ability to list merchandise that is out of stock as "niet in vooraad" instead of allowing you to pay for it and expect next-day delivery. And then, when you call them the next day, you find out (after a 2-hour wait on the phone, no less) that they are unable to give you any information on your order.  And when you reach out with Facebook, only then do you find out that it's out of stock and will take between 5-10 days to arrive.

And now, on the promised day of arrival (10 days yippee), lo and behold, the washer which was supposed to have been delivered this morning is nowhere in sight, and we just found out (via FB again, after over an hour on the phone and getting nowhere near customer service) that there was something wrong with the scheduling system and we'll have to wait for another 5 days.  I've been doing the laundry by hand for the past week (because the cleaners charges at least 27 euros each time) and it's just plain fucking nuts, especially since one of their services they claim to offer is next-day delivery.

Look:  I'm willing to accept a longer delivery time, but for fuck's sake don't dick your customers around like this.  Either say outright that it will take 5-7 days to deliver shit, or don't deliver shit at all.  And 'fess up to not having stuff in stock.  Yeah, maybe you might lose that sale, but two weeks without being able to do laundry is going to lose you a customer.  Several, if I have my way, and many, if there are truly that many pissed off people on their Facebook page.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Inheriting citizenship, part 2 of 2: why kidlet had a rap sheet before he turned 1

The consequences of a system that confers citizenship by blood rather than birth can be quite...well, I don't know if "amusing" is the right word, but in retrospect it definitely falls into the "you wouldn't believe it unless it happened to you".

What happened?

Well, in 2006 - well before we had kidlet, before I even arrived in the Netherlands - Karel went to Belgium for a year to work on a research project.  It was only a year, and since Belgium barely has a govenrment at all, he didn't bother to register a change-of-address (you can only have one official address) since he was going to be moving back to the Netherlands after the year was over.

Fast-forward 6 years:  I'm 8.5 months pregnant, living with Karel but not married to him (this is an important detail), and at my midwife's appointment the midwife asks me whether I've arranged for Karel to be recognized as Kidlet's father.  I stare at her like she just spouted another head.  She tells me that because we're not married, I have to grant Karel paternity, and that takes a little arranging through the gemeente.  "Just a few papers to sign," I'm told, nothing to worry about.

Because Karel is working essentially right up to my due date, and because I am too exhausted to lumber to town, though, we don't get this fixed right away.  But it's not a big deal, I'm told, because I can sign things at the hospital and over the next few weeks postpartum. So I have kidlet, more or less on schedule.  Because he came out of my body and because we're not married, he gets registered as an American, and Karel is assured that he can get it changed over the next few weeks.

Except:  remember the little research stint in 2006?  According to the city clerk we spoke with, before Karel could be recognized as the kidlet's dad, he first had to demonstrate that he wasn't married in Belgium.  Which is easier said than done, because if you never register your temporary residence then there is no way for the Belgian government to know that you were ever there, and not being able to provide proof of a non-event is (in Dutch circles) not the same as providing documentation that anything ever happened.

In the meantime, the Immigratie en Naturalisatsie Dienst received word that an unregistered American (irony, anybody?) had appeared at our address, and as this was highly improper, we got served with papers filled with scary-sounding-official-Dutch that told us to explain our case to the police department.  I call the IND, asking them what I need to do to get kidlet on the right side of Dutch law, and they tell me that if he has an American passport they can process him like any other American expat.

An American passport, though, is $200+ dollars that I didn't have, and assuming that I had a printer (I didn't) to print out the forms I needed to fill in, find the papers that I needed to have, and could take an entire day to go to Amsterdam (while breastfeeding a kiddo who won't use a bottle) and visit the American consulate, it would STILL have taken a minimum of 8 weeks for kidlet's new passport.  Our conversation with Nijmegen police was in 4 weeks.  Not to mention that, because of FACTA, I didn't want him to deal with having the IRS run a surprise audit on his bank account when he's 13 and working his first paper route, so I never intended for kidlet to be an American until he was aware of the consequences and could decide for himself.

So you can kind of see how things were really, really not looking good for us.  But then, in the space of 1 week, everything got miraculously resolved:  Karel finally managed to reach a manager who had an ounce of common sense and realized that the Belgian government couldn't say that Karel didn't get married if they didn't realize he was living there.  The police officer we spoke to was sympathetic and gave us a week to fix everything.  The manager that Karel spoke to had Karel sign a few papers two days later, and voila--Kidlet was Karel's son, got Karel's last name, and became officially Dutch.  The police dropped the investigation, and I never heard from the IND again.

As Kafka-esque as this whole thing was, though, at least it ended happily, and I'm married and carry dual citizenship now, so everything will be much easier if/when we have Kidlette.  But just imagine something like this becoming the norm in a country like the US...

Expats, immigrants, and inheriting citizenship, Part 1 of 2

I'm not the first to make the observation that "expats" are white and usually wealthy (or at least, they usually end up putting more in the tax coffers than they take out), and "migrants" or "immigrants" are not white, regardless of their class. If anybody wants to say white privilege doesn't exist, there's your proof to the contrary.  The right-wing/nationalist/white supremacists in most European nations love to hate on the Turks and/or Moroccans and/or anybody with darker skin, saying that "these people" are diluting the cultural purity or whatever the lingo for justifying hating brown/black people is in Europe these days.  Never mind the nice blonde lady who's been living next door for five years and can't speak a word of Dutch. No, the real danger to the country is from the people who've been living here for generations and have deep roots in the community.  (And, because of Poe's Law, yes, this was meant sarcastically).

Part of the problem, as I see it, is that Europe does inherited citizenships, and not birthright citizenships.  And I guess it makes a certain amount of sense; if you're going to encourage people to move across borders then having a family with multiple nationalities is kind of a pain in the ass. Only 30 countries in the world have birthright citizenship (mostly in the Americas), and US is one of them.  Everywhere else, if you're born to a [nationality] in a different country, you'll have [nationality] as long as you can't afford to change it.  

And while the process of becoming a Dutch national is merely expensive (810 euros as of 2014)--as opposed to expensive and confusing as f*ck-all, as it is in the US--the fact that it has to be done before your kids can get on equal footing, government-wise, with everybody else is grossly unfair and probably contributes more than most people want to admit to the discrimination that is faced by people with ancestries from Africa and the Middle East.  The fact that someone born within a certain country, grows up in that country, has a fulfilling life in that country, roots for that country in the World Cup, and yet has to buy citizenship (which isn't cheap) before they are allowed to vote in national elections or claim what citizens can take for granted is just a little disturbing if you think about it.  Not to mention that, if you want someone to be proud of the country they live in, having the nationality of said country is kind of a prerequisite to being part of the tribe.  It was a long time before I could be proud of the US of A, and part of that was because, until I was in my teens, I wasn't a US citizen.  I couldn't say, "We're all Americans" because I wasn't one.

I'm not saying that Europe needs to change their system--it would probably go some way towards solving the problem of people not integrating, though--but having to pay for the citizenship of a country you grew up in isn't exactly fair.  Let's not pretend that it isn't just a tiny bit racist, either.  The fact that the targets of the conversation in the US are mostly Mexicans (and, to some extent, wealthy Asians) only augments this.  You never hear people going on about all the British taking over Hollywood.

We were insanely lucky:  lucky that I was able to get in my language classes and take and pass the NT2 before a whole bunch of rules were changed, lucky that I was able to afford the 810 euros to add Dutch citizenship to my roster of countries I can call home, lucky that Karel was able to get kidlet's nationality re-arranged before we got in trouble for hosting an illegal American citizen (ironic, isn't it?).  But it's my opinion that these things shouldn't be a matter of luck.  Luck is for the casinos, not a way to live life.