Customer Service

So, here’s what happened.

I got a letter in the post saying that our mortgage provider’s computer had gone down and we needed to send a payment direct to a certain account. I was a little suspicious but the letter had the right name and when I typed the number into my bank, the right provider name auto-completed.

Then I got another letter in the post asking for my mortgage payment. I was composing an email to check that I had sent the money to the right account when I noticed that the telephone helpline numbers were different on the two letters. The customer support email was different. The CVR number was different. And I dropped a bollock.

I google’d the support email and the first link was “FALSE EMAILS, DO NOT RESPOND TO THEM” and I did not look at the link but the bottom dropped out of my stomach.

So, I scanned in the suspicious letter and emailed customer support at the bank. I told them the situation and asked what I should do.

They emailed back straight away: contact your bank. GOOD LUCK. Seriously. “Good luck”

I contacted my bank, told them the situation, attached the suspect letter.

They emailed back straight away: nothing we can do. Contact the police.

I contacted the police. Over email because I hate telephones and I could attach the letter.

Then I started to think about how sophisticated the scam was: right name, right company name, they knew we were customers of this bank, they specifically only ask for one month’s money. They got the amount almost exactly right.

So, I googled the support email thing again to take a look at the other scams, to see if they were as sophisticated… and realised that the ‘fake’ email was not fake.

This was about fifteen minutes into the crisis and the feelings of pathetic-ness and horror were starting to give way into feelings of disbelief. So. I emailed customer support again.

“Are you SURE this is a scam. Did I just report my mortgage to the police??”

And this is the response, in full, without further comment.

Hello again 

Im sorry i didnt’  see the lette the 1. time 

It’s not a fake letter - there has been an error with the payment service as home loan is not automatically paid by direct debit - this is only in June and July that itmust be paid manually 

I regret that I was not awake for the first time  

If you have further questions, I recommend you to contact us on xx xx xx which is open every day from 9 -21″

 

 

Posted in Danish, Denmark, Misc, Personal | 9 Comments

Protection from Corruption

Everyone, including experts, says that there is no corruption in Denmark. This is bollocks. It might not be the same sort of corruption you might find in the second world or in the places you’d expect in the third world or as ostentatiously sleazy as in the first world. But there is corruption in Denmark. There are shady deals, opaque dodgy decisions and cheating. Nepotism, dishonesty and outright thievery.

My ongoing saga is with the company that bought my old flat when it went on foreclosure auction. They are doing some seedy shit to avoid paying the deposit back. In order to combat them, I have needed to call on several friends.

1) to help me draft an email in decent Danish. Outcome: the company said we had longer than three days to find another painter and dropped the ridiculous insistence of being paid for painting two months before we have to stop paying rent.

2) to ring them and simply ask “is it legal to say they cannot have the keys back?” Outcome: we got the keys back

3) to introduce me to someone who knows a painter Outcome: I have a much more reasonable painting quote

None of this I could have done by myself. It’s great there are fantastic people who will defend their friends (and friends of friends) from robbery and unfairness.

But wouldn’t it be better if the Danish system prevented this shit automatically? Wouldn’t it be better if everyone was protected and not just those lucky enough to have a great network?

Plus, when this is over, I can’t ‘punish’ the company for their behaviour or warn others. The Danish system only kicks in when you have a dispute you can’t solve yourself. Not when a company makes up fake rules or puts undue pressure on you or tries to sting you for a lot of money.

These are the changes I would make to the Danish rental market.

No demand in rental contracts for the tenant to pay for redecorating at the end of the lease. Instead, reasonable wear and tear is to be expected. Of course if the walls are stained or damaged: redecorating might be in order.

The rental governing body can be contacted in cases of unreasonable or illegal behaviour. Not just a dispute.

All landlords need to be signed up to a code of conduct with real consequences if not adhered to.

There needs to be a clear guide for what to do in the case of problems. Most people I spoke to had some ideas about things to try but were also fatalistic about it. “It’s just a cost of moving out” This goes for the media as well!

Deposits of only one months rent and prepaid rent of max one month.

Maybe it wouldn’t be perfect but the only way is up.

Posted in Denmark, Misc | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Attention everyone: new website!

Danish news in English, already looking pretty snazzy.

Link | Posted on by | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

I would have done it for anyone

Northside is a great festival, everyone. It’s big enough to attract bands that I have wanted to see live for ages and it’s small enough that there is not an excessive waiting time for most things (and consequently people are friendlier).

Roskilde is friendly-ish but tempers flare from time to time.

Also, there is no camping at Northside, so people have less opportunity to get tanked up at their tent and then roll into the festival ground half cut. If you want to get drunk at Northside, it’s pretty much at regular festival prices.

Here’s a little compare/contrast for you. On the Saturday, I sat with a friend from work at a picnic table. I was not that bothered about any of the bands on Saturday, so was happy just to hear their sets from afar. I spoke to loads of people that day. Some of them were friends of friends, some of them were randoms. I spoke in mostly English but did have a couple of Danish conversations (with drunks) too. It was pretty great.

On Sunday, before the bands I wanted to see came on, I explored the indie area and watched some poets on the little stage. I also checked out an area for encouraging people to have conversations. There were little signs up about ‘don’t use mobiles’, there were games and a ball pit. There were also some conversation starters. As friendly and fun as that area was, it was pretty much just being used by children. The adults that accompanied them, they were sitting staring into space, not talking to anyone. I was only there for a short time so maybe it was a hotbed of conversation and contact between strangers at other times.

I felt sad for Danish people at that point. Their cultural expectation is that it is very rude to talk to anyone. That’s pretty much the same in the UK, unless more rudeness is committed by NOT talking. So, in the UK, it is possible to start conversations with randoms if you are, for example, in a special area dedicated to starting conversations with randoms. Or if you need to communicate or negotiate something vital (for example: it’s super rude not to ask “Can I pull this blind down/open this window/move this bag/get past you?” and a tiny bit rude not to say “Those doors don’t open at this stop, you need to walk down the carriage.”), whereas in Denmark, it appears to be rude to say anything in any of these scenarios.

This means they only get to speak to people they know and, I guess, friends of friends. Except Danes aren’t that good at blending friendship groups. I’ve heard of parties where the row club friends sit in the kitchen and the colleague friends sit in the living room and both groups try to pretend the other does not exist. Not to mention, these sort of parties with separate friendship groups are rare. No wonder they have no time in their calendar to meet new people, if they need a separate event for each of their sets of buddies.

Not that groups of Danes aren’t trying to get this to change. After all, I got to make these observations at a place set up by Danish people trying to get Danish people to talk to each other. There is definitely a movement to get these conversations going. They are needed, not just on a purely social level, but also to spark new ideas. Cities accelerate development and  innovation partly because people bump into each other and exchange their thoughts.

Anyway. On the way back from the festival ground, there are no buses past 11pm or something, so you have to walk a couple of kilometres to the next bus stop. It’s not as if the city council of Aarhus could lay on extra buses on that weekend, jesus. While I was walking to the bus stop, I noticed a man who was in a bad way.

He was weaving left to right in a drunk manner. Every time he veered left, he ended up in the bike lane. Bikes were coming past regularly and at a fair old whack. All he needed to do was badly time a left swerve with a bike and it would be goodnight Vienna.

So. I ran to catch him up and stood on his left. I marked him like it was netball, he slowed down: I slowed down. He sped up: he sped up. Then the inevitable happened and he swerved hard into me. I caught him and smiled. I said

“You alright?”

and he said

“No.”

I said

“Aww. Is there anything I can do to help?”

And he looked at me and he started muttering about how great this was and he hugged me. So we walked along, his arm around my shoulders. He asked me if I was Italian. He said that this would never happen. Never ever happen. This is so great.

I asked him if he needed to catch a bus or anything and he didn’t understand me. I tried in Danish. Even less understanding. He took my hand and said “I don’t understand you. Sorry. I’m Danish. But I understand THIS.” and squeezed my hand.

He asked me where I lived and I asked him where he lived. He pointed across the junction

“Just over there.”

Then he smiled and said

“Sorry but I have to run.” and he let go of my hand and ran across the junction. I yelled

“OK, well be careful!”

I think Danish culture is ready for people being more friendly and kind to each other. I know I saw a lot of people helping walking wounded after the many inevitable drunk-on-a-bike accidents all along that ring road. But it really needs more people being up for making contact and saying “You alright?” Prevention is always better than a cure.

Posted in Denmark, Personal, Travelogue | Tagged , | 5 Comments

This month’s CPH Post Article

It’s about the environment/climate change.

Link | Posted on by | Tagged

Danish Landlords *epic eyeroll*

“I love our landlady. I feel like, when we move out, she’ll give us our deposit back as long as we don’t trash the place.”

“Yeah! She’s so great.”

And that, my friends, is what is known in the business as “speaking too soon”.

Our landlady had to sell our place when she fell on hard times and we ended up in the hands of a rental company.

I don’t know what you know about Danish rentals but there appears to be a symbiotic relationship with landlords and companies selling white paint (or the people that apply it with brushes).

How ever you left the place, it is going to get re-painted. At the expense of the person moving out.

If we had smoked and the paint was all yellow, I could understand. If we had slaughtered sheep and there were red splashes, I could understand. If we opened a bumper car ride in our flat, and there were black bumper car marks on the wall, I could understand.

Well. We didn’t do any of that. We put up some pictures and shelves (and then made good with spackle/poly filla/spartel/whatever you call it). Maybe it needs a lick of paint in some rooms. But they’re going to do the skirting boards, the ceilings, the walls…

Not to mention they’re going to look at changing the floor boards and un-painting the radiators. All on our dollar.

Plus, I had to go through the experience of having a stranger run her fingers over things I cleaned, say “This hasn’t been cleaned” and then “Look. It’s sticky.”

She was very nice and she didn’t push her luck with things like the fridge and inside of the stove which you actually needed sunglasses to look at. But every cupboard, same old. Of course I protested “I DID clean it.” Which is all part of the dance. On the last one, I said

“Man, what is that? Dust? For heaven’s sake.”

Of course cupboards get dusty two weeks after you clean them, that’s just entropy.

Whatever.

The dance is all in aid of a simple fact: Danish landlords do NOT have your deposit. These ones doubly so, they bought the flat from someone, so they’d have to find our deposit out of their own funds.

Thing is. They want to sell the place. For that reason, it doesn’t need to be painted, or cleaned for that matter. It can be sold as-is. I know this because I recently bought a place and they neither cleaned nor painted.

She even threatened to charge us over the deposit because “this is a big place and needs a lot of painting” I did the incredulous face and laughed. “Right.”

Then she backtracked and started an ill-advised rant about how we HAD to pay our rent for the next three months. “Of course we do! We signed a contract!” she kept at it. “If you don’t, we will come for you and it will be bad for you.” I kept saying “Yeah, duh.” but in the end, I kind of wanted to stop paying the rent, just because she’d lectured me as if I was planning on being dishonest. Such is the effect of being believed dishonest. And all the time, I wondered, would she explain that in as much detail to the Danish boyfriend? Or would she just confirm the last payment date with him? Like she did on the phone.

She said she couldn’t say for sure, before she had the quotes from the cleaning firm and the painters, but we’d probably only get charged if we were assholes about the rent.

The last inspection I had, the guy said he would need to charge me for floor cleaning, all the time knowing that I had walked past the brand new floor planks they planned on installing.

I have rented in eight different UK addresses, by the way. I only ever paid up to one month’s rent as deposit and I almost always got it back.

In fact, I was cheated only twice out of some deposit money. Once by a really unscrupulous letting agency, but they only charged us £100 or something. They made it all up and we were furious. It was bullshit but we learned a lot from the experience.

The second by an 80s pop star who, when the going got tough, rounded our deposit down and stiffed us £30. (He was really lovely and I assume it was an honest mistake borne of falling on hard times. One of my favourite landlords.)

In Denmark, you pay 3 to 6 months rent as deposit and then when you move out, they take almost all of it for ‘painting’ and maybe even charge you extra if you have a lot of rooms to paint. Whether or not the painting needs re-doing. And they run their fingers over surfaces and pronounce them ‘dirty’ when they fucking well are not, so they can charge you for cleaning.

When they say Denmark has the lowest levels of corruption, it makes me laugh because these sorts of every day corrupt activity somehow ‘don’t count’ and they are endemic.

Oh well, never have to go through that again, hopefully.

Posted in Denmark, Travelogue | Tagged , | 5 Comments

My favourite colour is ‘rainbow’

I can be a new-to-Denmark blogger again because I just moved to Aarhus (everybody cheer!)

What better way to show you what I have been up to than some photos of the Aarhus Pride event?

Flags on buses

Flags on buses

Aros art gallery and a football pitch

Aros art gallery and a football pitch

I had forgotten that it was Pride today but I had to catch several buses for an open day at work and they all had the Danish flag and the rainbow flag mounted on the side.

The event was really quite sweet and small. No massive floats or anything. There was a family friendly fete (pictured) and some other stalls down some steps with more adult themed stalls (for example: the bar). I even got a free hug from someone giving them out at one of the stalls.

There was live music and all that sort of thing.

When the parade came past, what surprised me was that for every ‘special interest’ group that represented and walked together, there were groups of political parties waving the rainbow flag.

I am not sure if I could imagine Pride in a city in the UK having a big Labour float or a Lib Dem contingent. Maybe it would, I never managed to make it to one back in the old country.

My favourite sign was

Fuck ‘girl colours’

Fuck ‘boy colours’

What happened to *HUMAN* colours.

Posted in Danish | 14 Comments