By Francine Cunningham
First world prices should go hand in hand with first-class service. Frustratingly, that is too often not the case in Ireland. In the last months, there have been multiple examples of inconsiderate, or downright shoddy, service of the type that makes me wish I could remember the few Gaelic curses I once knew.
First there was the eircode experience. For anyone not familiar with the eircode, it’s a postcode system that was introduced to Ireland in 2015. In fact, Ireland was the last country in the OECD to create a postcode system. Everyone in Ireland tells me that nobody uses eircodes, yet it seems impossible to get anything done without one.
When we first rented a new build in Rathgar last year, it hadn’t yet been assigned an eircode. We tried to get broadband and cable TV installed, but every company told us that our house could not be connected until we have an eircode. Could I apply to get an eircode as soon as possible? No, eircodes are only released by the postal service, An Post, every quarter. So, we would have to wait three months before we could have connected to broadband or cable TV.
Then I tried to set up a bank account in Dublin and naturally enough wanted to opt for an Irish bank. I called my neighbourhood branch and was told I had to apply for an appointment online, so I made a meeting request through the bank’s website. Then I waited. Weeks passed and I received no response. I called again and was told that appointments could only be made online.
Nearly three weeks later, I emailed to say that if I didn’t get a reply within 24 hours I would be going elsewhere. I finally got a call back with an explanation that they had never received my previous appointment request. Strangely enough, they had called me on the particular phone number I had included only in that online request.
Not wanting to give up, I asked what papers I would need to bring with me to my eventual appointment. No, my passport, rental contract and the monthly bill from the refuse collection service, with my name and address on it, were not enough. I needed a gas or electricity bill with my name on it. So, I would have to contact our energy suppliers to get my name added to the utility bills. At this point, I looked up a foreign bank which is trying to break into the Irish market. I could immediately choose a timeslot online for an appointment. Within days my bank account was set up.
However, in a very crowded field, real estate agents remain strong contenders for Ireland’s shoddy service award. I have never been put on hold, repeatedly, for so long, or had so many professionals failing to call me back.
Last week, when I finally got through to a real, live estate agent, I spent time a lot of time explaining what we were looking for and which particular house in a new development we were interested in. This weekend, we travelled an hour to get to our appointment on time, only to stand at the roadside for ten minutes waiting for the estate agent to arrive. She then proceeded to whisk us through the property in a total of seven minutes, during which time she was calling on the phone to a colleague to say that she would be late for her next appointment.
Was she at least informative? No, she hadn’t heard anything about our requirements, wasn’t aware of which house in the development we were interested in and could not answer basic questions such as when the property would be released on the market. Yet we were expected to put our life savings on the table.
If Ireland really wants to be the first world economy it is very capable of becoming, it’s time to stop putting its consumers on hold.