Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tari's Follies: The Parka

Things are still happening to me.  I'm still running into follies of living in a foreign country.  I just can't continue to write about me doing the same silly stuff over and over and over again.  Soon, ya'll will wonder if I ever learn.  The answer is yes, but I'm a difficult study.  Especially if it means I can't do what I want to do.  I wouldn't call myself spoiled.  My parents hardly raised me to expect to get anything I want, let alone everything :)  (Mom, I mean that with the greatest amount of affection.)  I am however extremely stubborn and hard headed.  This gets me to my latest.  I have wanted a new winter coat for many years.  I have had my current one for 10 years(is that right, Mom...its the one you and Paul bought for me at the mall in Bis.)  Anyway, a really long time.  But it was super warm for the ND winters and a great ski coat in UT.  I have been using the shell as a warmish raincoat here in Germany.  It has served me well.  But, it lacks je ne sais pas, Style.  It is a men's coat.  My Dad wears the same one in green.  I don't hate this, mind you.  But I am a young and attractive lady.  I want a stylish coat dammit. 

Our land lady brought me a German mail order clothing catalog about a month ago.  I thanked her, thinking, "Yeah, right. I wouldn't dare order something from this."  Not because the clothes weren't my style, everything was very young, cute, European even.  I loved much.  Flipping through, I would say, oh I'd get this and this and this if I could speak the language.  Then I got to the back cover.  A winter parka for €59,99.  Depending on the exchange rate (we won't talk about how irritating that is) its about $90.   So that catalog sat on the coffee table, on the kitchen counter, the telephone shelf, etc.  It was almost thrown out a few times.  I kept that parka in the back of my head.  It called to me.  Finally, one of the numerous times I was leafing through the catalog I noticed they had a website.  Of course they do!!  Hello, its 2009...ya ain't no one if ya don't got a website!  So, I typed in the address.  My laptop took me right to the site.  That freaking parka was on the homepage...telling me it would be on sale for only a few more was pretty easy to decipher that much.  The rest of the page was incomprehensible.  Many local websites have a British or US flag to indicate they offer their site in English.  That wonderful indicator was not on this page.  Deeeep breath....I wanted that parka so bad at this point.  I decided had served me pretty well in the past.  For whatever reason Google wouldn't translate the whole page at a time, so I had to highlight, right click, tab, right click, paste, read translation.  So google is great and all, but it was sorta stupid this day.  So many things were not making much sense.  But I was getting the jist (is that right?) of what I was doing.  I was able to read some customer reviews of the parka.  They all said the sleeves were so very long.....perrrrfect.  I have primate arms, for those who have never noticed.  So now I Had to have this parka.  I committed to making a purchase even if I had to highlight, right click, copy, click google tab, right click, paste, click translate 100 times.  I entered my name, used the prefix Frau (heehee), put in my German street address....I've never used it for mailing before so it felt sorta cool :)  I even knew my phone number BY HEART.  (It is 11 digits, cut me some slack) I'm not sure how many times I did the highlight, right click, copy....previous tab, right click, paste, read translation sequence...but I was getting really good at it. So good that just when I was about to enter my billing info, I accidentally clicked a bookmark instead.  I was promptly taken to the homepage of our old bank.  Damn laptop never loads that fast.  So, what would be the first thing you would do?  Yes, I clicked the back button.  Obviously I was desperately hoping to be taken back to the exact page I was on.  I was taken to a page that appeared to be an online purchase receipt.  Again, highlight, right click, tab, right click, paste, translate....This page appeared to be a receipt.  It listed my address, item ordered, everything.  Wait, wha?  I didn't pay for it.........did I?  Do German companies have some ability to access customers' bank accounts when purchasing something online?  Do they have an available funds Nazi? Oops, maybe inappropriate to make Nazi jokes, oh well.  I really didn't think that could be, but WTF?!  Seriously, in the States you can't get anything shipped without it being paid for!!!  So I called Paul at work.  He works with some Germans.  These Germans thought it was unlikely I would get something shipped to me without paying for it.  So, WHAT THE HELL DID I DO?  Was it a mistake, a "hiccup" so to speak in the program?  I tried again.  I filled out the order form.  I ordered a different size just in case (maybe small would be too small even with its primate-like arms).  I clicked submit info button after entering my shipping address.  A sales receipt popped up.  Don't forget, all of these things in German....I never really know for sure what the hell it is saying to me.....sometimes google doesn't know shit.  Damn.  Now what?  I perused the likely sales receipt.  OH GAWD...I ordered a large.  I wanted a MEDIUM.  Deeeep breath, again.  Hell, may as well order another one at this point, right??  I go back to choose medium.  Nicht verfügbar. Unavailable. Of course it is.
At this point I decided to drop it.  I couldn't possibly receive something by mail if I hadn't paid for it.  Forget it, you did it wrong and google translate sucks.  Nevermind. 
The next day I emailed the company.  I used google translate again.  I really should look for a better translating program.  I explained my problem.  I got an auto-reply stating they would look into my issue and get back to me.  I again dropped it....the ball is in their court now.  I placed my order on a Thursday evening.  Saturday evening, 5:30 or so the buzzer buzzed.  Paul answered the door.  A delivery man was there with two boxes from OTTO, the catalog.  Paul commented how quickly it arrived and we hadn't even paid for it.  The delivery man spoke English (like so many Germans do here).  He explained the bill is in the package.  I realized Germany is about 10,000 square miles smaller than Montana...shipping is much quicker here, always. 
Now I have to worry about returning one or even both of these damn parkas.  I kept the large, it fits so that I can wear a sweater under it comfortably which is perfect because I LOVE sweaters and wear them frequently.  That's one good outcome.  I was full of angst about returning the small.  Would I have to go to a German post office?!  I have never even seen one...  Paul took the bill to work with him to have someone translate it for me.  Get this!  There is a local village that is a drop off place for returns, free of charge.  Say what??  Free returns....I love this country. :)  I practiced the phrase, "Ich möchte diese zurückgeben bitte." I said it over and over and over on my way to the shop.  I walked into the tiny shop. Inside there were four older men and women chatting, in German...duh.  He acknowledged me and asked me a question.  The phrase I said at least 100 times in the car was gone.  I blanked.  So I fell upon the standby, "Sprechen Sie Englisch?"  I learned today I murdered the pronunciation.  They knew right away, but remained polite.  One lady who thought if she spoke German very slowly and clearly I would get what she was telling me.  I watched her intently, nodded and said OK probably 6 times.  I didn't understand a single thing.  Oh well.  The older gentleman behind the register handed me a slip of paper and said, "For you."  I decided this will be my receipt if there is problems with the item not being returned. Two days later I received an email telling me my item was returned and thanking me for my business.  Wow, I am so ordering more stuff from that place!  I was able to pay the bill online, and I have a new winter coat.  Some day all this stuff will be second nature, right? :)