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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Eldan calling...

Out of fairness I want to provide a follow-up to the post I wrote a couple of days ago about a small geography problem plaguing Eldan (Israel's largest rental car agency).  If you didn't read it, you can go here for the back-story.

If you can't be bothered or are short on time, in a nutshell the problem stemmed from an ad campaign created by (or for) Eldan entitled "Nobody knows Israel like Eldan"... a slogan that appearssomewhat ludicrous when superimposed over a map of Israel with its borders incorrectly drawn (picture an ad featuring the outline of the continental US.... minus Florida).  Specifically, they left off the entire Golan Heights, a huge parcel of land measuring 1200 square kilometers (460 square miles), that was effectively annexed by Israel in 1981 with the passage of the Golan Heights Law.

I was bothered enough by the ad that I called up the Eldan management's office in Tel Aviv and had some fun with some of their staff (i.e. made a complete pest of myself).  Once I had sort of shamed them into taking a good look at the map in their ads, they agreed that there was indeed a problem and promised to take care of it.

But to be honest, I had my doubts as to whether they would take my complaint seriously.

Yesterday afternoon my cell phone rang and I found myself speaking with a member of Eldan's senior management.  She thanked me for bringing the problem to their attention and apologized profusely for the error.  She also informed me that they had pulled the offending ads from all websites where they had been running (including their own) and had ordered an internal investigation into how their ad department had approved and released the campaign without anybody noticing such a mistake (she actually used the word 'fashla'... a strong word usually reserved for really big screw-ups).

True to their word, by the time I got home yesterday, there wasn't an Eldan banner ad to be seen anywhere.... even on their own web site. 

It's kind of incredible what a phone call can do.  Think about it... how many times have you seen something that was just plain wrong, but couldn't be bothered to follow up in order to bring the problem to the attention of someone in a position to actually make it right?

So yeah... while it may have been my phone call that got the ball rolling, I'd just like to take this opportunity to compliment Eldan's handling of this unfortunate incident.  I was completely prepared for them to blow me off with a typically Israeli "Al Tida'ag" (don't worry); "Lo Kara Kloom' (Nothing happened), or "Smoch Alai... nitapel b'zeh" (trust me, we'll take care of it)... followed by them completely ignoring me until the end of the ad's scheduled run. 

But when faced with an embarrassing error, Edan stepped up with good humor, a prompt investigation and a polite follow-up call to inform me of the steps they'd taken to deal with the problem.

I may have to adjust my expectations in terms of what constitutes 'typical Israeli' behavior.

Kol HaKavod, Eldan!

Posted by David Bogner on February 26, 2009 | Permalink

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I have always found this to be one of the great things about living in Israel. It is such a small country that you can really make a difference.

I always think to the time that I had an issue with my electric bill. I went down to the electric company's office in Jerusalem (what a view they have there) and negotiated a lower bill. Try doing that in the US.

Posted by: Jehoshaphat | Feb 26, 2009 10:56:57 AM

The follow-up and correction is very un-Israeli. I once tried to correct the English on a sign at an upscale Tel Aviv women's clothing store, and the response I received was: "Lo Katavti" (I didn't write it).

Posted by: Yehuda | Feb 26, 2009 12:00:37 PM

Yehuda,

That is because you corrected them about something that in their eyes was of little or now importance. When you correct Israelis about things that they view as important, they take it very seriously.

Posted by: Jehoshaphat | Feb 26, 2009 12:21:08 PM

Now call them back and ask them why they weren't going to let me take one of their cars across the green line.

Posted by: Karl Newman | Feb 26, 2009 1:04:56 PM

Jehoshaphat (and everyone) - another good example: My husband and I used to be diehard Law and Order fans, and would wait patiently until it was on at 23:00 at night. A couple of times we noticed around 23:02 that it wasn't on, and so my faithful husband called up Channel 1 and asked why. Their response: "Oh, sorry, we forgot - hang on just a minute." And sure enough, a minute later, the show would begin...
I really do love living here!

Posted by: toby | Feb 26, 2009 1:34:04 PM

Jehoshaphat ... We have found that in Israel, 'no' means 'maybe'... 'maybe' means 'yes, but I need you to give me a good reason'... and 'yes' means 'OK, but I can't tell you exactly when'.

Yehuda... You realize that Israelis love having their lack of facility with English rubbed in their face by smug Americans, don't you? I guarantee you that the employee on the shop floor did not design and print the sign to which you took exception. You will also note that I did not call a rental outlet of Eldan in order to complain about their ads. Do you see the connection? So yes, the clerk should have referred you to their corporate offices or at least to the manager of the store. But the response you got was essentially correct; I didn't write the sign so what do you expect me to do about it".

Karl Newman... Your problem is that you asked a 'kitbag question'. In basic training, when the drill instructor wakes everyone up for an early morning 5 mile run, there is always one idiot who asks, "Are we running with or without our kit bags (knapsacks)"... to which the reply is always 'With'. If you took a moment to read the terms of rental that are published on their website, Eldan does not prohibit crossing the green line with their cars. In fact in the discussion of insurance, the agreement specifically states: "The coverage provided is not valid outside the borders of the State of Israel, Tabah and territories of the Palestinian Authority." This makes it very clear that you are not only allowed to drive anywhere within Israel and Judea and Samaria, but that you are fully insured in those places as well. They simply don't want to have to deal with the headache of broken windows and other damage from thrown rocks (or worse), so when someone asks a kitbag question, they give the most expedient answer.

toby... That is truly an 'only in Israel' story. Thanks!

Posted by: David Bogner | Feb 26, 2009 1:46:57 PM

Kol ha-kavod, David.

On another note, I noticed a while back that I no longer have to sign in to TypeKey when I leave a comment. What happened? Just curious.

Posted by: Rahel | Feb 26, 2009 2:48:28 PM

Kol HaKavod!!! Sometimes you just have to call.

Posted by: Shimshon | Feb 26, 2009 3:07:31 PM

The problem is, that's a question that has to be asked because if the contract really doesn't allow the car over the green line, then I'm liable if something happens to the car. If they want to jerk my chain, then I will just go somewhere else, which I did....to Sixt. As the customer, they're supposed to suck up to me, not the other way around.

Posted by: Karl Newman | Feb 26, 2009 3:20:33 PM

Oh, and I did read the terms of the contract. I don't remember Judea, Samaria and the PA being listed in the contract back then. Hence the question.

Posted by: Karl Newman | Feb 26, 2009 3:22:20 PM

Rahel... no idea why that should be. Maybe as my spam decreased I turned off the requirement. I honestly don't recall.

Shimshon ... Not every call results in a happy ending, but you don't know until you try. :-)

Karl Newman... This is one of those cultural differences that will never be bridged. In the Israeli mind, you are allowed to do everything unless it is specifically posted that you can't. The typical Americans will never understand this kind of blanket assumption. I'm no lawyer, but my sense (as an American Israeli) is that so long as they don't put in writing that you can't cross the green line, they can't limit coverage in places where a driver can easily go (i.e. there are no signs saying "You are now crossing the green line", and police reports rarely make the distinction of what side of the green line an accident happens. But ultimately you are right. they failed to adjust their point of view to that of the customer... and as a result, they lost you.

Posted by: David Bogner | Feb 26, 2009 3:40:50 PM

Are you sure it was JUST the call? It couldn't be that someone at Eldan reads your blog and realizes they had a not-insignificant PR problem to deal with?

Posted by: Sarah B. | Feb 26, 2009 5:40:11 PM

Sarah B.... I HIGHLY doubt that anyone considers this site influentual enough to alter corporate policy. :-)

Posted by: David Bogner | Feb 26, 2009 5:44:53 PM

In all fairness, I think that lots of maps of Israel come off of clip art sites or discs that aren't too careful about details. I've seen ads that, say, include Gaza and the Golan but not the West Bank. In international maps, the territories are even often marked as if they were still part of Egypt or Jordan. Sometimes these are even for right-wing groups. It can usually be chalked up to a lazy non-Israeli artist.

National Geographic is super-careful about including the Golan and East Jerusalem within Israel but leaving Gaza and the West Bank all white, as if it wasn't part of any country. That's fair enough, as it's pretty much what the Israeli government says. On the other hand, many of the "official" Israeli tourist maps don't show the Green Line at all. The US government has all sorts of little meaningless rote footnotes all over their maps of the region.

Posted by: Nachum | Feb 26, 2009 5:47:24 PM

power to the people!!

stories like this reinforce my faith that we have to speak up and that we can make a difference!

good for you!!

Posted by: Rivka with a capital A | Feb 28, 2009 7:57:30 PM

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