Gimme My Phone
Getting a mobile phone in Japan is not as easy as getting a mobile phone in Indonesia or other countries. In Indonesia, if you want to communicate with people with a mobile phone, all you have to do is go to a phone shop, pick the phone you desire, and pay. And you get a phone. Next step is going to a cellular service provider to get a SIM card to enable you to call. You can apply for a post-paid SIM card or buy a prepaid SIM card. Having a prepaid card is easier, you just have to buy a card with particular price which usually already includes phone credit (meaning talking and messaging credits), and if you run out of credit that you can't talk or send messages anymore, you can reload your card. It's easy. However, many people prefer to have a post-paid account, like I did. My main reason was because I was too lazy (I repeat: I was and am still, too lazy ) even to buy credit to reload my card.
Here in Japan, it's not that simple. Most of Japan mobile phones are integrated with cellular providers. So, here's what you have to do if you want to equip yourself with a mobile phone. First, go to a cellular provider office like Softbank or Docomo, take a look at the phones they display, learn these phones' facilities and pick one suits you. Next step, a customer service officer will list the kind of services you need. After this process is done, you will have to either pay the phone right away and take it home with you, or pay later included in your monthly bill (it depends on what you agreed with the provider). And thinking of using your beloved phone that has been with you for more than two years in Japan? Good luck. Only phones and numbers registered in Japan are able to use within Japan. If you want to use the phone you buy in Japan abroad, no problem, just list this service when you first register your phone.
When I applied mobile phone for myself, it was a long procedure. First, we went to Softbank and I picked the phone, a white Disney phone, listed the services I wanted, and picked the number. The phone was going to be addition phone, which means the bill was going to be included in my husband's bill. However, since the white colour was not available, I could not bring my phone and I had to come back one week later.
Exactly one week after that we went there and thought that we could bring the phone, but when the customer service checked my husband's bill payment, she found that he had just paid it the day before, and she said that the system takes one day to be able to provide the service (though I don't know why it had to take that long), thus, we could not take the phone home.
A week later (we could only go in weekends), we came back. Again, my husband explained that we were going to take my phone and if we had to pay in advance. The customer service said no and told us to wait. After two hours waiting, instead of getting the phone, the customer service said "Gomen nasai (I'm sorry), you have to pay in advance." My husband said no word and just took my hand and said, "Let's go." He was pissed off.
Finally we got our phone the week later, after such a long procedure.
Gimme Back My Own G*****n Money
I came to Japan on a visitor's visa, and changed the visa status soon after I arrived here. One of the many requirements for getting the visitor's visa is a proof of a return journey ticket purchase, so even though I knew I was going to change my visa and not going home before this year of 2010, I had to buy a return ticket. So, one of the concerns was soon after my visa was approved, I had to cancel my flight ticket to get the refund, as soon as possible, before my ticket was expired.
So, not long after my visa was approved, I called Garuda Indonesia representative office in Nagoya about the refund. After explaining about my need, the officer who accepted my phone call asked me several things about my ticket, and said that they will check Garuda office in Indonesia if this ticket was refundable (I was sure it was, I was not a promo ticket), and she said she was going to call me back.
Several days later, I hadn't heard anything, so I called the office again. The same officer received my phone, and said "I'm sorry, we wanted to call you," and so on (yeah, but why hadn't you?). She confirmed that my ticket was refundable, and told me to send a copy of the ticket and a copy of my credit card (because I purchased the ticket with credit card) to the office by fax. Since we don't have a fax machine at home, I asked for an e-mail address. She mentioned an address, but no matter how many times she repeated the address, I could not ever hear it clearly.
My husband said that he did not want to use office facilities for personal needs, and that meant he did not want to use the fax machine in the office for this refund either. We didn't know where we could find a fax machine (wartels = communication stalls do not exist in Japan), so we decided to show up in Garuda office in Nagoya.
Garuda Indonesia office in Nagoya is in the 4th floor of Hirokoji Building, in a main street in Sakae, one of the busiest business districts in Nagoya, among these fashion stores, cafes, restaurants, people and so on. Such a nice office and a comfortable waiting room reminded me of home, with pictures of Bali, Lombok, and Java, and video CDs and CDs for guests to freely play, watch and listen. And decorations from Jogja and other places.
An officer received us, I think she was the one received my phone calls. I said my name, and she remembered. She said, "I am waiting for your e-mail." And I explained why we decided to come. So, she received my ticket and made a copy of it, and said that she had to send this copy to Garuda Office in Indonesia. And I asked how long the process would take and how the refund would be, in cash, bank transfer or in my credit card refund. She said that it was not a problem. "Maybe it will be in the form of cash, if that's ok." Well, could it be any better than cash? And she added, "Maybe it will take several days from now. I'll call you to confirm." So we left the office, spent the rest of the day in Nagoya, and went home.
One day, two days, one week. I hadn't heard anything. I decided to call. The same officer said, "Ika-san, you purchased the ticket with credit card?"
"Yes," I replied.
"Can you please send the copy of your credit card? You can send it by fax. They need to check your credit card."
Ah, I've thought so. It is related to the credit card payment system, the validity of the card and many others.
And, again, for the same reason, we made a trip to Nagoya. A receptionist made a copy of my credit card, returning it she said, "The refund is going to be transferred in your credit card." Now, this could not be in cash.
"Do you know how long it will take?" my husband asked.
"Hmmm... one or two month," she replied.
God. I didn't quite understand. First, it was going to be several days. And then it became one week, and now it was going to be one month or two. And first it was gonna be in cash, and now it was gonna be credit card refund. For God's sake, it was my money, my own money I was asking for refund.
It was maybe one week later my husband received a phone call from Garuda, they wanted to talk to me. He told the officer that he was gonna tell me to call them back. And he did, and so I called them back. An officer said wanted to know my address. Jesus Christ my Lord, she could have asked about my address to my husband, we live under the same roof. And I asked, "What is this for?" She replied, "For confirming your refund."
The credit card bill electronic statement came weeks later, and I haven't found any refund. Just around the same time, my new card arrived (it was a bit hectic with this credit card, related to what happened when I was in Bali for the wedding, I forgot my ATM Card number and I canceled my ATM card and asked for the replacement, but the bank replaced my credit card as well as my ATM card. :O ). With my new card in hand, I called Garuda office in Nagoya, again. "Do I have to confirm my new card? Because the one you copied is not valid now, and I have the new one. The number stays the same, but the 3 codes in the back of the card are different (partly I felt that this code is only for the owner, but who knows, as they asked everything)." She said, "No, you don't have to." (Believe me, even to explain this took me a while until she understood what I meant).
And she said, "We haven't refunded your money, but let me check the accounting department." And she held my call for a few seconds, and then came back to me and said, "I'm sorry, the accounting department is already closed now, but I will ask tomorrow."
I said, "It's ok. I can wait. I was only wondering if you needed the new safety codes." Sounds stupid? Why did one want to give her own credit card safety codes to other party? I guess I have lost my common sense because of the long long procedure. And why could I not wait? I have waited for 2 months since.
Finally, in the beginning of December 2009, I received the monthly credit card e-statement in my inbox, and I saw some amount of money, refund of my ticket. After total 3 months! And yet, the way to use this money is to spend it, because it's in the credit card refund. But hey.... guess what I found! The ATM machine in combini 50 steps from my place, can take money from many cards, including Visa. And that means my Visa card too. I've tried it! It worked! Yay, combini!
It wasn't the first time I refunded my ticket. I did that too with my ticket from Bali ito Jogja in Christmas holiday 2008. But this how it was. I bought a return Garuda ticket Jogja-Denpasar-Jogja, and then I found a cheaper price with Mandala. So I canceled my Garuda Denpasar-Jogja ticket by phone. But to get the refund, I had to use the Jogja-Denpasar ticket first, and refund it in the bearing office, which was Garuda Indonesia Semarang office in Horison Hotel. So after holiday I came to the office, gave my ticket, the officer checked something, canceled my ticket, asked for my credit card, swiped it in a machine, gave it back to me with the refund money. That was it.
The officer in Nagoya did mention, "Because you purchased it in Indonesia, so we have to confirm the Indonesia office." Oh yes, I totally understood that. But the time it took, asking for the copy of my ticket, and confirming it to Semarang office, what device did they use? Telex? Telegram? Snail mail? Why did it take so long? Did they not do it by phone or e-mail? Because this what exactly the officer in Semarang office told me. I specifically told him my situation as, "I probably won't come back with the return ticket, because if my visa is approved, then I won't go home until next year."
He said, "It's not a problem. I assume, soon after you cancel your ticket, provided you're ticket is still refundable (not more than 3 months after the purchasing), they will call us here, and I'll just confirm that there is this ticket purchased by you and whatever confirmation they'll want me to confirm," which in that explanation also implicitly contained a sense "Hello Lady, we have a 24-hour online system with modern computers here." So I believed him because it made sense and he did it once. But, oh, who would have guessed?
Still think your country is the one with the most difficult procedures? Now you heard two stories from me. It happens in many ways, in many cases, no matter where you go, I guess. Japan is great in immigration procedures, customer service satisfaction, payment methods, but in some cases like these, they really love all things called "ink on the paper".