The irritation started yesterday with my Vodafone Hungary pre-paid account. First, there is no obvious way to top it up, and I have by repeated tries found that handing cash money over the counter at the Lotto shop (of all places!) achieves the required result: an increase in credit of exactly the same amount as the cash handed over. In separate enquiries involving repeated visits to the Vodafone shop, I have learned that connecting to the www.netinfo... website with the device results in a display of the amount of credit and what data remains to be used. Most of the time. Sometimes the website decides to send me through some stupid rigmarole involving registering my phone, and as it's entirely in Hungarian, where my hovercraft is full of eels, the exercise is frustraneous at best.
I discovered that my Budapest bank ATM includes a 'mobile phone top-up' option that I didn't dare use on a machine where "YES" and "NO" are an adventure in alien language. However, I found a similar thing on the bank's English (alhamdulillah :-) ) website, and I decided to avail myself of the facility.
I instructed 5000 to be moved from my bank account to the phone account and this all happened. I got an SMS from Vodafone confirming that my 5000 had become 5202 credit. Imagine my surprise and irritation then, when I received a second SMS stating that my credit balance was now 3048 after fees and charges! It should be noted that all of this SMS info came in Hungarian and had to be put through Google Translate. Blah, blah, hovercraft, eels.
So today, irritated at how most of my phone credit had seemingly been eaten in fees, I dropped into OTP Bank and, after a protracted wait, was kindly informed that the bank makes no charge for card transactions except ATM cash withdrawals.
Vodafone was less than helpful. After another interminable wait in the shop I was reliably informed that nobody had access to my account (lies), that they didn't know what fees were payable (possibly true but unlikely if the staff are competent), and that I had to call the telephone helpdesk because my showing Vodafone employees their own www.netinfo... web page and their own SMS texts merely demonstrated Jon Snowitis.
Wading through the Hungarian call tree eventually got me to the English menu with English speakers to talk to. Or not. "I am no speak English. I will not buy this record; it is scratched." Yes, I know this is Hungary, where they speak Hungarian. But this is the English service.
True to their word, Vodafone did phone me back. It turns out that there wasn't a massive fee deduction, but my particular package has a feature that when the credit exceeds 4000 the system immediately deducts 2000 in exchange for 1GB data. This does not happen when I add credit in the Lotto shop, but I was at this stage past arguing.
In summary: a charging structure that is so complicated that after several months and repeated personal visits to the shop I still get caught out by it suggests that Byzantine, if not Kafkaesque, tariffs are not useful for creating happy customers. Part of the problem is that the website is totally in incomprehensible Hungarian. There is an English version of the website, but clicking on it merely produces pictures of happy smiling people presumably yacking on their Vodafones and a load of marketing garbage. Attempts to navigate from this homepage also navigate away from English.
The icing on this particular cake is that Vodafone sent an SMS soliciting customer feedback, but owing to a 'server error', it is repeatedly impossible to provide any.
So I failed with Vodafone. Perhaps I'd have more success with IKEA.
Well, yes. Except that the bedside table I was interested in is probably a different colour from the one already in the flat. And it weighs 20kg, making it user unfriendly on the Metro and the walk home. I found a vast pile of Swedish Christmas goats in the remainders bin near the checkouts. It would seem that this year's colour is red and is not popular in Budapest. They're heavily discounted.
Unfortunately, the other thing I found near the IKEA checkouts was half the population of Budapest. I refused to queue for maybe an hour for one minor purchase; my next IKEA visit will doubtless be one morning in the middle of the week.
As it happens, the other half of Budapest's enormous population was at the Christmas market in the city centre. The place was a seething sea of shuffling shoppers. Busy is one thing, but the amusement factor of my repeated collisions with people who suddenly stop, reverse, or launch themselves out of shop doorways soon begins to wear very thin. Nose In Phone Syndrome doesn't help either. It is the Season of Goodwill, which is probably what helped me not to accidentally elbow anyone in the face.
Smoking in pubs is forbidden, so you typically get a group of lads standing outside on the narrow footway. Come on, guys. If you stood just slightly further apart you could block the footway entirely. And then at the next pub, the same again. And again. And again. And again. It's impossible to walk in the road because of traffic. Anyone who behaved in this way in a vehicle would be rightly lambasted as an ignorant arsehole. Yet when he's a pedestrian, the same manners are apparently perfectly acceptable.
I guess, because nothing is likely to change in the near future, that no-one should underestimate the stupidity of people in large groups.