The Joys of Being a Foreigner – Paying Online

This is really nothing new, as it has bothered me for a couple of years now, but since I’ve ended up doing a series of Being a Foreigner posts, I can just as well toss in this grievance too.

I have a Vodafone number on my phone, on a prepaid contract as they won’t make subscriptions to non-residents. That’s not a problem for me, but I need to pay some money into my account every once in a while, and that’s a bit of a hassle.

I can pay into my account in many places, like bars and newspaper stands, which is fine if your outside and the weather is fine.

Other, more privileged persons, can also pay online. When I started with Vodafone, they only accepted credit cards, but all my payments were consistently refused, as always with a generic message that gave you no clue as to why.

I wrote them about it on several occasions, but never ever got any kind of reply. There’s no point in trying to call their support number, where you’ll just get another two hour session with the automated telephonic Lolita doll, but no satisfaction.

At some point they added a few extra lines to their payment page, one of them stating then they only accepted credit cards issued by Italian banks to people with legal residence in Italy.

Then they added Paypal as a payment option and there seemed to be hope again, but no. All attempt to pay with Paypal ended with a partial web page. All the menus, top, left and right, were there, but the content part of the page were missing and the entire page displayd very weirdly.

I tried many times, without any kind of feedback, and never really knew if they would charge all those transactions. In the end they didn’t, but the incompetence seemed immense, even for such a big company.

Again and again I wrote their support, with screenshots and all sorts of useful information, but never heard anything back.

I guess it could be called black hole support. If you write them, you won’t get any feedback at all, but if you don’t write, you won’t even have a flicker of hope of getting any feedback, so you have to write anyway, knowing that from a black hole nothing with a non-zero mass will ever escape.

One day I sat down and read all the fine print on the help pages, and way in there it said that they only accepted payment by Paypal accounts registered by people with legal residence in Italy, and on an Italian address.

So, unless you’re a resident of Italy and your credit cards are issued by an Italian bank, you cannot pay Vodafone Italy online.

This attitude is not unique to Vodafone. When I look around, now I know what to look for, I see this all over.

Who wants those pesky foreign clients anyway.

The Joys of Being a Foreigner – Cittadinanza Digitale

The Cittadinanza Digitale – digital citizenship – is a very laudable project of the City of Venice with the scope of bringing fast wireless internet to all citizens for free.

As far as I have understood, the project started when the city got the chance to buy a optic fiber network which covered most of the area of the municipality, both Venice proper, the Lido, the islands, and Mestre and Marghera on the mainland. This optic fiber network has been used to set up a series of wifi hotspots around the municipality, mostly in public libraries, squares, parks and beaches.

In Venice most major campi, and many smaller ones, are covered, as are the few public parks (Giardini Reali, Sant’Elena, Garibaldi), and the entire length of the Canal Grande, from P.le Roma to S.Marco.

On the Lido the coverage includes two large swathes of public beach, an area around the Palazzo del Cinema (a few hundred metres from my home), the public library near my rowing club (1.3km away), and, from next February, the entire length of the Gran Viale (1km away).

Needless to say, I’ve been quite eager to get my hands on some access codes for this network ever since it went operative in the summer.

Initially it was only available for residents of the municipality, and I still haven’t that formality in order, or for tourists who can buy access to the network on the Venice Connected web site, but that’s too expensive for long term usage.

In late November the service was finally opened up for “city users”, people who work or study in Venice, but without being residents of the municipality. They require you to have a “carta imob” which is the electronic card you must have to be able to buy tickets at subsidised prices for public transport in Venice, which is otherwise very expensive.

The registration for the service was not without problems, though, and probably for the usual reason, that is, the failure to recognise a codice fiscale for somebody born outside Italy, but that is my guess, because I never got any kind of explanation, and the registration still doesn’t work for people born abroad.

When I entered my codice fiscale, the number of my carta imob and my phone number, besides all the other information they wanted, I just got a generic message stating that “There was a problem with your data. Please check them better and try again”. This happened no matter what I tried.

Cittadinanza Digitale

Fortunately, I tried this on a Monday, and the municipal office on the Lido would take requests about the Cittadinanza Digitale only on Tuesdays, so I headed down there the next morning. The poor women in the office had no idea about what to do about my problem and just wanted me to go home and try again, but as I insisted they called somebody more technical, which didn’t help either. In the end I left all the information needed on a note, in return for a promise that a technician would call me later to help.

Later the same day the lady from the city office called me to say everything was working, that my access had been activated. I received the text message on the phone with the access code that allowed me to finish the registration and get my login and password for the service.

I have used it a few times, for calling Denmark via a VoIP service, and it works OK, even if not perfectly. I not sure the hotspot at the Palazzo del Cinema is fully operational, as the place is a huge building site at this time.

The registration issue still haven’t been fixed completely. I have tried to do the process for my flat mate who is an Italian citizen but born abroad, and the result was very similar. There were an error message for a mistyped codice fiscale, but in the end I still got the same message, so she too will have to go to the office and have them do it manually somehow.

The Joys of Being a Foreigner – Opening a Bank Account

When I decided to stay here in Venice for good, one of the first things to do is to open a bank account. You can only have your money lying around in envelopes for about so long :-)

I went to one of the local banks, the Banco San Marco, and they were very nice and helpful. First thing to do was to go to the Agenzie delle Entrate, the Italian internal revenue agency, go get a codice fiscale.

The Agenzie delle Entrate has an office in the centre of Venice, in the Campo Sant’Angelo just behind the church of Santo Stefano. The visit was a very positive experiece. They look me up on the computer, found the codice fiscale I had been issued over ten years ago in Rome, changed the address and gave me an official looking document with stamps and signatures to prove my right to the codice.

With the document in hand I returned to the bank, and they made me a bank account. Not a normal account, because I’m still not a legal resident here in Venice, so I got a “foreign” account in Euros. I had to sign a gazillion places, there’s not plastic card associated, not possibility of using the ATMs, everything has to be done at the counter for a fee, but at least I had a place to keep my money and to transfer new funds from Denmark.

Now that I have an apartment and need to pay my rent, I went there to transfer the money. All pleased to see me, they proclaimed that they had had another client like me, and that they could now convert my account into a “normal” Italian account, after which I could do the money transfer myself.

They set to work converting the account, but it took more than five minutes, ten minutes, another person was called over to resolve something, twentyfive minutes, brows were furrowed, forty minutes, support tickets made and answered, followed by some more brow excercises. After about an hour it was declared that my account couldn’t be converted because they were unable to move my country of residence from Denmark to Italy. To make me a “normal” Italian account they would have to close my account, estinguish me totally from all their systems, reregister me as a client and make a new account for the “new” client. All this would take several days, and it would have to wait until my rent was paid from the old “foreign” account.

They were supposed to call me this week so I could sign in another gazillion places for the new “normal” account, but haven’t done so, so I’ll have to go there Monday to get it in place before I leave for Denmark for the holidays.

In the mean time, since I’m supposed to use the web bank in the future and not harass them at the counter, I had a look at their web site. It wasn’t very informative:

Banco San Marco - no Italian no English

Each and every page just displayed the text “Sorry. This content avaible only Italian” (sic).

I tried to tweak the language settings of my browser and entire system, but to no avail. No matter what page I asked for, I would get the same stupid message in broken English.

The only page that did work, or seemed to work, was the “Contact us” page, so I sent them a slightly annoyed message – in correct Italian – stating that as a client of the bank I expected to be able to use the web site, in Italian if necessary. I assume the web site does exist in Italian as they claim, but I have no way of knowing :-)

I still haven’t heard anything from them yet regarding the web site, or maybe the contact form didn’t really work after all, and I probably never will hear from them. I will take my computer with me to the bank on Monday to show them.

The Joys of Being a Foreigner – Telecom Italia and Alice

Living in another country always causes problems of one kind or the other. Both public administration and private companies are geared towards the citizens, not foreigners, and justly so. Yet at times you run into problems so stupid its hard not to get a bit annoyed.

Telecom Italia is the largest provides of telephony and internet access in Italy. Having found an apartment I turned to them for an internet connection. To order an ADSL from them I had to register on a web site called 187 Alice, filling out some online forms.

First question for registration was my codice fiscale, which I have, emitted regularly by the Agencie delle Entrate, the Italian internal revenue agency. The codice fiscale is generated from your name, date of birth and place of birth. I’m born abroad so instead of a province code my codice fiscale if says ZZ, which means ‘abroad’.

I entered my legal and correct codice fiscale and clicked next. Now I had to fill in a long form, a part of which was date and place of birth, as drop down menus. There was no option for abroad, just a long list of Italian provinces. So, I just entered Venice, who cares anyway where I’m born. Well, Telecom Italia does. The site refused to continue the registration because the place of birth in my codice fiscale and in the form didn’t agree.

After banging my head a bit on the form and the wall, I went back, entered a fake codice fiscale as if I was born in Venice and I could complete the registration, only not quite as me :-)

I later got a confirmation email for my registration, to which I replied correcting my codice fiscale, but that email on doubt ended in a black hole. In any case, I’ve never heard anything about it.

I then managed to place an order for an ADSL. This was all done three weeks ago. I still haven’t heard anything about that either.

The order is visible on the web site, and there’s a nice ‘Write us’ link besides it. Clicking the link opens a new window, not with a contact form, but with a short message: ‘We’re sorry. This function is not available at the moment’.

It hasn’t been available for three weeks now.

All other ‘Contact us’ and ‘Write us’ and ‘We care deeply about our customers’ links on the site behaves similarly.

Telecom Alice Scrivici

There’s a phone number to call, 187, and its free of charge. As is the norm in these times, an overly sweet, but automated, female voice answers the call. I’ve spent enough time on the phone with these computerised women to be able to imagine how it must be like making love to an inflatable Lolita doll. First question: ‘Please enter the Telecom Italia number you want service for’. I don’t have a Telecom Italia number yet, but I’m trying to get one. Not good enough, and I got no further on the phone. I’d probably get more joy out of the doll.

I guess Telecom Italia don’t really care to hear from me as a potential customer.

Having no other options left, I had to leave my comfy couch and go to one of the Telecom Italia shops in Venice, but they’re staffed with sales people, so my expectations were moderate.

At least the trip to Venice gave me an excuse to visit my favourite ice cream shop, the Gelateria San Stae, for a chat with the owner, Chiara.

In the shop the assistante listen to my grievances with the usual expression of “yes, I know, but what I can do about it”, and in the end he cancelled by online order and made a new one with a real paper form, with my correct codice fiscale and with a less attractive price.

The original online offer was for €37/month but €25/month for the first four months. The new offer was for €37/month but €30/month for the first four months, so €20 more expensive :-( When I complained about the deteriorated offer, the assistant put on his “yes, I know, but what I can do about it” expression again, and you know that you can do as little about it as he can. The price is printed on the form, and he has no authority to change it.

Somehow this seems to happen every time – you never get the offers you’re presented with initially. Something always happens to your disadvantage.

Now I have to wait. A technician should call within ten days, which should be during the next week, to schedule a visit to setup the box and the phone line.

We’ll see …


Lessico Veneto – Malamocco

I recently found some scanned books from Venice of times past. One of them is a kind of historical encyclopedia from the mid 19th century, and I must say it has its little oddities :-)

The entry for Malamocco – a small hamlet on the Lido di Venezia with a glorious past – reads:

Malamocco, Matemauco, Metemaucum. City which flourished in the first times of the Venetian society, located near the harbour, where the Madoacus, or Brenta (from where, perhaps, the name Matemauco) entered the sea. It was the capital on the Venetians, and seat of their doges (these had already abandoned Eraclea, or Eraclia) until the year 813 circa; it also had nine bishops, the last of whom were one Stefano Badoaro (see Bishops of Malamocco). By earthquake, or by horrible storm from the sea, it was destroyed between 1100 and 1102, and now nothing remains but well kept orchards and a poor hamlet. There, fleeing  Austrian bullets (see san Giuliano del buon albergo), hunger, anarchy and the many other calamities that afflicted the illustrious and unfortunate Venice, in a few hours, by cholera, on the twentyfirst day of August of the year 1849, passed away serenely, because supremely pious, the woman of who writes. O reader, it will not hurt you to say a prayer for the peace of her soul.

Here’s the original:

lessico-veneto-malamocco

“Lessico Veneto” by Fabio Mutinelli, published in Venice, 1849, p.238.

Skim Kayaks suspends production

Skim Distance on a cloudy dayI’ve just received a message, in Swedish, from Skim Kayaks stating that they’re suspending production and sales because they’re having problems making ends meet  economically.

Its sad because the boats are fantastic. I have paddled a Skim Distance around Sardinia, and will take it around Sicily in March, and I have recently bought a Skim Dex for use as a guide kayak in Venice, where its combination of speed, agility and stability makes it the perfect boat for paddling in Venice.

Here’s the message in my unauthorised  translation from Swedish:

We take a break

We started Skim Kayaks in 2002 with the ambition of building and selling sea kayaks which we found missing on the market. And which we believe other paddlers found missing too. The goal was produce boats locally and as environmentally friends as possible, boats with characteristics and details meant to make it more fun and safer to paddle in all sorts of weather, all year. Boats that we ourselves as paddles felt we could grow in.

Seven years and many Skim Kayaks later we feel happy, and a little proud, that we have reached our goal. The only goal we haven’t reached is the economic. It is hard making a living making kayaks in the way we wanted. We have therefore decided to take a break and think hard about what we can do to build the boats we want to build. In a way that doesn’t conflict with what we think is important.

From now on it will not be possible to order a Skim Kayak. While we ponder what to do with the boats we have, we will continue to sell kayak accessories that we use ourselves and that we think is good. You will find that on kayaksaker.se. See you there.

Great paddling!

Göran Pehrson och Anders Nyström

and here’s the original Swedish text:

Vi tar en paus

Vi startade Skim Kayaks 2002 med ambitionen att bygga och sälja havskajaker som vi saknade på marknaden. Och som vi trodde att några andra paddlare också saknade. Målet var att på ett så miljömässigt sätt som möjligt närproducera båtar som hade egenskaper och detaljer som skulle göra det roligare och säkrare att paddla i alla slags vatten, året om. Båtar som vi själva som paddlare kände att vi kunde utvecklas i.

Sju år och många Skimkajaker senare känner vi oss glada, och lite stolta, över att vi nått det mål vi en gång satt upp. Det enda som inte riktigt nått ända fram är det ekonomiska. Det är svårt att leva på att bygga kajaker på det sätt vi tänkte oss. Vi har därför bestämt oss för att ta en paus och fundera noga på hur vi ska göra för att kunna bygga de båtar vi vill bygga. På ett sätt som inte tummar på det som vi tycker är viktigt.

Från och med nu kommer det därför inte gå att beställa en Skimkajak. Men medan vi funderar över hur vi ska göra med de båtar vi har och de båtar vi vill ta fram, kommer vi fortsätta att erbjuda kajaktillbehör som vi själva använder och tycker är bra. Dom hittar du som vanligt på kajaksaker.se. Vi ses där!

Skön paddling!

Göran Pehrson och Anders Nyström

Vi tar en paus

Vi startade Skim Kayaks 2002 med ambitionen att bygga och sälja havskajaker som vi saknade på marknaden. Och som vi trodde att några andra paddlare också saknade. Målet var att på ett så miljömässigt sätt som möjligt närproducera båtar som hade egenskaper och detaljer som skulle göra det roligare och säkrare att paddla i alla slags vatten, året om. Båtar som vi själva som paddlare kände att vi kunde utvecklas i.

Sju år och många Skimkajaker senare känner vi oss glada, och lite stolta, över att vi nått det mål vi en gång satt upp. Det enda som inte riktigt nått ända fram är det ekonomiska. Det är svårt att leva på att bygga kajaker på det sätt vi tänkte oss. Vi har därför bestämt oss för att ta en paus och fundera noga på hur vi ska göra för att kunna bygga de båtar vi vill bygga. På ett sätt som inte tummar på det som vi tycker är viktigt.

Från och med nu kommer det därför inte gå att beställa en Skimkajak. Men medan vi funderar över hur vi ska göra med de båtar vi har och de båtar vi vill ta fram, kommer vi fortsätta att erbjuda kajaktillbehör som vi själva använder och tycker är bra. Dom hittar du som vanligt på kajaksaker.se. Vi ses där!

Skön paddling!

Göran Pehrson och Anders Nyström