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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Magyar Posta or A Lesson in Patience

Magyar Posta
Originally uploaded by dustpuppy
Yesterday I went to pick up a package that came for me from the US and ended up in the international department of the Hungarian Post Office because they decided I had to pay VAT. It wasn't going to be a pleasant trip because

a) I was pretty pissed off that they calculated VAT not just on the amount of money I paid for this package but on the shipping that I paid, too. Not that I want to avoid paying my dues but I thought you are supposed to pay a charge on the value of your imports? The US post already charges me quite a lot to get stuff sent to here, thank you very much.

b) The international department is in a far away and rather shabby part of town. It took me a while to get there and I didn't enjoy the views. I always knew that VIII district is as bad as it gets in Budapest but I never realised how different it is from Budapest I know--social housing, ugly streets, ghetto feeling.

But, back to the Post Office. They have an incredibly ugly, huge, yellowish building right in the middle of Orczy ter. It looks like a relic from the socialist times from the outside and a little bit like I imagine a secret services prison could look on the inside. But the lady working at the reception was very friendly and, after looking at the document I had she directed me to the second floor, office number 5. That's where my amusement begins.

There was, as you might expect, nobody at window number 5. I could hear voices from the room next door (whose door was open), then someone came into my room, gave me a quick glance and told to wait a bit. There was some more room-crossing and telling me to wait before someone decided to deal with me. A lady looked
at my document, gave me a pile of papers and told to go to window number 1.

There was nobody there, either. I could see a bunch of people sitting in the room and chatting and they could see me, too, but, hey, what's the rush? Finally a guy appears and I try to strike up a conversation because I want him to explain to me why I have to pay VAT on the shipping.

Beszel angolul (Do you speak English)? says I, hopefully.

Blank stare.

Ermm, a little bit but it will be easier if we talk in Hungarian, says he.

(Yeah, right. I guess it is too much to expect someone working in the international department to speak a foreign language?)

Anyway, I make my case re: VAT and he tells me that it is how it is, basically.

Rendben, de ez nekem nem logikus (Fine, but this is not logical to me), says I with a friendly smile but firm tone. He looks at me as if I had committed the gravest crime against the constitution. I bet he is thinking how weird those foreigners are, saying stuff like that. You know, a rule is a rule. So what if it doesn't make sense to you?

But he doesn't say any of that, he proceeds to calculate the amount of VAT I have to pay (mind you, it had already been calculated and stated in the letter that I got from the Post Office and which brought me there anyway, but I guess the guy needs to earn his salary). When he is done, he sends me back to window number 5 (with a feeble smile).

After a little bit of waiting, a lady appears from somewhere, snatches the papers away from me and tells me to go to window number 6, where my name will be called, I will pay and can pick up my package.

Surprisingly, there IS someone at window number 6 but the instructions say clearly not to approach before you are called, so I just stand there in the corridor, for some time. Ultimately, I do manage to pay and get my stuff.

Total time of the operation? About an hour for something that should not have taken more than 15 minutes. How many people I had to deal with? Three people doing the job of one, on the taxpayer's money.

So when you hear it in the news that Hungary went bankrupt, don't be surprised.


willow said...

Queues and red tape. Ick!

Jelica said...

It's awful! The system is so inefficient, as usual when it comes to state-owned companies :)

Anonymous said...

well, i have even more horrid story with magyar post... i

posted a letter containing forms for the NY Bar with a check issued to be paid to the Bar (registered delivery, recipient received confirmation and insurance). Only to find out later, that the letter plus check was stolen by someone called Tolnay Tibor (employee of the Posta) who cashed the check and was later apprehended. All of this, obviously, caused seriese of rather huge problems to ME.

Nevertheless, despite a clear evidence that the letter was a) stolen and b) not delivered, the post refused to reimburse me for very basic things - postage and insurance- when I claimed it back.

And the reason?

"Nothing of this kind has ever happened in Magyar Posta. The letters are always duly delivered and are never stolen". Full stop. The fact that it indeed DID happened did not interest them at all... Believe or not...

Jelica said...

@ Anonymous: that's an incredible story. Mine was just a minor nuisance but something like that would make me really furious.

Nidhi said...

This is exactly what happened to me when i went to pick up my package form US.. i ended up paying $60 on top my package and no one even speaks a word. I mean no wonder the country is still so backwards. The post office at that location is one of the BIGGEST ones in budapest, let alone the main one.. some messed up crap... i mean no wonder half the country is incompetent. I feel for you!