Be careful what you click for…

Step number 59,248 in becoming a proper German is getting yourself a .de email address. Having noticed that a lot of Germans email me from a web.de account, that’s what I decided to go for. There are two things you assume when you sign up for an email account called FreeMail:

  1. You get an email account;
  2. It is free.

I like free.

Register free!
(image taken from giga.de)

You can imagine my surprise when, a month or so later, I received an invoice (Rechnung) from web.de for around €15. Assuming (clearly very dangerous in Germany) that it was a mistake, or possibly some optional extra that I was under no obligation to pay, I deleted it. A few days later, I received another one. About a week later, I got another one and, shock horror, the amount had gone up. It seemed they were serious about this payment malarkey.

Finding it hard to believe that every German with a .de account is paying for it, I emailed my old German teacher to ask if she was paying for hers:

What!? No, I don’t pay. Maybe you accidentally agreed to open up an account where you have to pay. They could have inserted some button that you can hardly see and pressed accidentally.
I heard a similar story from a friend. You should call and complain and tell them it wasn’t your intention to open up this account.
Crap. The one thing I dislike more than making phone calls in English is making phone calls in German. I decided to take the coward’s way out and, instead, replied to the email I had received and sent another message through the Customer Service page – not easy to find. I got a confirmation that they’d received my query and waited. When, after two days, I had got no reply, I knew I’d have to bite the bullet and call. Crap. (Again.)
The telephone number is buried somewhere in the site – I guess they hope that you’ll just give up and stump up whatever it is they’re asking for.
Did you think I’d lay down and die? Oh no, not I!
They hadn’t bet on the intrepidity of Frau von Grady, however. I trawled every inch of that blasted site and eventually found what I was looking for. The first victory. Amazingly, the automated system recognised my nervous muttering of my contract number – when had I signed up for a contract? – and I was put through to an actual person.
I explained the reason for my call.
Herr Helpful: Ah yes, I see that you’ve sent us two emails about this. 
Me: (Grrr.) Why, yes, yes I have. Aaaaaaanyway, I didn’t sign up for a contract, I don’t understand why I’m getting invoices and I don’t want membership to anything. I just want the FreeMail account that I registered for. 
Herr Helpful: I see. Let me just check… (tap, tap, tap)… yes, it seems that on the (insert random date) at (insert random time), you clicked on a button that activated your premium account. 
Now, because of the way web.de is set up, with things moving around the pages, pop-up ads and various buttons that appear randomly, this is actually very possible. However, as I hadn’t handed over any bank details, given a credit card number or even double-clicked to confirm, I hadn’t given it a second thought.
Me: Well, that was a mistake. I didn’t mean to click anything. All I want is the FreeMail account. 
Herr Helpful: OK, I understand. I’m cancelling your “contract” now. You won’t receive any more invoices from us. 
Me: Great, thanks. But do I have to pay the previous invoices? 
Herr Helpful: No, you don’t have to pay anything. 
Me: (Phew.) Fantastic. WAIT! Can you please send me that in writing? (Because Germany…) 
Herr Helpful: Yes, of course. You will get an email shortly. 
As I sat clicking refresh and waiting for the confirmation, I contemplated how much entertainment value the staff at web.de would get out of my “recorded for quality purposes” German over the next 90 days. The email arrived. It was over.
Yeah, right. This is Germany. The following week, I received a “Mahnung” in my inbox. This is like a final demand before things get nasty. The next day, there was one in my letterbox.
Me: What’s “on the warpath” in German? 
Manfredas: Auf dem Kriegspfad. Why?
Me: Because I’m on it. It all started a month or so ago. (Approximately four hours pass…) 
Manfredas: (Snore.)
Unwilling to waste another second of my life on the web.de automated telephone system, I decided to go down the email route again. Two extremely harsh, most likely very rude and, even more likely, in hilarious German, emails were despatched.
On day three, I received a very apologetic email saying that there had been a mistake in the system, that everything was now resolved and that I wouldn’t receive any more invoices or demands. This time I didn’t bother with a reply.
A couple of days later, I received an email asking me to rate the customer service at web.de.
I printed it out and used it to wipe my Arsch. Maybe I should send it back to them after all – if I can find their postal address…
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17 thoughts on “Be careful what you click for…”

  1. Bwahahahaha, I’m dying over here! So typically roundabout pain the ass. 🙂 I’ve heard from a few people here that I should switch to a .de, what with Google being Satan Incarnate and all, and next time someone asks why not, I’ll be directing them to this post. Long live gmail and a platform I (mostly) understand!

    Like

  2. How frustrating. Yes, generally when one clicks on something that says ‘free’ one doesn’t expect to get an invoice. I think you handled it better than I would, I have far too much of a temper – and certainly couldn’t resolve it in another language!

    Like

  3. I hate ALL phone calls. But I’m curious about this national email service. Do they promise not to sell your email data to businesses? Because apparently the commercial services have the right to do that (that’s why it’s “free”). Nothing is private any more. Or maybe privacy comes with the “premium” service.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t see any difference – I didn’t even know it WAS the premium service until I started getting invoices! Probably more things to click on to get you to part with your money – that’s about it! Total swindle 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, I’m impressed with your phone call making skills. I still hate making phone calls in German… especially ones where I have to say/spell my name. I guess there’s nothing like the threat of legal action to make you face your fears 😉

    I have never had a German e-mail address. I did set up a gmail one when I was job hunting though – my old hotmail one didn’t seem very professional 😉 Most of the Germans I know have gmail as well now. Some have a gmx e-mail address. I didn’t realise web.de was still a thing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, I wouldn’t be overly impressed! Maybe you could call them and ask them for the recording – they should still have it for another 60 days or so 😉
      Yeah, I used to be linda_does_nz@yahoo so I set up my Hotmail account for the same reason!!

      Like

  5. It’s great to have you back… where have you been?

    I still use my very old virgin.net email, I have had it since dial up days, I know you are too young to remember listening to your computer beep and burp as it attempted to connect to the tintenet.
    I can’t imagine trying to open an Italian E mail account! The E mail, like the shops probably wouldn’t work between the hours of 12:00 and 15:00 in the afternoon, or is it 17:00 in the afternoon?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha! I can imagine it would be a disaster! blacksheep@ARGH.it 😉 I still have my hotmail account but thought it might be nice to have a .de one for local work. Little did I know…
      Yeah, it’s been a while since the last post alright! Been on the laptop so much working these days that I don’t have the energy to sit in front of it for half the evening too writing a blog post – until I get mad enough haha! Have a few ideas for upcoming posts though, never fear 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally! And that their system is accurate enough to track exactly when I clicked on that stupid button but not accurate enough to stop sending me demand letters after getting an official confirmation from the exact same system… Interesting, right? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. LOL – sorry for your troubles, but thanks to your fantastic punchline, this makes for a brilliant short story. Should be recommended reading for new immigrants to Germany. Well done – both for resolving the cock-up (I am totally with you – I *hate* making phone calls in English), and for this hilarious account.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Don’t say “account”… 😉
      It was quite scary actually. I had visions of debt collectors showing up at the door! Also I’m going to be looking for a new flat soon so I need a clean SCHUFA – it was really stressful! Vodafone are next on my list 😉 But maybe I should send this post to web.de along with the “customer service” survey… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahaha, oh god, yes – “account”. BTW – even *I* would break into a cold sweat and simultaneously feel red hot anger at having been goaded into a fee-incurring e-mail address.
        Good luck with Vodafone, Schufa and the flat-hunting!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The anger was only overshadowed by the fear – a pretty common feeling here 😉 Some friends even said that this kind of “one-click contract” was illegal so I don’t know how they get away with it. I suppose they hope that people just won’t question it and pay… shitty way to do business! I requested my Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung today – there’s a word and a half! Or four words stuck together I guess 😉

          Liked by 1 person

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