Ian Edelman in Doha

Expat exploits in Qatar

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Renewing car registration

A year of car ownership has sped by almost as fast as some of the drivers on the roads in Doha.

The time had come around to renew the annual car registration. That means a trip to the new Traffic Department building on Khalifa Street. Although this imposing building faces the main road, access to parking is around the back.

My first visit a week ago was unsuccessful. Although I had the correct documents, that is the car registration card and insurance document, there was only three weeks left on the insurance and it had to the for the next twelve months.

I renewed my insurance a few days later and went back again. It’s the standard deli counter ticketing system, but there were few people in the centre and a huge number of desks.

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I was in and out in 15 minutes, although they start the registration from the day you re-register, not following on from the expiry of the previous one.


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The missing duvet cover

I am going to recount the ongoing mystery of the missing duvet cover.

Every two weeks I take two pillow cases, a fitted bottom sheet and a duvet cover to the Starry Laundry. In return for 22QR or 24QR I receive the sheets back, cleaned and pressed. The price varies depending on whether they class the duvet as a bed cover or a top sheet.

Last week I collected the package and returned home. When I opened it to get the bed sheets out for our cleaner to make the bed (yes I know I am now living the dream where someone else makes my bed),  there were the required number of sheets, however the duvet cover was not ours. It was white, like ours, but a pattern was built into the weave. I checked the other bedding and all was from Zara Home where we bought 2 sets of bedding.

I returned to Starry with the duvet cover explaining it was the wrong one. ‘Come back in 4 days’. I came back in 4 days but no sheet.  ‘Come back in 4 days’ again. Tonight the 4 days were up, and again no sheet. ‘Come back in 4 days’ yet again.

I am not confident in ever seeing the duvet cover again. I have had to buy another one. I have now entrusted Starry Laundry with our second set of bedding.

The guys who manage the shop are low paid workers. It is hard to be cross with them. They look bewildered when I question them. I try and be reasonable but when I asked how long it would take before something was done I got a shake of the head. Would it take a week, two weeks, a month or a year, I asked? ‘Not a year’, he said. I thought I was onto something but he couldn’t commit any further.

I will go back in another 4 days. I am not sure how this will be resolved, but will be asking for free laundry to the value of the missing sheet. I will let you know the result.

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I had a slightly unsettling experience an hour ago. We’d been for our early Friday morning walk, and then enjoyed a large hotel breakfast. I then went out to the local supermarket for the weekly shop.

As I was putting the shopping bags into the boot, a youngish Asian man approached me and asked if I spoke English. He then showed my a piece of paper with three items listed with their prices, and underneath a total of 169QR. He explained that he needed money for medications for an injury he had on his forearm. He showed me a somewhat septic wound that had been professionally stitched, but now showed clear signs of infection. 169QR is, a significant sum for this man, as labourers salaries are as little as 700QR to 1,000QR a month.

I am not used to quite such a direct approach when asking for money. In the UK the standard line is ‘can you spare some change’, but it’s from someone sitting on a piece of cardboard on the pavement with a dog on a string, not from someone at eye level with a specific need.

I knew I didn’t have the required 169QR in my wallet as most of my cash had just been spent in Mega Mart. I pulled out two 10 Riyal notes and gave them to him. He said that God would bless me and turned and walked across the car park. I packed my groceries and began the 5 minute drive home.

I hadn’t gone that far when I was hit by a sense of guilt and a moral dilemma. Only that week I had donated $50 (a little more than the 169QR) to three of my work colleagues who had grown ridiculous moustaches for Movember. Our breakfast that morning had cost 120QR.

Giving to Movember was for prostate cancer research but I would have no idea how my small donation was going to be used. A similar amount could have directly helped this man. I realised I should not have considered giving money but taken him to the pharmacy and bought the medications. Of course it’s now too late to go back and try to find him. Maybe he managed to get the extra 149QR he needed.

Giving to charity is one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims are encouraged to give in charity (Sadaqah) according to their means. While my stance is entirely secular, I know I will react differently if a similar situation ever happens.

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One off technical glitch

A while ago I wrote a post about Borderlinx, the shipper we use to get mail order things from the UK or the USA to Doha. Until last week everything went relatively well, and most everything arrived within a six or seven days of being purchased.

But Borderlinx moved their UK warehouse from MIlton Keynes to Daventry, and things seems to have gone wrong. It took over four days for good received in the warehouse to be recorded as arrived. It has now taken another four working days and they have yet to be shipped.

I sent a message via twitter
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They replied
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It is good to see they are monitoring social media and are responsing to questions. I also had an email telling me it would be fixed as soon as possible but not when. So I headed to their ‘online chat’.

I ‘chatted’ with Hassan for over 30 minutes…

Please wait while we connect you to a customer service specialist. You are currently number 1 in Queue. Your expected wait time is 0 minutes and 2 seconds. While we connect you, please note that our UK warehouse has now moved to a new address. Ask the chat operator for details.

Welcome! This is ‘Hassan’. How may I help you today?
Your Issue ID for this chat is LTK122160122594X
Ian: Hi Hassan
Hassan: Welcome to Borderlinx. Thanks for your enquiry. Please allow me a moment while I read your query/question.
Hassan: Hi
Ian: are you still there?

(long wait… )

Hassan: Yes
Hassan: Please allow me a moment while I check that for you.
Hassan: Yes, as I can see some shipments could not be sent as yet due to a technical error. We are truly sorry for that. It will take 2 more days to fix the issue.
Hassan: We will will send you shipments to you.
Ian: I don’t understand what you mean by a technical error
Ian: If it is 2 more days to fix, when will the items be shipped?
Ian: The ‘contact lenses’ in the shipment are items urgently required
Hassan: As you already know that we have changed our warehouse and it moved to a new address recently it took us time to make the full arrangements to ship out the packages.
Hassan: We hope you would cooperate in the issue.
IAn: But please tell me when they will be shipped, not when the problem will be fixed!
Ian: Is there any reduction in the cost? Will there be expedited fast shipping?
Ian: I am being patient, but these sort of logistics should have been sorted before the move to a new facility
Ian: Also if I was told that there were going to be delays due to the new warehouse, I would have chosen an alternative shipper… which I may well do from now on
Hassan: Your shipments will be dispatched within 2 more days.
Ian: and fast delivery?
Hassan: We sincerely apologize for the delay.
Hassan: We are truly sorry for the inconvenience this matter might have caused
Ian: OK… sorry if I have been cross with you… I know it’s not your fault. I will just have to wait. I guess as you haven’t answered the questions about discount and fast shipping that neither are being offered?
Hassan: I am sorry as we do not have any discount currently we can not provide one. Our marketing team sends it directly to the customers if there are discounts. There will not be any more delay.
Hassan: You items will be shipped out within 2 more days.
Ian: OK… have a good day… I will wait for the tracking information to be posted…
Ian: Bye Hassan and thanks for your time
Hassan: You are most welcome
Hassan: Is there anything else I may assist you with today?

I really hate the way all call centres ask this final question as if there was a whole list of other questions I’d been holding back.

But while Hassan and I were finishing our chat my phone pinged. I signed off with Hassan and looked at the phone. A twitter reply from  Borderlinx.

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Watch this space for updates…

PS… I now have a DHL tracking number

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Rainy day in Doha

It’s actually forecast to be a rainy week… the first time I have seen rain or indeed clouds for at least eight months. Rather than removing dust from my windscreen, the wipers have actually been turned on to swish away water.

The temperature has dropped to 24C. We have turned the air-con off. I am wearing a sweatshirt over my t-shirt. I am cold. Anyone you speak to in Qatar who comes from a hot country thinks this is the best weather ever!

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Flat battery

On Sunday morning my car went in for its 10,000 km service at the local Nissan Express Centre . As well as the service, I also asked them to fix the rear washer unit which hadn’t worked since the car was new.

Here in Doha the service intervals are every 5,000 km due to the need for much more frequent changes of oil and filters due to the ambient dust.

I picked up the car in the afternoon. They showed me that the washer was working when I left, but a few minutes down the road, it again did not work when I turned the knob on the end of the washer stalk.

When I went to go to work on Monday morning the car wouldn’t start. The man from the AAA man (Arabian Automobile Association) arrived after an hour and jump started it. I drove to work, but when rechecking the car at lunchtime, the battery was again quite dead.

I blamed poor workmanship at the service centre, and with my lack of expertise in car electronics thought that the again broken rear washer was somehow draining the battery.

A discussion with colleagues at work revealed that the life of a car battery in this climate is on average a year. Another jump start and I drove back to the service centre. A technician computer checked the battery… it needed to be changed, and as it was still under warranty, a free replacement.

Car battery being changed

A new battery was fitted. I asked about the rear washer. The service manager checked… he pressed the stalk forward, and sure enough water sprayed over the rear windscreen. It has always been working. I’d just been turning the stalk as in my last car, not pushing.