Posted by: thewhitesintokyo | April 28, 2009

Rant!!!


There are a lot of horrible and difficult things going on around the world and this is not one of them. However, we had some crash-courses in living in Japan that I thought you might like to read about (and I would definitely like to vent about).

This morning was not fun. I was reminded of the fact that I live in Japan, and despite all our recent progress in adjusting to living here, there are still many frustrating things about living in this particular city and culture.

I checked our credit card statement just to make sure everything was in order, and BOOM! There was a $615 charge from our Japanese cell phone company, SoftBank. We’ve had many problems with getting and maintaining our service with SoftBank, but it’s been worth it since all the new teachers got this service, and in Japan, calling is cheap when it’s “in network” and outrageous when “out of network.” Plus, we can’t break the contract because we’d be charged an arm and a leg for that anyway.

Our normal bill is a little over a hundred bucks a month for one cheap phone and one iPhone. So this $615 charge was obviously an accident. Right???

When we got some help from the office staff at St. Mary’s, they showed us our bill online and we learned that there was one single flat-rate charge this month for $450. Apparently, when we sent an email (from Rachael’s iPhone) to the parents of the youth group kids when we arrived in Thailand safely, we were unknowingly forced into buying a non-refundable, flat-rate, $450 international phone package. We were never told this in our discussions with SoftBank employees. We were actually told explicitly that our internet/phone service could NEVER go over $57.00/month for the iPhone because we paid for a particular package with unlimited internet access.

Now, I understand that there might be an added charge for using the phone in another service area, but a $450 flat fee???!!!

The worst part? There’s no way to negotiate here. Rules are rules and are never broken. If you’re supposed to do something a certain way, you can be absolutely positive that’s how it will be done. There’s no Better Business Bureau, news personality or congressperson you can call to advocate for your circumstance. Basically, you’re just stuck.

This is how I started my day. THEN, I had the pleasure of receiving our refund receipt from our deposit on our last apartment. Even with a crazy dog, new paint colors, and several small holes in the walls, we were only charged around $150 when we moved out of our last apartment. When we moved to Tokyo, we were told that if we took care of the place, we would only be charged a “small cleaning fee” for cleaning and preparing the apartment for the next tenants. For some reason $845 seems a little steep for cleaning a 2 bedroom apartment with no carpet, no tatami floors, and no damage from kids or pets.

Naturally, I calmly returned to the St. Mary’s office and asked for a little help understanding the charges. I was told that this was a “normal” fee and that everything was in order. There were no extra damage charges. This was just the run-of-the-mill fee that everyone gets when they move out. Upon investigation though, several teachers told me that the average fee is $10/sq. meter, which would run around $630 at the highest. That’s steep, but apparently that’s just the Japanese way.

I wasn’t about to flush even $200 down the toilet, so as politely as I could, I asked one of the secretaries if she would call the real estate agent and get a detailed list of what was cleaned and why it cost so much. I also asked for them to reduce the cost because there’s no chance we could have possibly made the apartment THAT bad after only 6 months of living there and I signed a form stating that there was no extra damage beyond “normal wear and tear.”

They’re supposed to get back to me tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted.

Until then, yes Brad, you do live in Japan. Yes, they are obsessed with rules. And yes, this city is still unbelievably expensive and maddening at times. Whew, glad I got that off my chest. 🙂

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