Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Over this coronavirus period, I’ve gotten pretty good at ordering groceries online. If you plan correctly, you can ensure your meat order is fulfilled (there is never any fresh meat available until at least Tuesday), the right kind of milk is sent (the key is ordering multiple brands – one of them is sure to be in stock!), and that challah is delivered (it’s only sold on Fridays).

Every once in a while, things don’t go exactly as planned. A couple of weeks ago, my delivery arrived later than expected – just hours before Shabbat. I quickly threw a package of chicken into the oven and stashed the rest in the fridge to cook later.

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When I took out the rest of the chicken on Sunday night, I was disappointed to find that the use-by date had already passed… back on the day it had been delivered. Naturally, I reached out to customer service seeking a replacement delivery.

Within 15 minutes, I had my response: The items wouldn’t be replaced or refunded. I was informed that they had been delivered by their use-by date and that I could have frozen them. Thinking something had been lost in translation, I tried to clarify that I had bought fresh – not frozen – chicken. Obviously, anyone would expect to be able to use them beyond the day they were ordered, especially when they were delivered so close to Shabbat.

Apparently it was only obvious to me. Despite a back and forth of tens of emails, this was a battle I wasn’t going to win. While in America, the customer is always right, here in Israel, that’s not the case.

In fact, the entire customer service experience is different here in Israel. During the September heat wave, my husband ran out to a Home Depot-type store and bought some extra fans. Within days, one of the fans had broken. As the fan had come with a store warranty, my husband brought it back for an exchange.

Sounds simple enough, but it wasn’t. Although the fan had just been purchased and had undoubtedly broke, the store would only replace it if it couldn’t fix it. However, any repairs would take at least four to six weeks. Two months later, my husband went back to the store to check on the status of the fan. Apparently it was still under repair.

Ordering products from Israeli stores can sometimes feel like you’re throwing money into a well and making a wish that the items will one day arrive. When my daughter suddenly shot up sizes, I put in an online order from a large Israeli kids clothing chain. Unlike in America, where you can choose from several shipping speeds, this Israeli website only offered standard shipping.

Three weeks later, my order still had not arrived. Customer service assured me that the package had shipped, but that, sadly, packages are not tracked. I had no other choice, but to continue waiting. (Note I’m purposely not providing store names as defamation laws in Israel are quite strict. I’m not looking for any legal trouble!)

While I fully support buying blue and white (i.e., products made or sold in Israel), from time to time, I can’t help but place an order on Amazon. Tracking information is provided for all packages, and they usually arrive at your door (not the post office) within a couple of weeks.

Honestly, because the price of clothing and electronics is so much more expensive here, buying from Amazon, even taking into account shipping costs, often is only marginally more expensive. You just have to make sure to keep all purchases under $75 or risk being hit with extra VAT customs fees.

In some ways, though, customer service here is special. Since we moved into our apartment, we’ve had an army of repairmen trooping through. Some come bareheaded, and others with tzizit swinging outside their work clothing. Between bangs of the hammer and twists of the screw, the workers chat away with us.

They provide us with insider tips for living in Israel, funny stories about that time they went to New York (every Israeli has apparently visited 770 at some point in his life), and endless berachot for new life here. These repairmen don’t view us as just another customer, but as returning relatives settling into our new home.

All things considered, customer service like that? It’s even better than Amazon’s.

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Aviva Karoly made aliyah to Israel with her husband and two children on March 19, with Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel, and JNF-USA. She can be reached at myaliyah2020@gmail.com.