Archive for the ‘People&Society’ Category

Uber in Cluj

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

Last year, in the midst of the biggest festival of Cluj, Uber thought it would be a good idea to start its services here, too. Naturally, the demand was a lot higher than the local drivers could support, so Uber supplemented its drivers from other cities of Romania. Despite the small scandals that arose between local taxi companies and Uber, the initiative cought on and soon I also decided to try it out.

My first rides were small disasters, but I decided to overlook the fact, that the first few drivers had no idea where I was and went to completely different quarters to pick me up, after all, they were newbie drivers. It is true, that I never had such an issue with a local taxi driver, it did happen though, that Uber had a car to pick me up, while NONE of the local taxi companies could get me a car in a reasonable time. So, related to the ease of finding a ride, the local taxi companies do not have a clear advantage: after the first few hard pickups, the Uber drivers got the hang of it and could eventually pick me up in time regularly 😉 .

So what about price? Well, normally it is a bit more expensive than a taxi. There are, however, many promo codes, which reduced the price quite significantly… There is also, a minimum price you have to pay, no matter what. I’d say depending on where you want to go Uber can become much more expensive than a taxi.

So, why would I pay more for Uber? Well, for starters, I do not pay the driver (i.e. no cash involved), Uber simply charges my registered credit card, depending on the ride, the promo code or sometimes, the weather :). HUGE advantage for Uber, welcome to the 21st century, local taxi companies 😉 . Another reason why I’d pay more for Uber: the ride quality. On average it is miles better than a local taxi. I also found out why: Uber drivers do it for fun, taxi drivers do it cause they have to… imagine the difference in attitude.

Unfortunately, a couple of months ago the local authorities decided to interpret the law in a way which brough Cluj back to the 20th century: Uber is banned in the city. I mean, if there is something old and not working, why would we even try to change it? Really disappointed… this is not the city attitude I got used to in my 13.5 years living here… at least it should have been a wake-up call to taxi companies: it is possible to do MUCH better!


More than a Coincidence

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

I have been puzzled whether I should write this post or not. Then, I thought, if I do not do anything, then I can consider myself as one of the people who contribute to this situation. There is a small chance, that someone who can actually do something about this will actually read my post, but hey, it is better than nothing. So what is the story about? Well, it is about how a certain bank made a fool out of me today.

It so happens, that I had some things to take care of at BCR (the biggest bank in Romania). Unfortunately, I rarely find the time to do such things personally during workdays, because I do not have that much free time. Today, however, I had a little more spare time, so I decided to visit the banks nearest office. The target office was a 10-15 minute walk away from my workplace, so I decided to go on foot. After a 15 minute walk, however (uphills), I arrived at the bank, but sadly, the operator told me that the lady responsible for the operation I needed to do was not working that day, and nobody else (!?) could do that task instead of her.

I said to myself, no worries, I will just walk down to the second nearest office (a 20-25 minute walk) and handle everything there. After all, these things may happen to anyone. Surprise, surprise: after arriving to the second office, another lady told me, to come back in 10-15 minutes, because the lady who is responsible for the operation I needed to do was just out, and nobody else (again!?) could do that task instead of her. This was more than a coincidence… was the bank fooling around with me?

There was no other choice, I had to do yet another 10 minute walk to the central office, and there the lady responsible for the operation I needed to do… was just in 🙂 . I successfully wasted around one hour of my one hour lunch break walking around in the city, looking for someone at BCR who can help me (it was NOT a complicated job)…

I did not work with BCR for quite a while now. I chose some more “user-friendly” banks… boy I made the right decision: these guys have a very poor management system. Let me point out a few key problems:
– Most clients, who have money, work all day long, and there is a high probability that they will pay a visit at lunch-time (not when they are also working), so… do NOT leave the front desk in that period.
– Task management 101: always have a backup for everything (if someone is not in, someone else should cover)
– And finally: do try to open up your offices next to busy office-buildings (e.g. Sigma center in Cluj) like other banks do.

I am not sure if I had a bad day, or if the bank really has bad organizational methods, but having two bank offices refuse a service due to the fact that the person is not in on the same day is, I think, more than a coincidence. I think something is wrong there…


A Big Leap

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Last year me and two colleagues of mine have decided to do a trip which is a little bit out of the ordinary: a West Coast to East Coast road-trip in the U.S. 🙂 . Well, our plans started to develop and develop right to the point when we have started to take our first steps to get there: get a passport and then apply for a visa.

The passport part was fairly easy: my new biometric passport was ready in a few weeks and I was really surprised of the promptness and speed of the authorities this time. But this was the first and easiest step of all, the biggest was the one that followed: apply for a U.S. travel Visa.
Big Leap
So how does one apply for a U.S. Travel Visa nowadays in Romania? Just follow these steps:
Step1: Pay 141$ at BT for the interview
Step2: Pay $11 at a BT for a scheduling-code
Step3: DS-160 application form (upload a photo also)
Step4: Print the confirmation page and put it into a folder
Step5: Arrange a meeting (scheduling-code+application ID)
Step6: Make another photo, different from the one used for the application
Step7: Add any other helpful document (e.g. proof from your company that you work there, previous visa etc.)
Step8: Go with the folder and passport to the U.S. Embassy
The exact information can be found here.

So far simple, right? Well, after following these steps, on February the 2nd at 9:15 me and my friend (the third person had to abandon 🙁 ) arrived promptly to the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest. I was actually “happily disappointed” by the changes they made since my last visit 5 years ago (J1 Visa for 3 months). Now there are lockers for your bags and for your phones which are kept secure while you are inside the building. There is also a reception where you can hand in the most important documents (DS-160 confirmation page and passport) so you don’t have to carry it in. It seems they really have developed over the past 5 years, something I cannot say about Bucharest: unfortunately now it looked much worse than before (I honestly cannot even compare it to Cluj).

After two halls in which I had to wait to be called into the next one and after a fingerprint session (even though I had them taken 5 years ago) I finally arrived to the agent. This was the moment of truth: could I apply for a U.S. Travel Visa without an invitation, without a contact person or without even any proof of having any real-estate which assures that I will get back? The answer is: YES, the words “Your Visa has been approved” never sounded more reassuring: getting to the U.S. is not a big thing anymore. I can travel there anywhere for the next 10 years 😀 .
In my case having had previously a visa helped, but my friend has never had one and yet he received the visa even so. A few things they liked: we have both traveled a lot in Europe already, we had stable jobs back home and we spoke English fluently (although the agents spoke also quite understandable Romanian <= respect 😉 ) The next day we already bought the airplane tickets: on Expedia our purchase has been confirmed. This means that the big step has been made: we are off. If nothing goes wrong, I might just have quite a few things to blog about 🙂 .


Lessons Learnt

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

This little story actually happened a while ago, but because I was quite busy and/or tired during the last two months, I did not really have the energy to update my blog. I really did not know if I should write this or not, but then I thought, why not? Maybe somebody else can learn from it.
The story actually begins with the fact that I changed some parts on my car and I thought I should sell the old ones on the internet for someone who might need it. For this reason I wrote two messages on two of the local BMW forums in the “sales” section hoping that someone would buy them. I made some nice photos, indicating some scratches on the old parts clearly and set a price which is around one fourth of the new parts price. I did not really think someone would come and buy it, but surprise surprise someone did.

My buyer seemed to be a really nice guy who was a little short of money, but in the end we agreed on a price which would be OK for him. I opted for the solution which allowed me to choose and pay for the delivery method. Not knowing the guy (and being from a part of the country which does not have a good reputation on this) I thought this solution would be safer.

The next week on Monday I immediately went to Fan Courier, a local courier service which would deliver my package. After some complications (the courier company did not have it’s own packaging material: great minus) I managed to pack the parts correctly and the operator at the desk completed a form which would allow me to be in control of the delivery: the receiver can not open the package until he pays the price. Package out, phoned the guy, waiting started…. and it continued for about a week. I tried to phone the guy, but now he did not want to pick up. It seemed fishy… I went back to the courier asking for the situation of the return money, he examined it and he noticed that in fact there was no return money picked up… strange… but why?

It turns out that the operator from the desk forgot to complete the return-money section thus the delivery guy did not even bother picking it up. I tried to stay calm: it is not my fault… the operator was the one who made the mistake… he should sort it out. From this point of view I am great-full for the guy, he really did his best by phoning the guy, then the agency at the delivery point to go and search for the guy. In the end they caught him and he agreed to send the money. He was really sorry and claimed that he really wanted to pay but the delivery guy said no. So… that was a relief… at least for two more days, when I went to pick up the return-money: what I found there was actually the parts themselves… no scratch, just unpacked and repacked. The guy now claimed that the parts were actually no good…

So, I learned a few things:
– Try not to sell things over the internet (if there is another alternative, always choose that)
– Make sure you read and understand the forms before you sign them
– Bad reputations of some areas of the country have been confirmed: I’ll try to avoid them in the future.


Why they are better than us

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Have a look at this (good thing they have English subtitles):

Now… let’s stop and think for a minute. Is the above ad actually a good thing? Should we give up our freedom of choice, just because we want to help the local producers? Are we really helping them?

Maybe, just maybe, if the cucumbers were not crooked and ugly we would buy them. The reason why supermarkets sell better, is simple: they have weak competitors. The quality of products in supermarkets is actually quite low (especially the small ones invading local communities). Just give some more soul into your product, and for sure you can outsell them.

Take Italy for example: you can only buy quality goods from local, specialized shops. In Italy you can only buy quality bread or quality meat from specialized shops. The local supermarkets have no chance against them.

The ultimate example of local people fighting back against foreign products is Germany: after WWII, when the whole country was in ruins, what did the authorities do? Opened up the borders, freed up the market, attracted foreign producers to sell their products there. What was the effect? Germans started to produce better products, and eventually pushed back the “invasion”. Nowadays, we know how German products are doing…

Have some more faith, do not give up, adapt to the surroundings, fight back! And for the love of God, do not think that videos like the one above will help you. If they are pushing back, and you are falling back, then take a first step forward… just for the extra stability… then… well, then we’ll see 😉