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Friday, July 4, 2008

Life of a Travel Writer: Italy and the tediousness of red tape

We've been on the road in Northern Italy since Tuesday when we picked up our Fiat Bravo from the car rental company in Milan. I'm not telling you which company because I don't want to give them coverage. After several problematic rentals with them in Cyprus, Crete and Rome, we gave them another chance after they reimbursed us for the expenses incurred from the last mess-up and assured us this would be a perfect hire. No such luck. Despite the UK customer relations guy re-confirming the booking with the Italy office, we had problems yet again, wasting hours in the Milan office because our voucher looked different to the normal vouchers according to the woman behind the desk. No matter that it was the only voucher that we were emailed, the wording was the same as her voucher, and it said "this is your car rental voucher". Yet still she wouldn't believe it was a voucher and we argued black and blue, wasted over an hour in the office, and we had to call the UK head office to get them to fax our voucher before she'd let us take the car. Italy isn't easy. Italians may have an easygoing nature socially, but when it comes to their professional life, they're sticklers for protocol and processes, and there's more bureaucracy and red-tape here than I've seen anywhere before. The delay at the rental office meant a delay checking out of our apartment which meant it was lunch time when were leaving and we were stuck in Milano traffic for an hour trying to get out of the city. Oddly enough our sense of humor returned and we began to joke about how these people got their jobs. We imagined their interviews: "Any IT skills?" "No." "Interpersonal skills?" "No." "Are you inflexible and a stickler for the rules, even when they make no sense?" "Yes." "Any kind of problem-solving skills or lateral thinking abilities?" "Of course not!" "Do you find that dealing with the public gets in the way of a good coffee break and gossip with your co-workers?" "Absolutely!" "Then you've got the job!"

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