In South Africa, there is a general perception that the revenue service is the most efficient government department amongst a horde of absolute horrors. They are very good at ferretting out every last cent you might owe them, and not too bad about refunding what they owe you.
I was extra delighted last year to find out that I was due a refund of a whole ZAR8,000. Not only that, but they deposited it into my account promptly and I went out and bought a freezer for my kitchen and put the rest into savings, because a little voice in my head keeps saying “don’t ever trust the government”.
So far so good you’d think, except that they failed to let me know that they did a second assessment, oops mistake and I was informed (only three months later with interest piling on) that I had to pay the eight grand back.
Easier said than done. After a couple of futile attempts to EFT them, I decided to call their call center, after all, since SARS is so efficient, surely …. First attempt I was number 178 in the queue. I abandoned, tried something else, but no go. Tried the call center again and I was now number 447 in the queue. Obviously not a happening thing. I tried my bank, they couldn’t help. Back to the call center and this time they didn’t bother to tell me where in the queue I was, so I held on, did some knitting, sauntered upstairs and had a pee, made a cup of coffee, paid my levy, baked a cake, Number 217 in the queue. Nothing to be done, but wait and wait. 45 minutes later, I was at least back to 178 in the queue.
To keep my spirits up I surfed the Net, looking for people with real problems to put my own small ones into perspective, murder, kidnapping, horrible accidents. This helped a little bit, but the call center music was now becoming engraved on my cranium. An hour later I found out I was number 78 in the queue.
There had to be a better way, I went back to the SARS site, found the right button and did a debit order payment. I hate doing these, as they give the recipient carte blance into your account, but at this point I would have crawled on my hands and knees to Alberton with a stack of notes rather than listen to that music for one more second.
One hour fifteen minutes later it looked as though I paid them and I hung up the phone. I think I’ve paid them, I think so. Otherwise I’m going to have to shoot myself in the head.