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Problem with Bincai Airport Pickup


PaulB
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For the past few months I've been making plans to study at the Bincai school in Harbin. I've been in touch with one of the representatives at the school, David, who arranged an airport pickup for me today.

Well, the airport pickup never happened. My flight was delayed by a few hours but I informed David and he assured me that there would be someone to pick me up. When I arrived, I did not see anyone waiting to pick me up. So I waited, until the airport had to close, but no one came. It's a very scary situation to be a in city where you know no one and can't speak the language. I was lucky to run into a couple who knew just enough English words to guide me to a hotel.

I'm stressed, upset, disappointed and pissed off, not to mention tired after 16 hours of transit. I'm going to ask the school to shoulder the costs of this hotel room (288rmb) and not charge me their ridiculous airport pickup charge (200rmb). However, I have a feeling they are not going to agree to it and if that happens, I don't think I want to be studying at a school that doesn't take responsibility for its mistakes. I don't know, am I being unreasonable here? It's just pretty infuriating to be assured of something and it not happen.

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However, I have a feeling they are not going to agree to it and if that happens, I don't think I want to be studying at a school that doesn't take responsibility for its mistakes.

I'm sorry to hear about your experiences.

I would recommend that you talk to the school staff in charge about the situation once you arrive at the school: surely you cannot be required to pay pick-up that didn't come, but I wouldn't hold too high expectations with regard to hotel reimbursement. (I know nothing about this school, but from another thread this school it's apparently across the street from HIT, so I guess you could always threaten to enroll there instead... :wink:)

Also, it's usually not the school administrators who give classes, so how effectively they work need not be related to your satisfaction with classes.

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I should also mention that I was required to send a 1000rmb deposit via Western Union in order to "guarantee" the airport pickup and housing.

Ask them why there was no pickup before you make any decisions.

The school was able to call me via the hotel and they said they were never notified of the pickup request until this morning. They said maybe it was because there's a time difference between China and the UK (where David is), but that should be irrelevant given that David confirmed the pickup two days before my flight.

You weren't able to phone them from the airport?

I was given the number of the person picking me up. The hotel tried calling the number but they said the phone was off. David also got back to me with an apology, saying the same (phone is off).

Either way, they are picking me up soon and I'm hoping they fix this.

P.S. roddy, sorry for my bad thread titling.

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No problem, let us know how you get on. Might not hurt to mention this topic, I know Bincai are aware of the forums. If things do break down - and no reason they should as far as I can see, you presumably chose the school for a reason, and one missed airport pickup shouldn't really be cause to abandon those plans - you might want to get in touch with Hyccchina.com - they place people in Harbin and the NE, and may be able to work something out on short notice.

Edit:

I was given the number of the person picking me up. The hotel tried calling the number but they said the phone was off. David also got back to me with an apology, saying the same (phone is off).

Phones turned off are always dubious, but I can't see why you weren't able to phone from the airport rather than waiting till it closed.

Edited by roddy
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Phones turned off are always dubious, but I can't see why you weren't able to phone from the airport rather than waiting till it closed.

Unfortunately I didn't have a SIM card (was hoping my PEOPLES SIM card from HK would work with roaming but it didn't) and the payphones in the airport appeared to require a special type of card. I asked the couple I met to try the number that I had (starts with 1361) and I think they were trying to convey that they didn't recognize it as a Harbin number. They kept saying Harbin is 1451 and they tried dialing the number with that prefix but no success.

Been picked up by now, I hope?

Yes.

However, instead of being taken to student apartment B (1200rmb per month) as promised in an email, I was taken to another hotel (100 rmb per day) because school housing is completely full. Also, the school told me I will need to pay all my costs up front (David told me it would be okay to pay month by month). I'm slightly upset with how things turned out but what can I do.

I would recommend that anyone interested in enrolling there should contact the office directly because there was a lot of miscommunication in my email correspondence with David. I was under the impression that David was working at Bincai, as he had been answering all my questions, but he is in fact a former employee.

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136- would be a mobile number. 0451 a Harbin landline.

Certainly wise to cut out middlemen wherever possible - or at least to look at doing so and see what difference it makes.

Edited by roddy
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Before going in with guns blazing and "demanding answers" and refunds, I STRONGLY recommend that you read this:

http://www.willexcel.com/TESOL/English/High%20Context.htm

and this:

http://www.willexcel.com/TESOL/English/face.htm

Understanding HOW to communicate with the Chinese is absolutely essential to getting the results you want, or close enough to be satisfied.

I guarantee that if you approach this situation the right way, you'll be able to get everything you want and continue to study there.

Basically, the school is going to lie about not being notified because no one wants to shoulder the embarrassment and loss of face in admitting that they were wrong, particularly if the party responsible was management.

The best thing to do is ask questions. You might start this way.

"As you know, I wasn't picked up at the airport yesterday. Why was this?"

"Can you understand from my point of view how this situation my affect my impression of your school?"

"Do you know that I had to forward you money for the pick up and accommodation?"

"In addition to your fee, I've had to pay for a hotel/taxi/etc all out of my own pocket."

"Your school had a good reputation and many people have recommended it to me. How can we solve these problems so that we can continue to work together?"

This is how the Chinese talk and solve problems, and if you take the typical foreigner approach of "You guys are crap, I want answers!" you're not going to get anywhere.

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My first and only class so far was on Friday, in which we learned tones and vowels. Class seems very slow paced, but I've signed up for the free tutoring that Bincai offers and I'm hoping that will be more beneficial since it's one-on-one. It's been hard because the only phrases I know are from listening to ChinesePod, so everyday tasks (going out to eat, shopping) are still a struggle.

Unfortunately, Bincai still hasn't settled the housing situation yet. I'm living in this hotel for three more nights at the very least. Wednesday is Tommy's day off (he is the international school manager) and he said he wants to help me find a place to make up for the housing screw-up. However, I've been told that apartment owners don't like short-term rentals so it's going to be hard to find one for me. Needless to say, I really hope I find something as I don't want to stuck in a hotel and be paying 3000rmb per month. Not sure what I'll do if I can't find a place...

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I'm pretty sure you're in a class with three of my colleagues--they also just started on Friday.

As for the housing issue, the Chinese are not nearly as prompt as we are in regards to "cleaning up" messes that they've made. In their mind, "it'll get done" so it doesn't really matter (to them) if a day or four passes before the issue is addressed.

How "short term" are you looking? Most Chinese prefer to rent for at least six months, and many won't accept anything under twelve.

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Anything under six months and you're either reliant on finding a cooperative landlord, a sublet, or else going into serviced apartment territory. I wouldn't have any trouble with putting the onus on Bincai to sort it out and find you similar accommodation at a similar price to what you expected - sounds like their mistake, and therefore their responsibility to sort it out.

Enjoy the struggle . . .

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