This is what I thought was normal: When you move to a new country or city, you usually either a) move into a furnished place with a washing machine or, b) move into an unfurnished place and use a laundrette to wash your clothes and sheets while you wait for your own washing machine to be shipped.
Assumption incorrect: There are no laundrettes in Dubai! Without the assistance of the local laundrette we have found that hand washing clothes is not a problem. But we only have one set of sheets and I can barely lift them when they are waterlogged after washing them in the bathtub. The process of drying them on the balcony without getting them covered in sand is a virtual impossibility.
So today we called up a laundry service that collects your washing and then home delivers it. A no-name guy turned up at the appointed hour (7pm) to my apartment and took the bag of washing I gave him. I didn’t need to fill in any forms and I didn’t receive any paperwork at all from him. I didn’t give him any money. He just took the bag and told me that he would bring them back the same time on Saturday (two days later).
It was completely casual yet I feel quite confident that he will bring everything back and then I will pay him in cash. I’ll find out tomorrow evening.
I’ve included a picture of a coin-operated washing machine, only because its an excuse to post a picture of a my favorite brand of washing machine. The name of these washers has always amused me since an amphetamine-popping, gay friend of mine fell about laughing after seeing these as we walked past a laundrette in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.
The Paperless City
They really don’t like paperwork here.
For instance, when you rent DVDs you give them a security deposit of 200 Dirhams (about 86 AUD) and then you give them 180 Dirhams which is payment in advance for the first 15 DVDs you rent. You get a punch card that they stamp each time you rent a DVD. This way, they don’t have to chase you if you return things late. And if you abscond with the DVD their risk is covered. Its simple, relatively paperless and it works.
The DVD and the laundry system give some insight into their reluctance to process paperwork and the benefit to the customer is the processes are simple, and under the control of the customer. You lose your DVD card… you buy another. You don’t pay the laundry guy – you don’t get your washing back I guess.
Cheques are still used here and are used frequently. Our comparison has been Australia – which uses cheques less frequently, and continental Europe, which hasn’t used cheques for years. When your write someone a check you take a photocopy of it. You give them the cheque and they sign the photocopy to indicate receipt of the cheque. That’s it. Very simple.
For people that have been used to electronic processing – or at least something with duplicate copies shared between the vendor and customer – its a little unsettling at first to not have anything to prove your contract. But then we all know what its like trying to get something reversed or resolved via a help desk when you have an electronic system. As an IT-process professional I am finding this new experience very illuminating!
Of course all these processes rely on face-to-face transactions and hand delivery of payment. But since there is no postal system to private addresses in Dubai then face-to-face is an accepted way of doing business.
Postage and Mail
Yes that’s right… no private postal addresses. If you want to receive mail you give your work address – there is post for businesses – and collect it on the table they throw all the mail onto. Yep, casual. I have no evidence to support it being effective or ineffective yet but I’m guessing it works roughly as well as the systems in Australia (which is highly reliable) or the Netherlands (which is mostly reliable).
Richard has made jokes about the possibility of setting up a pigeon service. .. but since falconing is one of the nation’s traditional sports it seems doomed to failure.