In Japan there are two types of gas service you can get - There's an explanation here
'cause I'm too lazy to explain, but you need a different stove depending on which type your apartment has. Or you can just get an electric stove and avoid the hassle ^^; But I thought it'd be nice to get the typical Japanese stove with two burners and a fish grill so I can cook more than one thing at once and eat fish more often - especially if it will fit my new kitchen exactly (There is no electrical outlet on the side where the stove goes, so if I got an electric one I'd have to mess around with extension cords )
Anyway, when looking for the apartment I didn't really care about the type of stove in particular as long as I can cook, but when I went to view the apartment I really liked the look of, I was told in no unclear terms that it only had propane gas service, and that I would need to buy a stove suitable for LP gas. I confirmed this at least three times:
1) When I went to see the house, the realtor staff showed me the large LP gas tanks on the side of the building
2) When I asked about the most attractive aspects of the neighborhood I was interested in, I remember the realtor explaining, "There are a lot of newly-built homes that use city gas in the area - though this particular apartment has propane gas, but in general it's popular for city gas because it's cheaper..."
3) I received a paper with basic info about the apartment that clearly said it had LP ("propane / プロパン") gas
When I went to sign the contract last week Friday, I was told that my gas provider would be a company called "Hadano gas" (even though I'm just across the border in Isehara, haha) but no other mention was made of the type of gas, and I also didn't ask because I already had triple confirmation that it was LP... I see now that the tanks I took a photo of have "Marui gas" on them, which is a different company, so maybe that was a red flag that I should have asked about... But there was already too much to think about, so I didn't remember the name at the time of signing >_> (Though in Japan it's not uncommon for the contract to be with one company while the actual service is provided though another company, so it's not THAT strange... Like, my internet contract is with Plala but the cable will be installed by NTT...)
Then last Monday evening I went to pick up a second-hand LP gas stove that somebody had posted in the Tokyo Sayonara Sales group on Facebook (a group where foreign residents sell furniture when they're moving out of Tokyo), a bargain at only 5000 yen, since they're over 20,000 yen new. I don't need a brand new one since I don't know for how long I'll use it, but it was in great condition, so that's good enough for me.
The person I bought it from lived a 15-minute walk away from their station, so I carried the heavy thing in my suitcase and woke up all sore the next day ^^;
On Tuesday morning I called the gas company to contact them about the date I want to start using the gas service, and they asked me if I already had a stove (they can install it for you when they come to turn on the gas), and I answered that yes, I'd gotten a LP gas stove, like the realtor had told me to. But then the staff on the phone was like "Oh, but that building only has city gas"... Uh, what??
So I called the realtor again to confirm, and at first I asked them "You told me that the apartment I'm taking has LP gas, is that right?" to which they answered "Yes, yes, that's right." Then I told them that I had just called the gas company they had told me to call, and that I was told this apartment was toshi-gas. Then the realtor guy must have grabbed the contract and looked, and then he was like "Oh, yes, it indeed has toshi-gas. It says so here on the contract"... Um? When I reminded him of the three points above that all confirmed it would be LP gas, he was like "Well, the landlord could have changed the service very recently, so maybe the old gas tanks hadn't been removed yet (but he didn't even seem sure either...)
The realtor is supposed to go through all the important points in the contract with the client before signing, and they did that, but nowhere was there a mention that the type of gas had changed from what I was told (and what was printed in the documents I was given) earlier... It may have been written somewhere in the tiny print of the contract, but it has about 20 pages, so there's no way you can read it all in detail in the time they give you to go over it before the signing (then I would've been there all day - that's why they do the verbal overview of the most important points ^^;;) I can't even check if it's actually written there because they didn't give me a copy of the contract after I signed it, they said they would send it in the mail later...
So I asked the realtor if they could refund me part of their "agency fee", because obviously they can't do their jobs properly... But the guy who'd been in charge of my case insisted that since it was written correctly as in the contract (even though they'd told me it was LP through other channels 4 times, including on the phone just then when they answered!!)
they couldn't do anything >__>
When I told my Japanese friend about all this, she agreed that it was ridiculous, and that Japanese customers would surely file a complaint about being treated like this. But since the realtor I'd been dealing with didn't seem open to discussion, she helped me e-mail the main office of that realtor company to complain about the bad service at the local Isehara branch office. A day later I got a phone call from someone at the main office, who asked about the details again, and was a lot more willing to listen than the branch office guy. He agreed that the explanation had been lacking and apologized for the branch office providing false information, then offered to refund me for the price of the wrong gas stove that I'd already bought.
Now, since I bought that stove second-hand from an individual seller with cash, I don't have a receipt for it, so I wasn't actually expecting them to refund the exact price. That's why in my complaint I had requested a partial refund of the agency service fees, because it's the service
that was lacking - the stove issue isn't even the only issue I had with them. Besides that, they also...
1) Didn't tell me in time that the guarantor fees were more expensive than they had told me in the quote that I had initially agreed to. It became 3000 yen more expensive because I was put on the "foreigner plan" automatically, but they didn't email me about that until the day before I was due to sign... I emailed them back immediately to request if I could just use their regular plan, because I don't require any translation or interpretation services (which I assume is what makes their "foreigner plan" more pricey? I sure hope they don't just make it expensive just for the heck of it because "foreigner" without offering any additional services...) But they didn't reply to my email, and the next day I had to go to the realtor office to sign the contract, so there wasn't any time to make any changes or request a different guarantor company. That would have to go through the landlord again, which would delay the process, but I had already given notice for my current apartment at this point, so if I delayed the move I would end up homeless ^^;
2) Gave me a wrong phone number for the Isehara Waterworks Bureau - unlike when I moved into my current apartment, this realtor doesn't arrange electricity, gas, and water for you (obviously, or else they would know the type of gas???), so they gave me a list of phone numbers that I needed to call myself in order to begin using service. But the phone number they gave me for water connected to some kind of internal office, not the customer service line, where I got yelled at by an angry old man who thought I was prank-calling them ^^;;;;; Seriously, why are the agency fees even so expensive if they don't even arrange these things for you!?
So the refund I'm requesting isn't as much because of the price of the "wrong" stove that I bought, but more about the general lack of service and the trouble and stress I went through to get everything arranged x_x Thankfully the staff of the main office seemed to understand that, and said they could give the partial refund without any receipts. I've yet to receive it though, so I'll have to see what they say when I actually go and pick up the keys. Hopefully after that I'll be done dealing with this realtor for good! (And hopefully the actual management company that my new landlord uses is better...)
Anyway, I was able to sell the "wrong" stove again to a different person for the same price of 5000 yen, via that same buy/sell group on Facebook... And then I bought a new one - or rather, second hand one - that I'd seen listed on jmty.jp (a Japanese equivalent of craigslist) - for only a little bit more money (6600 yen).
The person selling it was the owner of a recycle shop getting rid of old stock for cheap, so they packed it all nicely for me... ;_; I might end up asking that shop to recycle my old fridge before I move (I'm getting a bigger one from my friend), so I'm actually glad that I found out about them! So I guess at least something good came out of all this!! Though I did have to walk 15 minutes there and back though. I'm almost becoming an expert at lugging heavy stoves around Tokyo in my poor suitcase, lol
So in the end I only spent 1600 yen more than I was planning to, and if the realtor company really refunds me the 10,000 yen that I requested (out of the 56,000 yen fee... Maybe I should have asked for more...)
, then I'll have made a little profit xD Not that it makes much of a difference when the cost of the whole move (including all fees and the cost of the moving company) is over 300,000 yen, but still... It's the thought that counts, I suppose!
...And just as I was writing this post, the realtor main office called me again to offer if they could buy the "wrong" stove from me to make things right ^^;;;; But that's a bit late, isn't it? I'm getting the keys and moving in next weekend (and my appointment with the gas company is also next saturday), so it only makes sense that I would want to have the right kind of stove before
then, and that I have already exchanged it myself by now, no thanks to them >____> So I reiterated my main issue isn't the price of the stove
, but that I want to be refunded for the lack of service and for the troubl
e... Ugh... ^^; Well, I'll see...
Edit: The realtor in question is "You-me Life, Isehara Branch Office" (ユーミーライフ伊勢原店) by the way! Avoid at all cost!!!