The Lambert case started like any other case. Nothing in the initiation email that reached Nadia’s mailbox prepared her for the saga that was about to evolve. Father, mother and two kids, moving from the UK to Vietnam. HHG shipment, temp accommodation. Even the tick next to the pet shipment service at the bottom of the authorization did not raise any suspicion. Another dog going overseas she assumed.
The French accent on the other side of the line did not reveal much at first. A cheerful opening, short chit chat to break the ice, and Nadia was quickly diving into the timeline of the family move. Home search, school search, orientation, she was running through the usual set. Any more questions? Nadia then asked. “Oh yes” came the answer “we also have two hamsters”. And once these words were uttered nothing was usual again.
By the time she met them, Nadia has later learned, the Lamberts have already returned from their “look and see” trip to Vietnam. A usual practice where the assignee and his spouse are flown to their destination country to get a first impression of their future lives.
Coming back from HCM city the couple has jointly decided that Vietnam was not the right place for their beloved small pets. And so, despite their authorization for pet shipment they decided to keep the two rodents at home. Their request for an alternative to the pet shipment option has sent Nadia for the first time back to their HR case owner. Explaining the situation at hand Nadia could barley believe she was actually opening this discussion. Little did she know at that time of the escalations this discussion was bound to lead her to.
‘The company will cover pet boarding at a local pet refuge up to the cost of the pet shipment’ Nadia came back to the Lamberts with an offer. To her, this sounded like a fair alternative. Pet shipment costs are ridiculously high, and in this case, they were easily reaching more than 5 thousand US dollars. With this amount, she believed, any pet refuge would be happy to provide the two pets a homey and comfortable living environment.
But the Lamberts were not willing to hear of any refuge. “We visited such places”, they argued, “and there’s no way we’d leave our beloved family animals in these kind of surrounding”. What do you suggest, Nadia asked, and the answer was clear. The hamsters are to be staying in their home, with people they know and cherish (are we talking of hamsters? Was the thought that crossed Nadia’s mind). “We have talked this over with our family and our parents have gallantly volunteered to host our pets for us”.
Nadia was happy to hear that, but Mr. Lambert was not to be interrupted as he proceeded to describe his conditions. As the company already approved the cost of boarding, he exclaimed, they would expect this sum to now be paid to their parents. Nadia was slowly choosing her words as she formulated her email to the company case owner, explaining once again the current demand from the Lambert side.
‘Food and vet costs – fine’ came the answer. The company will reimburse these costs up to the original estimated cost of the pet shipment. Boarding costs, and they were very clear on that – No. Not approved.
It was at that point that I first heard of the hamsters story. Joining the weekly case owner call I had to really pay attention and make sure I was hearing correctly as Nadia was explaining to the company representatives the reasons behind the Lambert rejection of their most recent offer. “The hosting of the hamsters will cause a hassle to the family” Nadia was explaining and I could hear her trying to control her smile as she was reading from the Lambert’s email. “They will not be able to go on vacations” she was going on, and the 3 other consultants on line from China, Hong Kong, and Singapore were switching their mic’s to mute in order to avoid breaking into a loud laughter. But she continued “and they will have to arrange for weekly Skype meetings between the kids and their hamsters”. Well, that was the last straw. Nadia’s voice was cracking as she too was quickly switching to mute.
The senior global mobility representative on the other side of the line, talking to us all the way from Romania, was barely holding herself as she promised Nadia she would raise the topic in the next company governance meeting. Hearing her, I could only imagine how she was planning to present this subject to the company’s senior management – “Well, let me bring up our next topic” she would probably say “let me introduce you to the complicated case of the Lambert’s two little hamsters”.
By Dr Taly Goren, a long time traveler between nations and continents,
relocation specialist, parents groups facilitator, mother of two adolescent TCKs,
and the wife of a Hi-Tech Expat frequent flyer.