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Big Brother

Amazon’s refusal to ship a German spell checking program from Germany to the U.S.A. reminds me of my first encounter of the German kind during my recent trip. After clearing customs at Frankfurt airport I went to the nearest electronics store to buy a rechargeable SIM card for my Motorola V690. I had purchased this small quad-band GSM phone in Hong Kong during my trip last October. With local rechargeable SIM cards my cell phone calls are a lot cheaper than international roaming with my U.S. plan. Here at home you can buy those rechargeable SIMs in the local supermarket and they ring them up with your groceries. In Germany, I was asked for identification and the clerk filled out a form with my name, address, passport number and ESN of the phone. If nothing else, this would have told me that I had arrived in Germany. Whose business is it that I buy a SIM card and how I use it? What’s next? A log of all my purchases? “You bought a bottle of cheap red wine last Sunday at 14:35. Why?” I know that there is no point it getting excited; I was, after all, only visiting. But depressing it is, especially since it seems to be ok with everybody.

3 Responses to “Big Brother”

  1. Margaret says:

    This is bizarre – I’ve never encountered such a thing. Did you perhaps pay by credit card and they wanted to be super-certain they’d get the money?

  2. Sonja says:

    It’s not okay with everybody here, it’s just the way it is and always has been. When I bought a cell phone as a gift for my brother 3 years ago, I had to give them my passport along with the passport of my brother… which was pretty difficult because I didn’t want him to discover I bought one for him.

  3. Michael says:

    I paid with cash. But that in itself was perhaps suspicious?

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