Jaroslav Plotnikov

Kulanz – what this? And why do they do it?

In the German business, particularly in the customer service sector, you can experience some situations of “spontaneous” generosity and “human relationship”. It’s good or bad – judge for yourself. ПО-РУССКИ

Picture isn’t mine. Copyright: Duden


Kulanz  [kuˈlanʦ] is one of the pleasant surprises that awaits you in industrialized countries, particularly in Germany. Granted, you cannot always expect Kulanz. And every time you wonder – why do they do it? You just can’t get used to these goodies of western service.

German Wikipedia explains Kulanz as “generosity or kindness of a company towards its customers”. English dictionaries translate Kulanz as: a courtesy / a gesture of goodwill [from a business or company].

If the meaning of Kulanz still unclear, below are two examples from my personal experience.

Example #1:
When I was still a student at the University of Oldenburg, I had a visitor from Russia. Her name was Olya. She was one of my close friends. Shortly after arriving she got a toothache. I took her to my dentist at the time (Dr. Baumgart, Oldenburg). Inspection showed that the treatment would cost something about €75. However, there was a problem – the insurance purchased near the Moscow embassy did not cover the necessary procedure. (Which was outrageous because a sudden pain definitely fell under the category of acute). We expected that sudden toothache should be a subject to compulsory payment by any travel insurance company. But it wasn’t. Nevertheless, the doctor,  noticing that the girl barely could speak English (not to mention her “zero-German”), and learning that this is her first week in Germany, and even her very first time abroad, quietly cured the tooth and flatly refused any payment. Given the German thrift, reaching to avarice, we were very impressed by the dentist’s generous decision.

Example #2:
The digital camera Medion, which I bought in Aldi supermarket, had a retractable lens. In the coastal dunes of Denmark some grains of sand got into the gap and the lens froze, unable to even slide back into the camera. So I was calling the Aldi customer service. Naturally, I was asked about the cash receipt. The cash receipt was lost, but the technical passport and warranty card remained. After a short silence, the voice in the phone said: Okay, send us the camera without a reseipt. We’ could repair it auf Kulanz. This is how in 2005 I heard the word Kulanz for the very first time. I had no idea about its meaning. My German friends explained me the meaning of Kulanz later. I was told that “Medion” brand was sold almost exclusively through Aldi’s supermarket chain. Nevertheless that employee had all the right to refuse me because I had no cash receipt. Why he didn’t? First time in my life the company did its service without the cash receipt. Delivery was also free. I found such service really awesome!

If something like this happened to you, it would be great if you share your experience in the comments.

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