Someone in my close family owned a shop and when growing up I spent great amounts of time there. First just snooping around, looking at the things, smelling them, enjoying being able to
spend so much time there. It was sort of magical.
When I turned 14 I was ’old enough’ to start working there myself, and from then on- every Saturday and holidays were spent working in the shop for years.
In the staff bathroom, right next to the mirror, there was a note saying in big letters:
...for us to always remember this important message. It was not just a message, it was the law of our shop. The customer was always right, no matter what. If a customer were to complain about something,, we would show them understanding and patience, and we would let them be right. Never ever would we treat them with nothing but respect, and the smile was very important. Kindness, understanding and respect
characterized our way of handling the customers.
So... I grew up with this, and have taken it with me wherever I have been when talking to customers or being the customer myself. I am always friendly and smile when talking to staff at shops, public offices etc. I am always polite and respectful. It’s been a part of me my whole life and I guess that’s what makes it so difficult for me to handle rudeness and disrespectful behaviour without reason.
I have found quite a lot of attitude here in Barcelona. Not the good kind. First of all, you are lucky if you get a smile back when smiling to shop assistants/clerks here. And just that is hard for me to fathom, if someone smile at me, I will automatically smile back. I could never give a grumpy face to someone who smiles at me...
And if you want to complain about something, because something was not done the correct way, or you didn’t get what you asked for- be prepared for a long and slow battle. I have now had enough experiences to be able to say that this is unfortunately more the rule than the exception.
And it took me some time to get to this conclusion, cause as I am programmed to think that respect and understanding is a given I thought I was just unlucky the first times.
I have the feeling that as a consumer here, your starting point will most likely to be that you are always wrong. If you insist and are up for the battle, you might get somewhere, but most people won’t be up for such a long battle, and will get exhausted and think that in the end, it’s not worth the wasted energy and strain.
Maybe this is just a cultural thing, and people simply don’t want or expect to either treat people (aka strangers) nicely or be treated nicely by strangers? I am not judging, I am simply observing the differences, and it’s something that is hard for me to adjust to.
Maybe it’s simply the fact that I am a foreigner? I don’t have the sensation that most locals here love us foreigners. But I have also heard locals complain about the bad service you get here and
how difficult it is to make a complaint.
I am talking about Barcelona, cause this is where I have spent the most time. Maybe it’s a big city-thing? People simply can’t be bothered to be friendly and it’s too much work to smile?
As you can see, lots of questions and few answers. I would love to hear your opinions.
Whether you are a Spaniard with an opinion about customer service in general in Spain,
or a foreigner with experiences here.
Or if I am just strange to expect to be treated with respect by strangers,
or even get a smile in return when I give out mine?