I don’t expect a bowing and scraping sycophant to serve me whenever I enter a shop or some other business in order to part with my hard earned cash - nor do I expect gushing gratitude from the owner of the business, or his lackey. What I do expect is to be treated with a little bit of courtesy.
Having spent 20-odd years in the customer service industry maybe I am over critical of many establishments, but sometimes I can not help feeling that customer service is a notion that is completely alien to the Spanish.
In these times of recession it seems that business owners are pulling their hair out trying to find newer and more cost effective ways of getting the clients through their door - but they give no thought whatsoever on how best to look after their client once they are actually stood in front of them with a pocket full of cash.
Many Spanish businesses actually make you feel the need to apologise for interrupting their coffee and cigarette break whilst they shout at their colleagues (Spaniards rarely seem to converse at normal volume) in order to be served – that’s if you can actually find a shop that is open at a sensible hour. Like many English people I silently seethe when I find myself treated this way rather than remonstrate with them – and this is largely because being faced with a typically Mediterranean shrug of apathy and nonchalance just winds me up all the more. Instead I find myself voting with my feet and taking my business elsewhere in future – which often means patronising an English or other Northern European run business where I stand the chance of actually being treated like a spending customer !
In many ways this is a shame because I want to support to the local economy and integrate with the local community, but until the local tradesmen learn that turning up to do some work on time (even on the right day) is quite important – especially when you have taken a day off work to wait at home for them, then there will always be a place in the market for the expat tradesman.
Time and time again the local newspapers tell us to be wary of the expat tradesman because, although they are cheaper, they will almost certainly be working illegally. Whilst this does happen, there are also many legal, reliable and cost effective ex-pat companies out there who can offer a good standard of customer service – so it seems that this obstacle is something that the local Chambers of Commerce are pushing as a result of pressure from the various local businesses.
The newspapers also report that the Spanish Economy is one of the weakest in Europe and that exports to other countries are falling at a depressing rate year on year – and yet faced with this fact and a recession that is likely to last longer in Spain than many other Countries in the world, everybody seems reluctant to acknowledge the simple truth that the whole Economy stands on encouraging the consumer to put their hand in their pocket.
A little bit of courtesy, appreciation and remembering that the Customer is entitled to a bit of friendly advise and support goes a long way to achieving this.
If Zapatero needs a “Sir Alan Sugar “ to help move the economy along he can contact me via this page …