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Tumbit's take on Spain : Mr Grumpy

Mr Grumpy has lived and worked in Spain for 6 Years. He is self-employed and has a 3 year old Daughter that speaks better Spanish than he does. Despite the occasional moan about 'Spanish Bureaucracy' he enjoys the Spanish lifestyle and the warmth and friendliness of the Spanish people.

Who needs customer service ?
07 September 2010 @ 13:18

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 …

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Sue said:
07 September 2010 @ 14:52

Whereabouts do you live? We have found quite the opposite in the Spanish town where we live, and one of the first English phrases that I had to look up in my Spanish phrase book was "I'm just looking" as shop assistants seemed so anxious to serve me! Supermarket staff are helpful and if I can't find something will take me to the right place. Local bars and restaurants always make us feel welcome. When we have had deliveries, they ring my mobile to confirm we are at home (sometimes they come a bit earlier!) and wait until we get back. Obviously there are exceptions, but these are very rare. I quite agree that if the service is bad or staff are unfriendly we won't go back, but as there aren't any expat businesses in our local town anyway, we are happy to stick with local tradesmen!

foxbat said:
07 September 2010 @ 20:23

Sue; your experiences seem to coincide with mine too. My experiences with Brit 'tradesmen' has in all cases except one led to heartache, frustration and anger. A year or so ago I made contact with a Spanish jobbing builder when I wanted some work done on the house; not only did he give me a fair quotation for the work, he turned up on time and apart from stopping for an occasional mouthful of water, he kept going until the work was done some nine hours later, and was finished to my satisfaction, (unlike our Brit builders who used to start at eight thirty, bugger off at ten for breakfast, re-appear around eleven then clear off again at one o'clock for a two hour liquid lunch and then wrap up at four thirty).
My local garage has got used to me turning up on their doorstep unannounced to sort out problems with the car and on those occasions when I have had to leave it with them for a day or so, the boss drives me back home and collects me when the car is ready, something of a boon because we live about 15kms from the garage. Another plus, his labour rate is only 22 Euros per hour. When the car got badly dented whilst parked, the bodywork repairs that Renault quoted me nearly 2000 Euros for, he did for 400...and he was prepared to wait for a fortnight to be paid.
When we ordered our log burner from the local ferretaria, they phoned me to let me know it had arrived; when I said that I would have to leave it with them until my next pension payment was paid in, they said 'no problem, come in and collect it and pay us later...'
Found myself at Malaga Airport the other day after seeing my sister off on her flight back to the UK; I had a bus ticket for the 3pm Malaga-Granada service I would have been hanging around for nearly 4 hours; I had seen that a couple of the Granada- Malaga services have been extended to the Airport and one of these (the 1130am) was actually sitting in the coach departure zone at the airport. I asked the driver if I could use my ticket on his service and he explained that I would have to get it changed at Malaga Bus Station, but that he would take me there. Just as we were about to leave he was jumped by the Guardia Trafficos for a documents and vehicle check and as a result we left the airport at the time we should have been arriving at the Bus Station in Malaga City. So he was pretty late; however, he motioned me to follow him to the Alsa Ticket office which had a very long queue of customers, took my ticket, made the amendments, got it stamped to validate it and then handed it back to me. We then went back to the bus and made a very speedy return run to Granada...
As an ex-UK bus driver myself, this to me is service above and beyond expectations.
In all except one episode with a Spanish plumber (and aren't they the same the world over?), my experiences of Spanish customer service are that they are generally very good. (Although maybe Endesa and Telefonica have some way to go!)


Jacqui said:
08 September 2010 @ 12:26

Mine too Sue. We only ever had good experiences with local shops and trades people, and we certainly used many while we were doing the house up. When my little car broke down and refused to go the local garage were most helpful and didn't charge us an arm and a leg. And all of them were incredibly tolerant of my limited Spanish although they did all seem to appreciate the fact that I was trying.

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