I wish I could say that I've stayed away from my blog for so long so that you could get a taste of what customer service is generally like in Spain: slow, tedious, and sometimes non-existent; but I can't, that would be a lie - although not the part about customer service.
Let me give you an example. The other day I went to a trendy and expensive furniture store. I wanted to exchange a chipped 4 euro coffee cup that had formed part of a 500 euro purchase (not mine). The 14 employees of the store were divided up into 4 basic groups: talking on the phone in a rude manner, smoking cigarettes outside, standing in groups bitching about their whatever, and smirking nastily from behind the cash register. As I waited in line for 20 minutes behind the other 6 customers who seemed to think that it was normal to wait while over a dozen employees roamed around without even acknowledging our presence, when it came to be my turn, I decided to boldly ask a question. "Um, hi, excuse me, for exchanges?" Someone barked at me, "You'll have to talk to Alvaro, he's the only one in a 75 kilometer radius authorized to exchange the broken cup that we knowingly sold you".
"Ok, um and who's Alvaro?". The surly employee replied, "well, he was in the smirking nastily group, but since then he's shifted to the talking on the phone in a rude manner team," gesturing to a sullen man behind her. So when he hung up the phone, "excuse me Alvaro, I'd like to exchange this coffee cup." He looked at me, "You'll have to wait your turn" and went outside for a cigarette.
Now you might say, isn't that just water under the bridge, can't anyone have a rotten day? But the reason I brought it up was because I was reminded of the whole experience by the charming waiter that served us in the Galician restaurant where we went for lunch today. After waiting patiently for 20 minutes for him to come over to our table while he buzzed busily around us, I waved him down with my most winning waiter smile. His response, "you'll have to wait." Brilliantly disrespectful (so much so that my American restaurant-owner friend fantasizes about working there), rude, downright uncivil. What gives? My Spanish brethren like to tell me that the reason that restaurant service is so bad is that the waiters are not working for tips. While I agree that it is annoying when Brian shows up at your table at _____________ American restaurant with crayons and begins to kiss your ____ the whole night, isn't there something to be said for customer service meaning just decent and friendly treatment between humanoids? Maybe they get off on it here, maybe waiters like to treat their customers badly just as much as customers don't enjoy themselves as much if they are treated with respect. Are Spaniards customer service sadists?