Tag Archives: Customer Service

NEW WRITER — Six true stories of placation

Polandian reader MikeM hasn’t lived in Poland long but is learning fast that “service” here means something slightly different than it does in his native Ireland.

Admittedly I am inclined to be critical of Polish customer service at moments when I should relax, take it in my stride, learn to be less demanding and so on. However the following are personal accounts of my dealings with customer service, which denote an absence of any discernable service whatsoever.

Note: I’m no Lord Muck. I am polite, perhaps not patient. But, I am learning.

1. A bookshop on Szewska Street, last January, looking for a book for my girlfriend.

Me: Have you anything by Haruki Murakami?
Shop assistant: No.
(Pause)
Me: Have you ever heard of Haruki Murakami?
Shop assistant: No.

2. Intersport store at Galaria Krakowska, yesterday.

Me: Are these shorts for cycling?
He: Yes.
(Pause)
Me: Are you just saying that because that’s what I said?
He: Yes.

3. Discount bookstore on Groteska, last December.

Me: Do you have a book – Polish title – ‘Vernon’ by DBC Pierre?
She: No.

The moment she says no, I spot no less than four hardback copies of ‘Vernon’ on a shelf over her shoulder.

4. Some Jazz bar on Florianska, last August.

Me: Ahh, rum and coke, please?
He: We don’t have rum and coke.
(Pause)
Me: Well… could I just have a shot of that rum there, and a bottle of Coke please, and a glass, and some ice?

5. Café Philo last August.

Me: Can I see your cocktail menu?
Barman: Of course.
Me: Great. I’ll have the Sea Breeze and the Big Green Jellyfish. Thanks.

28 minutes later, I return to the bar.

Me: Cocktails?
Barman:(casual-like) I don’t know how to make the cocktails; I must wait for my boss to return.

6. Jagiellonian Library, Aleje, last October

Me: Is this building Art Deco or modern?
Librarian: Neither.

On leaving, at the main entrance, a golden placard reads: The building is a mix of Art Deco and modern architecture built in etc etc.

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Moaning not only a Polish sport

Fellow blogger Glenn appeared in a local weekly recently to share some of his thoughts about Poland.

Glenn Standish in Teraz Torun

The beginning of his story is predictable and the Polish have heard similar many times:

“When I decided to move to Poland, my friends in England were asking – What are you doing? Are you mad? Poland is boring, depressive, uninteresting… Just give it up”.”Typical British judging book by its cover”.

Then we go straight to the list of complaints:

“Being polite doesn’t cost anything, and I think we already got used to not hearing some of those basic words, that define the culture of communication. I often pay attention to little things that can make your day. Rarely when I give someone my seat on a bus I hear thank you. Also in shops, in various public offices, there is no place for a simple kindness, for a word like “please” or simply a smile. It needs to be said: customer service in Toruń leaves a lot to be desired.”

“Once I went to buy a Mars bar in a local shop. The lady scans it. Beep, beep. Again. It doesn’t work – she says indifferently. I didn’t get the Mars bar. Why do they have Mars bars if I can’t buy them? I don’t know if it’s that I’m a foreigner, but there was simply some initiative missing. They could at least ring the manager and ask what they should do. It’s even worse when you want o return a product […]”

Reading this makes all Polish people sigh with relief! It’s not us who are the moaners! Everyone on our place moans the same. For Poles are renowned moaners, and they constantly complain about all aspects of life from traffic to politics. Moaning, some say, is the national sport. Ask a Pole how he is doing, and you’ll hear how bad his health is, how bad other people’s manners are, how badly the country is being run, and generally how terrible the state of things is. We even moan about our constant moaning.

To see someone out-moan us, to lose our gold medal in moaning is unthinkable and rare. Hold on, this is our sport! It’s like Chinese team winning World Cup Cricket.

It’s not that Glenn doesn’t have a point. It’s that everyone in Poland already complains about the same things as he does. (It is only a pity Glenn didn’t manage to squeeze in anything he particularly liked about Poland. Did Glenn go beyond the book cover?)

Maybe, if others moan as well, our Polish moaning is legitimised?


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