Friday 24 October 2014

Belgian customer service

We all experienced it, I’m sure. Belgian customer service is well known for being awful, particularly in bars and shops. I was told in one clothes shop that they “had nothing that would fit” me. I was a size 14-16 at the time. Not huge by any manner or means. I’ve also been ridiculed over a mis-pronunciation (in front of a queue of people), despite the fact that I speak very good French, and a bit of Dutch. For a city that has such a high number of ex-pats and visitors, people should be given a large benefit of the doubt, particularly when they are making an effort to speak the local language.

The biscuit was taken yesterday. I went into a small café on Pl Flagey and asked for a “simple espresso”. I just needed to kill a bit of time before I had to be somewhere else. The lady asked for €1.80 and handed me a small paper cup with my coffee. I asked if it was possible to have a cup as I wanted to sit down. She told me that I should have told her that I didn’t want the coffee to go, and that sitting in would cost me another €0.40 (she also explained that this was to cover the cost of the cups, and the chairs, and the electricity, and the service). I stupidly began getting the change. She then informed me that if she transferred my coffee from the paper cup into a real cup, I’d lose the mousse from on top of the coffee. Her colleague, who seemed to have a bit of common sense, told her to just make me a new coffee. I was now wondering if I was going to be charged for this coffee too. I wasn’t, but it was the most awkward coffee I’ve ever had. I sat down and swallowed the coffee, and stood up again. I think I paid about one cent for every second my bum graced their seats. Also needless to say, I’m never going to go back to that café ever again.

There are also the lovely shop assistants, particularly the lady in the Casa shop at Merode, years ago, who managed to hold it together when I asked her if she had any more toes (orteil) when I meant to ask for pillows (oreiller). And the lovely people who bear with me when I don’t know the precise word and then descend into a long description of what I’m looking for, and details of what I’m not looking for. We usually get there. Another special mention should go to the garden centre worker who patiently helped me work out the plant I wanted to order, based on “it’s red/orange, and it’s long, and its leaves are like this”.

So, do you have any experiences to share, good or bad? Is this a Belgian thing, or does it happen everywhere? 

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