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Old 26th May 2007, 12:33 AM   #1
TotallyKen
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Default The Really Cold Reception

It happened again at the weekend, something that has happened to me quite a number of times in Spain I´m sorry to say. I call it the really cold reception.

You walk into a cafe on a Saturday morning. You may be on your own or with someone else and you´re looking forward to a hot coffee, tortilla, maybe an orange juice. You walk up to the counter, ready to order when you detect that the person about to take that order is looking at you with distain in their eyes. You don´t know him, you haven´t done anything to him but it´s like you are the last person he wants to see. You give your order and he goes "Que?" as he screws his face up at you. You order again and he goes "Que????" as if you´re speaking double dutch. You suspect he understands you but he just doesn´t feel like understanding you.

You eventually make yourself understood and he proceeds to fulfil your order, huffing and puffing as he goes and although you can´t see it, you just know he´s thrown his eyes up to heaven. A saucer is tossed and bounces on the counter just in time to catch the spoon and satchet of suger. The cup of coffee is next, plonked down so that it spills coffee down the sides soaking the satchet of sugar and the handle of the spoon as well. The barman looks at you daring you to ask him to change it.

Next to the bad vibes comes the tortilla, the smaller of the three pieces remaining and a piece of stale bread.

You´re thinking, what have I done to this guy? It´s Saturday morning, the sun is shining, people are happy. I was happy. Then you start to wonder, "how did he get a job dealing with the public with such an attitude?". The smoke from his freshly lit cigarette which he doesn´t smoke but just leaves in the ashtray near you, starts to bother you. You begin to think "he´d never stand a chance of getting a job ANYWHERE else. " How does a place as doomy and gloomy as this stay in business?

Breakfast is ruined. You feel unfulfilled as you call for the bill and you´re dying to get out of there. You promise not to go back but for sometime after you continue to wonder what the guy´s problem was.

The same has happened to me in banks. It´s happened in restaurants.
I remember one meal in particular in the town of Suances near Santillana del Mar. The waiter managed to show us to our table, take our entire order, serve it and with coffees afterwards, bring us bill and receive payment without uttering ONE WORD. Not one word slipped from his lips. It was an incredible performance that will guarantee I never go back to that restaurant.

My wife is expecting twins in August. I don´t even want to get started on how several of the medical people we´ve encountered here can treat you at such an important and special time in your life.

Most of the time I´m immune to it. But there are times when it just freaks me out. I want to grab them and say, what´s your problem? You live in a beautiful place. Nobody is dropping bombs on you. You are not starving. Your job, let´s be honest, is not that stressful. You´re in the hospitality industry, for God´s sake. Put a smile on your face and start to treat people nicely.

Hope you don´t mind me venting. Anyone else encounter the same here ? Am I being unfair ?
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Old 26th May 2007, 12:39 AM   #2
guapo
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I think we have all probably had that experience at one time or the other. However, I am not sure it is really related to which country you are in. It can happen just as easily in your "home" country as when you are abroad. It still sucks though I agree...
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Old 26th May 2007, 08:17 AM   #3
Jon Hundt
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Default I have two opposite approaches

to this problem

First, and of course most obvious, is leave the place and go somewhere where the service is better/friendlier.

Second - if I'm in a irrepressibly good mood - is to act like I don't notice that the guy is being a jerk, and go out of my way to be extremely happy and friendly, all the while knowing that I am probably really annoying him and ruining his perfectly glum morning. I especially like to try out my language in these cases by talking about something really off the wall, like electric power generation or horseback riding - in other words something I know nothing about with a large specialized vocabulary which I do NOT know. This ensures a long, slow, tedious attempt at a meaningless conversation which the other party does not want to have. But I just keep going, acting as if I am oblivious to his lack of interest.

By the end of the session I'm having fun and enjoying his annoyance. And sometimes the creep actually turns out to be all right.
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Old 26th May 2007, 08:42 AM   #4
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This has happened to me too on occasion, in bars, where the guy refuses to understand even my most exquisitely pronounced Spanish: occasionally it's because the guy is so disconnected to the modern world that he just assumes he is not going to be able to understand someone that looks a bit foreign (or he refuses to as he is a total bigoted racist!), but usually it's because he's just a grumpy old git. Very very annoying! Certainly the quickest known way to loose business!
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Old 26th May 2007, 10:00 AM   #5
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I was totally ignored for 25 minutes at a cafe in Seville. All the tables around me were being served by the three waiters were completely deaf to anything I said. It was like I was invisible. They didn't seem grumpy so maybe it was me. After the 25 minutes I left for another 50m away and was served immediately.
There is another place on the Gran Via in Madrid. But there it is a staffing problem. Not enough of them for all their customers. So it is possible to wait for ever. However, they did get around to serving me with a coffee and a croisant one breakfast, but then ignored me when I wanted a second coffee. After 20 minutes I managed to order the coffee, but had to complain (good use of my limited language skills) 15 minutes later as it still hadn't arrived. Then it came quickly. And that was all they charged me for, so breakfast was free that morning!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 26th May 2007, 12:59 PM   #6
gary
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You may need to consider that although you are bright and breezy and have had a full nights sleep the guy serving might just have come straight to work from an all nighter - the headache starts to set in about 10.30.

Been there - done that
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Old 26th May 2007, 03:35 PM   #7
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If you look like a foreigner then it stands to reason you must be a foreigner and therefore only talk foreign.
Stands to reason!
Not much point listening to foreign!
I was once out with two blond Spaniards and the waiters refused to listen to them, insisting on listening to me. One of my mates, Alfonso, began to get a bit shirty.
'Coo' said the waiter, 'your Spanish isn't bad'.
'For a foreigner!'

Hereabouts on the costa, half the time the waiter tries to speak English ('you like I bring coffee?') etc, while you are talking in your best Spanish ('quisiera tomar una caña, gilipollas') and then it turns out the waiter comes from Transylvania ('Ug srotum flachçit').

Last night, in a Spanish restaurant, we were celebrating the end of the election campaign, while being served by a French waiter - who only spoke French ('bong jour, ootre boutail de vino, monsieur - chop chop').
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Old 26th May 2007, 05:33 PM   #8
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Isn't obvious why this happens in Spain? The waiter has been a waiter his entire life. He will always be a waiter. His job is "fijo", he can't be fired unless he is way, way out of line or incompetent. He does not get tips if his performance or attitude is good. He gets paid a fixed amount. Tomorrow will be the same as today. Any customer that requires any extra effort, like a possible foreigner, is avoided. He is not an aspiring actor or writer only doing this for a short while. This is it. How does it sound?

People like to make fun of fake, smiling waiters in California. I love it. Service is fantastic. They have to at least act like they like you and very rarely will anyone be a waiter for more than four or five years.

I have to say that the service is much better than it used to be in Madrid, and more "californiazation" of the customer service will happen in Spain.

You have to go to bars where the owners run the place. Then there is incentive to treat everyone well.
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Old 26th May 2007, 08:13 PM   #9
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I'm with Jon, When treated badly the best option is to go elsewhere. Or maybe complain. I have also had some experience with unfriendly waiters, but I have also had several where the waiters are friendly, greet you immediately when you enter, smile and make jokes. It just depends.
A couple weeks ago I when in Vitoria with my boyfriend and his father we walked in to a busy, well-known pintxo bar, there were 5 girls behind the bar who all proceded to ignore us and a few other customers too (I was the only "guiri" and I dont look very foreign so I dont think that was the issue. So after waiting 4 minutes we left, we could already see where that experience was going. The next place was just as busy but acknoledged us immediately, and served us as soon as they could.
Health care is another story, seems a bit "cold" the times I have been here too, like you are going to the mechanic shop or something. Ken, best wishes for your new twins!
J.
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Old 26th May 2007, 08:39 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlos View Post
Isn't obvious why this happens in Spain? The waiter has been a waiter his entire life. He will always be a waiter. His job is "fijo", he can't be fired unless he is way, way out of line or incompetent. He does not get tips if his performance or attitude is good. He gets paid a fixed amount. Tomorrow will be the same as today.
Well we all make choices and if individuals are unhappy with their choices they should do something proactive and not take it out on the closest person who happens to be by.
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Old 26th May 2007, 08:59 PM   #11
richardksa
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Quote:
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He does not get tips if his performance or attitude is good.
But the Spanish attitude to tipping means they don't get very much even then. I would usually leave between ten and fifteen percent, but my Spanish friends tell me that is way too much and have been known to pick up some of the tip and hand it back to me.
So, if their wages are poor and their tips are a pittance, they don't really have much incentive.
That said, waiting is their job, not the customers, so if the service is abyssmal one should leave. In Spain there is hardly a shortage of alternative places to eat or drink.
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Old 26th May 2007, 10:51 PM   #12
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"Second - if I'm in a irrepressibly good mood - is to act like I don't notice that the guy is being a jerk, and go out of my way to be extremely happy and friendly, all the while knowing that I am probably really annoying him and ruining his perfectly glum morning."

This approach has worked well for me, too. But not only to annoy them, but to be human. I would actually tell them: "You must be having a bad day." And sometimes people would start spilling their guts about what has been bothering them.

On other occasions I would just vow not to go back.

This is a European malady. In Asia and the U.S. there is more emphasis on good customer service, more pay to be had, but more pressure to perform as well.

I have been there.
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Old 26th May 2007, 10:53 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by richardksa View Post
But the Spanish attitude to tipping means they don't get very much even then.
A Spanish friend of ours advises if you are not happy with the service, leave a tip, but leave the smallest coin available (whatever that is in cents!), that way they know you haven´t forgotten to tip, but you left what you thought the service deserved.
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Old 26th May 2007, 10:55 PM   #14
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A Spanish friend of ours advises if you are not happy with the service, leave a tip, but leave the smallest coin available (whatever that is in cents!), that way they know you haven´t forgotten to tip, but you left what you thought the service deserved.
This is exactly what you do in the U.S.A. when you are not happy with the service. I guess the message comes across, universally.
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Old 27th May 2007, 05:39 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by TotallyKen View Post
I want to grab them and say, what´s your problem? You live in a beautiful place. Nobody is dropping bombs on you. You are not starving. Your job, let´s be honest, is not that stressful. You´re in the hospitality industry, for God´s sake. Put a smile on your face and start to treat people nicely.
I'm not trying to defend the rude waitstaff here, but I've tried waiting tables, and even though it was only for a short while, I know that this kind of job can be VERY stressful. To the point that you're not always able to be as nice to people as you should (especially that customers can be quite rude as well...). But on the other hand, it probably means that you're not good for the job.

But I can also imagine the frustration on the part of the Spaniards, who must be sick at times of all the tourists and foreigners sworming their country, buying their land, etc., and presumably not always making the effort to even learn the language.

But having said all that, I'll be a guiri myself pretty soon, and I don't speak perfect castellano, not to mention the local languages. Still, I know that any time someone's rude to me, I'll be really upset.
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Old 27th May 2007, 10:51 AM   #16
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But having said all that, I'll be a guiri myself pretty soon, and I don't speak perfect castellano, not to mention the local languages. Still, I know that any time someone's rude to me, I'll be really upset.
Sometimes you can tell when a waiter/waitress is merely tired and stressed out, and I always cut them some slack when I notice it. Rudeness goes a lot further, though, and I don't like being treated like that.
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Old 27th May 2007, 11:41 AM   #17
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Sometimes you can tell when a waiter/waitress is merely tired and stressed out, and I always cut them some slack when I notice it. Rudeness goes a lot further, though, and I don't like being treated like that.
You are right, sometimes it's just pure malice. That's what I've experienced in France, to the extent that I really don't feel like visiting that country again (surely not without a French person as a guide)... So it's a bit disconcerting that I should expect the same in Spain. Well, I guess I'd better develop a thick skin... fast!
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Old 27th May 2007, 11:55 AM   #18
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You are right, sometimes it's just pure malice. That's what I've experienced in France, to the extent that I really don't feel like visiting that country again (surely not without a French person as a guide)... So it's a bit disconcerting that I should expect the same in Spain. Well, I guess I'd better develop a thick skin... fast!
It's a shame, isn't it, when some people react in this way. Is it the English-speaking world they hate, or what? I just don't get it.
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Old 27th May 2007, 12:02 PM   #19
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It's a shame, isn't it, when some people react in this way. Is it the English-speaking world they hate, or what? I just don't get it.
Well if they want their country to prosper in an ever-globalizing economy, they better wake and smell the cafe.
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Old 27th May 2007, 12:08 PM   #20
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Well if they want their country to prosper in an ever-globalizing economy, they better wake and smell the cafe.
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