Customer service or customer care – one of the terms that Hungarians are absolutely not familiar with. For the past few years, I am deeply observing the attitude of bartenders, waiters and shop assistants in this country and the more I think about it, the more depressed I am.
For a long time, I have been thinking about if I actually should write about this topic, as I do not want to insult anyone, but my recent situation at Mazel Tov (a very good restaurant – in terms of food and interiors in the VIIth district – which I promoted on my web already) crossed the limit.
Imagine that you are going with bunch of your friends to celebrate a birthday with one of them. You have a good time – eat, drink and in the end as a decent human you would like to pay for your meal, but to your surprise, some of the waiters from Mazel Tov don’t want your money! Sounds crazy? Not really. That night shortly before they were about to close, there were only a few people left, so this place was not busy at all. When we asked for the bill to one of the waiters, instead of bringing it, he sent us to some dark corner where a very young and pretty girl was. With her super grumpy face she looked at us, as if we had just landed from Mars. My friend asked how much he needed to pay, and the girl answered, “how would I know?” WOW! I was thinking – you did a great job young lady. I told her that according to my knowledge she was the one there who was working and then she replied with an even more miserable face, that we should tell her the table NUMBER, so only then she could know how much we would need to pay. At that moment I was close to committing suicide and I replied to her with a bit of a rough voice that I was coming there to enjoy my meal, not to check what was the number of the table where we were seated. She still did not know how much we would need to pay and the waiters who severed us food didn’t even bother to come and help her figure it out. In the end, we paid only for a bit of the food and two beers and we got some gin and tonic on the house (we did not pay for it, as nobody asked us to do it). Thank you Mazel Tov for such great hospitality, hope that in the end of the month you won’t be noticing any loses – I can imagine that you have similar situations on a daily basis.
Some of you might think that I am making a big fuss out of one situation, but you can believe me or not, this type of scenario, or very similar one, happens at least once per week here. In this country, things like hospitality or customer care simply DO NO EXIST. Waiters do not care about you at all. They come to your table quite late, without a smile, and if you have some questions, they usually reply with a rude tone of voice. Of course, in the end, all of them count on a big tip, as they make peanuts money for their salary. Some of the restaurants or bars, instead of training their staff, include a 10% service charge on your bill – for what they charge is one big mystery until today. General rule says, you have to WORK for your tip as it won’t drop from heaven.
A similar situation happens in clothing stores, or any other shops. If someone says “Hi” to you it means a lot already. If you would like to ask something, you have to please God that the particular shop keeper is not on her period or if it’s a man, that he had great sex the night before. Then you can expect a little smile and limited help. It’s not even about the language barriers, as most of them can speak English or even another language; it’s all about attitude – they simply don’t care. I got to know from one Hungarian that Zara for example allows the workers to put broken clothes on the hanger and all of them are ready to be sold. Why it is possible? As my colleague’s manager explained to her – Hungarians will still buy this crap and even if they figure out that the particular piece is broken they won’t return it. I think that we, hit the point – customer service is in this condition because Hungarians DO NOT complain about it and DO NOT have gods to do anything about it. If you are treated badly in the restaurant/shop or any other place which provides any type of service and you do not make a complaint to the manager of this place, things WON’T change.
I still remember a situation when I tried to return broken shoes to H&M, which still had warrantee. A store manager with her ugly face told me, that I destroyed them as I wore them when it was raining. I asked her a simple question, but I made sure it was loud enough so other people who were in line behind me could hear it as well, if once I left my house and on my way it started to rain, what shall I do – FLY? Or perhaps I should take off my shoes and walk with bare feet on the street? Of course this mental woman did not have any answer for that and even if she started to push me with bigger crap, I successfully managed to push back every single word. In fact, she could have just given me a gift card with the amount of money I paid for those shoes. Was that hard? Not really, as it took me around 10 min to persuade this lady that this was my right to return this broken product. I have realized one more thing, by chance, that Hungarians are mean and grumpy from the very beginning and once they think they rule a particular place, but when you shout at them or say something in a very demanding way, they back off – meaning they do not want to get into fights or bigger trouble. Generally, I do not think that being super rude or super demanding as a customer is a good thing – and I never practice it, unless I am force to do that. On the other hand, if more of us will be more demanding and complying about bad service (by that I mean not only foreigners but also Hungarians, who in the end of the day need to face it as well) we could achieve some results.
Nowadays, we have plenty of start ups in Hungary but I am not so sure, how many of them are actually successful. While in many cases people behind them provide the same type of service, we can notice a huge gap when it comes to coaching or training and development courses. I believe that each place, which provides any type of service, should have a good coach who can train the staff prior the first customer entering the shop and they should be taught how to work with people. So, if some of you think about establishing a new business heads up! Here is your opportunity! Just to be clear, by writing this post I do not mean to bully anyone, but customer care or rather lack of it is a serious problem in Hungary. More we talk about it, bigger chance we can find some solution. If you have any similar story you would like to share, drop me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). Once I collect a few of them, I will publish them in a separate post.
How about you guys? Do you have a similar experience or have you had more luck? What do you think about Hungarian customer service? Do you see a need for improvement? What would be your suggestions? I am super curious.