How Do You Say “Sugar-Free Vanilla Non-Fat No Foam Extra Hot Two Splenda Latte” In This Language?: Customer Service Experiences Abroad

latte-art1.jpgI like the fact that things are different from home when I go abroad. Some of the more amusing and challenging differences I’ve found involve customer service.

  • One particular coffee shop in my new town is unique because you can get coffee in “to go” paper cups. A sleeve made from recycled paper to keep your hand from getting too hot? Maybe some day. Takeaway containers for food are often available…but you have to pay. Good for the environment, bad for me in a hurry.
  • The woman at my local grocery store does not want to sell me skim milk. I saw “0.5%” printed on the container, pointed to it and said “low fat milk please” in the local language…and she tried to persuade me to buy another kind. That other one was low fat, I assume she pointed out, but the 0.5% was extra low fat. “How can any good come of that?” I’m sure she wondered aloud. I stuck to my guns and came away with my 0.5% milk.
  • I was at first especially intimidated by tiny shops where customers need to tell the shop assistant what they want so she can retrieve it from behind the counter. The pressure is even greater when there are people impatiently waiting behind me; sometimes I even get out of line and let them go first so I can place my order at my leisure.
  • The other day, a woman working in a kiosk yelled at me “I don’t understand” because I tried to hand her money instead of throwing it down on the counter as she would go on to do with my change. Luckily, there was a little dish with smooth raised edges to facilitate this.
  • In many European supermarkets, you have to have your fruit and veg weighed in the produce section; waiting until you get to the checkout is a recipe for disaster. There’s no scale there! Sometimes the honor system is in effect (I secretly and rather childishly enjoy this when it involves finding a button to push with a picture of whatever fruit I’m purchasing) but sometimes there is a staff member there to push the buttons and ensure you knot your plastic bags without slipping in an extra tomato.
  • The moral of this post is: shopping and just generally being a consumer is different in different places; the customer is most certainly not always right. So get your fill of iced double tall Caramel Macchiatos at home!