Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Random notes - friendliness and sales clerks

The Swiss are apparently well known for being a humorless bunch.  I frankly don't know enough non-expats here to make a good judgement as to whether or not they're really humorless.  However, I can say that they are certainly very polite - quite a bit more so than in Seattle, I'd say.  For instance, in a public elevator, the person who leaves will usually say something like, "Bonne journée" ("Have a good day").   I get caught off guard at moments like these, and usually what pops out of my mouth is something inappropriate like, "You're welcome".  Or nothing, if I'm stuck for words.  I'm sure I give a less than friendly impression.  Hand shaking is big here.  For instance, when I drop Peter off at school, and stop in to see the teacher, you definitely shake hands, and maybe even again when you leave.

Another thing that people do is, for instance, when going into a room such as a waiting room at a doctor's office, they'll say a general "good day" to everyone in the room.   Also, when people have just bought something and paid the clerk, instead of the clerk being the one to smile and say thank you, etc, frequently it's the customer that will say a whole string of courtesies, like, "Thank you, good bye, have a good day".  Not so much the clerk.  Weird!

Actually, sales clerks in general are exception to the general friendliness and politeness. They're usually unfriendly and unhelpful.  Where in the US, maybe 1 out of 5 sales clerks couldn't care lesshere it's about 4 out of 5.  I was just looking for some jeans for Kenny at the H & M store, which is about the equivalent of Target or Old Navy.  I went back a couple times because there was one pair on sale for 14.99 CHF, compared to the others that were 29.99, that looked almost identical, which they had in all sizes except Kenny's.  I got one clerk who was helpful.  But the rest just pointed sullenly in the general direction of the jeans, and that was it. I hear that H & M is opening up some stores in the US—I hope they have better customer service training. I often think to myself that if a store from the US like, for instance, Target, were able to open up here, they would make out like gangbusters because the general level of service and selection and value here currently is just so low.

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