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Monday, October 10, 2005

Customer Service (or lack of it). Post number 999,999

It never amazes me how little customer service in Italy there is. It never amazes me how rude store clerks can be to customers too.

I have been given the evil eye in restaurants because I asked to pay my bill while my waitress was engaged in a deep conversation with another and I was just interrupting them.
I have found a bug in my salad and offered a spoon to get it out. (no new salads or refunds offered).

There is no end to the bad customer service I have either received or see others receive.

Today I went into a bar for lunch that I have been frquenting all week since I work nearby.

In Italy most of the bars have a glass counter where you can see what they have to serve, be it pastries, sandwiches or plates of pasta. I spotted a plate of tortellini in what looked like a whitish sauce, but since there is never a menu stating what the food items for sale that day in this particular place, I asked the person behind the counter what kind of tortellini they were.
Tortellini are usually filled with a cheese and another ingredient such as spinach, which I eat, and prosciutto ham which I do not, so I thought that asking was a good idea,certainly not a rude one.

Following is a transcript of my conversation with that 'person' behind the counter:

Me: 'What kind of Tortellini are those?'
Clerk: 'Tortellini.'
Me. 'Yes. I can see that. What is inside the tortellini?'
Clerk :'I don't know. My son made them.' And she made no effort to find him to answer my question.
Me : (NOT BEING SATISFIED BY THIS ANSWER. I don'r care WHO made them, I just wanted to know what was inside them) 'Could you please ask him what is inside them?
Clerk: 'Oh. OH, OK.' She replied, as if she was doing me some great big favor by finding out the answer to my question. She then turned and lumbered off at a snail's pace towards the kitchen where her son was.

I mean, who is making the profit off of who? There are other restaurants in the area , Ms. Lady behind the Bar, including the one I will probably go to tomorrow.
If you don't want to solve the problem by having a menu nearby, at least be prepared to answer these 'stupid' questions such as 'What is that food item'. Not everybody has X-ray vision and can see through tortellini to find out the filling on their own, ya know.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, she came back from the kitchen. She looks at me and says:
'The tortellini are filled with spinach and ricotta and with a walnut sauce. Would you like some parmesan cheese on them?' assuming that I'll order them.
In 30 seconds her son came out of the kitchen and slammed the plate of tortellini on my table. It seems that they took my request for asking what is inside the tortellini as a definite order for the tortellini.
What if my story was reversed and I liked prosciutto ham and not spinach and refused ? What would happen then ?

To end my story, I was very hungry, so I ate them. They tasted good-even if the rest of the service at the bar wasn't.

UPDATE:

Today I went to another restaurant for lunch. This is how that conversation went:

Clerk: 'Are you ready to order?'
Me: 'Yes. I'll have some ribollita.'
Clerk ' One portion?'
Me 'Yes'
Clerk 'For here or to go?'
Me 'For here.'
The clerk puts the ribollita in a container and then puts it on a tray with a napkin. He sees that I have a bottle of water with me and asks 'Would you like a cup?'
Me 'No Thanks.'
And then I take my food to a counter and eat.
Afterwards the clerk says to me 'That will be 3 Euros and 10 cents'.
I pay him and he gives me a receipt.

Perhaps to the reader who does not reside in Italy this encounter does not speak of any great customer service, but to me who has been living in Italy for 3 years with such low expectations it was like finding a diamond in the rough.

Tomorrow I'm going to this restaurant for sure! (see how customer service can work in Italy ?)