Belgium is not a consumer paradise. The shops are closed on Sundays. They do not open late. And I like that. I find Sunday shopping/24 hour shopping and all these things a bit depressing.
However, I have my limits. The Belgians do not believe in customer service and I do not like that. The motto of the Belgian shop assistant is “the customer is never right”. The flagship service in this regard is provided by the Innovation department stores (this service extends to their website which I cannot find using google – yes, I was going to put in a link for you, but they stymied me, they are so thorough). All of the employees in Inno, as it has rebranded itself for hip young things, are ladies over 60. All of them have a gimlet eyed stare. All of them have lots to chat to their co-workers about. They see their role as threefold 1) to depress pretentions in customers 2) to dash any hopes that customers might have that they might eventually be able to pay for goods and leave 3) to discuss the appalling decline in modern manners.
While the Inno group leads the way in customer service, other smaller outlets contribute their mite also. Consider, if you will, these two vignettes from the past week.
I went to a jeweller on the swanky Avenue Louise to get a watch repaired. As I waited to be served the couple in front of me asked the gimlet eyed, elderly and bejewelled shop assistant whether she stocked silver bracelets.
She gave them the gimlet eye and said firmly “No, we don’t stock silver jewellery. You will find that no high quality jewellers do. It oxidises too easily. Good day to you.” They departed, quashed.
She turned to me. I asked whether they repaired watches. “Yes” she said “but what kind of watch, it may not be worth your while paying for repairs to a cheap watch” and she snorted audibly as she looked me over. I handed over the watch. She looked at it in some surprise “that is a good watch, yes, I suppose it is worth repairing…”
And this from just yesterday, when Mr. Waffle went out to get a vid from our local video rental shop. The shop has this stupid rule that you must queue up to return your video; you can’t just put it in a pile or in a box or something, oh no you must hand it to a shop assistant.
Mr. Waffle witnessed the following:
Woman comes running into shop and heads to top of the queue and puts two videos on the counter. Severe assistant says to her that she must go to the back of the queue. Woman says “look I’m just returning and I’m very badly parked” and runs out of the shop while the shop assistant shouts after her “that’s it, you’re barred”. Mr. Waffle is baffled.
Mr. Waffle is still in the queue and another woman tries to return a video by leaving it on the counter. Shop assistant tells her she has to go to the back of the queue. Woman protests feebly, she’s badly parked etc. (a common complaint in Belgium). Shop assistant says ferociously “either you go to the back of the queue or I’m rescinding your membership; I’ve already expelled two people today”. Good grief.
on 15 January 2005 at 22:46
BTW, is this what you were you looking for Inno?
on 16 January 2005 at 09:37
Sounds like the “customer service” in France, except that cutting the line would probably be expected and allowed if the store owner knew the person.
on 16 January 2005 at 10:56
FT, quite, can’t get anything when I try to click on your link – further proof, if proof were needed of the nature of Inno.
Hi Annie, sounds fab…
Stroppy, your friend Kim sounds VERY brave, most impressed.
on 16 January 2005 at 22:05
Actually, there was a problem with my html. I’m better with a quill pen and inkpot, you know. The URL was www.inno.be. Worked for me, but maybe they’ve designed it to work only for people who do not actually live near one of their stores.
on 17 January 2005 at 11:51
I think you should save stroppy’s comment for future use …..
on 21 January 2005 at 22:39
FT, I would check, but I know it would disappear on me.
Pog, yes, it’s good that, isn’t it?