Sunday, July 19, 2015

German Service Culture

If there was only one thing I would tell tourists who want to come to Germany, it's that you should be prepared to face unbelievably bad service.

Out of all the salespeople, cashiers and other people who sell you goods and services, about 75 % just act the way they feel like acting (in accordance with their own character), 20 % will act artificially nice in a way that's embarrassing and only 5 % will be people who are authentic, polite and passionate about their job.

Here are some examples of how Germans act when selling goods:

  • I want to buy a bus ticket. Since I'm not sure that the person selling the ticket understood what I said, I repeat what I said. She looks at me in an irritated way and already argues that she knows what she is doing. I try to calm down the situation. When I thank her for the ticket, she makes the fakest smile in the world before her deformed lips drop to a sinister evil face like bricks thrown from a building.
  • Bus drivers are often assholes. They make cynical remarks, like to prove other people wrong or explain that they're not in need of knowing or doing anything other than driving around.
  • We were going to visit a place that sells cuckoo clocks, but as it turned out, the place had been closed for 6 years. Why did we still go to that very distant place? Because the website had not been properly updated. And not even the shop itself had any sign of being closed down. The people who went bankrupt simply didn't care about any visitors who were going to come there... if the place is shut down, why the fuck care about anybody? It's not like we can suck the money out of their pockets, so we don't have to give a shit about these people who travel far and wide.
  • A guy in a postal office, selling stamps. My lady asks about a certain type of delivery service, he says that the package is too heavy, so "we don't even have to discuss this"... what a nice way of saying "sorry, it's not possible because the package is too heavy".
  • Trying to buy anything in the grocery that is out of stock... the reaction is always "Hammm wa nich!" (we don't have it).

Now you might be wondering, how can German service people actually get away with this kind of behaviour? Well, I have some theories. First of all, Germans are people who just have the tendency not to complain too much. You can see this in the current financial crisis (Greece) or the migrant movements from Africa (so called "refugees"). Germany will happily pay any amount of money you want, and if you think you don't get enough, just call us Nazis and remind us of our war crimes and our neverending guilt that we just can't wash ourselves clean of. I mean, we are so fucking doomed we might as well commit suicide in gas chambers (sorry for the sarkasm).

The other thing is, German companies seem to take advantage of some sort of "supply mentality". This means that if your company is offering a service, it's quite likely that people are buying from you because buying from somewhere else takes too much effort. For example, you are going to buy at your local grocery, not the one that's twice the distance away. Or you are going to repair your PC at the nearest repair shop, not further away. Or if your grocery doesn't have garlic sauce or vanilla yoghurt, you'll be fine with chili sauce and strawberry yoghurt.

Sometimes, like when it comes to bus companies, you don't even have a choice. There is only one bus service, so your only other choice is buying a car. So fuck you if you think our bus drivers and salespersons are unfriendly. We can't afford the extra training in customer friendliness.

What's even more appearent is the fact that a person only has to be nice when the job description absolutely demands it. People who work in a hotel know they MUST be friendly because it's part of the job. But bus drivers and cashiers are usually seen as people who perform other actions than customer interactions. Bus drivers are there for driving, cashiers are there for receiving and handing out money in order to sell goods. They don't have a purpose such as binding the customer to the company, achieving identificatoin or silly rubbish like that.

So that's what you should be prepared for... and if you know that Germans are VERY direct, then you can perhaps arm yourself for some of the unfriendliest behaviour in the world.

Seriously, don't be surprised if you look for something in a shop and you get the "what do you want" response. It's just our way of saying "hello, you seem to be looking for something, how may I help you (for the sole purpose of making your wallet grow lighter)?"