First published April 5, 2006
Service and Sweden. Two more words that never go together. As a customer in this land, you are a mere irritation, something to be put up with or preferably ignored. If you accidentally get good service in Sweden, you are so surprised that you give a big tip and grin like an idiot for half a day.
An example? Oh, you bet your ass I have an example…
16 months ago, lunchtime. Me and associate go to the Yellow Sub sandwich deli on Götgatan in Stockholm in order to buy some sandwiches. In the line before us is a woman who is holding a plate and is very upset. On the plate is a pie she had purchased minutes earlier, and also a large black insect.
– I found this in my pie, she says, visibly shaken.
The sour old lady at the counter looks at insect, and then up at the customer.
– We only use fresh produce in THIS café, she says with a sniff.
The customer is not sure what to do.
– But it’s an INSECT, she says, on the edge of tears.
– Well I suppose you want your money back then, the old lady says, grabs the plate with the pie and shoves the customer’s money into her hand.
Note – the words “sorry” could not be heard.
The customer stands there for a moment, still confused as to what is happening.
– Can I have my plate back? she asks meekly.
The old lady brings the customer’s plate back from kitchen and shoves it at her. The customer leaves.
Now then, what went wrong here? I’ll tell you what – the customer, all of her family, friends and workmates, as well as the rest of us who saw the incident, along with OUR family friends and workmates never went back again to Yellow Sub: a loss of perhaps 50 customers and hopefully more.
Now the sour old lady could have prevented this by treating her customer as a human being, and showing that she was in fact sorry for a big, spiky insect in her lunch, and maybe shoved a free latté or bottle of wine at her. Instead she acted like a moron, and practically blamed the customer for the problem.
Insects in food I can accept; rudeness I do not.
I was planning to start a website called “shittyService.com” where people can put their experiences of various cafes and bars all over the world, a sort of Internet Movie Database for catering and service. And on this site Yellow Sub would get five big fat dead rats. No doubt about it.