Every now and then I am inspired to get patriotic. The subject that most stirs my nationalism is customer service. Many Americans erroneously believe that French waiters, for example, are snooty and deliberately ignore American patrons. The truth is that North American waiters are the only breed that do not ignore their customers. It is a cultural difference that sets us, not them apart. The personal preference in these parts is to not be disturbed, linger over the meal, chat over coffee for hours before asking for the check.
Nothing is free: bread, water, butter, salad dressing, ice. Gratuity is often factored into the price of the meal, so your tip is not the last word on the service. Complaints are shrugged off. Misleading statements or outright lies can not be compensated for by speaking with a manager.
Take this example: At our hostel in Dubrovnik the proprietor lured us in with the assurance that the old town was a mere 15 minute walk away. When it proved to be 45, there was no recourse, no discounts or refunds.
Another morning, we sat down to breakfast in a cafe. After being handed a menu and perusing the myriad offerings of eggs and pastries, we placed our order. The response from the surly waitress: we don’t serve food, only coffee. Which begs the question in any polite society: well, why the #@!& did you give us a menu?
These situations are frustrating for Americans who are used to paying for what they were promised and never a penny more.
In a beautiful city like Dubrovnik, our vacations can be spoiled by our expectations. We’ve had to learn to let go for the sake of fun and relaxation. We air our grievances to the only ones who will listen: each other. Then we have a good laugh.
But to be honest, a free glass of water wouldn’t hurt.