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Life in Czech Republic – customer service

The concept of customer service is slow to arrive. Basic customer service is seen as providing somewhere to pay for the goods you are about to buy. Anything in addition to this should be seen as a bonus.

Here are some examples or experiences:

  • Whilst supermarkets the world over generally seem to employ people dis-interested in really being there (and can you blame them), it is normal to queue for quite a long time to pay for the items. You will then be greeted by someone with the sourest of faces, and in fact greeted makes it sound as if they will even say something to you. Despite my many attempts to smile and be pleasent (in fact I now try this all the time to see if I ever get a reaction), you may as well not be there. Just pay and go. Never ask questions, never think about challenging the price being charged, this is just a bad idea and will be greeted with open hostility. You have just made their sad, miserable lives even worse.
  • Banks are great places. Never think to make a noise (like talk) or ask why they charge you for everything. When I mean everything I mean everything. My bank, for example, will allow you to take money from an ATM twice within the month, after that you get charged. This is to encourage you to use your cash card and not use money. This is ok assuming everywhere accepts cash cards. They will charge you for: depositing money; withdrawing money; statements; having the account; not having the account; setting up direct debits; cancelling direct debits; withdrawals from their cash machines; withdrawals from other cash machines; extra charge for being outside Czech Republic; mistakes the bank makes, this is even when they admit its their fault; mistakes they don’t admit have happened, even when there is a lot of evidence they will deny it.
    Change bank I hear you cry, well this is considered one of the better banks in Czech Rep. Changing for a better bank would mean changing countries.
  • Paying for goods. I have never yet experienced a country that makes the experience of buying things a bad one. Here is my money, I am happy to spend it with you, but why do you look at me as if I ruined your day, now I am not happy and will never come here again. If you want to experience fun, try paying half by cash, the rest by credit card! Most of the world – a huge most – likes the idea of parting you from your money. They will be pleasant, they will try to get you to buy more, they will seem offended if you just browse, they are happy when you pay, it keeps them alive. Here, forget it. I am told that things are actually getting better, especially in Prague because of the number of visitors and the fact that most younger people experience life outside where there is a concept of customer service. I dread to think what it was like.
  • Installations. So you can get cable TV here, with internet. You arrange a rough time when to be at home (i.e. morning or afternoon). You take time off work, stay at home and they fail to turn up. Amongst the people I work with, the record is eight times waiting for the internet people to arrive. More often than not there is no alternative, you are at their mercy because no other company serves that area
  • Taxis. They will rip you off. Once a year the mayor of Prague will spend a week or so taking taxis to assess how bad/good it is. If its off meter you will be overcharged by a lot. If its on meter, and you are a visitor, they will take you the scenic route. The President did not believe this would happen so decided to take a taxi to find out. They overcharged him (and he obviously speaks Czech so is considered local). Finding a pleasent taxi driver is hit and miss, more usually a very big miss. If you get one that might have taken a shower at least once in the week then you are on to a good thing.
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