Oh, Romania! How I do love you but you’ve got to sort out your customer service!
In my time here, I’ve been to quite a few restaurants and bars, both in Bucharest, and around the country, and I must say it doesn’t change much. Waiters, bartenders and staff members in general, don’t exercise the proper level of customer service that, at least I and I assume the majority of foreigners, would expect when visiting a place.
I honestly can’t put my finger on it, and not many other people I’ve asked can either for that matter, why customer service here is non-existent. More importantly, why Romanians don’t complain as to the lack of it. Although, I do believe that has a lot to do with the fact that Romanians are used to it. But more on that, later.
When I first arrived here, for the first six months or so, I was very exasperated with the lack of service I was receiving and I would react in the same way I would in England; get frustrated and complain to the manager. Now, this is isn’t to say that all English people do this, I think I’m in the minority when it comes to complaining about bad service. A lot of people in my home country, and particularly so because we’re British, would be far too polite to make a fuss. Most would accept what had happened and complain about it to their friends later.
However, after this six- month period, I began to wane in my anger (anger is a strong word, let’s go with disappointment!) and realized that this is the ‘norm’. No amount of stern words with any number of managers was going to change this. But, even to this day, after more than two years of being here, it still gets to me! I just can’t help it.
I understand that after a 10-hour shift, it is extremely difficult to be that friendly face with each and every customer that walks in the door, but maybe you’re in the wrong industry! I’m well aware that it is difficult to find jobs so people have to take what they can but what’s the point of doing something in your life half-hearted? A fake smile is more welcoming than none at all. Give 100% or go home.
I’ve been lucky enough, in my time, to have visited a fair few countries and Romania really does need to catch up. Especially if the country wants to be a serious tourist destination contender. I know a few places that I’ll go to often, and aside from the agreeable atmosphere, reasonably priced drinks and good location, I’ll keep going back because that one bartender knows my name, asks how my day was and suggests if I would like my usual drink today. It’s that personal touch, that doesn’t take much, but goes a long way.
A good Romanian friend of mine owns a couple of bars in Bucharest and, before I wrote this article, I wanted to get his take on what he believed was both the reason for bad customer service and what the answer was. He is well aware of this issue and works consistently to improve it but, very simply, it won’t change because of two reasons. One: everybody is used to it so there isn’t a huge incentive to make a change and two: for the very reason that everybody is used to it, the psyche of bar and restaurant staff is that of “I don’t need to change, why put on a fake smile when I can just give people what they came in for, give them the bill and say goodbye….I’m not here to do anything else.”
This obviously works for establishments that are frequented by Romanians exclusively. However, if places, especially in the BUcharest Old Town, wish to attract more tourists, I can assure you that once they are in the door and experience the superior service, they’ll be back. Plus, they’ll tell their friends.
It really is tough, I know, but as with most aspects of Romanian life, it is a case of changing everyone’s way of thinking to improve things and adapt to a more Western model if, of course, that is what is wanted/needed. But, in this case, and in my humble opinion, it is most definitely what is needed.
Please do like and leave your opinion in the comments below.
By Ashley Parry, guest writer
(photo source: freedigitalphotos.net)