Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The customer is always wrong

There are times when I miss the US. And one of those times is when I'm shopping.

Yesterday, my daughter and I went to a Swisscom shop in the French speaking part of Switzerland to pick up her repaired cell phone. When we entered the shop, we passed three sales people who failed to look at us or even say hello, despite the fact that they were not working with customers.

Finally, after spending twenty minutes in queue, we were told to sit down and wait for the repair girl. We waited and waited. Then, the repair girl told us that the phone remained broken and that the extra insurance I had purchased was no longer valid. I explained that when we had brought the phone in September, it had been 10 days before the coverage period had expired. The repair girl questioned my integrity when I told her that the broken phone had been with them for nearly two months.

"How do I know you're telling the truth," she said, crossing her arms across her chest. " I have no paperwork on this."

Her eyes glared at me through raccoon-like makeup.

"Well, I've been told that the guy who took our order has been let let go," I said, "Perhaps, he didn't do his job and failed to produce the proper paperwork when he gave us the loaner."

"I have nothing," she said, shaking her head in a manner that made me feel like a child who hadn't done her homework.

"I don't think it should be the customer's job to maintain your paperwork," I managed to squeak out.

She shook her head and got on the phone, while I made a few comments, (yes rather loudly) regarding the treatment of customers in this country. Finally, she returned. She seemed a changed person.

"Effectively, the phone records will show how long your daughter has been using the loaner, proving when you first came in," she said.

When we left the shop, the Swisscom salesgirls looked at us and said "au revoir, madame," as if they had finally woken up.

Then we went to Coop City where a salesgirl condescendingly said "Bonjour. Madame!" after I had asked her where the shampoo aisle was. I'll give it to her. I could have said hello first, but I had been in a rush and annoyed after the Swisscom fiasco and was it her job to train customers? The thing is, this is not the first time someone in Switzerland has told me off. There was the time when a salesgirl kicked me out of a store at 17h, on-the-dot, before I could actually purchase the shoes in my hand; or the time when an old lady yelled at me for tossing glass in the recycling bin on a Sunday; or the time a man yelled at me for failing to close a door properly in a restaurant.

I guess things are topsy-turvy here: The "customer is always wrong" and "guilty until proven innocent."


  1. How frustrating and rude - if enough customers got upset with this treatment and it hurt sales then perhaps that would change things? Is this treatment something people just expect and put up with in Switzerland, or is it unusual? At least when one goes to Durgin Park in Boston one knows to expect rune treatment! Hope things have gotten better... btw, I really enjoy your blog :)

  2. This kind of treatment is rather normal here and the Swisscom hotline guy told me they get a lot of complaints from that shop. The phone was finally replaced but it took a long time!! Not sure paying that extra insurance is worthwhile in the end.

  3. Thank you for reading and commenting Deb!

  4. I think what you have described was an individual case and does not represent the standard of Swiss customer service. I have been living in the Swiss canton of Valais for over two years and have noticed that the majority of Swiss salespeople in the stores are kind and courteous to their customers.It is true that in general the Swiss consumers have less protection and rights compared to those being widely enjoyed by the Americans. I have lived in the US for over 25 years before settling down in Switzerland.

    1. Thank you for your comment Lee!