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The awful Estonian customer service and an angry Spaniard

I have experienced it myself many times while living in Estonia (and sadly, also in Finland), and you can read the same opinion if you visit most of the expats blogs around: Estonian customer service sucks big time.

Usually, I could let it go. I would say that ok, it comes with the country, with the past history attached to Soviet Union where people did not need to be kind to the customers, with the coldness of the Estonian people… But what the fuck! This time I am going to write something about it, because everything has a limit.

Yesterday, after assisting to a wonderful housewarming party held by an American and an English friend, I visited with some of the people a bar in Tartu called Illegaard (that happens to be owned also by another Englishman). This bar is actually a wonderful place, nice to sit and talk, with a fuzzball (I am addicted to the game) table and different events through the week. I have to say clearly that this entry does not go against the bar per se, but against the attitude of some Estonian people when giving customer service.

The point is that I went close to the desk where the waitresses were serving, and I was not even going to order any drink, but just some coins to play fuzzball later. I saw some people waiting on the right side of the desk, and an empty space on the left, so I did what a normal human being would do in most of the bars in the world, to stand waiting for my turn in the empty space.

I noticed after a few minutes that the other people were served before me. I shut up my mouth and waited patiently. I know how the philosophy of the waiters and waitresses is in these countries, if they believe you arrived later, they will ignore you until they consider that it is your turn, totally different from Spain where everybody waves to them in a packed venue to catch their attention and get a drink (it is the jungle law there). But once again, I accept I am not in Spain, and that the people on the right could have preference, so I keep on waiting.

Bad Customer Service

I keep on waiting and waiting, but started to realize that I was never served after 15 minutes and new people coming were served before me. One of these new people was a friend of mine. I just commented that it seemed the waitresses did not want to serve me, and one of them, because believe me, in this country you will always find a smart ass, told me that there was a queue. I did not insult her or insult anybody, but I am Spaniard and sorry, we discuss things when we do not consider them fair. I said that I did not see anywhere written to wait in the queue, and even though, I waited patiently for long minutes. Was that a kind of punishment that I should wait 1 hour for breaking the “rules” and not waiting on the other side of the desk?

The answer of the waitress was that I should relax or go out of the bar. Yeah… she threatened me to be kicked out of the bar, ladies and gentlemen! I was not wasted, not insulting, not creating trouble, but because I opened my mouth and said that it was not the way things should be done, I became a “persona non grata”… I suppose that if you are a Latino person, you could understand my pain. We come from a culture where we TALK and gesticulate to make our point. In Estonia, that seems to be the land of the smart ass people, because everybody seemed to know better than you about everything, you can die of frustration while they talk to you in a cold tone like if you would be a little child who has behaved bad for opening the mouth and telling your view on things…

I have experienced awful customer service when buying a bus ticket in a R-Kioski, when they returned very late my lost suitcase after a flight and they phoned me in a tone that seemed like it would almost be my fault to have it lost, when waiting for a meal to arrive in a restaurant for hours… but everything has a limit. I have news for you, Estonian people who attend clients with an angry face like if you would be sucking a lemon, you are in European Union nowadays, and foreign people expect more of a human behaviour from you. And if you do not like it, go and quit your job. You can always go to a farm to masturbate animals, that surely will be much more grateful clients.

My dear waitress, I honestly do not care about your low or high wages, the drunkards who disturb you every night, if you split up with your boyfriend or girlfriend the previous night or if you did not pass an exam. As a youngster, I did a lot of shitty jobs myself to pay my studies where I had to deal with customers face to face, and a smile and politeness were the rule nr. 1. Maybe the sentence “The client is always right” does not apply in Estonia, but it happens to be true in most of the other European countries. I happen to be an editor of a small online magazine who writes here just part time as a hobby, but I could perfectly have been the editor of Lonely Planet looking for the coolest places in Tartu, and after you fucked up my mood that night, my dear waitress, your establishment would have lost hundreds of potential customers. Would your boss be happy about it?

3 replies on “The awful Estonian customer service and an angry Spaniard”

So you've decided to tell all about Estonia before brushing the dust of this country off your feet? ;) But that does not mean of course that there are any excuses for quite bad service manners in Estonia :( Then again you come across the same issue here in Australia and elsewhere. Perhaps the difference is that in many countries in the world customer service can be nasty, arrogant, but it is somehow… refined, but in Estonia it is often just rude!

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