Monday, October 31, 2011

Diesel & Coffee

I was in Spain last week. I had two incidents that were very telling of Spanish culture. I told the kids about them this morning... The first one was when I returned my rental car to Hertz. Normally I fill the tank before returning rentals but this time I didn't. I knew walking into Hertz that I would have to pay extra for the fuel. The attendant said "you filled the tank, right?". When I said no she was alarmed. "But, we'll charge you double the price per liter. Please go and fill the tank". I said it was OK. I would pay the higher price. "No, but we also charge a 17 Euro refueling fee". We went back and forth but she was so insistant that I took the car, drove to the nearest fuel station and filled the tank! Have you ever had that kind of reaction in the United States? I haven't...

The next day I asked for a coffee at the breakfast restaurant (breakfast was included with my room). It was terrible coffee. I figured the least I could do while in Spain was to drink decent coffee so I went to the front desk and ask where I could get a proper coffee. They said the hotel's bar had an espresso machine so I went there. After preparing my coffee the bartender asked me if I wanted some food. I said no as I was going to take the coffee to the breakfast restaurant. I only came to the bar for a proper coffee. How much do I owe you? Don't worry about it, she said. If your breakfast is included then you might as well get a good coffee from me!

Both the Hertz and the hotel employee were obviously more concerned with me than with their employer. And this was not an issue of providing good "customer service". It was an issue of interpersonal relations: they were relating with me at a person-to-person level, rather than an employee-to-customer level. I find this common in Spain and rare in the US.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Given the situation of both economies - USA and Spain- and number of successful companies in the USA vs. Spain, I am not sure if this is good or bad for Spain