Every time I go to a business establishment I’m reminded of the Chinese proverb that goes: “They who have no smile on their face should not open a store.” In order to sell things in today’s world, the sine qua non condition is to make an effort to guarantee good service to the client, leave them satisfied, pleased and —if possible— with the desire to return.
Unfortunately, in our country things don’t happen this way. The factors at play against providing good service to the public are as varied as they are questionable. These range from the lack of competitive markets (Cubans, in any case, have to shop at stores that are essentially the same) to a system of distorted and an “inverted social pyramid” [where those with the least skills are on top].
Here, it seems that no one is interested in selling. In our establishments you can see the most absurd occurrences. You might witness a customer being scolded for constantly using the jukebox, and who is then prohibiting from dropping anymore coins into it under the threat of being kicked out; and, just as easily, you could see a clerk in a shoe store get mad because the pair of shoes you asked for didn’t fit, or a situation as unreasonable as what happened to me just a few days ago.
What happened was that I took my grandmother out to celebrate her birthday, and I asked for two cups of chocolate ice cream at a “Ditu” (a string of small stores that sell food and drinks in hard currency CUCs).
The young woman —with a bad attitude, because apparently she didn’t know the Chinese proverb— leaned over the freezer and dipped out the two cups of ice cream, but they were vanilla.
When I began to tell her that I had asked for chocolate she told me, with hubris and insolence, “You asked me for two cups of vanilla ice cream.”
I wanted to explain to her that I, and only I, know my tastes in terms of ice cream, and that it was impossible for me to have asked for ice cream in a flavor that I don’t even like, but I preferred to arguing. I knew in advance that being a customer in our country is worth nothing. Therefore I knew that I would have to humble myself and apologize since I was at the disadvantage and could even be left without any ice cream.
Therefore, I looked at her sheepishly and I asked her with no more explanation: “Excuse me. I’d like two cups of chocolate ice cream.
She grimaced and went back to the freezer whining, and made the change. She then picked up the money from me, while murmuring God only knows what curse words under her breath, and gave me my change.
As for me? I almost had to apologize for coming up with the idea of going out to buy ice cream in the first place.