This post is a part of our weekly International Voices column, writing by UT students, for UT students. Enjoy!
Did you know you live in customer service paradise? Maybe you haven’t noticed, because you’ve always been greeted with a smile in the supermarket, your food has been cheerfully bagged for you, and if your six-pack of beer accidentally slipped to the ground outside the store, a friendly employee would hasten to exchange it for a pristine, unspilled case (don’t look so skeptical, I speak from HEB experience!). If I walk into a supermarket in my hometown, Berlin, with a broken case of anything and expect a refund, the not-so-friendly employee will tap their temple with their index finger – our gesture for ‘you’re crazy, lady’. Non-German friends of mine have repeatedly complained about German cashiers at discount supermarkets rushing them to bag their purchases and feeling accusatory stares on their backs if they can’t make way for the next customer quickly enough. Our cashiers generally exude a ‘You’re ruining my day’ aura.
So today I’m applauding American service culture. Not only do you have the friendliest cashiers, but your waiters bend over backwards to make sure you have everything you need. (Maybe not a fair comparison, our waiters know that the most acrobatic bending won’t get them more than a 15% tip. Germans don’t tip well.). Even getting rid of a subscription you didn’t want in the first place is easier in the US. The other day I called ancestry.com in a frenzy because I had missed the deadline to cancel their free trial subscription by one day. Now, in Germany, I wouldn’t even have bothered calling, knowing my chances of a refund equal those of hell freezing over (and judging from this October heat, that’s not going to happen anytime soon…). After all, I had agreed to the terms and conditions and was legally trapped in a monthly subscription. But I called anyhow, thinking wer nicht wagt, der nicht gewinnt (‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’). I told the overworked lady on the other end of the line that I had only used their service once and simply forgot to cancel the subscription on time. After a little tug-of-war – “Our policies and regulations don’t allow for a refund” … “Can’t you help me, please?!”… “Sorry, ma’am, I can’t!”…”Please put me through to somebody who can”…. “Ok, we will make a special, one-time-only exception” – I got my refund!
Why had I signed up with ancestry.com in the first place, you wonder? You will have to keep wondering, as I’ll only admit this much: It involves me and my grandmother hunting down a great-great uncle of hers who sometime in the 19th century deserted his wife and seven kids in rural Mecklenburg to try his luck in America. For now, however, the descendants of my roguish forefather are safe from discovery, as I have to focus on grading midterms and dissertating. The hard-won refund will thus be spent speedily on a UT Rec Center massage – Hurray for American service culture!