Switzerland – land of mountains, misogyny and bad customer service

IMG_0453Oh and red hair, did I mention the red hair??

Ok – this is a rant, I cannot help it, I am indulging myself today. As a female professional who is hell-bent on treating all customers with respect, doing whatever she can to meet their expectations and if at all possible to exceed those expectations, I sometimes just get really irritated by people who do not understand that theirs is a service industry. AND THAT I AM PAYING THEM!!!!!!! I would like to share some choice examples from here, although to be fair,  I have examples from elsewhere in the world too, but just read on for Swiss examples, mainly just bad customer service….

  • THE GAS LEAK: the rental apartment guy who many years ago when I had a gas leak in my apartment told me, oh you are woman, you wouldn’t be able to tell if there is a gas leak, I am sure it is nothing, not to worry….. I pointed out that being a scientist and a practical kind of person I bloody well would be able to tell, because, hey ho, leaking gas smells nowadays…….. I ended up calling the fire department over. They were stationed next door:  their verdict. Gas leak indeed, leaky gas hose in fact, in fact it was so leaky that they likened it to a sieve. This put some pressure on rental apartment guy who was forced to fix it…. before the apartment blew up. Lucky me and the cat.
  • THE CHIMNEY STACK ON THE NEW CAR ROOF: same rental apartment, guy different year – a part of the chimney stack of the apartment building fell on the roof of my new car. I called him and said – a case for your insurance, he said, well I am not sure about that, after all you shouldn’t have parked your car in front of the entrance of the apartment ( I was moving some furniture). I won that one too. The rental company ended up paying for it. But I was really annoyed and spent ages on the phone.
  • THE WASP REMOVAL GUY: This is the guy who prompted this post. I have two wasp colonies building a home outside my windows. This morning I called the service guy and arranged that he could come tomorrow AM, but that I would confirm the time this evening. At 8pm he calls complaining bitterly that I haven’t called yet. I say I am working…Finally I call and say unfortunately I’m in a TC tomorrow so you can come earlier or later, they guy tells me I am complicated…..I kid you not. I tell him if he does not value this job then I will find someone else…..He says ” well that is hardly the point is it?” I think to myself, I don’t know, but then equally if I have to start over I will still have wasps and waste more time. Finally, we fix on the original time, because I figure out I can get someone else to let him in during my TC. His comment “what, first you said NO, now you are saying yes?” As in – WOMAN, don’t you know your own mind???………..
  • THE BAD PEDICURE LADY FYI upfront, pedicures are not really en vogue here, if you get one, it will cost you around 60 dollars, and as said we are famous for our customer friendly approach to life. Years ago I got my first pedicure in CH. The lady who gave it to me did a terrible job, I commented on it, and she said ” Oh not to worry, nobody will look that closely at your feet” – all I could think of saying was “well not unless they have a foot fetish I guess, or if you work in a special type of industry heh, heh, heh….” with a smirk and giggle, while feeling REALLY annoyed.  But nevertheless leaving it at that and paying her. I was youngish it was sometime early 90ies
  • THE OBLIVIOUS GARAGE:  I took my car for it’s yearly check up. The guy who took the car from me said “oh we will need to do the following things to your car…….especially if you frequently hit the curb when turning corners……..” am I am wrong or is this the type of thing you wouldn’t say to a guy? He also insisted on using diminutive forms for car parts….”if your little wheelies need fixing, how should we handle it?” – I ended up putting my most arrogant expression saying ” look, you are the expert for the car,  that is why I am bringing it to you. Why don’t you figure out what is wrong with it, you fix what is needed, and don’t go looking for extra stuff to fix. If the costs end up being higher than your quote call me” . That did the trick. I got the car back, all good. However, in an attempt to build a good customer relationship with me,  the garage kept sending me invitations for check-ups, coupons, special deals, and all of them were addressed to Mr Polianthus. I called and pointed out, they have my address and that they should get with the program and realize that women now also drive cars, and basically that despite our countries starting with the same Letter, Saudi Arabia and Switzerland are two distinct places, they didn’t manage to address the issue. So I did what I threatened and took the car to a different place. I am a crusader on an educational vote with my wallet campaign of one……
  • THE ELECTRICIAN WITH THE WARPED SENSE OF HUMOUR: he came, he fixed the lights more or less, he had to come back once, and while here he told me about his employees girlfriend who was off on a trip to Amsterdam for the weekend. He then winked at me and said “And I asked my employee if he wasn’t worried she was flying up there for a working weekend, nudge, nudge, wink, wink” at this point my sharpness of wit failed me….hard to imagine but true

This brings me to my question – if you get an English plumber in, based on historical experience, he is friendly, he calls you love, he drinks lots of tea, smokes some fags, fiddles with the plumbing, generally doesn’t end up fixing anything, says he needs to go out and get something and then never comes back again – and your problem is not fixed. If you get a Swiss plumber in, he will assume that being female you will be at home whenever he wants to pop by as you are probably a house-wife (nothing against house-wives here, just against the assumption that gender defines how you spend your days), he will then come, he might be friendly or unfriendly, you might not like him but he will be on time, he will have the right equipment, he will fix it on time, he will cost the earth, but generally it will be done to your satisfaction, mostly anyway, and when he leaves you may be in a bad mood, as I was after the electrician but at least the problem will be taken care of.

My question is the following: where can I get a hybrid English Swiss or English German handyman? Trained by the Swiss but with the English gentle interaction style? Ony more efficient. Can I make my own hybrid I wonder, any suggestions?

ADDENDUM Oh and of course there are great things here and there is good customer service, often offered by Germans or Austrians, sometimes by Swiss too, I have had some great customer service from Swiss, so it’s not all bad. But then it wouldnt be a fun post if it wasnt a bit extreme

11 thoughts on “Switzerland – land of mountains, misogyny and bad customer service

  1. Mmmmm. Got you on this one loud and clear. I own a wholly female firm but everything is addressed to mister and do not even let me begin to describe my younger days around boardroom tables….. In a so called “man’s” world, everyone acting as if I am there to hold someone’s(naturally a man) pen or paper or whatever it is they think. Nowadays they would not dare. Ps. I still think that red hair is not even a colour!

    • Mmmmmm – really everything is addressed to mister,oooh annoying… one of my friends is a cute blonde lawyer, BUT oh so tough.. and she quite enjoys sitting in negotiation meetings when representing her employer and being ignored by all men and older women present, only at the relevant point in the negotiations to say “hm, I dont think we can do that because…….” and then watching how the power balance recalibrates in the room. 🙂 I can see the joy of that but not sure I could wait long enough :)….Glad you were there to hold the pencils, paper, bring in coffee whatever, when you were in the boardroom …Agree. Red hair not a hair colour.
      And last comment: Wholly female firm – aha – met lots of incompetent men and women in my time, but cannot remember a woman who would try to sell you substandard (or not done) work for good work and then just gloss over the fact, by saying all is well in hand, and then you discover later on that that was just so not true. And the work was a) not done b) done but really badly c) done badly and they are unwilling to accept that they could have done a bad job and who are you to judge them anyway. Because that would have meant some hard work on someones part.

      I might need to blog about this observaition (shared by men I know by the way) and risk being labelled a sexist…

  2. addendum, I complained to my contact at the company who manage our maintenance yesterday (bitterly). Just to make a point I also wrote separately to the CEO of the company – it is a big one. They usually manage rental properties, and if you are renting you need to put up with this type of behaviour, to my great surprise, they wrote me a very apologetic email and said they would call the man in to discuss…..surprising and even if not true made me feel better – and then I immediately felt guilty – how bizarre.

    • aha – nice friendly competent robot :)! glad you loved the rant, have been feeling a bit guilty about dissing my home country, but then its the only one you are really allowed to comment on isn’t it 🙂 – all others just visited as a guest…

  3. A worker here for a washing machine repair. Still broken afer 2hrs “looky-looky”. Hmm… And this noise, I asked, is it dangerous. Reply: nooooo, if the washing machine is on fire, put a bucket of water on it ! But pay attention to electricity. Water and electricity is dangerous !

    Seriously ???

    I have an engeneering degree in the electrical field, and a some obscure apprentship who stared at my (please put correct word here) teach me about electricity ?

    16 years already here, and every day become a punishment. I decided to leave, and lucky me, my family will follow me. Ouffff ! 🙂

    Escaped from the Purgatory.

    • Hello, dear “a little woman in heidi sheepy land” – nice title – thanks for stopping by and commenting. It’s a shame I cannot find a blog to look you up on – 2 hours looky looky – nothing wrong? I feel your anger, although you made me smile – he really said – pour water on it if there is a fire? Bizarre. After 16 years here I would have hoped you had been able to create a nice little “life boat bubble” – with friends, handymen etc. and nicely selected locals and expats, I find you need to do this anywhere you live. As my examples show you still have to deal with annoying handymen, but the expectation that being a woman you don’t know anything about anything practical remains world wide I think. This is what prompted me to stop renting apartments, that way, anyone I let into my house I decided to let in and if I don’t like them they don’t come back! Helps to take control wherever possible and vote with your wallet, even though many things are out of control. I create an alternate reality bubble to populate with selected people wherever I go, makes life feel easier, even if you are not always fully confronted with daily local reality. Wish you all the best wherever you go to next,

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