The lack of customer service in Germany

Essential organisation is required for the brutal 3 minute procedure of having your food practically chucked at you after being scanned, whilst you’re expected to pack, swipe your points card, sign after using your debit card (because apparently a PIN just isn’t good enough) and then maybe you’ll get a “tschüß” if you’re lucky as the person behind the till pushes this weird divider thing to the side so that you and your food are well and truly out of the way, and he or she can go on to the next person. Have you ever been to the supermarket in Germany? It’s just as intense as the 93 word sentence that you just read.

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Weird divider thing

When back in London a few weeks ago, I literally felt like a celebrity as the young man behind the till smiled and asked if I needed help with packing whilst I popped into Sainsbury’s. “No thank you,” I smiled at him, slightly puzzled, as I realised I’d forgotten that staff helping you to pack your bags at the supermarket is even a thing. There was no pressure, no stress and no worries about my bananas ending up under the milk or the bread getting squashed.

Germans are known for efficiency but the supermarket till experience is just next level, also known as ‘let’s get the people out as quickly as possible, don’t worry about providing a pleasant service.’

Whilst Germans are polite (although direct) and like to get things done without wasting any time, the service provided in supermarkets, for example is just not the same as what we receive in the UK. Perhaps I am too used to being treated like a queen in Sainsbury’s as I leisurely pack my food away with assistance.

However, this isn’t to say that I’ve never received good customer service whilst living in Germany. My beauticians are super polite, although hang on a minute, they aren’t actually German. Only joking! Well, they actually aren’t German but I’m sure there have been times where I’ve received a good service from Germans, I just can’t quite put my finger on when it was. This weekend for example, when my friend and I told the cafe waiter that we’d asked for rose lemonade, he replied with “oh, well I brought you the mandarin one” in a stern German tone as I sat there awkwardly and felt like a school child getting in trouble by my teacher. He brought us the wrong drink and I was made to feel awkward about it. My German friend however could clearly see that he wasn’t trying to be rude. Really? I know I’m British, perhaps too polite and easily offended but a quick “sorry” wouldn’t have hurt him.

Nearly two years abroad and the cultural difference with customer service is something this I still struggle with. But regardless of the cultural differences, I must say that never in my life did I think I would genuinely look forward to the till experience at Sainsbury’s when I visit home. I guess you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone!

11 Comments Add yours

  1. I have experienced that divider thing but not sure where – but even worse is our local Lidl where you literally have nowhere to pack your bag – its do-able for a small shop as you just have to pack it into bag as its handed to you – but if its a big shop it needs to go directly back in trolley then you pack it at a shelf – and as I type this i remember Lidl is German isnt it ! Ha ha !! I must admit I am sort of pleased they dont get everything right as I really now feel the UK just seems to get everything wrong – and I am stuck here if we cant keep our freedom of movement – so please all sign my petition. https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/208007

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  2. grimneko says:

    For me as a German it’s rather stressing when I’m visiting for example the US and they try to pamper me. It’s silly I know, but I am so used to that efficient modi, I can’t get out of it. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  3. hey Alisa, good point. I agree with the core of the post. I also feel the same but I feel it is for the good to remain like they are. I am used to the policies that customer is god and it is then really tough to be on the other side of the table always. It just demands a different way of dealing with the whole situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jen says:

    Great article. Same in Greece AND old people in the queue sometimes push in front. One never complains though, due to their age… but really? My 86 year old Mum would not dream of doing that, ever. It’s just accepted but hey ho we are in their country so we put up and shut up. The supermarket experience is better in the UK but they can have a tendency to over do it as in the USA. I don’t really want someone I have never met asking me if I am having a good day/to have a good day or even worse what are my plans for today!! Rant over. X

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    1. “What are my plans for the day!?” Hahahaha overdoing it for sure! Xxx

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  5. Annette Bauman says:

    After living 29 years in the US, been in Germany 2 years….biggest mistake of my life,
    !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, I guess it feels like a different world! I love it in Germany, there are just some things that I can’t get used to!

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  6. If I ordered a drink and got the wrong one, the waiter would have to take it back and bring the right one, whether he grasps the concept of customer service or not. Tut mir Leid!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Annette Bauman says:

    Just feel, very rude and unappreciative people. The sense of entitlement and rudeness drives me CRAZY!

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  8. Henry Lewis says:

    This made me laugh out loud! OMG, I have experienced ALL the dos and don’ts (including in German supermarkets) of customer service while living and working on four continents over the past 15 years. IMHO the absolute worst case scenario is to have an employee literally toss every item casually into a bag without regard for it’s fragility while they’re looking at someone else and carrying on a purely personal conversation. I’ve had SO many yogurts etc spill out in the bottom of the bag because of being crushed that I’m now not at all afraid to make a bit of a scene in order to pack my own. For my DIY tastes, Japan gets it just right. A customer’s items are scanned and replaced into the shopping basket. After paying, the customer carries the basket to a large (for Japan) counter where they can leisurely pack their own items. It’s pleasant, efficient and in the end everyone wins. Thanks for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha thanks for reading! It takes some getting used to, that’s for sure. Ugh, the yoghurts! I’ve never been to Japan but I’ll look out for this if I go 🙂

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