Monday, May 21, 2012

Customer Service

We've been doing a lot of coordinating lately. Scheduling to get our stuff out of storage, looking at which car to buy and from whom and getting some work done on our house in Colorado before we move back. (In less than 3 weeks!) So we've had a lot of people in the states helping us make arrangements. While you might think this is completely stressful, it's totally not. Because when you're trying to get something done in America, it actually gets done. Usually on time and with this novel idea called customer service.

Now, I know what you're going to say. You're going to say things don't always get done on time in the states and that people aren't always friendly either. I do know this. However, I also know that it's the exception when their not. Just the way that getting anything done on time here in Morocco is the exception. And business people here can be friendly. Like sometimes they'll throw in something for free after you bought something at their shop. Which of course means you paid way too much for whatever you just bought. And then after he's already screwed you, he'll want to take it further by showing you to his brother-in-laws shop just down the way to screw you again. But don't worry, he might serve you Moroccan tea first.

So like last week I was shopping with my friend Faith and she saw the most unique painted table. So she approached the shop owner and inquired about the price. Seven hundred dirham (about $75) he told her. And since no first price is actually the real price of any item, she offered him five hundred dirham. And he proceeded to laugh in her face. As bargaining here usually involves mocking the customer and trying to convince them that said item is actually worth whatever they stated was the price, but of course actually isn't. We looked to try to find a similar table to buy from someone else, but didn't see anything even close. She went back to the original shop a couple of days later hoping that mocking man wouldn't be there. He was. And she walked away quietly pining for the table, trying not to show it. A few days after that she returned but this time with her husband, determined to get the table. They bargained and ended up scoring the table for 550 dirham. There was no free gift. There was no tea. In fact, the shop keeper couldn't even look them in the eyes. That's how you know you paid a fair price.

It's exhausting.

When the phone rang, I assumed it was a telemarketer. Because even when no one else can reach us here in Africa, they can. But this time it was the woman from the storage company where our things have been safely tucked away in a climate controlled unit in Colorado. Craig had been e-mailing with her and the plans were all in place. And then she called and introduced herself. She was exceptionally nice in the way people are right before they deliver bad news like there was a devastating fire, nothing was spared and your possessions are now ashes. Except she wasn't. In fact she didn't have anything to tell me. She didn't ask me for money. In fact all she wanted to do was introduce herself and wish us a safe trip. And she smiled the whole conversation. I could tell even though I couldn't see her over the phone. She could've just went to Starbucks and got her caffeine fix. But it doesn't really matter why. The point is, she called simply because it's good customer service to make sure that your customer is happy. I didn't have to go anywhere three times, I wasn't mocked or embarrassed and as far as I can tell she wasn't disgusted. Or she might have disguised the fact that her vente cappuccino had full fat foam instead of non-fat foam.

Do you have any idea how easy things are going to seem in the states after living in Morocco?

In my last minute panic to buy all things Moroccan before we leave, I have been looking for just the right Moroccan light fixture for my dining room in Colorado. I looked everywhere. Then finally I found one I liked in the medina. But, of course it was black and I was looking for one with a silver finish. No problem says the vendor. He can make a lamp to order with a silver finish for seven hundred and fifty dirham he says. Which seems fair since he's making it to my specifications and he will have it done in a few days time. While he's preoccupied writing up the ticket, I see something else in his store that's perfect to give to Craig for our 20th wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks. I ask the price and it's nine hundred dirham. I tell him I'll take it for five hundred and don't waiver. And then he accepts and I realize I totally overpaid from my lamp which is why I got this second item at almost half his asking price. Because I just got screwed. And he didn't even buy me tea first.

But I'm not bitter. In fact, I can't wait to toast to Mustapha, the artisan who made the lamp, when I'm sitting under it basking in its delicate cascade of light. Because not only did he do an exceptional job on it, it's the only time I went to pick something up in Morocco and it was actually finished on time. And that's what's really exceptional.


Thom Brown said...

Beautiful lamp. And I can't wait to say welcome home although I'll miss your travel tales. said...

I detest going to the shuk because I don't like to bargain (except for buying a vehicle, which is akin to buying something from the shuk, since the price is never the price).

But, I loved the description of your purchasing process. Mostly, because I was not involved...

And, your thoughts on American Customer Service- they'll change in 30 days, when you've been here a week and realize that just because it's not atrocious does not make it good.

SherilinR said...

it's exhausting just thinking about having to bargain like that for everything! i'm not that kind of bartering lady.
interesting how perspective shifts once we've lived a different reality. i hope you'll love the ease of living in the states again. will you have to clean your own house when you get back? or do you have a cleaning man over here in the states too?

Sine said...

Ha! I practically pounced on your post I was so eager to hear about customer service. I often get chastised by readers when I say "this is Africa" because you can't just apply one judgment, but you know what? You can! I have exactly the same feeling about American customer service. It is nirwana. You call people and they find the problem and say they'll fix it, and they do! And send you a confirmation! After I just had to haggle with the utility company again over a huge water bill we know we don't owe, I was happy to be reminded of another world out there. Yes, your life in the U.S. is going to be SO easy. And still, you'll probably reminisce about Morocco the entire time as soon as you're back. While looking at your lamp:-)

The Loerzels said...

@ Thom-I'm going to miss the travel for sure.
@ Roy-The fact that I can talk to Customer Service in English is gonna be awesome in and of itself.
@Sherilin-I do NOT have a cleaning guy. Seriously, you have no idea how I long to clean my own house.
@Sine-I'm glad you get it. And then I'm not glad you get it...

Leah Griffith said...

Well done on the bargaining. I love the lamp! I used to live in the Virgin Islands and the customer service there was about as dependable as a dysfunctional parent bent on making your life hell. The type of service you received depended on the mood that the company representative was in. I kissed a lot of butt in the USVI;)


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