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Once again, I need to have another moan about my experience of customer service in this country.

Friends and family often don’t notice the same issues as me and that itself is indicative of what has become accepted here as customer service.  Being served in this sense, comes in many guises:

  • we queue to pay for groceries and the like at supermarkets,
  • we ask to be served in a wide variety of other shops (grocers, butchers, car parts etc.)
  • we stand at bars and coffee shops asking to be served drink or to order food,
  • we queue to buy take away food,
  • we sit at restaurant tables and wait to be served with all manner of comestibles.

These are just a few examples of what calls itself a service industry.

customer-service

In many ways, I accept the dour faces and lack of communication from folks who have to sit by a cash register all day, monotonously scanning goods and asking if you’re paying by card or cash. I know that there are many examples of cheerier till operatives, but they are not the norm.

What does grip my gall are the girls and boys who decide that working in a bar or pretending to be a waiter/waitress is the easiest way of earning a few extra pounds. They don’t want to be there, the just want the money that comes their way after completing their shift.

16864721353_dc47ce9c27_zThere are very few places in this country where we find food/drink service personnel who see their work as a career.  In other countries, being a camarero, serveur or Cameriere is seen as a career and something one needs to work at. I’ve mostly found food/drink service to be unobtrusive and polite (if not always prompt) in other European countries but not here.  Furthermore, where I have found good food/drink service in the UK it has been invariably presented by people from elsewhere in Europe, often Eastern Europe.

My current gripe was with being served gin and tonic the other night.  My simple request for a “Strawberry Gin and slimline tonic please, without ice” was not simple enough:

which gin is it?” [server]

I don’t know – the last one I ordered was simply served to me, I wasn’t aware you had more than one.” [me]

it’s usually Gordon’s” [manager – who happened to be passing – to server]

ok, single or double?” [server]

single, please.” [me]

And off the server went.

ice-cubes

She returned from the other end of the bar with a goldfish bowl (i.e. large bulbous drinking glass) full of ice with a strawberry gin in it.

did you say slimline tonic?” [server]

yes, I also said ‘no ice’!” [me]

At this the server looked completely blank; first of all at me, and then her manager, who simply walked away without offering a solution other than “use the tongs”.  I was then stunned to see the server walk to a sink and lift out all of the ice with tongs.  When she returned her face was like thunder.  She completed pulling the pint we’d also ordered and plonked that down with such force that I thought the base might crack.  She turned her sour face to me and said what it all came to (££) …

can I now have that extra shot in there please?” [me]

you can if you pay for it!” [server]

I have no objection to paying, but as you’ve now thrown half the gin down the sink, I’d better take it back to the table with SOME flavour in it” [me – now not being as pleasant as I prefer to be]

And again, she stormed off with the glass and when she returned, she banged that down too.

I found her attitude completely irrational as she’d made the mistake in the first place.

The manager should have stepped in at the outset, but she too would probably not have been trained properly either.

Some previous grumps:

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/margate/

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/city-centre-food/

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/city-centre-food-cont/

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/wetherspoons/

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2018/04/01/curmudgeon/

Image Credits:

http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/handwriting/c/customer-service.html

https://www.flickr.com/photos/96223380@N02/

https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=15694&picture=ice-cubes

 

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What has happened to table knives? 

When did they begin to lose their function?

blades

Function

The purpose of a knife is to cut, slice and chop – surely?  Yet, I’m not sure that table knives are designed to do that anymore.

Several times recently, especially in restaurants, I have been frustrated by having to use the knife provided, to ‘tear’ at the meat (etc.) on my plate, instead of actually cutting it.  I occasionally have had to retrieve a more robust vegetable, such as new potato, from wherever it has landed on the table after trying to cut it with my knife.

2knivesI’d be better off using a spoon!  

And, don’t even try to cut the nicely cooked almost al dente broccoli stem! Even Yorkshire Puddings fight back.

Design

Modern tableware is blunt.

It no longer serves its purpose and it’s probably down to some caring soul somewhere, thinking that we might cut ourselves. I do have sharp knives and the ones I use at the table, whilst not AS sharp, can at least cut whatever is placed in front of them.  However, not everyone has such knives anymore.

Some folks also (however), have ‘handed’ knives.

These are designed to make cutting easier for right-handed people.  Because there is a chamfer on one side of the blade, it allows the knife to have a sharper edge, but not one (apparently) that will allow the right-handed person to cut themselves.  However, unless this type of knife is specially designed for left-handed folks – they become impossible to use when in the hands of such southpaws.

See also Fish Knives why?.

Messerbank_2_fcm

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How on earth we can ever expect a smooth withdrawal from the EU?  I have no idea.

We only have to look at the complications found at local council level to see that the task is quite impossible.

Where we live, we have to pay our local council for a permit to park on the road outside our house. This ‘tax’ was introduced a couple of years ago. During that time, we have not moved house and have not changed our car (readers may need to remember these two facts).

permit-holders

Our own street allows non-permit holders to park for up to 1 hour

If we had done either, the parking permit we had paid for would become invalid. So far so good?

About be same time that the council implemented the new parking charge we bought the house (under dwelling) beneath us.

So, to clarify: we live at #XX and the flat/apartment below us is #XXa.  Still with me?

Whenever you own a property, you have to pay council tax – that’s not a problem, that’s a fact of life.  So, until the home below us was occupied by tenants, Sharon registered herself for council tax there and, being thoughtful for the prospective tenants, she applied for a non-specific resident visitor-parking pass.  Unlike our own, these are free as the pass is for visitors to the house and not for any specific car.

Before being issued with any car-specific pass, the applicant is cross-referenced to council tax records and has to provide proof of car registration/insurance/mot etc. at the required address. We obviously did this for our #XX application but had no need to do so for the #XXa application as (at that time), no car was involved at that address.

Still with me?

Once the new tenants moved in, bought and registered their own car, our own interest in #XXa ceased. The tenants have changed the car since their first permit and have therefore paid the £15 charge twice.

Last week, we came home to find a parking ticket on our own car’s windscreen!

parking ticket

Bearing in mind the fact that we haven’t changed any of our details we (obviously?) appealed against this fine, online.

The appeal was turned down – so you can imagine the ensuing phone call to the council!!

It turns out that when Sharon applied for the initial visitor pass for #XXa, some numpty at the council changed OUR #XX car permit registration to #XXa. This is something that should not have happened as they had not been provided with (because they didn’t ask for) proof of car registration/insurance/mot at the new address. Had they asked then, we would not have had the problem now.

So, for two years our pass has been (in their eyes) invalid and so we have been parked illegally. Outside our own house.

Needless to say, this has now been sorted out after some discussion and a new permit is being prepared.

But Brexit?  Really? FFS!!!

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Sadly, I forgot to take photographs of all the ‘free’ food we were presented with in Spain this year.  Furthermore, I only remembered to photograph some of the food we ‘paid’ for.

However, all of the food was delicious.

picture of tuna steak - a la plancha

Sharon’s tuna steak

Whilst holidaying on the Costa Tropical, in the Granada region of Andalucía, we encountered much in the way of free food; we’d buy a drink … and we’d get a free tapa! This doesn’t happen everywhere in Spain, but where it does happen, you feel welcomed and that your custom is valued.

We’ve had such tapas before further inland, and there the price of drinks compares well (often cheaper) with those prices charged on the big ‘no-tapas’ Costas.  In Salobreña and thereabouts, the prices for beer and wine were ever so slightly dearer (perhaps €1.70 – €2.00 each as opposed to €1.40 – €1.70), but every drink came with food.

Your first drink would come along and be accompanied by a particular tapa, e.g. Spanish cheese and olives. Then the subsequent order(s) would each be accompanied by different tapa, e.g. Croquetta with salad leaves or a small plate of jamón.  Even when we went somewhere for a meal, some small thing would be presented to us with our first drink.

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There are a couple of places too in Los Boliches (near Fuengirola), where such treats can be had – the difference here being that the drink doesn’t always come with a tapa. But, there are deals to be had.  A caña (small beer 15cl, 20cl, 25cl) can be had without food, but you can also order a tapa (of your own choice, not just presented to you) to accompany the drink for a combined price of (e.g.) €1.40 or €1.60. 

Often, this will be for the smaller beer, but not always.

Other cafes locally (Los Boliches) sell tapa separately for anything from €2.00 (these are usually slightly larger portions and – for me – often big enough to be called lunch) and in the main they are home-cooked and delicious. So far, our favourite is Bar Pepe in the Plaza Carmen.

We’re learning to avoid the places where cheap frozen ‘stuff’ is served.

I guess that all of this illustrates some of the differences between the Spanish and UK drinking cultures. In Spain, food and drink are inextricably bound together, whereas we see them as two different entities. In Spain, a workman will finish his day (or begin his midday break) with a beer and a tapa, whereas here in the UK I see all the local bars full of workmen finishing their day by quaffing pints and eating nothing more than a packet of crisps.

picture of tomatoes cut and placed on a plate

A simple ‘starter’ of tomato, oil and garlic.

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What is it about a cup of tea that separates the ‘Englishman/English woman’ from the rest of the world?

[Beware – there are some extreme personal tastes and opinions below.]

Nice_Cup_of_Tea

Sharon and I have spent some time in the past, driving around the U.S.A. 

We would end each day desperate for a cup of tea, after driving for hours on end. Or, having woken in the morning needing our ‘morning cuppa’, we would find the only thing available to us was coffee. For those of you who have not travelled there, what I mean is ‘there is no kettle!’, only a coffee machine of some kind or another is provided, along with coffee creamer (yuk).

640px-Mug_of_TeaHere in Spain, it is a similar situation, as hotels do not provide cups or mugs, or indeed any means of making water hot at all.  At least in France you can boil water.  It’s of no use either, trying a nearby restaurant or café as there is nowhere else in the world that knows how make a ‘decent cup of tea’.

So, the trick in those places where hot water can be had, is to take your own teabags.  The ones available locally might say ‘English Breakfast’ or some similar untruth, but they will not have the strength or depth of colour I (we) expect.

There is nothing like a good cup of tea. (I hear both sisters in law suggesting the opposite however.)

Having said all of that, when I am out drinking coffee, I’d rather be in any other place than the U.K. because the coffee we serve at home is nasty.  Nuff said.

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I appear to be becoming a curmudgeon.

It is not a position I’ve ever aimed at or asked for, simply one that I am growing into now that I am not working full time. You might think that it takes hard graft to develop the skills a curmudgeon requires, but most have just appeared naturally as I grow steadily older and pass through the various qualification phases.

When I first realised that I had achieved my current status, as grouch, I’d hoped I would not follow the natural progression; after all who ‘wants’ to be a curmudgeon! I’d already been ‘Mr. Grumpy’ for quite a while, so I thought that perhaps being a grouch might last a lot longer.

Not so. Not as far as I can see.

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 12.08.51

The reason I’m afraid that curmudgeonliness is around the corner is that I’m happy to regale anyone who asks, with what’s wrong with the world; whether they are interested or not.

BREXIT.
Who knew an entire nation could be so stupid as to commit national hari-kari in this way!

Previous posts:

Of course, as one of the <48% that voted to stay with Europe, I am now branded as a ‘remoaner’. So, for now, I’m a curmudgeon-remoaner and so to finish my Brexit curmoan (Ooo, a new word), I need to say that (in my opinion) leaving the EU with less than a 4% majority will always be folly (after all, if a General Election showed such a small majority it would be sure to be re-held before five years maximum).

giphy

NHS
I have many views on the state of the NHS and not just because I am at the threshold of an age where I will need to use it more and more.  When it began back in 1948:

The central principles [were] clear: the health service [would] be available to all and financed entirely from taxation, which means that people pay into it according to their means.1

I have paid taxes and National Insurance throughout my working life and continue to do so.  Yet, the services that were once available to me, whilst still there, are dangerously hard pressed, hard to access and often costly.

My own town’s A & E department, like many others, is due to move over to the next town’s A & E in due course, leaving thousands of potential patients with longer journey and wait times to be seen by doctors/nursing staff.  This is not because the local A & E has a bad record or is underused – but simply because the Government (in my curmudgeonly opinion) will not fund two hospitals less than eight miles apart, when one is part of a PFI scheme (not ours!).

Nevermind the population affected!

And while I’m at it …

VAPING

Why?

POLICING

Does anyone remember when the police were interested and responded to phone calls reporting anti-social behaviour?

ROADS

When was the last time you managed to drive to work (or anywhere) without having to avoid massive potholes in the road?

FOOD and DRINK

Why is the quality of pub restaurant food and general service so bad in this country? ….. And, don’t mention the coffee!

So, to anyone who cares, I’m sorry – to everyone else Bah Humbug!

1 – https://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/thenhs/nhshistory/Pages/NHShistory1948.aspx

Credit where credit is due for the Euro pic – it’s not mine but I don’t know whose it is. So thank you anyway.

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Sharon and I are fairly well travelled and over the years we’ve stayed in a wide variety of apartments, Gites, B & Bs, private homes and hotels in Europe, Australia and the U.S.A.  In Spain, we’ve usually stayed in hotels, but for our recent holiday with friends, we stayed in a 6-7 berth villa near Salobreña on the Costa Tropical, east of Malaga.

Sadly, on balance, I cannot say that the accommodation was one of the best I’ve ever stayed in. I decided not to put this review on Trip Advisor as it really is NOT very good. However, if anyone searches for Villa Maeve, Salobreña – they may find this report and make up their own minds.

IMG_9603
First of all, some good bits; Villa Maeve has fabulous, commanding views down along the Costa Tropical on the southern coast, east of Malaga.  The view takes in Salobreña, with its white painted houses and hill top castle, as well as the coastline down beyond Motril.  From some points of the terrace, we could even see the snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada.

We had arranged for the pool to be heated, so that we could swim when we got here, but soon noted that the cost for that was going to be prohibitive¹. So, we had the pool-heating turned off fairly early. That’s a lesson learned for using pools out of season.

The WiFi was good, efficient and reliable, and there was U.K. T.V., but we didn’t turn that on, so cannot comment².

The wood fire in the living room was a life-saver.  It burned fuel efficiently and kept us warm on an evening.

The house is heated by solid wall heaters or warm air machines, but as the lounge/living area is an open space with single-glazed windows and an outside door that is draughty and which has no curtain – we chose to burn wood rather than electricity.  Each bag cost between €4.45 and €4.95 and we burned oak, pine and olive wood.  The olive burned best I think, but without the means of chopping the logs smaller, we got very little chance of using only olive.  We had to use pine to get a blaze going before adding the huge olive logs and then we had to turn the olive constantly to get it to burn through.

IMG_9632

In spring and summer, this could be a fabulous place to stay, but now, in a wintery January, it’s just quite chilly up on the hillside. Also, because of the time of year all of the eateries we’d planned to use were closed, which meant we had to eat-in most of the time. Which meant we HAD to use the house.

The house itself was a huge disappointment. We wouldn’t normally bother about the odd cracked tile, faulty light bulb or missing door knob but this place needs a good bit of TLC.  Doors and windows rattled and didn’t close efficiently; and, along with tired, worn and dusty wall hangings and decorations, gave the place a ‘used’ feel.  The floors and surfaces were clean, probably part of a pre-guest-arrival routine, but the pictures and ornaments (statuary) were very dirty/dusty.

The electric points were many, but many didn’t work.  I suspect that the circuitry is original and that it has not has not been updated – ever.  My EU/Spanish extension cable (brought to use for charging phones etc.) did not fit in any of the sockets as the pins were too fat.  The water boiler wasn’t wired directly into anything; it was plugged into an extension cable. The ceiling lights were all very dull and we had to keep moving the upright standard lamps for better lighting.

All very slapdash.

The cooker-timer could not be turned off, so there was a constant tick, tick, tick from the kitchen. The lights in every room were hit and miss – some worked and some didn’t.

On the plus side, the twin and double beds were comfortable and warm enough, even though the rooms were cold and some of the bedding was worn.  The master room had another double bed that couldn’t be used because there was no quilt for it.  We were told that this bed is never made up with a quilt!

Yet, I would defy anyone to sleep in this house, in January, without a quilt.  As I said above, January in this area is fairly chilly.

Notes:

1 – We hadn’t known about extra electricity charges until a deposit had been taken and then didn’t know about the pool being ‘un’ heated, and having to ‘heat’ it until a week or so before our visit.
2 – They also had a German T.V. receiver – which we also didn’t use.

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