I went out Saturday night! Alone! For the first time since V was born THREE YEARS AGO.
It was like a Dutch dinner party for a friend's birthday, and for the first time, I was hanging out with a bunch of natives, not as the novelty American guest. It made me feel kind of, I don't know, official.
The best part of it was that the other women asked me - with real interest - what I thought about living here and what my impressions of the Dutch were. If they were sorry for having asked, they would have said so - they're Dutch, after all - but they paid rapt attention to my cultural anecdotes.
Their favorite was my take on...wait for it... customer service. They told me that complaining or making suggestions about service here is largely fruitless, which I already knew. No one cares. No matter how hard they work, the pay stays the same, and they can't be fired. Well, not very easily.
I told them about standing aghast for almost a full minute at Albert Hate when I asked an employee stocking the shelves if he knew where the breadcrumbs were. His reply? "No." Then he turned away and continued stocking shelves. WTF? I was too stunned to say anything, and just staggered off like a confused deer.
I told them about the time D and I went to the Cheesecake Factory in Boston. He couldn't decide between two dishes, so the waitress suggested the swordfish, which he got. After our meal when she asked how it was, he said "OK." She looked crestfallen. "Just OK? I am so sorry."
D proceeded to stress that it was perfectly acceptable, but he just had hoped it would be better. It was no problem.
She just wouldn't have it and insisted on calling the manager. I thought D would wet his pants. I think he thought he was going to get into trouble.
The manager came over and said "I understand the swordfish wasn't so great." D, on the verge of a breakdown said, "No, really, it was fine. It was. It was OK."
The manager smiled and said "Well, I certainly don't want you to pay for anything that was only 'OK,' so I am going to take it right off your check. Thank you for letting us know. Can I offer you some complimentary dessert to make up for the inconvenience?"
Well, that just about did poor old D in, but finally realizing he wasn't in trouble, he declined dessert and thanked her, while the pinkness faded from his cheeks.
He couldn't believe that experience, and talked about it the whole rest of the trip. I told him that it was pretty standard treatment, but he was blown away. He said "I wouldn't have gone there again. But NOW, I will." And that's the whole point.
You see that people? Competition for business is a good thing. It keeps everyone on his/her toes and makes the customer happy. No one here appreciates your business, or takes the bottom line into account, which leaves everyone - staff included - disgruntled. No wonder they don't tip here.