Sub-title: why sometimes, even after 5+ years of expat life where you really are actually quite happy with how things have shaped up, a system other than the one in which you grew up can still make you want to poke your eyeballs out. I never said it was a snappy sub-title.
I’ve read – and made – plenty of complaints about customer service in Chile in my day (although I’ve also sung praises when appropriate). Sometimes it seems like the customer is more like an inconvenience than, say, the entire reason someone’s business and source of income continues to exist.
That said, learning to work the system goes a long way. Things like double checking and anticipating disaster and basically being completely certain that even the smallest of purchases is going to go horribly wrong aren’t so much paranoid as proactive.
Which is why I did all of those things this weekend when I bought spray paint. There were two purple colors. Based on the caps, I wanted morado. But then there was a little piece of wood they’d sprayed with the various colors to give customers a more realistic idea. Based on the sample, I wanted violeta. It seemed as though maybe the morado and violeta labels on the trusty sample had been switched. So, I asked. And was assured that no, the sample is right, that’s why we make the sample, because the caps aren’t always true to life.
You see where this is going.
Back at home, newspaper down, painting clothes on, can shaken FOR-FREAKING-EVER, I tested out my violeta. And, surprise, surprise, it was not the color I wanted. Insert profanity here.
There was nothing for it but to go back to HomeCenter and exchange violeta for morado. In the US, this would have been a case of walking into the store, grabbing the correct can and taking it to any cash register to exchange it with the incorrect can. Here? Epic quest involving a stop by customer service, a visit back to the paint department (totally unhelpful, the guy basically said “oh. yeah. you should look at the color on the cap.”) and, eventually, a trip to the depths of the parking lot where a sweltering, small room houses post-sales.
Unfortunately I was not the only person with a post-sale issue that day. So there I stood, number in hand, sweating, waiting for my turn. When it finally came, the woman was totally uninterested in the fact that I’d had to return to the mall – 20 minutes each way – pay to park again, trek around the store to be sent to the right place and then wait in the hell known as post-venta for 15 minutes. I wasn’t expecting a discount, but an “oh, I’m so sorry about that” wouldn’t have gone amiss.
The best – and by best of course I mean worst – part was that this did not all end with someone bringing me a can of morado in exchange for my violeta. No no. Instead, I was handed a credit note and told to go back into the store, back to the paint department to grab my own can and back to a cash register to make the trade. The post-sales lady seemed confused as to why I did not jump for joy over being to that I could go to any cash register, any one at all!
Is it the end of the world? No, of course not. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a minor inconvenience. I’m not sitting here plotting my move back to the US because returns can be difficult. It’s just one of those little cultural differences where as I’m standing in post-venta hell praying for my number to be called, I salvage the situation by thinking “well, at least it’ll make a good blog post.”
And oh my god, people of the internet, I’m talking in generalizations here. Some Chileans do everything perfectly, some Americans do it all wrong, let’s move on. Don’t tell me you haven’t ever hated your life while waiting to return something because I know that would be a lie, even if you’re the biggest patriot Chile’s ever seen.
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