Saturday, May 24, 2008

Buckle your boots for a bumpy ride.

Today I learned that returning faulty merchandise is a lot more of a nuisance here than it is in the United States of America.

Americans give outstanding service. I took it for granted until I moved here, but Americans are very keen on keeping their jobs, and it shows. They are also intent on keeping their customers, so they treat them well, because competition is stiff in America. You have to be better than the next guy, or you go under.

As an American, I find the attitude of many Dutch merchants baffling. Many clerks and even shop owners themselves project a demeanor of disinterest as to whether you are there or not, whether you buy or not, whether you have a nice experience or not. To me it seems that many Dutch shopworkers are not very interested in working. When a store here closes at 6pm, that means that the employees are on the sidewalk by 6 pm. As a customer, you may be subjected to exasperated glares if you step into the shop fifteen minutes before closing.

So, I suppose I should not be surprised that my efforts to exchange my defective boots today were foiled. Days after buying boots at Te Invito on Leidsestraat a decorative strap fell off of one of them. Let's have a cultural lesson in retail practices:

Exchanging boots in the USA
American consumer: Hello, a piece of this boot came loose a few days after I purchased them. I have the receipt. Could I please exchange them for another pair?
American retailer: Of course. We are sorry for your inconvenience.

What happened when I tried to exchange boots here in Amsterdam today.
Me: Hello, a piece of this boot came loose a few days after I purchased them. I have the receipt. Could I please exchange them for another pair?
Retail clerk: I can't do that. I need to get the manager. (leaves to retrieve manager)
Retail manager: We need to see if we can order the part and put it back on the boot.
Me: Can't you just give me other boots? (Clerk and manager laugh as if I have just asked them for a free leather coat)
Me: How long will this take? I really want to wear these boots.
Retail manager: It depends. We have to call headquarters and see if they have this part and if we can put it back on.
Me: Okay, well I'll check back next week.
Retail manager: (panic-stricken look) It's better if we call you, then you don't have to trouble yourself for nothing.
Me: (I say the following lightly with a smile, while simultaneously shooting him a look that says, 'Buddy, you really don't know who you're dealing with') "Oh, well I won't trouble myself, but if I"m in the neighborhood I'll just stop and check." (yeah, you'd love for me to disappear until you call me wouldn't you)
Retail manager: (slightly dejected) well sure, if you're in the neighborhood.(damn, I may actually have to address this issue)

He reluctantly gave me his name, and I can only hope that Paul and I conclude our business soon. Stay tuned, and buckle your boots, 'cause I'm preparing for a bumpy ride!

Oh puhleeeze! You have my money and I have a pending problem. What is wrong with this picture. I was so floored by the "we will get the part" bit that I temporarily lost my ability to reason. That's okay. I'll have another chance on Monday, or Tueday, or Wednesday or Thursday...or gee, maybe he should just give me new boots and get on with his week. Ya think? Hmph. Yes. I believe Monday I'll let him know he can just give me my money back.

UPDATE: Well, only fair to tell the ending. I returned over a week later. Shock of shocks, the store had not found a replacement buckle that they could add to the boot. The manager found another pair of boots in my size, and exchanged them for the defective ones, exactly what I had wanted him to do in the first place. All's well that ends well.


  1. You could also have fun with passive-aggression. Hang around the shop as an unofficial clerk, and tell shoppers "Oh, don't buy those! They fall apart immediately after purchase" and "Examine those throughly. The shop owner takes no ownership for inferior products."

  2. My friend Jan actually did that once! It's my plan if I cain't get no satisfaction.


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