Torsten, you might still have a way to go. Once, when I told some Germans that my local supermarket was open 24 hours a day, one of them grimaced and replied, “But who wants to work 24 hours a day!” He appeared to think that if the store was open round the clock, then the employees had to work round the clock. It didn’t occur to him that 24 hours divides up into three 8-hour shifts.
And speaking of customer service, I was reminded of something last week when a student of mine told me how she thought Aldi was a terrible store and that she stays away from it. She complained that there is no customer service, things move around, so it’s hard to find them, you have to pay to use a shopping cart, and they don’t accept any credit cards. I hear a lot of Americans and non-German immigrants complain about Aldi in this way, but when I bring this up to German corporate employees who have been transferred here, I get an interesting response.
Their answer often seems to be that Americans’ expectation of customer service is “their problem” and not the problem of the German chain store that they flock away from. The Germans almost sound as if they think Americans don’t deserve the honor of shopping at a German store if they wanted something as silly as customer service. I’ve read that until VW started losing serious market share in the US, their management had a similar attitude. They had no interest in the differences between the way Germans use their cars and the way Americans need to. Americans need a lot of storage in their cars, cup holders, and other conveniences, because many of us half live in them. VW management protested that cars are supposed to be for driving, and they refused to adapt anything to US consumers’ needs. Their market share here began to sink lower and lower, until someone finally woke up and sent teams over to ride around with Americans in their cars all day.
These attitudes toward customer service are hilariously funny if you aren’t an employee of the business that is collapsing because of them.