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Customer Service in the Czech Republic

Customer Service in the Czech Republic

The customer is always right. Except in the Czech Republic, that is.

Customer Service in the Czech Republic

Customer Service in the Czech Republic

The customer is always right. Except in the Czech Republic, that is.

Published 19.06.2012
Last updated 19.06.2012

Service with a frown? You must be in Prague. Why is it that customer service here is so often substandard and what – if anything – can be done about it?

Every expat has their favorite customer service horror story, whether the staff they encountered were sour-faced, unwilling to be the least bit proactive, or just downright rude. The venue could have been a shop, restaurant or government office. The perpetrator might be young or old, male or female. In the Czech Republic, a basic lack of understanding of the minimum level of courtesy required when dealing with the public seems all too widespread – and it’s costing companies dearly. A survey by telecommunications firm Genesys estimates that Czech businesses lose 1.08 billion US dollars annually because of substandard customer service.

In an article outlining the pros and cons of Prague as a destination for newly qualified TEFL teachers, Chris Westergaard lists poor service amongst the city’s main drawbacks. “Prague has seen massive improvements, but it's not the same as in the UK, US or Canada,” he warns potential TEFL newbies. “It's not horrible, but you will have, at some point, a 'WTF?  Oh no she didn't!' moment.”

Many find it therapeutic to share their “WTF moments” on the forums. Take Bluey1’s tale of woe, recounted in a thread titled “The worst customer service experience of my life.” This gentlemen was unceremoniously kicked out of a Thai restaurant in central Prague, apparently for daring to object to being seated next to a toilet when there were other tables available. The waiter allegedly swore at this hapless customer while his colleagues looked on and laughed.

It’s not so much what supposedly happened – and we do only have one side of the story – but the responses from others which caught my attention. What explanations were there for this shockingly aggressive behaviour? Could it stem from the alleged Czech dislike of foreigners? Apparently not. “Learn to speak Czech, and or speak to Czech people, and you will very soon realise, it's not just foreigners that get this,” one person remarked. “The revolution was twenty bloody years ago!” exclaimed another.

And there we have it – the C word. Communism is the common excuse wheeled out by both Czechs and outsiders for shoddy customer service and surly behavior. The theory goes that of course we must understand that for forty years, striving to meet the needs of customers in case they went off to the competition instead was pointless. It was up to you to as a customer to be as nice as possible to your local shopkeeper as that was the only chance you had of getting your hands on some of the better quality products he kept under the counter for the deserving few.

The problem with this argument is that – if you’ll forgive the pun – I just don’t buy it. If I encounter a twenty year old waitress in need of an attitude adjustment – and yes, let’s imagine that I’m living up to my side of the bargain by being polite – then that has nothing to do with a regime which she is too young to have experienced firsthand. And while we’re on the subject of the C word, I for one am tired of everything that is wrong with Czech culture being blamed on its socialist past. The reasons some Czechs get bolshy have, in my view, nothing to do with Bolshevism.

The other explanation I’ve heard given regularly is “cultural differences”. It is possible that some of the treatment which we interpret as impolite – having your glass snatched away only seconds after finishing your drink for example – may in fact be what’s considered efficient service here in this country. I also understand that the Czechs are not a nation to whom smiling comes naturally. What we outsiders see as a facial expression communicating a deep inner despair might just be that person’s normal face. In any case, I think I’m not alone in preferring an honest frown to a fake grin.

It is also true that Czechs are more direct than the British or Americans. As a rule, Czechs don’t sugarcoat things for you either in the personal or professional world – something I’ve come to find refreshing. Eventually. However, those moments of shockingly poor service can’t be dismissed by a simple shrug of the shoulders and a resigned sigh of “It’s just cultural differences.”

So what’s the right reaction? In a post titled ‘The Seeds of a Customer Service Revolution’, blogger Black Girl In Prague advocates a zero tolerance policy. Don’t just sit and stew – make it clear you’re unhappy by asserting yourself and complaining to a manager. This strategy worked in her case – the gym receptionist with a snotty demeanour who had been giving out bad vibes along with the clean towels did get the sack. However, customer complaints aren’t always taken so seriously. To return to Bluey1’s humilating ejection, the email he received from the owner after reporting the incident was less than apologetic. “If you are so ‘extremely disappointed’ with this restaurant, it’s simple. Next time choose some different one.”

If standing up for your rights often fails and whingeing seems too passive, why not try spreading the love instead? If your complaints won’t be heard, perhaps your compliments will. When you experience good service, make sure you let staff know you’re happy. Tell your friends. Write a review of your favorite hangouts on or tell us about them in the comments sections of this article. Let off steam about the bad times on the forums by all means but make use of the power of the internet to share good karma too.

I’ll start. The Prague Stitch and Bitch group have recently begun meeting at a new location – Vypálené koťátko or the Burned Cat – and we’re all delighted with the friendly waiting staff. Děkujeme!

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yes you are right, if that's what you grow up seeing. I agree. good point.

12.27.16 04.08.2017

Just be rude they really appreciate it. There are no boundaries and you can swap insults.

08.47.13 19.06.2017

I think its nonsense. Its down to people. If you dont know any other way just smile. If you are insecure then you are bringing your baggage. Slovaks were under communist but bcos they were not taking it so hard, they stayed themselves and are polite. Dont think you are special. And yes 30years later its just what has been injected by the leaders. Arrogant ubermensch freedom. Freedom is responsibility not carelessness.

08.45.52 19.06.2017

I'm Polish, but we have a somewhat similar situation (historically) to Czechs.

About the "blame it on communism" excuse: I think communism is actually the reason (but not a valid excuse) for behaviours you're describing. In Poland, before WW2 there was actually a pretty good standard of customer service across the country. It's only during these long 45 years of communism that people started being obnoxious to each other.

This would suggest bad customer service is not a 'cultural thing', but indeed a result of communism.

You're saying that a young person (like myself) shouldn't really behave according to the 'old' order of things. But, remainders of communist mentality is really everything you see when you grow up. So you consider things like: 'harsh' customer service, not being nice to each other etc., as 'normal', and you don't really know that somewhere else people can behave differently. For example in my case, it's only when I started working in UK that I've realised ALL of our post-communist-related flaws.

But you're right in one aspect: communism shouldn't be treated as an easy excuse, but instead we should really look in a mirror and think about why we're behaving in a simply illogical way (it's illogical, because it's against the rules of capitalism).

But when visiting a post-communist country, you definitely should take communism into consideration when judging people's mentality. It still largely influences people's behaviours, even now, after 30 years of freedom, when it doesn't make ANY sense anymore.

17.31.06 07.04.2017

After 2 months of sorting out a mortgage app, solicitors, documents, draft contracts, deposits etc, I give Hypotecni bank the final document 10 days ago. I get a phone call saying that the documents have been sitting on the desk of the mortgage adviser, for 10 days with no action. When I ask him why, he tells me he has had other things to do and if I am not happy then he can give me all my documents back and I can go to another bank?!?!? seriously.

19.43.11 19.11.2016

I've had so many terrible experiences with Czech customer service that I've given up trying to be nice to them. The moment I detect that typical sour-faced Czech coldness I become passive aggressive myself and take glee in being the ruder one instead of feeling like a moron for being polite to such nimrods and getting nothing in return. Congrats miserable Czechs, you've converted me.

22.01.30 14.11.2016

Comment from: Published: 08:53:53 19.05.2014
Czechs are *** rude, and it's a fact. Dealing with my Vodafone operator has made me go insane! I came to the office of Vodafone, I needed to change something with my account. Not only she didn't do anything to help, but also I was got an impression, that the young girl, that looked sulkily at me from behind the counter is the mistress of the office and she is doing me a BIG BIG favor even talking to me and responding my questions (I speak fluent czech!) and can't wait for me to get out. This was just one of the recent examples. I mean, this country is no good for staying at for long. Sooner or later, it wears you off living in such an invironment. And it is truth about everybody from the supermarket staff to the bank workers etc etc... I certainly could confirm every single word in this article. I am not sure if the 20 years of communism is a good enough excuse, I have been to other post-comunist countries, but such an open rudeness, coldness and hostility from everybody around is UNIQUE feature of the Czech Republic.
Comment from: Catskill Published: 09:18:43 29.04.2014
@StevieB I understand what you are saying. However, you should consider that waiters are so dependent on tipping, simply because you (and most restaurant owners) do not pay them a decent salary, expecting that clients will pay part of it with the tips....and this is wrong. Tipping is an aberration that should be abolished altogether as it has been in some countries for all practical purposes. Waiters do a job like any other and should get a decent salary FROM the restaurant owner. Most people work very hard in many type of businesses and don't get tipped...If they deliver an outstanding job, they get a bonus FROM the owner of the company NOT from the clients. Why should a waiter get a tip for doing his/her job? I already answered the question above. As I wrote once, things have gotten so bad, that there are many restaurants owners (in the U.S. at least) that demand from the waiters to hand over a share of the tips they received...!! How outrageous is that?? The only "cheap" people are restaurant owners who refuse to pay waiters a decent salary.
Comment from: Published: 10:51:36 28.04.2014
One can certainly generalize over a population, and this is clearly true when it comes to interpersonal attitudes in the Czech Republic. You can extend the generalization. People here, especially males, are vindictive, insecure, passive, distrusting of each other, uncooperative, lazy and obsessed with authoritarian views of the world (service work is bad, 'management' means telling the service what to do in a blissful surplus of beer and pork). The newer generation are worse. As a result of tablets and mobile devices, not only have they inherited the negative traits of their ancestors, they are also forgetting their connection to nature and sport, so what we have now is a teenage population of cola drinking obese kids sitting on benches playing videogames. So, if you are an expat just joined the CZ, save yourself a decade of angst - pack up and leave like the rest of us.
Comment from: Published: 02:38:23 12.07.2013
I was abused very badly in a line once at Albert. Pissed me off so much I decked him with one punch :) Police were called security tried to stop me leaving, One of them put he's hand on my shoulder where I just looked at him as if to say "your going down next" which seemed to be enough. Followed me out to my car and took my number plate. I have not heard anything since, and this was almost 2 years ago.. I also have spent most of my working life in the Hospitality industry and as much as it pains you sometimes you must bite your lip and force that smile on Joe public. If I don't abuse people I don't expect it back.
Vit Horky(Guest) Published: 11:12:04 12.07.2013
Your article inspired me to write a short comment.
Comment from: Published: 01:53:25 25.08.2012
My amusing tales of Czech Customer Service can be found here:
Robert1344(Guest) Published: 03:20:22 22.08.2012
I have pretty long experience in Prague, and I have found that one of the most useful expressions in Czech is "nezlob'te se" ("don't get mad"), used whenever approaching some (even minor) ticklish situation. It seems to disarm people pretty well, sometimes they even say "why would I get mad?". Unfortunately, you often have to really tug your forelock to people here, it makes them feel good and you usually get what you want -- even though it is all theatre in your mind. Just be sure not to say "nezlob'te" without the "se" because that means "don't make me mad".
Comment from: fskrc1 Published: 06:43:00 01.08.2012
Like many I am married to a Czech. My wife, children and I only come here for 2-4 months a year. My experience has been mixed. We live just outside of Prague and I've seen a huge degree of improvement since I first started coming here 11 years ago. The shift towards good customer service has occurred, I believe but, not everywhere. There are pockets of both excellent and horrible customer service. I've also noticed a couple of tendancies but, this is by no means a fact: 1. Government employees are horrible to Czech citizens as far as customer service goes, this is the same in the U.S. as well just not to the degree it is here. 2. My wife (Czech) seems to gets treated worse by her countrymen, then I (U.S.) do. 3. Newer generation business owners have a higher tendancy to understand the importance of good customer service than older generation. The "C" word is certainly a factor. While Prague does have 20 something waitresses, they might have been raised by or trained by 40-60 year olds who do have customer service experience based in the "C" era. I also agree that travel outside of Europe would certainly help many Czech's, a different or fresh perspective is always helpful. One last point. Customer service is a reflection of the culture and many other variables. In the U.S. we went through a boom in our econmy back in the late 90's early 2000's and this had a severe impact (to the plus side) on wages. The net effect was not only did you have to pay higher salaries, it was also harder to hire and retain quality employees. This effected the customer service in the US dramatically during that time. If an employee had to work too hard or put up with rude or non-tipping customers they would just go work elsewhere. I don't think the U.S.'s customer service has ever fully recovered from this "attitude shift". Bottom line the "C" era was a long time ago but, it also takes a long time for those attitudes to change through the generations.
lucie(Guest) Published: 11:53:31 29.07.2012
Hi to everyone. am czech lady and i would like explain to you WHY is service so bad: 1/ most of people dont travel, they cant compare what is "normal" they cant see a diffrent 2/ we dont travel because of money and because of language (holiday resort isnt traveling) 3/ in our country most of families still dont know that life could be also nice and happy, we are not learnt by parents, media etc that we have to try to be happy. We dont smile, we blame all the time. This behaviour our parents teaching us all the time, we copy them. 4/ we think that doing service is the same as a be a slave So please forgive us and try to teach us...
Petra K.(Guest) Published: 07:25:34 25.07.2012
Also, I am highly annoyed by behaviour of some tourists that think they OWN the world (or Prague :)). I have seen at least 5 foreign people that were rude to Czech people and asking very strange questions and making inappropriate comments.. especially people from US, France, Italy and very often groups of young guys from UK. But yes, if they adapt the philosophy *kill them with kindness* in Prague it will get better and better :). I used to work in hospitality and this was my motto (abroad). :)
Petra K.(Guest) Published: 07:17:12 25.07.2012
I recently noticed that customer service improved in Prague.. I was away for about a year and I was really worried to come back but I was surprised! Did not meet anyone rude so far and it's been nearly 3 months since I got back :).
Comment from: Published: 08:59:23 22.07.2012
I need to add a comment...I have never had a single bad customer svc. incident in the CZ. Although I've only been there on vacations to visit my husband's family, we've only met wonderful people. We were in Prague, Znojmo, Brno, and Turnov just to name a few. Maybe part of it was due to my husband being Czech. Maybe not. Even when servers/bartenders realized I was American, they were still very nice. Even more so. If I tried to speak any Czech, they tried to speak English. I can sympathize. I live in Florida, where I'm constantly being asked if I speak Spanish. Even by representatives of a local business!! (T-Mobile). I was upset when asked if I spoke spanish in an American city where only 10% of the population is latino. But, from my prior experience...if someone just tried to speak English, I was happy to try to speak Spanish. It's about having respect for the other person.
Comment from: Published: 02:08:08 20.07.2012
Speaking as an expat restaurant owner, I'd like to contribute to this discussion. Whilst I agree that service standards are frequently poor in Prague, I could also say the same for the UK. The key difference seems to be that UK business owners DO care rather more about this problem. In my own restaurant, I have had to sack staff for various reasons, but they are 90% related to attitude. We had one staff member apparently "insulted" by tourists asking, "Do you speak English?" A response in Czech (with attitude) was all that was required for us to lose those customers. Towards the end of one evening, customers were turned away because the waiter wanted to leave early, despite others being available to serve them. I've seen Russians being "served" by having their drinks slammed down in front of them; and other nationalities virtually ignored because the wait staff have already decided that these people "never tip". So that situation becomes a chicken and egg argument - if the service is non-existent, why the hell WOULD anybody tip? What you CAN do about poor service (wherever it occurs) is to vote with your feet. As an owner, what I do is tell the staff what is expected (i.e. every customer is to be treated with equal courtesy and respect). Sadly, my experience is that the bad attitudes do NOT change, and I have had to let several employees go as a result. It's taken some time, but I think our current staff fully appreciate the importance of good customer relations. I would add that there are many places I've been in Prague where the service has been excellent - people should simply be more selective or ask around before choosing who they give their business to.
Sturges(Guest) Published: 06:36:22 19.07.2012
What I find fascinating is that many poster here apparently equate "good customer service" with "speaking excellent/good English." That's pretty pathetic, IMHO.
Comment from: Published: 07:18:38 18.07.2012
there is a restaurant on the riverfront called restaurace vlatava in prague not far from Jiraskuv most . an old converted boat shed. the owner can be so rude that he has made it into an art form which is so entertaining we enjoy going back . the best is when he gets tipsy which generally is early afternoon and then the fun begins when the tourists visit.
Comment from: ducaticanine Published: 05:09:09 18.07.2012
bad customer service in restaurants here (which is the norm) is great..cuz i never leave tips :)
Comment from: Published: 03:30:08 18.07.2012
getting back to what this forum was about , customer service and in general business practice. i have found the integrity level of customer service in real estate transactions to be particularly hazardous . when dealing with the Czech real estate system and agents please take with a grain of salt any information provided and use a very good lawyer to oversee everything otherwise you will find that promises made will fall my the wayside if not properly written into the sales contract. where you can rely on a verbal ancillary agreement in the west and by in large that agreement will be honored, here unless you have it in writing you will find it wont get done. once the deal is made you will find that the level of customer service you receive will diminish greatly so just make sure everything is in writing. if you dont have a Czech partner well worth getting a translator or English speaking lawyer. even with small construction contracts where you would normally not use a contract it is advisable here to do so.
Comment from: Published: 01:46:46 18.07.2012
i dont speak directly to any contributor as this is a open forum and not facebook. but was this "remind" or "remand' me because it appears that the only one getting feisty or tense is aboluteme. for someone who purports the dangers if generalizations (you own words : "generalization is not good") more generalizations have been made then anyone in this forum. absoluteme has categorized that all Czech women are gold diggers as they could only be with a foreigner if they have money, that Czech people hate all foreigners , that foreigners are all drunken and rude noisy louts who ravage the streets and attacked another contributor by suggesting she must be american (or at the very least west european) because he disagreed with their opinion. ive been reminded/or was it remanded that this forum is on different opinions but then he attacks a person through making generalized judgmental comments which is very hypocritical and insulting on all levels. please read what you are writing first and realize you have contradicted yourself several times so its you that needs to get real. this is a open forum where people can post their comments and not one where we need to individually site one another so nobody is hiding behind a finger. the only thing absoluteme has said which is correct is that my wife is beautiful and thats why im here! i think the name tag says it all. its all absolutelyMEMEME . this was about customer service and business practice but has veered off into all sorts of directions which in themselves could be interesting but not when people become aggressive in their tones by using such words as "bull shit" and making assumptions about peoples marital arrangements and nationalities based on draconian generalizations etc etc ... perhaps he needs to articulate himself better because the energy i am reading is not one of peace man but peace provided you totally agree with my views and are not from the evil west. i could make all sorts of generalizations about Romania and there is lots of material there but i wont take this to that level.
Comment from: Published: 04:05:08 17.07.2012
@prague speak My friend, the fact that u call my statements stupid and some other names but you avoid addressing it directly to me, but use the citing, is kind of hiding behind the finger don't u think? I felt some tension there so i feel like I need to remaind u that this is just a discussion, different participants, different opinions, no need to get all fiesty. Second: Hate may be a too strong word, not appropriate for the situatiin but I like bottom line, black and white, and down to the bottom there is just negative emotion or positive emotion. All the other "soft" words u put is not making the conversation more accurate, is just beating around the bush about it. Third: the fact that u are married to a czech woman doesn't prove shit. The man and woman equation is more powerfull than anything else so goes beyong cultural differences and so on... She is beautifull, you have some money - it's that simple. It has been like this forever and will allways be above race, color, nationality, culture and so on... Keep it real man! Peace
Comment from: Published: 08:03:36 17.07.2012
i really appreciated the comments made by the guest speaker Stephen. its good to see a well thought out intelligent comment rather then some of the rhetoric ive read. however, while i agree with some comments i think in large this has started to become a history lesson and we are all trying to find excuses for really bad customer service and draconian business practice. the facts are i travel to Fiji nearly every year and less then 100 years ago cannibalism was common and yet nobody has tried to serve my up as one of the mains . actually, not even a nibble. they are all polite and full of sunshine and smiles. i go to Paris nearly every year and they are the same. nobody has ever tried to put me into a guillotine. Australia use to have the "white Australia policy" and yet every nationality is welcomed and loved and its a perfect example of how well a multi cultural society can work . therefore, i am saying that if your are a rude foul pig you are a rude foul pig even if you are a Czech rude foul pig. no excuse any more. communism, the 30 year war, Chamberlain and Churchill etc and be nice and the whole world will smile with you. well, i guess thats rather optimistic
Comment from: Published: 11:55:06 12.07.2012
a moment ago someone here was saying "generalization is not a good thing" and now that same contributor is making the sweeping generalization of all times by saying "Czechs hate foreigners" which is so ridiculous there are no words. of course Czechs do not hate foreigners and half of our friends, including myself, are expats married to Czechs which cans that stupid statement . this forum was on bad customer service which obviously is more likely to stem from lack of practice due to being stuck within a submissive regime created by communism and being intellectually ,artistically and emotionally strangled for nearly 40 years . why is it then that customer service in foreign owned business is so superior. perhaps training may have something to do with it!. one of the definitions of culture is "the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.". during the communist regime artists and many writers were persecuted and killed in concentration camps so how can the victimization of an entire society NOT have a knock on effect with regards to cultural behaviors when all the elements of culture as defined above are basically extinguished or suppressed by a political system. the 30 year war ref to below by the "historian" was in 1618-1648 . let me do the maths . 364 years ago so im pretty sure the effects of a war 364 years ago are well and truly faded and would have less influence on a society then a political system which has still left a dark shadow . many studies have been done in Russia which have proven detrimental psychological behaviors remain. communism was basically yesterday comparatively speaking from 1948 to 1989 so just 23 year ago. Czechs do not hate foreigners . "generally speaking" they simply hate serving foreigners or dealing with their complaints but hate is a very strong word and has no place here. jealousy, resentment , misunderstanding ....yes maybe but not hate.
Stephen Nicholas(Guest) Published: 04:33:25 12.07.2012
First of all, my apologies if I don't cite all the contributors who have provided ideas I borrow or agree with here; they and those who are following the discussion will know whose ideas they were. Of course communism is not the answer, but it hasn't helped, and those who know "communism" intimately will know that in most of the forms it has so far taken it have fed on the mistrust of fellow man most of us share to a greater or lesser extent. (Not without interest perhaps, that even the communists referred to the present as "socialism", and communism was just the goal.) Then there was the war and the occupation that preceded "communism", and the threat of war that preceded that, and the terrible recession that preceded that, and the creation of a republic from nothing that preceded that, and the whole of the Czech catalogue of humiliating events since 1620. Czechs have always looked back with nostalgia at that tiny span of history when they were making a good job of building their First Republic (before the Depression arrived), when Czech exports were respected throughout the world and, if we are to believe them, people were pretty nice to each other (as in the Prague Spring of 1968). Just as they were managing to come out of the pre-war recession with their heads held high, a respectable army and excellent frontier defences, Chamberlain sold them to Nazi Germany in exchange for the vain hope of keeping Britain out of a war, and the army was ordered to abandon its defences and lay down its arms, since it didn't have allies any more. Now the Czech ruling class is making a real hash of rebuilding this sixth (or however many it is, I've lost count, but I know it's more than the French) republic, or of creating even a semblance of national self-esteem. The profligate Greeks, Spaniards, etc. all want something from me (or so you would think, to read the press), and here is poor me, shop assistant, having a close encounter of the third kind with some creature from another planet with a totally different (and cruelly capitalist) view of what service HE/SHE is entitled too, and in a minute HE/SHE is going to get cross (in the most refined manner, of course) with poor me because they haven't given me enough change in my till and I'll have to ask HIM/HER if HE/SHE hasn't got anything smaller, and HE/SHE is not going to understand that IT IS NOT MY FAULT, it is the system's. And as for the twenty-year old waitress - it would be a mistake to think she came into the world with a clean sheet just because she was born in 1992. She had parents who belonged to the previous era, a school and teachers from the same mould, etc. Who could she look up to as role models? The pop stars who were beamed down to her from the GOOD SERVICE planet, where the potentially ugly customer she's now serving comes from? I agree, too, with contributors who say good service and good manners aren't all they're cracked up to be. I hate it when everyone gives the impression life is treating THEM much better than it's treating ME. I wince every time someone orders me to have a nice day. Why should I? I'll have any sort of damned day I want. It's just an empty phrase, imposed on the world by the cultural imperialists. Kazantzakis said it: "I hope for nothing [not even everyone being polite to me because I got dollars], I fear nothing [especially not folks forgetting to remind me to have a good day], I am free." And if some poor shopkeeper wants to let me know he/she's in a bad mood today, that's OK by me. It makes me feel better. I'm not the only one in the world who has bad moods and isn't always satisfied with the cards life deals them. If someone does a real Basil Fawlty on me and makes an art of being rude, that's great! I'll have a real laugh over it - naturally AFTER I've "adjusted" my righteous indignation attitude to something more appropriate to the planet I live on. I suppose what really upsets the indignants in the Czech Republic is that it sods up their system. The whole rationale of the customer always being right relies on collective fear - if I'm not subservient enough the customer will go somewhere else. But if everybody's doing it, or nearly everybody, the poor customer is on the defensive. They have to learn what every diplomat will tell you: being in the right is not enough. The secret is to win in the end. After all, what fun it is to exchange horrific tales of our derring do amid the perils of REALLY RUDE servants. We get our money's worth in the end. Having said that, I have to add that many contributors have rightly pointed out that rudeness in the Czech Republic ain't what it used to be. The Czechs are learning the lesson after all - being a bit less honest, putting on a veneer of politeness, is cash in the bank. And just a footnote on whether a "Czech mentality" might be to blame. National "mentalities" are no more than the collective result of all the other factors which have and have not been discussed as potential causes. Traits of this sort don't exist in their own right as some genetic heritage - not, that is, unless they have Darwinian Value Added, i.e. offer a survival advantage to those individuals which exhibit them. But then, who knows ... PS I've lived in the Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia for forty years, but I spent my formative years somewhere else. Somewhere that prides itself on it's service standards today. But when I lived there? You would have to be joking. So give the Czechs time. Maybe in the next republic.
Comment from: Published: 07:54:36 11.07.2012
Yesterday I received a lesson of Czech history from an actual Czech historian... My understanding of why they hate the foreigners goes deeper and the reasons behind it are so powerfull... Do you know there was a time where basically all Europe was attacing Czech for not less than 30 years??? And they remained undefeated at that time... Let's get something straight, I am pro good business ways, good customer service and so on.. I am not under any circumstance supporting the bad behaviour.. I am just trying to understand more why is happening and where it is comming from, couse issues so deep don't just happen with no reason..l Comunism is bullshit. I didn't feel the need to even coment on it couse I come from an ex-comunistic country and know for a fact that comunism has nothing to do with it. In Romania for example as a foreigner you will be treated royaly, just because u are a foreigner!!! As you see, is the complete opposite to czech so the comunism has nothing to do with it, it is more a matter of culture and history...
Comment from: Published: 01:19:01 11.07.2012
I believe that the scale of the problem with bad customer service may be underestimated with regards to how detrimental it truly is to the Czech republic from a fiscal angle. i have been married to a Czech for over 10 years and have an affinity with the Czech culture and i feel that i have no bias or malice in my opinions. my opinions are formed from experience over many years together with a genuine affection for the country and people but this does not stretch to the manner with which they conduct themselves in business or customer service matters. also, many of our friends are actually Czechs living and working abroad. interestingly many of our Czech friends who return have a negative opinion with regards to customer service and business dealings here in general. there are many negative comments said to me every day about Czech business and customer service and the integrity level in many Czech business dealings . comments so negative that i wouldn't even repeat them on this forum so considering these come from Czechs thats saying something! while it may be simplistic to blame communism , the Czech have only been part of the free market economy for 2 decades. its a little like skipping class in the first grade and thinking you can catch up in year 6. to be very blunt , the Czech republic lacks sophistication when it comes to dealings in a free market economy. its all well and good to say "if we dont like it we can get out" but the facts are people are here because they have made a commitment because of family or business so dont often have that option . the Czechs can perhaps alternatively learn a lot from the Expat community about manners when it comes to how to treat customers and the ethics of good business practice. in the long run they will benefit immensely and reap the rewards and the economy will grow. i know for a fact that most successful people will not lower themselves to adapt or assimilate to bad manners. they will simply give their money to those who provide them good customer service or the products and unfortunately this often translates to foreign investors such as myself looking elsewhere but if the Czech republic wants to cut their noses off to spite their face they are going about it correctly because you get what you put out.
Comment from: Published: 09:53:31 09.07.2012
And 'customer is allways right' is a made up sentence by a materialistic society that basically translates to 'Money is allways right'... People giving u shit from time to time when they cannot stand you from whatever reason u cannot comprehend translates to 'People are allways right!' And I subscribe to that. Comming from a matrial focused culture where the supreme god is the dollar I can see how for you is hard to understand or accept the 'bad costomer service'... U want to know why they don't like the foteigners? Try the thousands of american an british tourists walking the streets of Prague everyday making more noise, broken bottles and rudeness than a whole country of Czech people put together! Add that to a relaxed, fun loving, peacefull culture and you've got conflict. And I ask again... why are u here? Because in some sort of way o like the life style here, the way they are doing it, their freedom, their peace, their view on things... Why don't we talk about that? We take the good for granted but we write on and about the bad? Like aussie commented some some rows down... there must be two Pragues... because I am not seeing the one everybody here is complaining about...
Comment from: Published: 08:54:55 09.07.2012
First of all let's not generalize. Generalization is not good in general :) Specificaly about this situation, don't u think u are taking things too far, from Czech hospitality issues to Romania's independence? Second, do you relialize that what you are saying is Your Perspective? There is no general, there is not commonly agreed, there is no politicaly correct... all this is bullshit... there are just a lot of people with a lot of opinions... The fact that there is some conversation on a forum with a few hundreds or thousands views does not mean that this is The Truth! Can u see that? U have to understand that u are the guest here, u are not here to judge, you are not here to change, u are not here to complain... You are here to learn, understand the culture, adapt... and then start talking How can u even assume u know what 10 million czech are thinking? How about do we hwve any ideea on how the czech feels about our manners? About our communication, about our people skills, about our way of doing business? Have u been furios to find that out? I think that is much much more important that what we think about them... to start with.. We are the foreignere here... common sense rule is you go to somebody's house... u adapt, u understand, u tolerate, u do not complain ... at list this is how we got it here in East Europe... U feel me?
Comment from: Published: 08:28:58 09.07.2012
@Absolutme: YES! And here's the problem why the situation is bad. "You don't like it? Don't come here. We don't need you. You came to this country then shut up and get used to it". Take a moment to analyze what you just said and how so utterly illogical and immature it is to give such arguments. I think you're not the only one here who sees the issue this way and that is exactly why certain things suck in this country. Get out of the country? Sure, why don't you tell that to the 10 mil Czech people here who are dissatisfied with their politicians? Problems are here to be solved not to be ignored or ran away from. And no, Czech people might be used to the bad behavior they get in restaurants but in no way do they welcome it. They realize that very well but are either too lazy or too ignorant to bother and raise their voice. Ask yourself this: where would we all be if everyone refuse to acknowledge a problem, where would we be if no one ever spoke up and address the issue? I highly doubt there would be an independent Romania for you to be a part of. Did you know that if a certain queen hadn't spoken up and defended Romanian people, there wouldn't be a Romania today?
Comment from: Published: 03:46:20 09.07.2012
Just out of curiosity, and please don't take it as an offence, what nationality are u? Article writer and first commenters? I would bet my money on US and west Europe maximum... It is kind of funny to see the 'problem' are facing... It is less funny to see the way u are going about it:let's complain more, let's start war...etc It is darn serious to see the deep cultural differences that this issue points out... I understand perefectly what is happening and why is happening, I feel this, I am for Est Europe, I am from Romania To tell the whole story would probably take too long... but sticking to logics basics: U are in another country u should adapt go them, the czech bad customer service is you problem not their. Are u mature enough go realize this? You westerners invented market economy, so u should practice what u preach: the manager in the restaurant was right, if u don't like it don't come :) And while we are at it, if it's suuuuch a big problem then hoe can u stand living in the country? U plan, as a foreigner, to change the rules of a country that is eelcoming u!! That's propostuos. Isn't that typical american imperialism? Come on... can't u see the obvious here?
Comment from: Published: 10:03:59 08.07.2012
Preaching to the choir! I have been so obssessed with this issue for so long I even decided to write about and analyze this in my dissertation work =D I can say for sure that it's not because of the language barriers - I'm a foreigner who speaks Czech perfectly but still gets poor customer service. I, too, am sick and tired of everything being blamed on Communism or other unfortunate events in the Czech history. I've been an angry customer for so long that I eventually started to wonder about the roots to this problem. Certainly history cannot be blamed, and most probably not even the people. Take Starbucks Czech Republic or TGI Friday's for instance. I have always been treated nicely there, and can't think of anyone who wouldn't praise their staff. From my personal experience and what I managed to take out from my modest research few years ago - it's a combination of the Czech people's mentality, staff training, and management. Firstly, Czech people like to complain about life, politics..basically everything, but unfortunately they rarely dare to do it directly. They tend to accept a bad situation as it is, complain about it to their friends and family, but wouldn't make an effort to change in belief it would lead nowhere. This kind of behavior is like a breeding ground for bad service to be present everywhere - it might not even know it is bad, because nobody has complained about it yet! I once wrote a complaint letter to a restaurant's management about my bad experience. I received a reply almost immediately, where they apologized, asked for further details to identify the waiter, and sent me a voucher as a sorry gift so I would give them another chance. Not sure what happened to that waiter but the rest of them seemed much nicer after that. Also one time I saw a pen and a "complaint form" on this restaurant's table so I started writing my opinion. The minute the waitress saw me writing she stopped by to ask if she could help with anything, and she'd been so attentive to me afterwards! So yes, if you don't complain, you don't get better treatment. Secondly, the fact that Starbucks, TGI and other places managed to make their staff smile and be helpful prooves that there is, in fact, still hope - given the right training! Of course, attention should certainly be put into the very initial state of recruitment, as there are different types of people - the ones who are naturally inclined towards dealing with people, and the ones who aren't. This tends to be overlooked by the management as they usually employs the ones with better experience in order to save training time and cost. Lastly, there's the management, the driving force after bad/good customer service. If they choose to overlook their staff's behavior or consider that behavior normal, then no amount of complaint could ever change that. On the contrary, even if they have the best intentions and plans on how to make our customer experince the best they could, they can't be behind every waiter/waitress to check on them and see if they're working according to what they've been told in training. That's where customers have to step in and speak up. ;-)
Comment from: Charlie_Bebop Published: 10:20:13 08.07.2012
A very insightful comment from Allegro: "Also, I’ve never seen any of the Vietnamese guys who run their mini markets 7AM-11PM complain" Generally, the Vietnamese shops (and restaurants) have much better standards of customer service. Whilst not exactly smiley and effervescent, at least they're polite, and willing to help. In the last few years, their fruit and veg has been of better quality than the big supermarkets too
Comment from: Published: 02:53:22 05.07.2012
as a post note to my chandelier story and customer service. customer service here for day to day transactions can be normal. grocery shopping, going out for dinner can all go well. once you enter real estate transactions, renovations and larger transaction you are entering dangerous territory. our own real estate agent who is Czech and manages our properties here advised "Czech people are very unreliable in business". my experience and ive been coming here for 11 years is that this is sadly correct. many Czechs businesses will swindle you at the first opportunity but if i am wrong, please test the system and enter into an agreement without a contract. we were flooded by the apartment upstairs. loss adjuster came and went. we got quotes for repair and sent them in. we asked whether they were OK and response came back.."they look fine". we proceeded with repairs and send invoices in to get reimbursed. not came back, we wont pay these. we fwd them the email saying "they looked OK". reply comes back saying..."we said they look OK but we didnt say we would pay them"... ha ha Czech double speak. yep...they got us again. we went through our own insurance anyway but excuse me if i agree with all teh negative comments on Czech customer service. i imprort everything these days and im getting my chandeliers from Italy so im adding to the 1B lost by the Czech republic for bad customer service.
Comment from: Published: 02:31:23 05.07.2012
well, for those who have posted that customer service here is the same as everywhere else i suggest that perhaps your transactions are limited to buying eggs from Alberts. let me tell you what happened to me the other day and then you tell me its the same as Sydney London etc. i have been in business for over 25 years and have conducted small to extremely large transaction all over the world and owned a medium sized business in Sydney with several retail outlets and in those 25 years i can count on one hand the number of transactions which went pear shaped. i ordered 2 chandeliers from a company here in Blue. they were custom made. instead of delivering blue they delivered aqua green. the supplier admitted they got the colour wrong. he couldnt install them as there was a piece missing. despite this i trusted him and gave him 50% deposit as i bought 5 other chandeliers from him in the past. he said we could check the item and if any problem it would be rectified . we did and there was a crack. we wrote to him and advised that there was damage to one cup but to return and instal it anyway, repair the damaged cup, and to take away the wrong colour and replace it with correct colour or give us a discount on the 2nd piece. in any part of the world this would be considered normal and fair. instead he showed up the next day with 2 policeman. the police then called us and threatened to charge us with a criminal offense. the policeman was so aggressive and screaming at my partner , who is Czech, that if we didnt let them it they would ensure we would get into massive trouble. we told Police no crime had taken place and that we paid 50% deposit and were waiting for him to repair and instal. he called us liars and said , we didnt pay any deposit. we explained we had a hand written note confirming the receipt and he again said we committed a crime by not getting an official receipt. we explained that this was going to be given to us after payment of balance and instal. we contacted our lawyers who advised us that police would not usually do this and that this was probably a corrupt policeman friend . we called them up and advised them to charge and that through the magistrate we would counter sue for defamation. miraculously, the supplier turned up with our money we supposedly didnt pay and took away his good. i asked him "why did you call the police when you knew we would pay you after instal and rectification?" his reply was "we dont trust each other in the Czech republic as it is common for Czechs to cheat one another ..maybe its different where you are from but this is Czech plus i was afraid you would squeeze me for a discount so i went to a friend in the police." i assure you, that would not happen anywhere else in the world.
Comment from: Published: 01:21:38 05.07.2012
To the 'on topic' Police who say that discussing rude ex-pats is not permitted because this is about bad customer service I say ROLLOCKS! This town in unfortunately awash with exceptionally arrogant and rude ex-pats who somehow feel they are above lesser mortals because they earn more and deserve more. I have actually got off trams and waited for the next one because of loud Americans or worse, foul mouthed Brits, Jocks especially. Should someone in a service industry leave their prejudices at home? Yes. Is it realistic to expect it to always happen? Probably not. As a father, I would prefer my daughters to come home telling me that they put a rude customer in his/her place, than them come home and tell me that they just accepted the rudeness because the customer (moron) is always right. 'The customer is always right' is just another of those dishonest Americanisms such as 'collateral damage' (we killed some civilians) or 'negative growth' (we lost money!). I didn't like the meal, can I pay 10%? The customer is always right? I don't think so. Try it in New York and see if you get out of the door. I lived in Singapore where customer service and a smile are enshrined in law. But try being a rude ex-pat in Singapore and see how far you get. There are two sides to every story and the on-topic police here seem to think that giving the other side of the argument isn't allowed.
Comment from: Published: 12:51:41 05.07.2012
i MUST live in a very different Czech Republic to everyone else writing here. Honestly! Have I ever had bad customer service? Of course. Have I had bad service in London, Paris, Rome, Sydney, New York - YES! As for the rubbish that Americans and Brits are less direct. I do NOT agree. I work with an absolutely wonderful bunch of Czechs, but find their unwillingness to 'tell it how it is' is hard to live with. Bad landlords? MY landlord gives me a completely free month every year - which I never asked for, he just said it was the right thing to do because I am away for a month each year. Rudeness. No worse that anywhere else I've been. So what don't I like here after 5 years? I truly miss 'banter'. That British-Australian thing of talking about nothing. Cultural differences? The unwillingness to initiate conversations with strangers. I teach at a very prestigious school here and I asked my students who had initiated a conversation with a stranger in the last week/month? Hardly any of them was the answer. We started a program to get our students to initiate conversations with tourists, and had remarkable results, but the reason given for not doing it is a general lack of trust of strangers. And that CAN be traced back to communism. My students are all born post revolution, but their social attitudes are formed by parents and especially grandparents who survived the regime by trusting no-one. I am told that because I teach at the school I do, I have a distorted rose coloured view of Czechs because all my students are from privileged backgrounds and are exceptionally clever. That may be true, but I shop in the same shops you do and have very few bad experiences. And my Alberts shop in Nova Harva - Prague 9 has staff who know my name, smile at everyone and are absolutely delightful. There must just be two Pragues - the one everyone else lives in and the one I live in. I'm happy here! An Aussie in Prague
Comment from: Published: 02:43:53 04.07.2012
have been living here for 6 months now after finishing off a horrendous renovation. have come across so many horrible experienced in bad customer service . while the architecture is beautiful it appears the Czech people in general are not exactly the friendliest or warmest people in the world. i mean take away all the period architecture and what would remain. i think they are very lucky they survived largely intact after WW2 because if they had to depend on their friendly demeanor and charm the tourism would be quiet thinly spread. have found business practices to be largely unprofessionally conducted with no respect or trust given (or received lately) to regular customers. on one occasion we went to a restaurant called cafe de Paris . when the waiter tried to seat us at the incorrect table we asked to be seated somewhere else. not only did he give us his hand & become very rude, he topped it off by saying "take it or leave it" and walked away. we are regulars there so walked. got a call from the manager apologizing so went back another night only to get the same waiter who attempted to make fun of us after we were seated at the correct table by sarcastically offering us a table by the hat stand knowing we hated it. this was met with laughter from another waiter so we walked a second time. first time we have ever had to walk out of a restaurant twice but its unbelievable that restaurants can be so rude to a regular client. i guess what makes this so sad is that this is not that unusual in Prague based on these reports.
Comment from: Published: 08:10:19 03.07.2012
I'm just about convinced Albert's trains their staff to be the most unfriendly in the city.
Comment from: Published: 05:51:55 03.07.2012
Haha amongst my TEFL friends, we refer to these as "Czech Trainwrecks." It seems as though every day my Facebook newsfeed is full of status updates dealing with "so I didn't have exact change at the Albert and this happened..." or "I can't believe my landlord isn't giving me back my deposit because of...." etc. etc. It's kinda funny to compile them.
Comment from: LordSiebert Published: 05:36:28 03.07.2012
No secret here as we all observed the fact. I wonder if they themselves know deep down that they are giving shitty service. I shop at this billa and I only go to one cashier, an older Czech cashier who is smiling and pleasant although she doesn't speak a word of English. I wait in her line no matter how many people are in front of me or if another lane opens. She is patient and calm. I used to be a cashier back in the day and I was friendly. The cashiers act as though they have been burdened [arrghhh] when a customer comes in. Sorry sweetheart, but that's how you're paid. Astute managers will notice this and as time goes, inept cashiers will be fired. It is only a matter of time. Until then, I will be waiting in line for my favorite cashier. One more thing. The picture at the top of the article doesn't really indicate anything remotely dealing with customer service. A cash register would be a good start. Be in peace.
Comment from: ducaticanine Published: 08:55:26 27.06.2012
i'd rather people be fake and smily than bitter and miserable..better energy,simple
Comment from: animaleyes76 Published: 04:30:22 26.06.2012
totally agree with Sanan, Nothing more annoying than that whole sucking up, false crap like you find in the US.
Comment from: Sanan Published: 11:53:43 21.06.2012
Being bubbly and kissing my ass does not equate to good customer service. Doing what I'm requesting you to do does.
Comment from: RAMDAS Published: 01:24:23 21.06.2012
@ Globetrotter I understood that you were directing your comments to Poledinkova , mine was a quote from Mahatma Gandhi which I will republish it is a mantra in India and most other countries that treat their fellow human beings with respect ,do on to others as you would have done on to you ,, A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so. Mahatma Gandhi
Comment from: Published: 03:16:50 20.06.2012
I speak fluently both Czech and English and sometimes I just wish I didn’t understand any Czech while grocery shopping when I accidently forget my headphones at home. There’s been so many of those ‘WTF’ and ‘oh no, she didn’t’ moments especially in the supermarkets. @ customer (guest): My friend and I are convinced the supermarket employees are trained to ask the “don’t you have any smaller bill” question. We actually experienced one guy paying with a 10CZK coin being asked this question. @ Mr. Benn: Albert supermarkets completely lost me as their customer because the level of rudeness and the poorest customer service I couldn’t take any longer. Especially the Krizikova Albert is one of the worst ones. The store manager rather took her picture down by the entrance (I guess she doesn’t want to be recognized). On the other hand there are places I keep re-visiting just because their customer service. E.g. Interspar is great, Marks and Spencer and Wine& Food market employees represent a phenomenal service, Vodafone reps seem to be professional, wine place - U staré studny, and La Fontana Italian store in Dobřichovice are great. Also, I’ve never seen any of the Vietnamese guys who run their mini markets 7AM-11PM complain. Loosing $1.08 billion annually just because of the bad CS is insane and truly hope the Czech republic will meet the Western world customer service standards, soon.
Comment from: Published: 11:49:37 20.06.2012
Among my TOP3 are: - waiters throwing or slamming menus at you when you want to order something else - an old favorite is when the waiter takes your plate before you are done eating and then argues that he had the right to do it. Also waiters asking you if you want another drink while you are still drinking your current one. - whenever you try clothes that are too big for you and the sales person insists that you should buy them cause you might get fat in the future :)
Comment from: Published: 11:43:59 20.06.2012
My first experience in Prague happened 4 years ago shopping for eye glass frame at Eiffel Optics Nam, Rep metro stop a tourist heavy area. The middle aged lady jump the counter screaming and running at me the moment I laid my eyes on a potential purchase, enough for me to feel shamed like I did something wrong. The shop lost my purchase of a $200.00 sale. At the moment I was surprised, however later I came to realize that this shoddy service was partly due to my American permanent tan skin color, being mislabeled as a Roma. I love Prague and CR enough to invest in a property here, however like many here have experienced episodes of poor unexpected customer service all around the city. Yes is is improving but not in all areas and I have experienced wonderful services and smiles from time to time even it I may be mistaken for a Roma. I do not tip at restaurants if the service is poor or if the staff feels like they dont want an American Gypsy , its only fair and I do not go back. I find it absolutely shameful when this sort of mislabeling happens from a younger generation. Business owners should take needed steps to see this issue as lost business revenues and potential growth. Prague is a Tourist center just like my home in USA (Orlando Florida), tourist from all nations and color of skins should be welcomed with open arms such that the tourist will spread the news of this awesome city and bring in more business for the local economy. I come here and spend 6 weeks each year, spend lots of money and help the local economy even thought the locals frown at my appearance and hence service. I hope comments and discussions like these will take note and locals will see that the Czech Republic is a small part of a larger connected world and only the locals can help themselves keep pace.
Comment from: Published: 11:13:05 20.06.2012
I have experienced terrible customer service over here. Even though I smile and try to give out pleasant vibes, I am often met with a blank look and what could be perceived as rudeness or at least an unwillingness to engage. The worse customer service I have encountered has been in Tesco in Zlicin. Globus is a bit hit and miss, good and bad. Hornbach, on the whole not good. I would like to know what the Czech equivalent of the Sale of Goods Act is as I have something to return and having had a terrible experience in Tesco where I was made to feel like a criminal and in fact was towered over by one of their security guards, I am really worried about having to return a faulty item. The best customer service is from the staff in the cafe at XXLutz, absolutely charming, since we have been going there, they have even got hold of English menus and offer them to us. Whatever that company is doing regarding educating their staff in customer relations, they deserve a medal! Also I can recommend Parkmycar Automotive services, Jan speaks perfect English and simply cannot do enough for his customers.
Comment from: higgledy Published: 07:26:25 20.06.2012
It is too bad that much/most of what is written here is true. While it might not be 'service with a smile', there's no need for it to be rude and surly service. I'm a bit surprised that there has been no mention of the favorite tactic used by many restaurant staff here: add extra drinks on a bill. That's always a fun negotiation.
Comment from: RAMDAS Published: 12:46:30 20.06.2012
We can blame faulty towers and john cleese I think the czech people saw this english tv show and believed that everybody in the west behaves like basil faulty , you have a lot to answer for mr cleese thank you for decieving the czech people in to thinking bad behavouir is normal,,,,,,,
Comment from: Published: 11:27:28 19.06.2012
i 100% agree with this article..unfortunately i also have a very bad living here for 5 years and now even can speak the language very well..we were in one restaurant in mustek,and the waitor served us very bad and brough 3 times a wrong drink..he didnt say sorry or anything,we didnt expect it either..then after we payed and didnt leave him any tips, he came to us and forced us to give him some tips and the funny thing was his manager was standing right over there and just looking..then i spoke in Czech language that the thing which he is doing is ompletely wrong and if he continiues i will call the police and then we can dicuss all toghether..suddenly he stopped and we left..pretty pathetic event for Czech locals ...
Comment from: Published: 08:13:59 19.06.2012
I could take share a negative story or two but I'll try to stay positive... One thing I find is that Czechs who have experienced excellent service abroad are usually the strongest advocates for improvement. There are many service gems in Prague - Kofein restaurant, run by a Czech who knows what service means - is one example. There is something about Albert though that makes me wonder...