The American Customer Service vs. Hospitality

By Snezana Stojilkovic; Chicago, Illinois

I talked last time about some distinctions between my home country and the country I am living in now. It seems that those differences are countless. Some of them I love, some I don’t understand, and some of them I think I would never be able to accept. That makes my life much more interesting: adjusting to the new environment is a process, and I am enjoying learning and observing all these small things that are so different. For example:

 

The “wild west” culture

I am reluctantly admitting this to you now, but sometimes I am afraid for my safety. Although I live in very safe neighborhood, how safe can one be in Chicago, with such a high level of all sort of criminal activities? Every day, EVERY DAY we hear stories of someone being killed. That is not even news anymore. The breaking news would be if one day passed without counting victims in Chicago. The fact that anyone can buy and carry weapon is horrifying. You can never know where some attacker can show up and start shooting randomly.

Check this story out: a 13 year old boy tried to buy alcohol, porn, lottery and cigarettes without success, since he was a minor. But, he had no problem buying a gun. It took him less than 10 minutes to walk away with deadly weapon in his hands. No questions asked. Something is very wrong, don’t you think?

Customer service is incredible!

It’s very easy to be a great customer when you know what kind of support you can get from any business! Amazing. I will give you an example: I contacted Uber support team at least 5 times so far and I always got an answer in less than an hour. The last time they responded in three minutes, while I was in the car trying to solve the problem I had with my trip (my driver canceled the ride accidentally, but he accepted to give me a ride. I wanted to be sure that he would be paid for his work). I couldn’t believe! And be positive that that is a standard here. (Okay, Comcast is an exception 🙂 )

It is less likely that that kind of service you would get in my country. Sad, but true. What a nightmare it was for me to cancel my mobile plan I had it there from here. I had to call so many times four different agencies in order to find which one is responsible for my contract. Plus, the ladies were very rude on the phone. And, that is standard in my country.

What can I say – the big market, tough competition – establishments are fighting for every single customer here. They need you back. And they will do almost impossible to make you happy. If they don’t – they lose the business. Plain and simple.

 

Maternity paid leave is a luxury

The United States of America can be proud of so many great things, and I don’t even have an intention of naming some of them, but when it comes to a safety net: if fails, big time. The current law (Family and Medical Leave Act signed into law in 1993) says that women have a 12 weeks UNPAID leave to care of new born and recover from the childbirth. And that’s not all. There are some restriction to this law: the size of company the women work for, the number of hours spent working for the same employee in the past year and so on. Some states tried and extended benefits new moms should get, but it is far from good.

Even my country is in very poor financial situation, it still provides full year of PAID maternity leave. Not only that, but pregnant women can take leave while they are expecting and they can still receive certain amount of money each month. That relieves the pressure from women and they can concentrate on their kid(s) more. And all European countries have far better health care system for their citizens than the US.

I remember one former co-worker when she worked as a house keeper in a hotel literally until she was due. She had to be on her knees cleaning and using all sort of chemicals every day, multiple times. Couple of days after she had her child, she had to come back and work, although still visible recovering. Her husband visited her every day with the baby so she could breast-feed her. It was sad that she didn’t have a choice to stay with the baby for a while. Those first months are the most precious, but her leaving her job would probably mean no income for her family.

And, honestly, I don’t understand how business can take a risk and bring a lady with hormonal misbalance to work with customers or perform some other tasks.

Put this note on a side, this topic is very hot in the USA nowadays and politicians (especially presidential candidates) finally speak up about such a big problem. It remains to be seen what will happen, but I strongly believe that every mother has a right to choose to stay at home with a baby without fear for surviving, and without fear of losing her job while doing the most important job in the world: taking care of a child!

 

The level of consumerism is extremely high

People waiting in line hours outside of the Michigan Avenue Apple Store in downtown Chicago, Illinois.
People waiting in line hours outside of the Michigan Avenue Apple Store in downtown Chicago, Illinois. Photo: jessicakirsh / Shutterstock.com

Com’ on, are you really going to sleep outside of the store just because you want to buy a new iPhone?

No way, even if they promise me one for free I wouldn’t spend time waiting. I can find it tomorrow or the next day, or I can buy something else.

 

Lunch time. Burger? No, thank you.

On traditional Serbian lunch table you will always find: homemade soup first, and then COOKED meal with meat (chicken or pork usually). Salad is a must. We consider sandwiches as quick snack, in between lunch and dinner, sometimes it can be served as breakfast, but NEVER as lunch.

 

And, again something that is self-explanatory:

 

  • We do not have cheerleaders in high schools
  • Rape on campuses is a huge problem in the USA
  • Only Americans understand and like baseball
  • The country is so big so it is no surprise that there are many cities with the same names in different states. How many Springfield towns have you heard of or visited so far?
  • Electricity is so cheap here, no kidding!

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