I have mentioned ‘service’ in Italy before now, probably in many posts.
Sometimes, it is exceptionally good. At other times it is, at best, abysmal. The abysmal usually occurs when you’re dealing with bureaucracy. There are many things which, whilst in the UK are straight forward, here require an amount of red tape that is, let us say, unfortunate.
Go to a small shop that, for instance, sells pens. There the service will be wonderful. When you have finally selected a pen, it will be wrapped with care as if it were to be the most important gift for someone – even if you are buying it for yourself.
Obviously, this doesn’t apply to all shops. Zara, for example, doesn’t carefully pack your purchased items but, much as shops in the UK, will just slip them in a bag. It does depend on where you go.
However, when dealing with something that requires the red-tape documentation, don’t expect a level of service even up to the Zara standard.
Instead, expect to wait; to be ignored; to be advised that you will have to come back with some other document; to be told that it simply ‘can’t be done’.
I go. Each desk is occupied both with an ‘assistant’ and a customer. There are a number of chairs for people who are waiting to sit on. It’s not a good sign. I’ve found waiting areas to be a sure sign of extreme slowness and incompetence. I find that I am not disappointed this time.
Two customers leave. The desks are empty of customers. The staff, though, are doing something else. Going for water; chatting to other people; walking around. They all look at me from time to time. I am English so am, to some extent, used to waiting. Quietly. Surely, I think, someone will attend to me shortly.
Another customer leaves. There are a lot of staff walking around. The desk where the last customer was definitely says ‘Closed’.
There are now only two desks which have customers at them. There is an office behind me that seems to attract the busy, walking-around staff. I could just pop my head round the door as it is right behind me. I don’t, of course.
Surely, I think, someone will notice the fact that I am waiting and that, by now, I don’t look like I am enjoying myself.
I wonder if the two customers that remain and are being served will ever finish.
A short man who could best be described as a retired spiv walks past. He is wearing one of those loud brown, striped suits. He reminds me of Danny DeVito. He looks at me and bids me good day. I mumble something in return. It’s not really a ‘good’ day for me.
The mumble was going to be something like ‘salve’ which is a two-syllable word but comes out as a one syllable word that almost doesn’t come out at all, it is so quiet. In part this is because no one, up to this point, has spoken to me.
He walks off somewhere.
About five minutes later he comes past me again. He asks me something in Italian. By now my mind is numb and even if he had said ‘Good Day’ in Italian, I wouldn’t have understood it. I feel like I have died whilst I’ve been waiting.
I give him the contents of the envelope and crank my mind into some sort of gear. I think I am somewhere between zero and first gear. He understands my comment that I just want to pay. He calls a woman from the room behind me – her with the ‘Closed’ desk. He tells her to serve me.
She is, obviously, less than happy with this. But, then again, I am less than happy with being here amongst all these totally ignorant Italians. I mean in this office not in Italy, of course.
She serves me. She is useless. But, in spite of her uselessness, five minutes later I am out of there. It will be the last time I use them and so, next year, I will do something about it. In time. I.e. a month before I need to do this again.
Or else I will be too lazy and go there again this time next year and be unhappy all over again.