Monday, July 03, 2006

Service / Street selling

In a way I’m reluctant to write this. Service. Is it that bloody marvellous elsewhere?

Generally I think service in the UK is not too bad. You should try Germany if you think otherwise; a country grown rich on the back of a manufacturing culture has little truck with service concepts. But that’s a generalisation. As always.

It’s just that service here ain’t that great. I’m not talking about bars and restaurants. Overall, they’re pretty good. I’m talking more everyday places - banks and supermarkets especially. I’ve railed against Credito Balear in Puerto Alcudia before; it still has but the one desk (two on occasions if there’s anyone there or not otherwise occupied), and this despite the other branch (where there were always two in season) having been closed for several months. It’s lousy.

Then there are the supermarkets. Not all of them, but Eroski Syp, which happens to be where I go. Syp is one of the main supermarkets; it’s not a tourist supermarket, but one of a national chain. Now, let me say it’s not a bad place to shop, just that the checkouts are hopeless. Long queues form before finally one of the checkout girls calls for another to be opened, whereupon there is an unseemly rush and shove to get to the head of the new queue. And the queues can get very long now we’re coming into high season.

Within the discipline of operational research, there is a whole area of queueing theory. Like much management science, it’s mathematics to state the bleedin’ obvious. Queueing systems may or may not have been spawned by some of this theory (it didn’t need a theory to create a common-sense solution). Very simple systems, such as you get at post offices or banks in the UK. Not here you don’t; hence the unseemly rush.

There again, queueing is a British obsession. There’s only one thing the British are quicker to form, and that’s a committee. So, we’re masters of the art (or science, if you prefer). Queueing is not exactly anathema within other cultures; just it isn’t treated with the same diligence.

And at Syp there is also the fruit-and-veg weighing problem. Now, you might think that a counter with two sets of scales on them was a bit of a giveaway, but many folk still fail to weigh, head for the checkout, whereupon a further delay is caused contacting someone on shelf-stacking duties to collect the unweighed items, go and weigh them and then return to the checkout.

The trouble is not everyone knows about this sort of system. It’s not practised everywhere. The British are especially fallible. While the scales may seem obvious - to me - there’s a blind-spot for many. It might help if there were signs - in English, in German for instance - explaining the system. But there aren’t. There are signs - in Spanish - informing you that certain items don’t need to be weighed. Not very clever in truth.

A feature of Puerto Alcúdia and other places is the illegal street trader, some of whom don’t always sell on the streets but go into bars and restaurants as well. They sell sunglasses, watches, jewellery, CDs, DVDs; they offer hair-braiding. None of it is legal. Most of what is sold - no, make that all of what is sold - is fake.

Along the Greasy Mile (or Avenida Pedro Mas y Reus to give it its proper name), there are street traders aplenty. Well, the legitimate traders have had enough. The association of local businesses has issued a leaflet - in English (praise be, in English) - telling people that this street trade is illegal and that people should “just say no”. Despite the echoes of the Grange Hill song saying no to drugs (sadly inappropriate as at least one of the cast was done for cocaine some years later), the message is quite powerful. Will it stop the trade? Probably not.

One can’t let the sad passing of F.S.Trueman go unmentioned here. The Sa Pobla Cricket Club have been quick to commemorate Fred’s passing; the old Pavilion End will now be renamed “The Fred End”. Given that fred means cold in Catalan, that should cause some confusion, about as much as for anyone who actually tries to find the SPCC.

Index for June 2006

Albufera - 9 June 2006
Baby buggies - 2 June 2006
Beaches - 9 June 2006, 13 June 2006
Beckham, David - 16 June 2006
Cala San Vicente - 8 June 2006
Can Picafort - 9 June 2006
Canadair fire-fighting planes - 25 June 2006
Canny Lad Bar - 30 June 2006
Catalonian autonomy - 19 June 2006
Chemists - 13 June 2006
Driving - 16 June 2006
Eastern European tourists - 5 June 2006, 8 June 2006
Fiestas - 19 June 2006, 30 June 2006
Fire - 25 June 2006
JKs Bar - 5 June 2006
La Sexta (television channel) - 13 June 2006, 19 June 2006, 30 June 2006
Markets - 23 June 2006
Mosquitoes - 16 June 2006
Olivers Restaurant - 2 June 2006
Pipe music - 24 June 2006
Playa de Muro - 9 June 2006, 13 June 2006, 24 June 2006
Politics - 19 June 2006
Prostitution - 25 June 2006
Reps - 19 June 2006
Roundabouts - 25 June 2006
Sant Pere Fiesta, Alcúdia - 19 June 2006, 30 June 2006
Sculpture - 25 June 2006
Siesta - 8 June 2006
Spanish television - 13 June 2006
Tobacconists - 24 June 2006
Tourism economics - 24 June 2006, 26 June 2006
Tourism strategy - 5 June 2006
Weather - 2 June 2006, 16 June 2006
Websites - 24 June 2006
World Cup - 5 June 2006, 13 June 2006, 19 June 2006, 26 June 2006, 30 June 2006 - 24 June 2006

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