Saturday, October 17, 2009

Service in Stockholm

It’s time, once again, for a complaint about customer service in Stockholm. Because it just isn’t fun if I don’t kick the already beaten dead horse that is Swedish customer service. Then spit on it.

I had made plans to get things done today. Errands if you will. Unfortunately the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. As I fit into one of the aforementioned categories my plan did just that.

First, because I have the grace of a sumo wrestler on ice skates, I fell into the water a couple of months ago taking my cell phone with me. I have since been using an old cell phone that I had lying around. It has decided no longer to allow me to accept phone calls and send or receive SMS’. Sometimes I’m allowed to call people.

I decided it was then time to get a new phone. Or at least try to repair what damage I had done to my previous phones. I wanted to test a new battery in my old phone and possibly find out what was wrong with my current phone. So into The PhoneHouse I went. And approximately three minutes later I walked out.

The conversation started with me explaining that my phone was water damaged, but when plugged into the wall without the battery, it turned on and seemed to be in some working order. I needed to test a battery. The proud representative of The Phone House began by leaning on the wall behind him, it had probably been a long day what with them having been open for a solid three hours. Maybe my hairiness intimidated him (I later checked my breath and body odor and confirmed that I smelled delicious so it wasn’t that). He told me that they didn’t have any batteries to test. He told me that the phone probably wouldn’t work anyway. Then he told me that my phone was water damaged. Yes, I know. I already told you that. In fact, I was there when it became water damaged. Good thing he could confirm it for me. He is an expert after all. So I pressed him for his expert advice. Go online he told me. He didn’t try to sell me a new phone. He didn’t try to offer any solution as to where to find a battery. Go online. So I left. You know, so I could get online.

Next on the list was getting the heat in my car fixed. Winter is coming and I do not intend on driving around all winter dressed in my ski gear like last winter. This was going to take a phone call to set up an appointment.

I had a phone number. I had a service center near me picked out. I was ready to go. I called (my phone was allowing phone calls to go out between the hours of 14 – 16:30 today, strangely those are about the same opening hours of most businesses in Sweden on a Saturday.). The phone rang and rang and nothing happened. Until finally the automated recording came on. I was expecting a “thanks for calling, we’ll be right with you” message. Instead I was given a “lots of people are calling right now, please call again soon.” And then I was hung up on. By a machine.

I called again. And was hung up on by a machine. So I called again. And was hung up on by a machine. I waited ten minutes and called again. And was hung up on by a machine. I think we can all see the pattern here. For over an hour I called. For over an hour, they were too busy and a machine hung up on me. Then my phone stopped allowing phone calls out.

Now I am sitting here without a working cell phone, a car that has no heat, and a hatred for service in this country that rivals only my hatred for whole tomatoes.

Welcome to Sweden. Where I yearn for customer service.

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  1. I'm sorry to break it to you, but the same crap happens in the US. Cell phone stores are painful. This is also why I hate making phone calls...lots of waiting on hold and explaining the whole thing 50 times to stupid people who have to transfer the call to other stupid people until I eventually get hung up on.

    I've also experienced the "we're too busy so we're going to hang up on you" thing. At my old medical clinic. Which seems wrong. I mean, I was obviously calling for some medical something or other. In their defense, they did tell me to call 911 if it was an emergency. Like anyone over the age of 8 actually needs to be told that. Still...they were kind enough to remind me. Seems like the least they could do is put me on hold for an hour like the other (more considerate) businesses do. Of course, this was a military facility. Not really a business.

    Hope it all turns out well for you without much more pain.

  2. The phoneguy probably wanted some money... you know... bribes.

  3. The biggest problem I've had with customer service so far was trying to buy a bike at Biltema... first I had trouble finding someone to help me, then the person didn't know the answer to my question and sort of brushed me off... finally I went to the front counter and received help... but I was seriously there for waywayway too long, like 30 minutes, looking for someone to help me. It was like they didn't want my business- if Biltema wasn't my last resort for a bike I would have left!

  4. Floridian in FinlandOctober 17, 2009 at 5:13 PM

    Hm, I wonder how the service is Sweden compares to service in Finland.

    The biggest difference between customer service in the US and in Finland is that if you are unhappy with something in Finland, the attitude is "this is how things are done and if you don't like it too bad". This drives me crazy. In the US you at least get something free or at least your opinion is validated. I'd say there are more incompetent people in the US in customer service so there are more idiots to fuck things up.

  5. About the Cell phone i talked to a friend he said people don't get it fixed,they buy a new one, to make sure i went to one of these stores explained them the problem (same problem as yours) he said they could check it out but then it turned out i had to fork out a pretty penny which was almost 60% of a new one in Sverige just to get it checked out!
    So, i suggest you to forget about you phone and just move on, like you never had one!

  6. ThePhoneHouse is like the worst place to go to.

  7. The only good thing about the bad customer service here is, as a newcomer with poor Swedish, nobody is trying to talk to you so you don't have to explain that you don't understand them. I relish it. For now.

  8. As a Swede, I can agree that customer service is not top notch around here. But to the Biltema guy, what did you expect? If you want someone who knows bikes, go to a bike store. But Biltema is cheap, which is what you requested, and i wouldn't be cheap if they hade a lot of personell.

  9. Well, that sounds like another spot-on Swedish customer "service" experience. Now I'm not a violent Miss by any stretch, but as an American used to US-style customer service (which I know isn't perfect), Swedish customer service makes me want to shake someone. And I'm not talking about prissy complaints either; I'm talking about just trying to get basic information. Anyway, I find Swedish customer service tends to fit into the following categories:

    1. Take it or leave it. Live. Die. Whatever. I get a paycheck either way.
    2. I don't know the answer, but I won't admit it, so I'll just repeat the same useless non-information over and over.
    3. I don't know the answer, so I'll make something up, even though it is in direct opposition to the advertisement, menu, etc. I will be sure to sound quite definitive when I say it.
    4. I don't know the answer, but I sure as heck won't get out of my chair to find someone who does.


    ~American fästmö

  10. Ha-ha-ha! Nah, are we sweds really that bad? I think big city people are more rude then us small towners. Try to go up north and away from Stockholm and see if people there are different.

    I've been to the US and think it's more creepy with all that- white -teeth -extra -wide smiling and over the top friendliness, when you know it's all fake. And you know it's only for the tip. But hey, diffrent strokes for different folks... ?

    Great blog by the way!

    Kämpa på!

  11. i agree with Em. Stockholm people are more lame than others :D

  12. The customer service in sweden is that way because that's the way we want it. Supply and demand sort of thing.

  13. Totally understand hairyswede! My WORST when I lived in Sweden and when I go back to visit yearly is when the airline help lines (customer service/baggage) are only open 11:00-13:00.... I nearly get violent. At least in other countries, although they may not want to and will do it in a "fake-white-teeth way," they will help you or can lose their job.

  14. Dude I'm with you. Last week my boyfreind sent me to the store to buy gnocchi (for those of you who don't know they're the potato dumplings from Italy). We (he) gets it all the time so I knew they had it there. After about 20 min. of searching I finally broke down to ask a storeperson for, um, "help." She said "what's that?" I described it. She just stood there shaking her head with a lost puppy face and said "sorry, I dunno." Ok. I asked another guy. He said to ask someone else. So I asked a third guy. He didn't even look at me and just said "I don't know, try the potato area buy the vegetables." I was going to re-explain that it comes in a bag, it is not a fresh potato, but, F it. So not one of these losers could walk around with me and try to narrow down the isle like they do at home. Or ask Bob, the guy whose worked here for a decade and actually knows shit.

  15. So the store is supposed to break up a fresh battery package so that you may see if the phone works with a new battery in it? And then maybe you'll buy the battery as well?

    Or do you suggest that the stores keep a box of batteries lying around for all the different phone models out there, so that when someone come in to the store, they'll be able to test their own specific model?

  16. LOL@Mattias. Been here for almost a year now and I sympathize whole-heartedly with the customer service. I had a bad/good experience the other day though. Ran into ICA 10 mins before it closed, and as the security guard was taking his position, to get some ingredients for apple crisp. Running around like a madwoman. I hear them close the doors, I know my time is almost up. Just me and a dude in there. Sure enough, an ICA man corners me in the baking aisle, "Blah, Blah, Swedish Blah". To which I reply, "Sorry, almost done here." To which he replies, "You know we'd like to go home now." G-E-E-Z! So I start rushing toward the cash when I realize I forgot nutmeg. Dang it. B-Line to spices. Like I know what nutmeg is in Swedish. A minute has passed and there he is again! Before he can guilt me into leaving my post, "Listen, if you can help me find nutmeg, I'll be cashing out in a flash." And then rude ICA man totally redeems himself by coming over, scanning the shelves, picking up what he thinks might be nutmeg. I'm slightly convinced and say, "It must be". I proceed to he cash. And as the snitty bitch is ringing through her last customer at 9:04pm, he runs over and asks me to smell another container...which has the same name on it but the uhmmm grains? are slightly larger, "You can smell this one easier," he says. Sure enough, what I have in my hands is indeed nutmeg. Thank you Mr. Rude Nice ICA Man for the shitty awesome customer service!

  17. i suggest you take the hatred for the whole tomatoes and throw them at the hatred of the phone house idiots.

    see, kill two things with one tomato! or one thing...whatever.

  18. @E – why must you ruin my ideals?

    The medical thing though might take the cake. I just don’t have any heat in my car, which, considering the coming winter is a pain in the ass, but as of now not really a medical issue.

    @Ebri – then he shouldn’t have leaned away from me. Its hard to surreptitiously slide someone money when they are moving away from you.

    @Jessy – big box stores in Sweden are not a good place to ever need help in. Im fairly confident that you could wander around an ICA for days without anyone noticing.

    @Floridian – Agreed. The tough luck thats the way it is attitude is prevalent here also.

    @Tod – I know... I dont understand that. I don’t want to buy a brand new phone... it seems like a waste. But I think Im going to have to.

    @F – Are you E’s younger sibling? But you’re right... it is bad.

    @Mara – Maybe I should try the English angle when I walk in looking for help. The lost foreigner.

    @Andreas – a good point. Its one of those get what you pay for situations. But still... it is bad.

    @Anonymous – You nailed it. Completely.

    I think you might have forgotten the I know the answer but have a fika break in five minutes and helping you will take me at least six.

    @Em – it might be fake... but at least you get the answers you need. And that’s all I want when I walk into a cell phone store. But youre right, it is very much dependent on what youre used to.

    @Anonymous – maybe its the tight jeans

    @anonymous – or maybe its the slicked back hair.

    @anonymous – well thats just crazy talk.

    @Stacy – I have decided that Arlanda is the worst airport in the world ( so youll hear no argument from me.

    @m8 – thats your classic customer service vortex. If you keep following it youll actually come to a black hole filled with unicorns.

    @Mattias – I suggest that they carry batteries that they can sell. I also suggest that they carry spare parts that may be useful in fixing cell phones. I also suggest that they offer some sort of advice other than repeating what I had told them.

    @SwedishJenn – you appealed to him getting home. Its probably your girlish charm.

    @Sapphire – genius!

  19. Sounds just like customer service in NYC but a lot friendlier.

    I am continually stunned when I leave this City that there actually IS something called customer service...good or bad. Doesn't seem to exist here at all! IF you're lucky you get grunted at half the time...but the times when you are met with outright hostility or indignation are the really special times!

  20. maybe it is a big city thing. granted big cities are all relative considering new york city might outnumber all of sweden.