"We are always going to remember the worst of experiences and the oddest receptions, along with those which are so remarkable they become hilarious." | Marcelo Sastre

With the curse of Covid fading yet not completely forgotten, and things getting back to some sane form of normality, I couldn’t help but notice that seemingly, everyone appears to be more cheery and helpful, particularly in the ‘service’ area of retail and hospitality.

Everybody in the assistance industry is currently being super friendly and uber obliging. Even those sometimes impatient voices at the end of a telephone enquiry have somehow mellowed to being extremely, beyond the call of duty, helpful. I am truly impressed!
Having lived here on the illustrious island of Mallorca for 17 years, I have experienced the good, the bad and the totally indifferent when it comes to hospitality skills.

And talking with friends recently, it was mentioned and generally agreed, that shop assistants here in Mallorca have sadly, over the years, gained themselves quite a reputation for often being somewhat surly, disinterested and obligingly unhelpful! Naturally, there are always wonderful exceptions to this rule.

And of course I have experienced some extremely helpful shop assistants over the years. Even in supermarkets. Yet, on reflection, historically, the mentality attached to retail employees across the island service industry has previously translated as being . . . well, plain awkward!

However, while defending the majority over the minority, I was also reminded of a few personal experiences of my own in the past, when simple enquiries, requests for advice or information had been met with the ‘Mallorcan shrug’, usually accompanied by the un-subtle eye rolling to the ceiling.

Some years ago I purchased a designer T-shirt from a boutique in Inca. When I got the article home I discovered a hole in the material very close to a seam, probably caused through the rough removal of a security tag! I returned the article for an identical replacement only to be accused by the assistant that I had made the hole myself!

Now why would I do that? I wanted a replacement not a refund! So why on Earth would I go to all the trouble of creating a pointless flaw, then return the article merely to replace the purchase with an identical replica? It didn’t make sense. However, the boutique in question couldn’t provide a replacement so I asked the assistant for a refund.

I was aggressively informed that was not an option and offered a credit note. I know my retail rights, and informed the establishment that if they couldn’t replace a faulty item with an exact replica then I was entitled to a full refund. After mumbled curses and with a final grand gesture of attitude, the assistant reluctantly opened her till and literally threw the money at me, oblivious to any decorum of polite courtesy. Very professional! And not something you would ever experience in John Lewis!!!

Of course, we are always going to remember the worst of experiences and the oddest receptions, along with those which are so remarkable they become hilarious. Even with the uplifting attitude of recent, post Covid ‘service response’, I can’t help recalling one of the funniest incidents ever, which occurred after discovering a quaint ‘speciality’ tea and coffee establishment in the heart of bustling Palma. Apparently, the bijou boutique had been there for decades although we had never noticed it before.

And being lovers of tea over coffee, with a penchant for anything including the aromat of ginger, we were both immediately intrigued by this unexpected ‘find’ and eagerly stepped inside.

The shop interior looked beautiful, decked out with displays of colourful product packaging, along with a delightful collection of ornate tea-pots, tea cups and coffee mugs. It was so visually attractive it reminded me of a florist we once came across in Paris where the aged owner sat amongst her perfumed arrangements like a delicate porcelain doll. “Can we take a photo of your exquisite establishment?” we asked politely. “Non!” was her curt reply as the door slammed in our faces. So you see, it’s not just Mallorca!

But back in Palma. The two middle-aged to mature ladies who ran the coffee cum tea emporium should have been given an award for their complacent, ‘specialist’ service. What followed was almost like a comedy sketch from the Two Ronnies! Other Half is completely fluent with the language so did all the talking while I busily took notes.

The two elderly ladies in attendance were coiffed, powdered and perfumed to within an inch of their considerable lives. We ducked under their sweeping eyelashes and approached the counter.

“Do you have any ginger infusions?” we enquired brightly.

“Don’t think so,” said one of the glamorous assistants, barely making eye contact.
“Oh!” we responded with an air of disappointment. “Do you have any tea at all with a hint of ginger?”

“No!” said the other with complete disinterest.

“Then what’s that up there?” Other Half pointed to a display of ginger tea bags on a high shelf behind their heads.

Reluctantly, they both glanced up. “Don’t know,” they said in unison.
“Well it looks like ginger and lemongrass tea to me,” observed Other Half. “Can we see one?”

“I suppose so. But I’ll have to go up the ladder.”

“That’s OK! We’re in no hurry.” By this time we were quite enjoying the sheer pantomime of the occasion and not about to let these disinterested shop assistants get away with their appalling service attitude.

After much huffing and puffing, the more agile of the duo scaled the heights, and three packets of the said ‘speciality’ tea were brought down. Ginger with lemongrass, ginger with mango, along with ginger and turmeric - all of which three minutes ago, miraculously, they didn’t seem to have in stock.

“What are the benefits of turmeric with ginger?” we asked, sincerely.

“Don’t know,” said one. “You’ll have to look it up on the internet.”

“Considering you are supposed to be tea and coffee specialists,” Other Half proffered politely. “You don’t seem to know much about your stock.”

“We’re more experts in the area of coffee retail,” said the other with an air of extreme sarcasm. “We don’t really know anything about tea,” she said. “You’ll have to Google it.”
“Well, how much are these packets of ginger and lemongrass tea?”

“Don’t know.”

“Well do you think you can find out?”

Eventually, and rather reluctantly with a Mallorcan shrug, they rolled their eyes and looked up the price of their speciality blends and we purchased all three packets, which possibly might have been their first sale of the week if not the century.

Just before we left, Other Half enquired: “As you are more coffee aficionados, do you by any chance stock coffee beans flavoured with vanilla?”
“Don’t know,” said one.

“Don’t think so,” confirmed assistant number two, buffing her perfectly manicured nails with a tea bag.

“Don’t bother,” said Other Half. “We’ll Google it!”