I mean, seriously…?

Spotted the photo below in a Spar shop window this morning, right beside the door. Which means that none of the staff on their way in spotted the glaring error (first thing that caught my attention). What annoys me here is that they managed to spell it correctly once and very badly the next time – it’s not like it could be a keyboard error as “q” and “g” aren’t beside each other. A basic spell-checker would have caught this had it been used.


For me, this opens up the much larger debate of the amount of people working in shops, bars, restaurants that don’t speak English as their first language. Personally, I have no issue with people emigrating to other countries and studying or becoming part of the workforce – I lived in France for a year as a student. However, even though I could have done with the cash, the only job that I took that year was giving English lessons. I wouldn’t have dared apply for work in a shop or restaurant as I knew that my French wasn’t good enough.

In Ireland, however, it seems that many businesses hire people fairly randomly. My examples of this are:

  • a McDonald’s restaurant staff member failing to understand the phrase “McChicken sandwich meal with Coke please” repeated slowly 4 times
  • a till-jockey in Spar telling me that I could only buy 8 lines on the lotto, not 10 (the concept of printing 8 lines on one slip and 2 on another didn’t register)
  • Foreign taxi drivers not knowing where Lucan is (not a specific address, but rather not having any idea where the town is)
  • Spar staff telling me they don’t stock my brand of cigarettes, even though I could see them on the shelf
  • Spar staff failing to understand the phrase “Dunhill lights” and producing two different brands and trying to tell me they were the same thing

Surely when businesses hire someone they interview them? Surely this would act as a test of their English skills? I’m not asking that everyone in every shop should speak perfect fluent English, but surely they have to have some knowledge and vocabulary of the industry that they are getting into?


12 Comments on “I mean, seriously…?”

  1. Grannymar says:

    That young sales assistant was thinking of your lungs , but not your blood pressure!

    Maybe the sign writer was like me. I read it twice….

  2. Darren says:

    I’m with you on this one Elly! And it’s not just the foreigners who need to consider the concept of customer service. I’ve been served by plenty of Irish people who give you nothing more than a grunt, and if they do speak it’s often unintelligible.

  3. Deborah says:

    Nice spelling error! Sheesh…

    Couldn’t agree more! I don’t blame the foreigners at all though, it’s the employers. They have no respect for their customers if they are employing people who can’t communicate with them.

    On the other hand, my husband manages a shop though and he says in terms of work ethic he’d rather have 1 Pole with no English than 10 Irish lads any day. They come to work they do their job they go home. He had four people ring in sick yesterday. None of them foreign. He laughs when he hears Irish people complain about foreigners taking their jobs and says that they are not taking the jobs, but actually DOING their jobs!

    So it’s a tough call. What’s an employer to do? Obviously as a customer we have one answer, but as a stakeholder we might have another. It’s hard to put a tangible value on customer service. Believe me, I’ve led many a six sigma project in such a qualitative area so many companies choose to place more value on the hard costs. I suppose it’s no different than all the companies that have moved call centres to India. I have spent the last six weeks battling with Dell and having no one understand me. It’s very frustrating as a customer, but Dell is still making money.

  4. Ken McGuire says:

    I’d wonder are the owners of that spar and the pub (link below) related…


    Can’t understand it at all!

  5. ellybabes says:

    Darren – but at least the Irish lad behind the grunt has actually understood what I’ve asked for! I’d take that over “service with an (uncomprehending) smile” any day!

    Deborah, I hadn’t considered it from the employer’s perspective…. But if a Polish lad is worth 10 Irish lads, wouldn’t it make economic sense for the employer to train the “front of house” people (at least) with English lessons relevant to the job? For the sake of a few hundred euro he could save against sick days, etc in the long run…

    Ken – that photo is brilliant!

  6. Darragh says:

    @Ken – do you reckon it’s something in the Kilkenny water system? Took this at the Station when down at the Creative Camp. It’s been up there for ages!


    @Ellie – I can see this from both angles, but living in Dublin have to side with Deborah on this – the Irish attitude to customer service (or even basic manners!) is appalling for the most part compared to other nationalities. My mother came up to visit on Mother’s Day and as I was pushing her wheelchair around, the only people offering to help, to open doors, to step aside, to lift the wheelchair over steps etc were non-irish (or Irish with very eastern European accents).

    There’s a wonderful scene in the film Intermission of a “yung-wan” in Dunnes in Stephen’s Green tutting at everything she’s asked to do. That happens all the time.

    Good post though.

  7. elly parker says:

    The whole customer service thing – why is it that I have to be totally polite at all times in my white-collar job at a multi-national company, yet a blue-collar shop worker can be grumpy to me and not get reprimanded?

    Went to Xtravision yesterday to return a faulty Xbox 360 disc (2nd time for this specific game) and the bolshy Irish woman behind the counter kept insisting that our console was to blame, not their game (game returned an error of “this game must be inserted into an Xbox 360 in order to play”). She had no means of testing the disc, and was just planning on returning it to the shelves for some other unsuspecting punter!

    Bad customer service is everywhere!!

  8. Darragh says:

    Elly – it’s because the company you are working for give a damn about how they’re percieved by clients, customers and partners and XV don’t seem to. They may not have to, having the monopoly they do. All they want is your money for their products, after that you can go jump. I know this, I’ve worked there. Of course there are passionate people there driving an ideal of how their staff should be, but these don’t tend to be the ones with the authority that comes with revenue targets and “earning the other (non-revenue generating) people’s pay”… Money tends to win out.

    But look at it this way. They both started as an idea in someone’s head. They’ve both been successful but which one is now closing stores (selling them to Tesco I believe) and losing out to the Internet, to stores like Laser and to places like Dunnes and Tesco? It’s not JUST because of the market, it’s to do with how they’re perceived in it. Do people *really* need to go to Xtra-vision any more? Do people want to?

  9. ellybabes says:

    I never want to go to XtraVision – it smells in there. Same for Game stores – they stink!

  10. taradorff says:

    I work in Xtravision and I was reading your story about the faulty xb3 game. The Xtravision worker should have been polite to you. If she had given you 2 different copies of the same game and the 2nd one didnt work that is commen sense that there is a fault with your console. The chances of 2 copes not working is slim to none. If you were given a 3rd copy of the game and didnt work, would you still think it was our games? Im glad we dont have the means to test faulty games. When someone tells me they have a faulty dvd, games i give them a different one, no questions asked. If the company provided consoles for us to test so called faulty games, then one you would have angry customers thinking we are calling them “liars” and we would know who is lying about faulty games. So i think most customers wouldnt like the fact that Xtravision would have the means to see are they lying about a faulty game.

  11. elly parker says:

    taradorff – normally I’d agree, 2 discs of the same game not working would suggest a console issue, but it doesn’t explain why all of our own discs were working fine (over a dozen tested at the time). We’d also had previous issues in getting damaged games from that Xtravision (my husband usually rents any game for a night or two before committing to buy).

    Customers (inc myself) tend to get angry when they have paid money for something, it won’t work and refund is refused – it’s just money down the drain!

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