Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Are You Being Served?

With so much shopping having been done in the last few days I've been struck by how different the service culture is here to the UK.

In the bank today Korean mother went straight to the desk of a particular employee rather than collecting a ticket number from a queueing machine - although that implies there are queues when really we've never waited in the bank longer than three minutes - try that in Barclays most days. The reason she bypassed the machine was that she had a 'personal relationship' with the particular employee in question because he had opened her account for her once. My girlfriend opened an account and now she would see 'her' bank employee too. This is another thing which is never ever going to happen in Barclays. I also opened an account but I wasn't invited back... so I guess I still have to queue! Oh well.

We were at the bank because my Korean girlfriend needed to pay Hacker.co.kr for the computer kit we'd purchased. Shortly after she'd paid she got a text message and email with her order number, and half-an-hour later they phoned to ask whether she'd like her hard disk partitioned, even though we'd bought the computer without an operating system and had to buy OEM Windows separately. OK, maybe they should pre-install but I was impressed that they'd phone to ask about such minor details.

Since they asked, we wanted our system drive to be larger than our data drive but this threw out the Hacker employee. When he heard my girlfriend speaking English he explained to her that 'in Korea' data areas are larger than in Europe. I think that's an admission that Koreans download lots of things through peer-to-peer networks!

Another text message came two hours later to say the computer had been despatched. Amazing service.

Later when I went into a store to buy a shaver, the salesman bowed to us when we completed our purchase and then rushed to beat us to the door so he could bow to our faces as we left the shop.

Korea seems much more heavily staffed than equivalent UK shops and offices. Going back to the UK after this is going to be a bit of a shock.

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