Smoking Customer Service

There are couple things that I really enjoy about the US– although they are not exclusive to the US. On the top of this list is going to a restaurant and always finding a non-smoking section that is not smoky. Too many other places I have been (I am looking at You: Chile, Moldova, Argentina, Romania, etc.), allow people to smoke anywhere. Some bars or restaurants have told me they have a non-smoking section. After being seated, I find that there is no barrier between smoking and non smoking, no wall, no separate ventilation system, nothing.

I have to commend Almaty in this area. While I was there, they started to implement their brand new no smoking in public areas law. There was a visible difference. I could even, if I knew the words in Russian, complain and have the management of an establishment do something about the person a table over smoking.

Second, nitpicking point: I like customer service. I like going to a restaurant and having my waitress care if he/she gets my order right. Let me tell you a story of Moldova. I went out with a couple Peace Corps volunteers to a pizza place. I don’t even like pizza! We ordered 3 large pizzas and beer (basically a lot of food). When the pizza came, two of them had anchovies on them— we NEVER asked for any fish. When we complained, the waitress clarifies that it was our problem and we had to pay and she would not change anything. We ended up paying in small coins.

Move on to Chile. In Chile, you can get good service, but not always. If you ask to change something on a plate– for example no mayo on my sandwich please, you would likely be told, no substitutions. Sometimes you can get substitutions for an extra fee. When you are asking to ad avocado, this makes sense. When you are asking to not have mayo or tomatoes, this makes no sense. Still, I have paid to not find things on my plate. Waiters in Chile don’t make a lot of money from tips, unless they work in establishments frequented by tourists. Therefore, the wait-staff has little incentive to go out of their way for you.

In the US, I expect better service. I still don’t always get it. At an Ethiopian place on Saturday night, we did not get it. At one point, we (table of 7), decided to order a bit more food. Some of us wanted dessert, others wanted appetizers. We flagged down the waitress and she said they might be out of the appetizers. She went to check. She came back and told us that they did have appetizers left. Instead of taking our order, she informed us and walked away. We flagged her down. The first three people ordered appetizers. She walked away before the next two (S and I) could order. We called her back. We ordered. She walked away before the next two could order. All in all, it was out of character for the US and she got less tip.

S commented, after returning from Chile, that he has accepted the American restaurant way. In Chile, he was annoyed that no one came to see how his food was or offer him another beer. I am with him. I like eating our here.



  1. So where ARE you these days? Sounds like the US, but didn’t you just move to Moldova?

    Anyway, 100% with you on customer service, especially in restaurants. Whenever my husband thinks I’m being too picky, I say, I’m not here to find my new best friend, but we ARE paying for someone to pay attention to us and bring us food–the food we order, the way we order it, and within a decent period of time!

  2. Hi. I am in the US now. I lived in Moldova from 2002-2004. I will be moving to Kazakhstan in the summer, which is where I was for a couple weeks in October.

  3. I am so with you about the smoking and customer service. Along with the smog in the winter and the grocery store cart crashers- these are the four things that I struggle with most here!

    The smoking is intolerable and I just read a report that it is on the rise in Santiago. I feel like I have to walk down the streets of Providencia with a clothes pin on my nose becuase I am always catching someones nasty ash and backdraft and people walk so close that I have been burned before by someones cigarette at a stoplight.

    What can we do to change this trend? With all of the development initiatives in Chile, you would think that the Chilean govt. or some health NGOs would be carrying out some anti-tabaquismo campaigns or something.

    All Chileans that I have spoken with/complained to tell me that it is way better now than it was in the 80s and 90s (that more people smoked then- inside and around babies- etc. and that it was totally socially acceptable). I still see it as a major issue here and feel like I count more women and teenage smokers every day on the streets and in their cars (which poses risks for birth defects, etc! and for teenagers is a longer term health issue- can become addicted long term/more difficult to quit, etc).

    Anyway, if you can’t tell this is a sore spot with me- I wish there were divisions between smokers and non-smokers, especially inside business establishments- bars, restaurants. And even outside in big cities, it is hard for non-smokers to avoid being poisoned by others smoke in public- although I suppose that there is not much anyone can do about that.

  4. Agreed. There are some things that some countries do well. Every country sort of has their thing. Customer service is sort of the US’ thing! That’s my take at least.

    Oh, and I remember when they made Germany smoke free. People were in an uproar, “You can’t take away our right to slowly kill ourselves… or other people!”

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