Acum Vorbim Frumos In Tara Asta

I had to bust out the first Scolding of Righteousness of the year yesterday.

If you’ve never been to Romania before, I have to explain a certain concept that drives the mentality concerning consumer goods. Whenever you buy anything electronic here, expensive or not, Romanians universally insist on:

  1. Having the ability to plug in the device/object somewhere and test it out and see if it works.
  2. Some kind of contract that functions as a warranty – known in Romanian as the garantie (the guarantee).

When you’re buying an expensive washing machine or computer, it makes perfect sense to test out the unit and get some paperwork to make sure you can get your money back (or another unit) if it turns out to be defective.

The problem in Romania is that even if something (electronic) costs 5 lei, they insist on the same procedure, including the flipping garantie.

Now if a customer wants to go over to the special little desk and fill out a bunch of paperwork so they can get the garantie to safeguard their 5 lei purchase, then all power to them. Unfortunately, some stores are absolute nazis about the garantie – you not only can fill out the paperwork but you absolutely must.

Quite frankly I avoid stores with this policy but when I absolutely “have to” fill out the paperwork, I just put some random Romanian name as it’s the quickest route to getting out of the damn store in under 20 minutes.

Yesterday however I set down my purchase near the register and the surly clerk (who looked to be about 21 years old) scanned it without saying a word. Then what happened is this:

Romanian English Russian
Clerk Nume. Name.
Me Nume? Chiar asa vorbiti cu clientii? Name? That’s really how you talk to customers?
Me Nume? Ce-i aia? O intrebare sau o afirmatie? Name? What is that? A question or a statement?
Clerk E pentru garantie, blah, blah, blah It’s for the warranty, blah, blah
Me Stiu. Dar nu vorbiti asa cu oameni. O intrebare ar fi “Care este numele dumnevoastra?” O afirmatie de nume nu e nimic. I know. But don’t talk like that to people. A question would be “What is your name, sir?” The statement of saying “name” is nothing.
Clerk E obligatoriu sa pun nume pentru garantie, blah, blah! It’s mandatory to get your name for the warranty, blah, blah!
Me Mersi frumos. Stiu foarte bine. Dar nu-e voie sa vorbeasca asa cu oameni. Nu mai suntem in vremea securitistilor si nici nu sunteti dumnevoastra un ofiter politist. Acum vorbim frumos in tara asta. Thank you kindly. I know that very well. But there is no need to speak like that to people. We’re not in the days of the secret police anymore and you’re not a police officer. Now we speak nicely in this country.
Clerk E obligatoriu! E obligatoriu pentru garantie! It’s mandatory! It’s mandatory for the warranty!
(pauza scurta) (brief pause)
Me (zambiind) Nici n-o vreau si nici n-am nevoie de ea. (smiling) I neither want it nor need it. шах и мат :D
Clerk E obligatoriu! It’s mandatory.
Me Garantie e problema dumnevoastra. Am venit cu bani gheata. Facem treaba sau nu? The warranty is your problem. I came with cash in hand. Are we doing business or not?
Clerk Bine! O sa pun numele Gheorghe! Fine! I’m putting the name “George” down!
Me (fara sa zambeasca) Asta mi-e ciuda pentru ca numele meu este Bogdan. (with a straight face) That’s weird, because my name is Bogdan.
(Angajatul arunca bonul jos cu forta. Eu zambesc frumos si zic, “La revedere”) (Clerk angrily throws down the receipt. I smile sweetly and say “Goodbye”)

Clearly that guy got angry as hell. I think I scared the bejeebers out of him when I went from smiling, sweet customer to suddenly busting out the SOR.

The hilarious part was his supervisor was standing right next to him the whole time, totally unwilling to intervene.


12 thoughts on “Acum Vorbim Frumos In Tara Asta

  1. This dialogue is a pale copy of those one could have during old-times, pre-1989 “shopping” experiences (they could make for some truly absurd theatre plays). Then again, I just experienced nice talking from an RBS employee who refused (very nicely though, does that help?) to do what she was supposed to do….


  2. what do you you expect from untrained, underpayed personel ?
    They dont really have a reason to care .
    When theire being told every day that the are expendable. unimportant and that they can be replaced at any given time – whay would they bother to do more ?


  3. Sorry Sam, but I’m getting my share of SOR from your fellow Americans. So, just like the word “dor”, which I was taught in school that it doesn’t have any equivalent in any other language of the world, it so happens to be demographically more democratically distributed than previously believed.

    Now to the case in point: one could arguably make a case against giving out their name for a measly service which is unwanted. You can also notice that CNP (cod numeric personal, some kind of Romanian SSN) doesn’t have that tradition of being absolutely personal of a personal identification number. Hence the possibility of ID theft. I’m not sure that the era of “credit cu buletinul” fraud has passed completely.


  4. ahhh… But most seem to not see it’s about ‘customer service’ and politeness. You try to make the shopping experience a pleasant one so the customer has good feelings about the shop and may go out of his way to return. Its also about common human courtesy.
    On the other hand, the clerk must go through the same thing countless times every day, week after week, month after month, and it becomes a rote series of sylables without meaning to him. I was in Wal-Mart last night and a check-out counter became available and the clerk called out in a bored drone “Next person in line, blah blah blah (an unitelligable series of rapid-fire sounds).” She called this out again and I hesitently went forward and asked what she said. She repeated herself in the exact same way. I said “huh?” and she finally spoke the lines with some coherence and they became “… unless you’re buying tobacco products.”
    I try to remember this, as I go through my own habitual presentation to customers. A pleasant-sounding voice that pronounces each syllable and waits for response. I am routinely told my voice sounds so happy. What can I say to that? I usually say something like “Of course I’m happy, you called.”


  5. Maybe I am wrong about this, but my impression is that if romanian ppl care so much about this guarantee is because they cannot afford to get bad products.A Swedish person maybe would think “oh heck…I lost 50 euros on this stupid equipment”, while a Romanian cannot really afford to lose 50 euros. I agree the paperwork is ridiculous, but for a country with poor people it makes sense they are extra careful with what they buy….no ?
    My friend recently bought a phone in France, that was never tested (like it would be tested in Romania I guess) and it never really worked properly. He sent it back to the company, they updated the software, blabla … It took him over 1 month to convince the company to replace the phone ….


  6. 1. He did not get that the rudeness was the issue.
    2. The law requires warranty because it guarantees your right to change/get your money back. Sure it works sometimes only with the receipt and the laws accepts that, but sometimes the warranty is voided in case of misuse. I am not sure, but I believe the paper filing is required by the producers/distributors. I returned some doors only with the receipt at Hornbach and I remember doing the same at Bricostore also some years ago. The learnings from door experience: get the guys at the diy measure it and mount them up for yo u, if something goes wrong they will pay for fixing it, not you. If your workers screw up, they will just try and fix it some more and you will get into disputes with them.


  7. Hehe. Everything is happening for a reason. Sometimes appliances do not work, and it’s a PITA to change them. Which is why they ask for a jack. But that is no excuse for lack of politeness….


Got something to say? Try to be nice!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.