Monthly Archives: December 2014

Zara Home Kids Calle Hermosilla Madrid

Did she just roll her eyes at me? (Zara Home Kids)

Women do it every day, but having a baby is tough work. (I’ll talk about this in more detail in a different blog). At the beginning, just getting out of the house becomes an ordeal or doesn’t even become an ordeal because you don’t end up leaving after all. Having said this, I was feeling quite proud of myself when I made it to the Zara Home Kids store on Calle Hermosilla 22 in Madrid when Nico was about a month old. The reason for the trip was to return a gift since I already had the same present at home. Unfortunately, I was already anticipating a problem… the gift receipt was good for exchanges within 30 days. We were on day 31. I had just received the gift a few days ago, but it had been purchased a while back. Of course when I mentioned to my sister that we were probably going to have a problem, she thought I was joking.

zara home kids

Sure enough, I was right. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until the girl who attended us tried to process the return and realized there was an error because of the date. She had to call her manager to “help out”. That’s when the fun started. The manager was a young woman, in her late 20s and very serious. At first she said that there was nothing she could do because these are the Zara rules (no apology at any point by the way). I then tried to politely explain that I understand there are rules but that I just had a baby and this was the first day I was able to get to the store to make the return..and it was day 31! I tried to nicely say that it really shouldn’t be a big deal since it was only one day and I wasn’t trying to get cash back. Again, she firmly (without any apology nor hint of a smile) repeated that she couldn’t do anything. That’s when I started to get a bit annoyed and dropped the extremely polite tone. After saying that it seemed ridiculous to me that there was nothing she could do as the store manager and that I was going to have to throw out the gift, she finally (with a very annoyed tone and gesture) said that I could make an exchange, but that was it. Ok, that’s all I wanted. With that she stormed off, like I had just made the most unreasonable request.

After a short browse I returned to the cashier (the manager was with her teaching her things on the computer. I guess she was new). The manager completely ignored me standing there in front of her with my exchange and continued to talk to the trainee for about a minute without even acknowledging me. When she finally did it was only to tell me that what I had picked out wouldn’t work because I needed to get something for the exact value of the original gift or more expensive. Could she have mentioned that at the beginning? With my hands up in the air I quickly went back and picked out other items. Meanwhile, my sister was looking on in shock (I think the only reason she didn’t say anything is because she doesn’t speak Spanish). Finally, back at the register one more time, and after waiting yet another minute to be not acknowledged by the manager, she finally went ahead to process the exchange. The whole time she seemed to be even more annoyed than me and verbally made it clear that she was doing me a favor. She also made it extremely clear that I could not make any return or exchange with the new items, as if I were a thief and trying to steal from Zara. Before heading out, as the manager was sighing, I stated that this was no way to treat customers. At this, she promptly rolled her eyes at me and continued talking to the trainee.

I would think that any store dealing with children or children’s items would have a little more understanding, or at least be cordial. Needless to say I have not returned to Zara Home Kids and will never go back to that store. Zara is a massive clothing superstore and my one little experience obviously isn’t going to damage it. However, how many other little experiences like this are happening at other Zaras around the world? How many Zara Kids customers are deciding to shop at specialized kids competitors stores now for a better experience?

Getting fingerprinted in Spain

When getting fingerprinted is a pleasant experience (Policía Científica Madrid)

Most likely when you think of getting your fingerprints taken, you think of being in trouble. (and if you’re an American reading this, jail probably comes to mind). Having lived here in Spain for almost nine years now I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been fingerprinted (and all for legal reasons!). Strangely enough it seems totally normal to me now. fingerprints Not every experience has been what I would call “pleasant” (I’ll refer to this in another blog about getting my NIE, foreign national ID card). However, during one of my many paperwork processes (if I remember correctly this one could be related to getting married here – see other blog), I had to get “special fingerprints” to send to the FBI for an official background check. What do I mean by “special fingerprints”? Well, this involves going to a special scientific unit of the national police and getting all ten fingers printed on a special fingerprint card that has to be previously picked up at the US Embassy (no cost, nor appointment needed. You just have to go to the US Embassy on Calle Serrano). Note: The first time I went to the Policía Científica for the fingerprinting I didn’t realize that I needed to have the official form from the embassy and that a copy of the form printed out on my computer wouldn’t work – IMPORTANT! That was about an hour of a half wasted to figure that out and run back and forth. Once you have the official form you have to go to the main headquarters (Comisaría General) for the police in Calle Julián González Segador (Metro: Pinar del Rey). Once there and after checking in at the main desk, they’ll escort you (literally with a police escort so you don’t get lost) to the Policía Científica Building (http://www.interior.gob.es/web/interior/el-ministerio/directorio/servicios-centrales/direccion-general-de-la-policia1) Both times I’ve had to do this (the first time wasn’t valid since the US changed their rules with the length of document validity…) I’ve been treated extremely kindly and even had a few jokes with the police. Once inside the police complex, people were quite friendly. Inside the Policía Científica building the two people who took my fingerprints were very friendly, and I was even able to chit chat a bit with them (I love to talk, but usually with formal settings don’t feel like it’s encouraged). With one of the woman officers we were even chatting about my new son and how she was going to be an aunt soon. I got fingerprinted and headed on my way in a great mood. No lines, snarls or nerves, overall a great police fingerprinting customer experience 🙂

Welcome to my American in Spain blog and what it’s all about.

Welcome to my blog…almost a decade later

When I first moved to Spain from Boston almost nine years ago with a full suitcase and a lot of determination (that was pretty much the extent of what I had), I never imagined that my “aventura” would turn into a life-changing decision. Back in 2006 I started a simple blog about my adventures as an American in Spain to keep in touch with my family and friends and to let everyone know that I was alive and well over here. I decided to share the curiosities of living and working in Madrid: the good, the bad, the interesting and the confusing. The blog kept me entertained for a while, but then I started getting a bit lazy and just stopped writing completely. And the years passed by…

That’s not to say that nothing has happened since I stopped writing. To name a few things: I went through the 9-month process of getting my working papers without a lawyer, became a 17 year old student driver again, had a baby, got married, got laid off to add to the 24% unemployment rate, got robbed (a few times), completed a two-year bilingual MBA, got in a car accident, taught a few English classes (that didn’t last long) … and not at all necessarily in that order.

How is this blog different from the other American in Spain expat blogs out there? 

Obviously there are going to be similarities with other Americans who have moved over here to Spain, but there are some big differences:

This blog is NOT about:

– Spanish food and wine. Yes, it’s great, but there are other gastronomy blogs dedicated to this.

– An attempt at gaining money. There are some other blogs that offer “consultancy” services about moving from America and living in Spain and charge for Skype calls. Sorry, but I find that humorous. The only real way to see if things can work for you are to do a lot of research (thanks internet), ask questions (there are plenty of places and people (like me) that don’t charge, and give it a go.

– Teaching English. When I left Boston I left behind a successful career path. I knew that I was taking a risk moving over here, but I decided to give it one year max, and if things didn’t work out (aka finding a legal job) I’d move back. I’m not a good teacher and probably never will be. I taught some English classes when I studied abroad here in 2000 and decided it definitely wasn’t the thing for me.

This blog IS:

 A mix of interesting stories from my experiences over the past 9 years living here. A lot has gone on during this time. My idea is to write entries about any and all interesting tidbits that come to mind and that could be interesting and/or useful to people reading this blog.

-A place to share my customer experience anecdotes. I am passionate about this topic and will be sharing both good and bad experiences. (See Customer Experience or click on the Customer Experience category).

-A mental sketchpad. I love writing. This blog will be my paper and pen.

So why start writing again now?

Over the years I’ve been contacted by people who have been interested to know more about my experiences, or just a part here or there, to help them with their own lives or just out of plain curiosity. Not too long ago an American college student contacted me through LinkedIn saying he had found my profile intriguing because he studied abroad in Madrid and wants to move over here to live. He wanted to get my advice on how I had made the move and made everything seemingly work out so well. (I didn’t have the heart to tell him about the recent layoff…). He was going to be interning here and would be in touch to meet up. Apparently the Madrid nightlife has gotten the best of him, since I haven’t heard any more since that last message right after moving here…

In another case, not too long ago, a friend of a friend contacted me to find out more about how the whole getting married in Spain thing works. And I was more than happy to try to help her out.

So here are my five reasons why I’m taking out the pen again (aka typing on my computer) and going back to the blogging world:

  1. I love to talk and write. One of the things I most like to do is meet new people, talk to people, and share stories. What better place to share my experiences over here that could be interesting or useful to others than in an inoffensive blog?
  1. Customer experience. I’m passionate about customer experience and believe it is fundamental for any business to succeed. Unfortunately over here in Spain that concept is probably close to #15 on companies’ top 10 lists of important items. Customers do not deserve to be treated poorly! Unfortunately, after being here for so long I’ve started to get used to the customer service….but this shouldn’t happen. I think it’s important to share these stories so companies realize the impact of the direct contact they have with customers. More valuable than any marketing plan investment is what the person next to you has to say. On the other hand, it’s important to share the positive experiences as well and to promote these actions that actually leave customers happy! I’ve had quite a few of these as well, although the bad ones tend to stand out more.
  1. Helpful info I remember when I was thinking about moving over here that I was looking everywhere I could for any sort of information that might be helpful to me. I’ve gone through a lot in almost 9 years and can definitely share some of those experiences and insights.
  1. Interesting stories. Spain is definitely different than the US, in more ways than one. Sometimes when I’m talking to my family and say something that seems totally normal to me, I realize that it’s not at all normal to them. Of course it makes sense that in the local parade for Three Kings Day on January 6th, the black king is usually a Spanish person with black paint on his face.
  1. Unemployment leaves you with time on your hands.

So, here it goes. My idea is to write entries about different topics from my experience here, mixed in with customer experience stories, mixed in with any interesting daily occurence. Enjoy!