Belgium’s service culture is disgraceful. This is not an assumption, it’s a fact. Especially in the horeca business, staff is almost always rude, sloppy or unwilling to help. As a friend of mine well says :

When you ask for food in a Belgian restaurant, waiters and cooks act like they are doing you a favour by bringing you food

The examples I could mention are 1000000000000s but this is not the scope of this post. If you you want to know about dreadful experiences just tweet me at @marcoRecorder. You’ll be amazed.

Nonetheless, there is a quite successful Twitter account called Bad Service Belgium listing all bad experiences people are having with services in Belgium and, more specifically, you can follow STIB MIVB FAIL for all problems related to public transports in Brussels. They are some pretty funny accounts.

This low level of performance also includes services, not only bars and restaurant. In the famous Facebook group BXL A LOUER – bouche à oreilles, which counts over 44.000 members, I came across the case of Joanne who flagged something really terrible that a real estate and housing agency did to her.

As we can see from the Facebook post below, the agency IMMO Minc literally wrote her an e-mail in which they say

“We don’t have time to waste with people like you and we are sure you will not find an apartment. Get lost!”

What did she do in return? The right thing. She flagged this throughout her social media so that people would be aware they shouldn’t go to that agency. Do you think any of the 44.000 group members would ever contact the agency?Bad_customer_service_in_BelgiumAnother similar thing happened to my colleague Pablo Perez.

Pablo and his beautiful dog Duvel went through a terrible experience which he has documented in the YouTube video below:

DUVEL, our dog , 2 years old Briard has been terribly hurt by the TOUTOU grooming shop , rue Saint Lambert 135 F, 1200 Woluwe Saint Lambert in Brussels (professionals according to them). I wanted a summer cut for Duvel, and after we went there. they give back Duvel in a catastrophic state, not only through open wounds, sores, but also psychologically. Duvel, a cheerful and lively dog..nowadays it hides all the time, licking and shaking constantly. It was affected by his injuries but also by the fact that the cutting was complete, completely shaved head, and so, Duvel is disoriented

Our vet who treated Duvel is outraged by the result, but we are even more by the TOUTOU dogs hairdressing manager, who denies the facts and believes that the dog has injured himself (see his ear in the photos). Do not make the same mistake that we did….please
I just want your support to avoid this happening again to somebody else by sharing this to your circles. Thanks!

You can find more pics and the veterinary document explaining it here http://www.flickr.com/photos/99365751…

This terrible accident should have had the concern of animal protection and instead, Pablo was sued for publishing this bad review!!!

Appalling service providers and businesses cannot escape social media. Either you adapt to it or your business dies. Belgium, you better start learning…

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22 thoughts on “Social media will destroy Belgium appalling service culture

  1. Ken says:

    I can’t help but feel sad when I see statements like this made. I would like to believe that one’s perception on service and customer approach can be inspired by cultural background, expectations (and even common sense), or by observing facts.

    However, when blurting out a statement seemingly based on the latter, please do realise that there are 2 sides of any story, and that a customer’s negative experience is not necessarily to blame on the other party. (This obviously does not apply when as with the example of the dog… it is a matter of misconduct or abuse. In that case, as in any other field, complaints should be made, and businesses shut down)

    When it comes down to horeca: Without a doubt there are many people out there working without a single grasp of decency or professional attitude, who treat customers as crap, but to generalise this to this extent, is a slap in the face of hard working, social staff around horeca/services in Belgium.

    I would like to see in any comment, article of ‘study’, an inclusion of the attitude from the customer towards staff, and how this can impact the formers experience. Too many times, people seem to think a service is provided by a mere object, expecting the service/product without considering that (even when paid) this requires another persons time/dedication.

    I have worked in horeca, and can honestly say that people that saw me as the ‘necessary evil’ between them and their beer, probably did not have a great experience (and most likely did not take home the simple lesson in respecting staff). And actually, I didn’t care. I’m sure that when you see some people order/manifest themselves in public-at the bar, that, if you place yourself in the other side’s shoes, you would feel similarly.

    1. Irrelevant says:

      I’m really happy you wrote this, because I was feeling the same way as I read this. You are obviously very discouraged because of past bad experiences, and I’m sorry you had to go through that. But this writing is extremely onesided and doesn’t contain objective information…

    2. marcoRecorder says:

      Hi Ken,
      Thanks for sharing your comment. You do raise a good point by saying there are always two sides of a story. I would like in fact to reconsider my statement from “Belgian service culture” to “Brussels’ service culture.” My experience in other Belgian cities does partly disprove some of my generalizations and I apologise for that.

      On the other hand, I tell only from my experience, since I can’t do otherwise, all I wrote does apply to my Brussels experience and especially in the horeca business.

      I’m sorry that hard-working professionals in this field have to be damaged by the reputation of few but this feeling of “we don’t care if you are our customer” is largely shared by the big expats community that live in Brussels.

      I’m happy to bring up the discussion and to hear all points of view.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on this.

  2. marcoRecorder says:

    I’ve got quite a few comments on Twiiter about this already.
    My colleague @simonblackley mentions a Tumblr he wrote called “Une histoire belge. Mais vraiment belge, quoi” that you can check out at http://simonblackley.tumblr.com/post/57961018363/une-histoire-belge-mais-vraiment-belge-quoi.
    Also my friend @leireariz mentions “Servers spilling beers w/out replacing them, chasing fournisseurs to pay bills, 6 months to get my ID…” see at https://twitter.com/leireariz/status/374609266986205184 and more to come

  3. petrudumitru says:

    Sad reality! It takes time to let people understand that the power is no longer in the hands of the marketers; social media enable consumers to influence companies’ behaviours, in other words, consumers have got a voice.

  4. STIB Fail says:

    Thank you for mentioning us!
    Still, we are trying to show both sides. Inappropriate customers for example are also targeted! 🙂

    1. marcoRecorder says:

      That’s a good approach. Keep up the good work.

  5. mauv says:

    I have to say I’ve a few dreadful experiences but all in all I’ve been very satisfied lately (positive mentions going to Scarlet (fantastic service), Lampiris and even Belgacom. I’ve experienced much worse (Netherlands, Spain, Italy), though truth be told, MIVB and NMBS are pretty mediocre at best.

    1. marcoRecorder says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I must say I’ve been pretty happy with MIVB recently since they found my girlfriend’s bag on a bus and it was returned with all belongings inside.

      For more info about bad and good Belgian service practises check
      https://twitter.com/STIB_Fail
      https://twitter.com/badservice_be
      https://twitter.com/goodservice_be

  6. Agnes says:

    Unfortunately, that is very true, just another reason to bitch about Belgium…
    Once I arranged a business dinner for my foreign guests. We were 8, we went to a “classy” resto, but the service was really poor, as if they just wanted us to leave asap…
    Quite often I have a feeling that Belgians are only doing the minimum possible service and just don’t care about the rest. I would understand that if they were paid little, but it doesn’t seem to be the case.
    Not to mention lack of hygiene in many Belgian bars…

  7. Agnes says:

    Oh, and Belgacom bad treatment is just legendary.
    I ordered Internet connection and after 2 months of no reaction I went to a shop at Gare du Midi where I signed a contract to check what was going on. There a lady said that my order was non-existent.
    And she said that in case I don’t contract them I’d better return the modem to the shop or I would regret it.
    All that while chewing a gum and texting on her mobile in front of me.
    I experience a lot of rude treatment in my life, but the quality of service in Belgium is just beyond it.

  8. Joanne’s and Pablo’s anecdotes are simply appalling! I don’t understand this attitude… If businesses interact like this with their clients on social media, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they actually ended up ruined!

  9. marcoRecorder says:

    More comments from Twitter:
    @NataliaVice says that “Places with repeated complaints should be shut for good. Don’t forget that there are great places in Be. Some apps can help!”
    @dottorbix 3 says “I don’t recall any specific experience at the moment but I can say that in general belgians are not that “welcoming” 🙂

  10. marcoRecorder says:

    Another tragic experience. I was at Le cercle des voyageurs http://www.lecercledesvoyageurs.com/ for my girlfriend’s birthday. We entered at 21:15 and at 22:40 we still didn’t have our main dishes. We had asked 3 times about our order and only after 1:30 hours it turned out that they had “lost the ticket” and, most importantly, the y never even said “we are sorry”. Now, without going too much into detail, the question is “Since we know that services here are a disgrace, do we just taking it for granted and never go to Belgian-run places?” or “as expats, we try to improve and propose best practices to our hosting country?”

    1. The question is “Since we know that services here are a disgrace, do we just taking it for granted and never go to Belgian-run places?” or “as expats, we try to improve and propose best practices to our hosting country?”
      Wow, what an arrogant atttitude. I’m actually proud if my fellow Brussels citizens give you the treatment you deserve.

      1. marcoRecorder says:

        Well, this proves my point, but thanks for sharing your comment.
        Regards,

      2. J.J says:

        LOL – what a priceless reaction, Jeroen!
        Your attitude sums up the Belgian service-industry mentality. Short on service – long on toes (‘Lange tenen’ being a Flemish expression = can’t take any criticism, easily piqued/insulted)

  11. Maria says:

    We had 2 experiences in Brussels today. We are kind , open kiwi travelers who do our best to communicate in the language of the country we are visiting. Do things the European way, afterall we are traveling. And we are both European citizens. We have had good service in italy, germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Poland. Today we were ignored by a waiter so we walked out after waiting for a drink for half an hour and four tables, who arrived after us, where served. Then! We go to book reservations on the Thalys train to Holland, and the gentleman at the travel Centre said we don’t need to, so we left. Later reolising we had in fact thought correctly, we needed reservations, so we have to hope there are seats tomorrow!

    I think we both should have followed our instincts when firstly, the waiter was looking around and not really being attentive while ordering, I felt pretty akward at that point as I tried to use some french but the guy wasn’t even looking at me as I spoke. Secondly, in new zealand, and probably other places on earth, people respond with ” really?! When suprised or impressed, the travel man took this literally and spouted something about how he would have no business lying about this as it is his job, and as we thanked him he concluded it was also his job to share useful information, or something to that effect. We both where a bit taken back at that point, thought it was a bit weird, but he is the guy we trust in that situation so we concluded maybevhe was just a odd dude.

    No, a couple of kiwis got shafted by Brussels today. My eye is ticking and we are a bit grumpy now, such a beautiful place, but some really bad service. Even so bad as I felt compelled for the first time in 2 months to Google if this was a Brussels Thing.
    Some service is great here, but if I was a business owner here, I would keeping an eye of the trends of service culture in my city. It really has an impact when people save up and travel across the world to be here.

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