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Why are the Portuguese Always Late?
And the final reveal....
If you have been reading along for a while, you may have surmised that I consider myself late if I am not at an appointment at least five minutes early. So you might think that I can go a bit maluco (crazy) living in Portugal. Yes, I have written about my frustrations with Portuguese bureaucracy and the practice of not reporting bad news. But today there will be kind words and the observations of an American living in Portugal.
MEO…a Love / Hate Relationship
When we landed in Portugal we had to make a decision regarding cellphone, home internet, and TV plans. There are three major players in Portugal: MEO, Vodafone, and NOS. It turns out we have experience with all three. However, we ultimately went with MEO because it had fiber installed in our, original, Cascais neighborhood. It turns out that MEO is the market leader in Portugal and has laid the most fiber.
So let’s start with the love part. When I lost my cellphone I went to the MEO store in Tavira and received excellent service from a very efficient and professional MEO representative. A week later when I forgot the password of the new SIM card installed in said cellphone, I had prompt and courteous service at their Braga outlet.
However, it has not always been a love affair. One day, in VRSA, I was one of 7 people waiting in line for a single representative. When a second worker returned from break, rather than taking the next person in the queue she struck up a conversation with the one customer that was already being served. (While my Portuguese verbal comprehension skills are still rather sketchy, I do believe they were arranging when they would next meet for dinner.)
After waiting 90 minutes, I decided to leave. When I happened to walk past the store the next day, there was no one waiting. I quickly darted in and was assisted by the “let’s have dinner” representative. She was knowledgeable and professional. Despite the growing line behind me and an intolerably slow computer, her sole focus was on my request. She even noticed something on our bill and went so far as to make an adjustment which saves us about €20/month.
This brings us to the installation at our new home. The MEO technician (Andre) arrived within the designated timeframe. He assessed the situation and explained (in English) he would have to go a few blocks away to pull a cable to our house. About 30 minutes later he returned and expertly completed the interior work. Since this was about 2 weeks before we moved in, he tested everything and asked me to cover all the equipment with a box to keep the dust-out. He provided his personal cell phone number in case I had any problems.
When the construction was complete I uncovered “the boxes” and found the internet was not working. I texted Andre and later that day he called me. With his help, we troubleshot the situation and determined a technician would be required on-site. He provided me with the phone number to call to schedule the technician who came the next day (between 13:00 and 17:00).
When Hugo (his back is to you in the photo at the top of this post) arrived at 13:30 he quickly assessed that a new wire1 was required between the wall and the router. After replacing it, he asked if I wanted him to set up “everything”. Ricardo happened to be installing the wall mount when Hugo arrived. So Hugo took the time to assist Ricardo in installing the wall mount, placing the 65” TV on the stand,2 removing the TV when one of the bolts came loose, reinstalling the wall mount and TV, assigning the internet password, converting the TV commands to English, etc., etc.
Why Portuguese People Are Late
So I ask you….did Hugo need to do all those things? Could doing those things perhaps impact his ability to get to his next appointment on time? Did I ask the MEO store representative in VRSA to review my bill and find a way to save us money? (The answers to the above questions are No, Yes, and No. But all these situations have a common theme.)
Since moving to Portugal I have always felt that a service representative’s sole attention is on me when they are assisting me. I am the most important customer they are serving at that moment. Regardless of a growing queue or a delayed next appointment. Their sole attention seems to be focused on me. I view that “presentness” as a gift.3 A skill that I never learned.
But I am convinced, old dogs can learn new tricks.
Posso aprender, Até à próxima semana, Tchau
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The “cable” that attached the router to the wall outlet is not the traditional 1/4” thick coax cable. This is a very skinny plastic-coated wire with a rather flimsy attachment. Sometimes new-fangled technology is not better.
TV technology is crazy. It has only been about 6 years since we bought our last TV and OMG! We have never owned a TV this large or this fancy…delivered to our home within two days for under €1000 by Amazon.es.
I once reported to a Senior VP who despite thousands of employees and masses of stress always was present when he met with you. Mike was this way with everyone…regardless of their position in the organization. I loved working for him and often wished I had that same ability. To the best of my knowledge, Mike was not Portuguese…