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Build Morale With Little Wins

The price was too good to be true. Organic Bresaola for 10 lei/100grams (about $3). It was imported from Italy and based on the number of ingredients (beef, salt) the claim seemed legit. The best by date was listed as the day after, but we planned on eating it that evening, so that would take care of that.

When I opened the package I immediately recognized the smell of ammonia. Maybe it was something else too, but in any case, it wasn't the smell of meat gone bad and that was somewhat more disturbing. Because I had to work and do other things the next couple of days, I wasn't able to return it. I wondered whether they were still selling it or if they were using the packages as chloroform rags now.

On the third day I went after work and looked around until I found somebody. I stumbled upon a middle aged lady at the dairy section, updating prices.
"Excuse me, I'm looking for the deli department manager."
"We don't have any managers working in the evening."
"Really, no managers in the store at all?" It was amusing to hear that employees in a grocery store would be left to their own devices all evening. "It's about a package I bought a couple of days ago," I showed her the plastic wrapped meat "I really think a manager needs to know this was sitting on the shelf for sale."
"Oh, well this is dairy, you'll want the deli department then."
"Of course, just hoping you can help me find the manager there."
"I don't think there is one. So what's wrong with it?" She seemed to want to handle the situation on her own and was now leading me to the scene of the crime.
"Well, it's past term now, but it wasn't when I bought it, and it gave off a very strange smell."
"Hmm, you won't be getting your money back if it's expired."
"Right, but I had no way of bringing it back until today." It was getting slightly annoying to argue with her. "It'll help if I explain this to the store manager," I prodded. But we were at the shelf now and all the packages were fresh.
"So we took those old ones out as you can see."
"Yes, I'm glad to see that, I'm still going to have to talk to somebody about my situation though." Very reluctantly she asked me to follow her and she'd find somebody. "But don't expect to get your money back, you didn't bring it on time." I didn't believe her, so I just smiled and said it was always worth a try.

Eventually the manager shows up, we shake hands, and I explain what happened. He looked at the package, opened it, sniffed and frowned, and then said I should go to the customer service desk for my refund. "I'll let the deli manager know about this, he should follow up with the vendor, but just tell the service desk person to call me if they have questions." Very professional and to the point. The lady was hovering in the background and I can only assume she was very surprised by how quickly it was all resolved.

The more I think about it, the more I don't see any change coming without the passing of generations. There is not much that can be done for people who are so set into their prison-like mentality, where everything has limits and borders. Things don't go well when a majority of the people's favourite game is discouraging the other person from trying something different.

It's really a matter of principle though, and I've become more of a stickler for sticking to my principles since moving to Romania.

This didn't happen

Post Script: This is an insignificant story in the grand scheme of things, but based on my experiences here it's a good example of the type of artificial barriers that are put up arbitrarily, and also the reason for which we're generally inclined to do nothing and let things take their course, ineffectively.


  1. Good for you for persisting. Unless people know something's wrong, they can't improve. It is a generational thing, change, but little steps can be taken in the right direction...

  2. You know, appropos of nothing other than refunds, I have to commend Bricostore on being surprisingly friendly about these. Bought some paint from them which was dodgy when it was opened, and was given a full refund upon returning it with no questions asked. Promptly bought different (more expensive) paint and only discovered it was the wrong paint after opening it ... Bricostore refunded it as well, thanks purely to the fact that we hadn't mixed it with anything else. In return we did put a crazy amount of business through Bricostore (pretty much my entire holiday budget), so I guess it paid off in the long run for them ... there's a positive customer-relations story for Romania!

  3. I was fed the same 'no managers in the store' BS at Cora and was sent to the customer service desk and told to fill in a form, which I refused to do as I know they end up in the bin. Eventually they pulled out a Frenchman from somewhere who apologised and sorted it all out politely and promptly.


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