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Customer care in Panama

Hello everyone,

The way customer services are handled can greatly affect your views on certain brands, products, companies or stores. As a consumer, it is important to get familiar with local practices regarding client assistance in Panama and try to understand how things work in the country.

How would you describe your customer service experiences in Panama?

Do you feel welcome when you enter a store? Do you get useful tips and advice?

Are after-sales services available in Panama?

Thanks for sharing your experience,

Priscilla

I find customer service in Panama, in general, to be non existent. The employees of the department stores and waitresses at restaurants seem not to care if you get good service or not. They ignore you when you come in. Getting their attention takes a  long time. And the stores do not usually provide guarantees or refunds of any kind. They also make a habit of interrupting waiting on you if another customer comes and ask them for something instead of telling that customer they'll be with them in a minute when they are done with you. There are exceptions to this and I do appreciate the few that appreciate their customers. I have never understood this  in Panama.

@Lively Lady
what you write is absolutely true
plus
panama is not a tourist destination

I stopped treating  my grandson on ice cream at the Albrook mall.   I takes forever to fill one simple cone with one scoop of ice cream.  Last time we did this I made the mistake to order a capuchino for myself. That took even more time. Frustrating !  And why ? Is it the training they get or is it the culture ?  I mean they can double their income and profits on those places if they had well trained people. Panamanians are very nice and helpful but in that area they have no flexibility at all. I  don't get it

have you noticed how prices for ice cream and fast food are rising

Yes ! Absolutely !

Customer service?  What are you talking about?  After spent 1.5 years here, from a multitude of transactions, I can count the number of competent polite people on one hand.  An entire year and a half of dumb blank faces staring back at me, not having a clue and can't be bothered to even move their mouth to say "I don't know".

@Tough1sweet1 - you are lucky
no matter which branch you approach
it's more like talking with to a wall

wow... these post are scaring me.  Non-existent / unfriendly customer "service" is going to be a factor about where I decide to locate in retirement.
If I want to be ignored when wanting to make a purchase, I can just stay here in the USA, go to my local Best Buy and be ill treated.  Or, I can make a phone call, listen to a multitude of meaningless menu options - all designed to waste MY time while saving the company I call precious money/time.  YUCK

I have read many complaints about customer service in Panama, and I wonder why our experience has been so different. We live in David so our daily interactions are in this area and we have found customer service to be excellent. I'm trying to remember someone who treated me badly and I can't think of anyone. We did have an ... ahem ... interesting run around trying to return a microwave that quit working but in four years if this our only frustrating experience, that's not too bad. Even then it was the procedures and rules, not the staff who really did try to solve our problem. Often, in a store, someone will come immediately to see how they can help me. Some of the places we go to frequently have employees who have become personal friends and I think they would do anything in their power to help us. Even the vegetable truck - the guy knows I love broccoli and cauliflower so every week he has two of each, the best he can pick out, bagged and hidden under the seat especially for me.  Maybe it's different in Panama City or other areas but around here, people are so kind and helpful. It makes living here such a pleasure.

I have to side with Kristc here, in Boquete in any case. Attentive helpful service.

Yep, it varies, and at times here in Chiriqui can be very helpful and considerate, even go the extra mile.....But in general, countrywide, I have to agree with the majority of the comments here. Customer service is sorely lacking and substandard........Way better in Colombia or Ecuador........With exceptions, as always, Panama is about as intelligent as that cow in the pasture over there..........and just as likely to be grazing in the middle of the road instead of where they should be..........

I take offense to your insult to cows.

same careless attitude with realtors, lawyers and all the other service businesses
if you are lucky you will receive a useless answer for simple questions
after weeks and months if not years

Tough1sweet1 :

I take offense to your insult to cows.

It was pretty offensive to Panamanians too

Maybe it's not entirely the fault of the Panamanians. I've seen gringos march into a place, ask (or demand) what they want in English, immediately get frustrated when they aren't understood, and then give everyone a hard time in a raised voice. Panamanians appreciate a few pleasantries first, then politely let them know what you need. Learn even a few phrases of Spanish and bring a dictionary, and they will love to help you look for the words you lack. I've seen how Panamanians look at me when I approach, and then immediately soften when they realize I will be nice to them and I have made the effort to learn some Spanish. I know it's the gringo way to get to the point and not waste anyone's time, but here conversation and relationships are primary, and everything goes more smoothly if this is kept in mind.

I look back on days like that with fond nostalgia.  At least no dead and starving dogs all over.  Trash does not line the roads, and no water/power outages.

@Tough1sweet1
where is this please

NJ USA

I wish you 2 would just go back to wherever you came from. I am sick and tired of your whining. And your fantasies about life "back home in the good 'ol USandA. You sound like the privileged gringos we hear so many bad things about.

Dying to go back.  Try selling a property in Panama?  No one is buying!  How about waiting 7 months to get your deed?  How about not getting a deed at all and waiting 5 years to try to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars?  Take off your rose-colored glasses, this country is near the top of the list for corruption and near the bottom for everything else.

The last two comments are good examples of experiences in Panama.  I have had both good and bad ones in my near 20 years here.  Tough1sweet1, hang in there but one day you may have to accept the fact that you will have to take a loss.  (Mine was about 65K)  Sunset Steve, pay attention to those that complain and learn from them.

I speak Spanish.  I come from a community in USA which is 95% Spanish-speaking, friendly and responsive with respect to customer care .  My apellido is Padron-Martinez.  Its not a matter of language but of attitude here.

Steve, please stay on your island and away from the rest of us.  If by privileged, you mean that when I pay for something, like a beachfront apartment, I actually expect to receive it.  And once I receive it, I do not expect the kitchen roof to fall in on me the first time it rains (not to mention water coming in the front, side and back doors).  I could go on, but frankly, it would be a complete waste of saliva.  Just sharing my experiences here.

Tough1sweet1 :

At least no dead and starving dogs all over.  Trash does not line the roads, and no water/power outages.

I did not see that where I was in Panama. I HAVE seen that in parts of the US.  I do not generalize from that to the entire US experience.  I apologize for having expressed myself too harshly, but those kinds of comments sound very much like "my country does it better than yours".  Which is a recognizable trait in some expats. It is possible to raise warnings to prospective expats based on your experience, but the constant negativity is as misleading as the constant rosiness of others.

Many of us have overpaid for real estate, or faced a sinking market. We adjust and move on.

Everything negative that you find here, you can find everywhere, just not nearly as abundantly........I pretty much give up on the garbage issue........I feel like ive been fighting that battle all alone for the most part......Ive had minimal cooperation from alcaldes and a few corregedores.........but not much......Its just simply not on their list of priorities.........cutting the grass is, cuz theyre afraid of snakes.........cleaning and mopping floors is an obsession.........TPTB finally get around to filling the potholes but not until youve sustained $600 in front end suspension damage........But still much better than the Tico side where it almost never happens.......Of all the times Ive been robbed here, the only time I got my stuff back is when I took the law into my own hands and handled it outside of the normal channels.........Last Tues two people were murdered in a bar 10 min from my house by 3 armed bandidos, and the next nite at 2am, my dog is barking furiously like never before, and I pull the gun out and fire off a round........somebody was here.........and the next morning the dog was sick like he was poisoned........and wouldnt eat...........finally pulled out of his stupor with milk and rice..............Its just incredible with all the work out there and all this new prosperity that there can be so many maleantes, and they seem all too ready to kill.........Wasnt like that when I first came over from Costa Rica...........For 5 years nobdy bothered me at all............From what locals tell me, there was more discipline and morality in the pueblo in the era of dictatorship than now in this wonderful new age of material prosperity..........Panamanians are throwing money around like never before and theres all to many of em who will do anything to get it..........Its a culture of commerce and materialism............Thank the Great Spirit there are still some good solid families out there with core values..........But they do not comprise the majority...........Ok, maybe its worldwide phenomena now at this time.........But it seems that there are too many things which need to be fixed here............

I am not saying everything is great or perfect in the U.S.  but there really is no comparison.  First world vs. third world.  I have also lived in Italy, Germany, Colombia and the U.K.  All were wonderful.   IMHO Panama is a total misery.   Okay, I know someone is going to ask, why did I come here?  Family reasons.  To help.  No good deed goes unpunished.   Former President Martinelli is living the life with one billion dollars of other peoples money, his secretary goes to jail for two years.  Does that give anyone a hint of what goes on here? 

In the United States, the developer who stole over $150,000 from me would not be listed in the Accodeco, [Panamanian version of Better Business Bureau], as an approved developer.  Especially when they don't even show up for meetings with their lawyers.  Actually these developers were ok with Panamanians, they only stole from gringos:  Americans, Canadians, Italians and Russians.  Most people tell me I am lucky just to have 4 walls,!   Roughly 30% of projects here do not finish construction, and those who invested and bought on paper lose all of their money.  That has to be one of the highest rates  anywhere in the world.  Unfortunately I cannot yet name names here, I will have to be outside the country with all my assets until I can do that.  Until then all I can do is tell people the general facts.  And if I save even one person from being hugely ripped off, the aggravation from the haters will be worthwhile.

You cannot compare Panama to the U.S...... maybe to a state but not the country.  Even a small country like Panama has differences in customer service practices in different areas.
   In the area of real estate there are some very bad deals out there.  I could tell you stories all day long.  No, not overpaying or suffering from sinking values.  Cases where property was illegally sold or taken from someone.  Usually your only option is to hire a lawyer to recover losses, which can cost you more than the loss.  The legal system is a mess. 
  As for the treatment of animals, I have seen some improvement in the last, maybe, 3 years.  I think is partially due to access to the internet.  More people see what life is like in 1st world countries and has broadened their thinking in many ways.  Panama is improving.  Ask anyone here who remembers living under a dictatorship.

Tough1sweet1 :

I am not saying everything is great or perfect in the U.S.  but there really is no comparison.  First world vs. third world.  I have also lived in Italy, Germany, Colombia and the U.K.  All were wonderful.   IMHO Panama is a total misery.   Okay, I know someone is going to ask, why did I come here?  Family reasons.  To help.  No good deed goes unpunished.   Former President Martinelli is living the life with one billion dollars of other peoples money, his secretary goes to jail for two years.  Does that give anyone a hint of what goes on here? 

In the United States, the developer who stole over $150,000 from me would not be listed in the Accodeco, [Panamanian version of Better Business Bureau], as an approved developer.  Especially when they don't even show up for meetings with their lawyers.  Actually these developers were ok with Panamanians, they only stole from gringos:  Americans, Canadians, Italians and Russians.  Most people tell me I am lucky just to have 4 walls,!   Roughly 30% of projects here do not finish construction, and those who invested and bought on paper lose all of their money.  That has to be one of the highest rates  anywhere in the world.  Unfortunately I cannot yet name names here, I will have to be outside the country with all my assets until I can do that.  Until then all I can do is tell people the general facts.  And if I save even one person from being hugely ripped off, the aggravation from the haters will be worthwhile.

So true.  It comes down to not having an effective and impartial judicial system, especially for expats.  The development and construction, real estate, and legal "professions" are loaded with dishonest individuals who would rather cheat or ignore a client, cut corners and generally not do as they promise - all with no fear whatsoever of repercussion, especially to expats.  Personally, I have seen real estate agents and lawyers represent both parties to a transaction (without disclosure of course to the expat), contracting to sell property they did not own (again, without disclosure) and even selling the same unit twice.  There truly is NO recourse for the defrauded expat. Period.

Poor customer service begins largely with how (yes, over-generalizing) how Panamanians are wired from a DNA standpoint.  Attention to detail is not there.  Consistency is not there.  Desire to do a good job is not there.  It's not malicious usually, just lack of attention or interest or concern.  With full employment, maybe there's no motivation.  But, one can eat at the same restaurant every day and each day the staff will look through you like you don't exist or bring you a knife and spoon but no fork.  The notion that maybe you'll need a fork to eat just doesn't seem to register.  The next day, you'll get two forks and a spoon.  Weird.

The rose-colored glasses SunsetSteve is wearing will come off over time and he should be clear and aware in the meantime, especially along the Caribbean side.  A gang of thugs tried to rob me in the middle of the day on the road to Portobelo.  They had thrown a large log across the road and attempted to ambush us when we stopped, one carrying a large machete. (Is there such a thing as a "small" machete?).  Anyway, my passenger and I were not their "target" victim in terms of our size and fitness so things did not go as planned for the thugs.  But, I would never recommend anyone travel alone, even during the day throughout most of Panama any longer, and never at night, especially elderly and women.  The bad guys are always on the lookout for expats.

kristc99 :

Maybe it's not entirely the fault of the Panamanians. I've seen gringos march into a place, ask (or demand) what they want in English, immediately get frustrated when they aren't understood, and then give everyone a hard time in a raised voice.

I defer to your far greater experience - no doubt - but for what it's worth I found expats generally to be very courteous in their interaction with locals, whether in a store or restaurant situation.  Just my take. 

What I really found interesting is when I'm with a local, whether at a bank or store or restaurant.  They do not take ANY crap from the waiters or clerks and are very demanding and get stuff moving quickly!  I'd say the locals know the locals better than we do!

As a well-traveled Canadian I can tell the difference between respect for other cultures and rose coloured glasses. Living as I do in a country neighboured by Americans who visit in large numbers I can also recognize ethno-centrism when I smell it.

I have been here 4 years and I see things generally improving in terms of customer service. I like Do it Center-especially Westland Mall. I have received some truly amazing service there. The big stores in general are doing some training. But things can quite variable overall, for sure. Mostly it depends which places you go to.

I go back to the States twice a year and I see things deteriorating. I can tell you about some horrible customer service that I have had there.

I find that being friendly and speaking some Spanish can go a long way here towards warming things up.

I live in El Valle and its really nice here.

There are some attempts at customer service in Coronado but that because such establishments were owned by expats from North America or Europe.  Agree with many about Panama City -its an art form mastering  the charade of ignoring customers and questions.  I make an exception for some Asian owned Tiendas where they try and help you.

Where exactly in Panama do you live?

dumluk :

Yep, it varies, and at times here in Chiriqui can be very helpful and considerate, even go the extra mile.....But in general, countrywide, I have to agree with the majority of the comments here. Customer service is sorely lacking and substandard........Way better in Colombia or Ecuador........With exceptions, as always, Panama is about as intelligent as that cow in the pasture over there..........and just as likely to be grazing in the middle of the road instead of where they should be..........

Where is Chiriqui do you live?

SawMan :

The rose-colored glasses SunsetSteve is wearing will come off over time and he should be clear and aware in the meantime, especially along the Caribbean side.  A gang of thugs tried to rob me in the middle of the day on the road to Portobelo.  They had thrown a large log across the road and attempted to ambush us when we stopped, one carrying a large machete. (Is there such a thing as a "small" machete?).  Anyway, my passenger and I were not their "target" victim in terms of our size and fitness so things did not go as planned for the thugs.  But, I would never recommend anyone travel alone, even during the day throughout most of Panama any longer, and never at night, especially elderly and women.  The bad guys are always on the lookout for expats.

I'm a single, soon-to-be-retired woman and was thinking about moving to Chiriqui. I would have to travel alone. Have you lived there long? Have conditions deteriorated over time? Your comment makes me hesitant.

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