Customer care in Spain

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 Spain and try to understand how things work in the country.

How would you describe your customer service experiences in Spain?

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

Are after-sales services available in Spain?

Thanks for sharing your experience,


Bit of a strange question. Customer service is like customer service in most places. some is bad, some is good, some firms respond quickly whilst others are useless.

One thing I like about Spanish service, probably not in the sense that you intended, is that in restaurants the servers do their job. They ask what you want and bring it, take away the things you've finished with and then bring you a bill. The last time I was in the UK I couldn't believe how intrusive the servers were. It was as though they wanted to be my friend.

Culebronchris has hit it pretty well on the head. Where I live service is generally of a decent standard with one exception - Leroy Merlin, the French owned giant. I tried returning wood that, as soon as it was released from the packet, very badly deformed. It was unusable. I wrote to them, sent them pictures and I went to the store but at the end of the day I was talking to people of sub-average intelligence who couldn't understand the problem - even though they had the pictures and I drew them diagrams. It was, they claimed in absolutely typical French fashion, my fault! Obviously they follow the French model of very poor customer service, which is the norm throughout France. I gave up trying to get them to accept their responsibility for selling a poor quality product. (My French bank is equally awful.)
The good news is that they are the exception. Here in Spain no matter what type of business I have, generally, enjoyed good to excellent service, which is one of the many good points of living in Spain.

Particularly within the catering and service industry customer service can be quite frustrating. Lived all around Europe and outside but Spain has the worst customer experience I have seen.

More often than not waiters forget to provide menus, cutlery and forget to even ask for your order until you approach them. Even this weekend eating out in Barcelona I was given the wrong drink, when asked for knives and forks the waitress only provided me and not my girlfriend with cutlery - the bill came to 50 euro, I would have expected a bit of professionalism for this price.

In more cases than not I have received the incorrect change (Not to my understanding the waiter/staff were trying to steal from me but rather because they got flustered and cannot deal under pressure).

In general they seem a bit clueless within the service industry.

Food is nice and staff usually friendly enough.

Spain is such a big country with so many regions, different languages and customs, it is impossible to generalise, so I can only comment on Menorca and Majorca, the two Balearic Islands I am very familiar with.

When dealing with local traders and suppliers I have found the service excellent with individuals always prepared to go the extra mile.  Waiters and bar staff are quick to recognise you and if you have been a fairly regular visitor they quickly remember your usual order. 

In particular I would like to mention the service in my local bank.  I opened an account when I moved here.  The next time I visited the branch they greeted me by name and gave me valuable advice.  I contrast this with my local branch of Natwest in Somerset where I banked for over 10 years - there was never a glimmer of recognition from any of the counter staff. 

During our first local fiesta, I called into my Spanish bank at 10.00 in the morning and was immediately offered a glass of chilled pomada and a patisette, which I was delighted to accept. In my wildest dreams I could never imagine the manager of Natwest offering me a glass of cider and a packet of pork scratchings to celebrate carnival.

I think the general rule here is if you approach people with a smile and try to at least stutter a few words of Spanish, you will nearly always receive a warm response.  Perhaps the atmosphere is not quite as cordial in the administrative centers but they have always been efficient and patient as I tried to unravel the paperwork to apply for a NIE or Spanish driving license.

I have lived and worked in several countries inside and outside Europe, and I can confirm that CS in Spain differs substantially from the CS one can expect in many other countries.

1) First of all the CS is generally much better in Spain face to face than calling a CS number. It is not surprising, since in Spain personal contacts are much more important than in many other places. Lets be real. Spain is technologically and culturally behind. This is actually one of the reasons I find it attractive. One is that way still less of a mere number.

2) With car rental companies the phone CS is abominable here. One has to PAY to contact them while in 95% of cases THEY mess up! The CS people will only respond to emails/messages in terms of many days or even weeks, if at all. Most online and phone CS do not work in the weekend when the customers rent their cars mostly. Piking up the phone by staff at local major car rentals is rare, especially with Avis and Hertz. Small car rental companies do not have their opening hours listed at their offices and ar not available during siestas, holidays and in weekends (even major ones). Refund and cancellation policies are the worst in the industry in Spain. Instructions on use of the car (even checking for damage together) is zero as most are understaffed and not very knowledgeable anyway.

3) Airlines CS is virtually non existent or they have some people sitting at a desk (but not at the phone or online) who merely refer to someone else instead of coming with solutions of problems. Very few people have any decision making authority. This is why one really needs a subscription to a consumer protection organization here, far more than anywhere else,

4) Small online companies selling products rarely respond to queries on potential purchases or existing orders. If at all it takes days to get a response.

5) Realtors CS is also non existent. 99% does not return calls or respond to emails. They also are often not available during siestas, evenings, weekends for viewings.

6) Supermarket CS is non existent. Basically the check out girls are responsible but understaffed. Understaffing is a major problem in most retail businesses in Spain, therefore there is little CS if any.

7) Cell phone company CS is also bad. The reps cannot give one a straight answer about when one will have a connection and the worst is of course monopolist Telefonica which had a CS person call and try bully me with thin veiled threats to stay with them.

8) CS of banks is also pretty useless. When will you have problems with your cards, online accounts and atms? In the weekend. When are they open> Monday o Friday.

Oh, and do not think this is because there are linguistic issues. I'm fluent in Spanish. There is just generally a disconnect in Spain between thinking about ones income and bottom line and the customer who should be considered that source of income. Kindness and sucking up only gets one a little bit ahead. Escalation is often more fruitful. The Spaniards themselves also do it that way. And try using Facebook to escalate. That seems to work a little better.

There are of course rare exceptions of individuals who act quite differently but in general the trend is one of indifference and ignorance. No surprise since they can get an unemployment benefit so why bother fighting for one's job.

very well said!

Not that i do not love living here and will remain here for a long time. Just realize you live in an anarchistic chaotic country and adapt accordingly.
It beats being in any overorganized country where you then will have way less freedom.
So you are on your own without a security net but the trade off means more freedom and that way also more opportunities to exercise that freedom.

Hi, this is a very subjective issue but I will try to give my 4 year experience objectively. It's non existent !! But you are very cute so everything is Sunny side up. Right ?

I have lived in Spain for 21 years, and my experience in CS has for the most part been very positive. Contrary to some of the respondents, I find that service in the restaurant and food industry in the Alicante area to be excellent. I have had a few bad experiences in Barcelona long ago, but in general I think Spain has improved greatly with time. We have had a few problems with WIFI with ONO, where the service seemed slow. My wife called and they were out and replaced the modem same day. They also moved the box at no charge as we were having windows installed. Same thing for companies doing home remodeling - the ones we have used have been excellent and have fixed a few problems that have arisen free, even years after the initial work was completed. No way that would happen in the US. When I first got to Spain in Barcelona, I remember buying a light to electronically kill mosquitos. It didn't work and I tried to return it the next day at the small shop where I bought it. The owner asked me if the light worked and I said yes, but it didn't kill mosquitos. He replied that it was working so he wouldn't return my money. Small shops may have poor CS, but large stores like the Corte Ingles, will usually take back any item. My wife has returned plenty of items that she has not been satisfied with over the years.

I think that example is imbalanced as these are obviously service industries where crucial to survival. Dealing with companies....going into shops a totally different experience. No more than 2/10 at best.

It's an interesting topic. Well done Priscilla for bringing it up. My own experience, having worked in 14 countries and visited 23, is that Spain is well ahead of many. I find it hard to believe anyone could have been given better service throughout Europe. France has the worst customer service in Europe, according to various E.U. surveys. Something I, unfortunately, know only too well.
My Spanish bank has been on a scale unheard of in the U.K. for 30 years in that the staff are personal, friendly and genuinely helpful.
Every hotel I have stayed in seemed interested in that fact that I was there. No complaints at all.
I use a car hire company in Almeria and they have been nothing short of very good in every aspect.
I smile, make an effort to communicate in Spanish and, apart from the one company I cited, I have enjoyed very good to excellent service across the board.
Spain is chaotic as there appears to be not even the hint of planning in anything they do but if you know that and just accept that's the way it is, put a smile on your face and sally forth, there are good experiences to be had - everywhere.

My experiences with property agents in the torre del mar area of Spain, been rather negative, and I am talking about British companies now. I own a couple of moderate townhouses in Benamargosa which I would like to get managed from the rental point of view, two companies I have approached so far show not the slightest interest in handling the business. So to say the least I am disgusted with them to the extent that if I was their boss I would sack them. I have asked for valuations, rental assessment appraisals, and they haven't even replied or they reply and then the conversation suddenly stops. It seems they are only interested in high value properties. One of them actually said it was more trouble than it was worth to them.

Same here in Galicia. The agents only want low hanging fruit, which means high value properties. The one exception here that rents out many lower priced properties never replies to queries by renters and is near impossible to reach.
There is a market out there for foreigners who would take up this market segment. If only realtors would deign to service them and would bother to offer linguistic skills, translations and drive them around.
As an ex-realtor and semi retired professional translator in the USA this makes me almost cry, such laziness and not very businesslike behavior.
What realtors here do not get is that most of the money is now with foreigners not locals and they have higher standards, but they also pay better.
These realtors do a disservice to their landlord customers.
By the way, there is talk among realtors here to possibly use the Dutch model where they will not only charge landlords a fee, but also renters. That way they may cover the costs better, but it still makes little sense. A fee for a service and even a registration fee for renters that gets refunded if successful, would make more sense.
Also, it makes little sense that realtors here have no keys for the home and are dependent on that of the landlord. Many such owners are far away. A lock box would make much more sense.
This is beyond the usually totally incomplete information realtors have regarding property, owner and surroundings. They can often not even explain how to get there!
The lack of standardization of such basics is what produces such low results here.
Of course some of it is related to the fact that contracts are not exclusive, but one can solve that by making them temporarily exclusive.
Then there is the issue that realtors are often ignorant of the newest laws. Few here know that since a while it is easier to get rid of long term renters that do not pay. They still play the old song instead of needing lots of guarantees against non payment. Basically the court will get it done now in 4 months instead of years and the cost is about 700 euro excl. changing locks if needed.
The question is really if there are that many non payers. Retired pensioners from abroad are very unlikely non payers but get treated as such for no rational reason.
And then there is the frequent lying by realtors and home owners. That is shortsighted and loses them the best customers. They lie about or hide essential information. Realtors too often also advertise properties that are long gone. Or they advertise in inappropriate categories trying to sell a vacacional home as a long term one or one story of a house as a whole multi-story house.

I abandoned any notions of customer service when I arrived in Spain.  I live in Almeria, a region that is still stuck in the era of donkeys and carts.  Dealing with the Bureaucracy here is a nightmare of epic proportions, wherein all the mistakes made are dismissed and the consequences are your problem.  Many of the Spanish people I have encountered seem to be little more than opportunistic thieves.  Not all are bad though, just the ones I was foolish enough to trust, a mistake I will not make again.  I have had one particularly good experience when a washing machine I bought failed, and the shop replaced it immediately without a murmur. However, some friends of mine had a nightmare when they bought a new fridge/freezer that produced huge lumps of ice in the fridge compartment.  The shop refused to replace it unless my friends purchased a more expensive model, which they were, eventually, forced to do.  There appears to be no consumer protection in Spain, except for the complaints book, of which I have no experience.  On the one occasion that I asked a contractor for his complaints book, he ignored my request and closed his business.

Maybe you could refer you friends to some of the consumer protection association memberships or they could use (basically a bunch of no cure no pay lawyers specialized in certain areas of consumer complaints)? The latter got us full refunds of our tickets when Iberia's daughter Vueling let us travel 11 hours more than scheduled and added other costs.
Protecting yourself legally here is certainly a must.

Thanks for the info.  Too late now to be of any use for the fridge incident but, if it ever become necessary again, this will be a port of first resort.

The bad.
Some very poor customer service in bars, hotels, shops etc. very unprofessional, very slow and even rude (being ignored, (told the group is to big for them to cope with the order?, told they didn't have time to get any eggs or tomatoes for breakfast, despite my request for no carrots and I explained in both spanish and english  my salad arrived with a big pile of carrots on top) Shrugging of the shoulders when they miss an appointment, are late etc.

The good
Very helpful delivery people happy to wait while I returned home, happy to make alternative arrangements.
Not feeling ripped off in restaurants and bars. free olives, crisps with drinks, remembering you, friendly and smiling waiters, prepared to do special things like homemade aliolli.
Some people help you to find a solution to a problem even if its not their normal work.

Moderated by Priscilla last month
Reason : off topic + please create your own thread

In general the customer service is good. People are friendly and they want to help.
Of course, like in any country, you will meet people not having a good day.
Also, like in most countries: The government workers are not very friendly and the information is not clear, and one day they tell you something and next day, something else.

There were two things I didn´t like when I just arrived in Spain:
-One was when you enter a shop they look at you and say: "Tell me" (I am fluent in Spanish, I am from South america), and for us in South America it sounds rather brusque.
-The other thing I couldn´t stand was that at the queue of the supermarket the cashier talks to the current client about silly things, and it seems that the cashier is uncapable to cut the conversation, and the client can´t realize that there are people waiting in line. One time a client was talking about her last visit to the doctor because she was constipated...

But now I got used to these things and I think that are part of their culture.  :)

Best CS in Spain for retail? Romanians. Best CS for building services? Brits, Skandies and Germans.  Worst CS for utility companies? Spanish. Hands down.

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