I am a fortunate guy. As a premier jeweler in Portland, Oregon I have done well for myself. Over the last school year my daughter attended school in Russia. This also meant my wife and son were living in Russia as well.
But that all changed in June when I traveled to Europe to bring them home. We had to have a little family vacation first however.
I met my family in Frankfurt, Germany where we rented a car and drove down to Italy. We stopped for a few days here and there along the way. The drive from Germany to Italy is pretty comparable to driving from Portland to LA.
People in Germany drive extremely fast. One time I was driving about 100 mph and was passed by a car on the Autobahn like I was standing still! They must have been going at least 140 mph.
But even though they drive fast, they are extremely polite and organized drivers. People know to stay in the right lane to go slower and if you are in the left and someone comes up fast, people just move over and let them pass. Without flipping the bird like people do here.
One notable stop on the way to Italy was in Bavaria where we spent 2 days at Legoland. The kids loved it!
We then stopped in Mendrisio, Switzerland for a couple days. Driving downtown there was a nightmare! The roads are so small and narrow with very steep hills. Despite the tight roads, Mendrisio is a beautiful city with great shopping in the Foxtown Factory Stores with names like Gucci, Armani and more right on the edge of the famous Switzerland mountains.
We also stopped in Milan for 2 days just in time for my daughter Sofia’s 9th birthday. We enjoyed the day we spent in downtown Milan with all the beautiful historical buildings they have. The rest of the city was very grey however with not enough of the beautiful greenery of Portland that I am used to.
But then we got to Sanremo, Italy. It is a breathtaking place full of beauty and right on the ocean. We spent a lot of time at the beach. While we were at the beach one afternoon our car was broken into and we had a few things stolen. It was unfortunate, but only a small part of the trip.
We also drove into Monte Carlo, Monaco, and Nice, France one day. We had a great time touring the palace and seeing the Grand Prix racing track. It was probably the nicest part of the trip.
In Monaco I happened by a jewelry store window where they were displaying a pair of 12 carat earrings! Each one contained 6 carats a piece. They must have been worth at least $500k! But in a city filled with Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s, I guess you shouldn’t expect any less.
The thing that struck me the most on our trip through Europe was the differences between the customer service there and here in the United States.
When you go to a restaurant in Europe they charge you for water. Just regular plain drinking water costs 3 Euros. Can you believe that? They charge for a lot of things we don’t in the United States.
Their salespeople are not quite to our standards we have here in the United States. At one particular stop in Mulhouse, France I was waiting at the cashier ready to pay for my wife’s dress that was advertised for 40% off. The salesperson informed me as I was getting ready to pay “you cannot have 40% off, this price is only for preferred customers”.
I glanced over and saw that they SELL preferred customer memberships for 10 Euros… So I replied, “no problem, I will buy the preferred membership and get the discount”. She replied “NO, you have to be a preferred customer before we started the sale that is today”. HUH??? Go figure, I ended up paying full price and didn’t even get a “thank you for your purchase”.
I’m glad to be back in the US with my whole family home with me. I am especially glad to be back to work making and selling beautiful jewelry in Portland. I am a real customer service guy and I love seeing my customers happy so it was hard to be treated so rudely in Europe.
If you’re in the Portland area, you should come into my jewelry store to see how a customer should be treated.
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