In America, I find my behavior acceptably, slightly a bit pushy, American. But I knew going into expat-ing, that that behavior is not acceptable. You don’t yell at the cable company when you don’t have Internet for 3 months. You don’t freak out on your rental company when you don’t have a fridge for 2 months. You don’t write angry emails when you order something online and they let you know two weeks later that they actually don’t have that in stock. You don’t complain when you come at your exact appointed time for a click & collect grocery order and they make you wait 25 mins in the parking lot. You either don’t order changes to your sandwich (no mayo, with avo, just a little bit of beet root, easy on the cheese, and please no weird tangy jams and/or chutneys that come out of nowhere) or if you do, you don’t send it back when they get it wrong and just bring you out white toast.
The ugly American is entitled and demanding…mostly in regards to customer service. But customer service isn’t a priority in the UK the way it is the states. It’s not as if the slap you across the face with your sandwich, but they don’t hustle for tips in the food service industry, and in all other industries, they don’t care to go above and beyond for a customer. They can take you and your business, or leave you. As mentioned with the cable company…for the first time I had a cable company tell me if I wasn’t happy that I could take my business elsewhere. That would never happen with Comcast.
I am happy to say, I turn off the entitled American 99% of the time in interactions with the outside world in Scotland. In my personal life of friends and family relationships, I am however, still probably an ugly American. There have been just 3 times I have gone off the deep end and became the ugly American here. 3 times in 2 years, I think that’s a pretty great track record… The first time was going insane at the aforementioned cable company where the man on the phone told me he would report me for verbal abuse (I seriously wasn’t even Lauren at peak craziness…I had toned it down, honestly, I just have a mouth like a sailor, and I don’t call names…. ever…. so don’t think I’m calling some man on the phone an idiot or anything worse!)The second time, is a long complicated story, which did have me go absolutely ballistic at the inefficiency, miscommunication, and complacency of a company…. and I did go absolutely ballistic. I demanded to speak to managers, I exaggerated the outcome of their terrible work ethic, I was enraged. But I am not totally embarrassed to say that it got the job done. And if I hadn’t had gone ballistic…. it wouldn’t have happened.
This weekend came my third bout of ugly American. Though it was a very tempered version of it…I’m actually not embarrassed, though E is a little. Maybe it’s because I was face to face with someone, maybe it’s because I was in a crowded location. Either way, I didn’t go absolutely nuts….but at the same time, I didn’t get the outcome I wanted. So maybe if I had gone ballistic I would have…something to think about. But I’m sure to this man I just fulfilled every idea he had about demanding ugly Americans.
In August when we went to Edinburgh I forgot my running shoes, but had to get training runs in. So Friday night we swung by Scotland’s running shoe store-chain: Run 4 It. I had called to say I was coming, could they have a pair of UK size 7 Asics Gel Nimbuses for me. They did, great. I ran 6 miles the next day and my feet burned. I ran Sunday, feet still hurt, a little less. I then spent the next 3 weeks wearing them a fair bit, on up to 10 mile runs, only to have my feet hurt, burn, and get blisters. These were not working.
I asked a FB women’s running group I belong to how long do they give a new pair of shoes to break in and comfortable and work? Maybe I needed longer than a month? Maybe I was being picky and demanding on my shoes? The response was no, I had given them plenty of time to break in, these weren’t working, I should return them. It was then that I was looking at my old pair vs. my new pair, and I realized I don’t wear Asics Nimbuses…I were Cumulus’s (for the love of Christ could they not find names that didn’t sound so similar?). Whoops. Had got the wrong shoes. I reach out to the store and explain that I bought the wrong shoes and these aren’t working. That I didn’t have the receipt, but I have the CC statement, and I know which day I went and who I bought them from, etc. I get a phone call from the manager saying to go into my local store and they’ll sort it out, that I shouldn’t be getting blisters. Excellent.
So I went to my local store and explained the situation, they should have received an email, that I was here to switch out the shoes. But they would not let me return the shoes, or do a 1 for 1 switch out (even though the shoes I want are £40 cheaper)…they could only give me a discounted rate on another pair. I went a little ugly American. The manager on the phone wasn’t clear at all…I assumed I was trading in the non-working shoes for another pair. And when explaining this, the man at the shop just kept looking at me and saying, “But you’ve worn them!!” Which was obvious. I had worn the shoes at least 50-60 miles running on paths, trails, and country roads. I said as much. He couldn’t grasp returning something that had been worn and thought I was being ridiculous for implying they would. He kept implying that I was being an absolute nutter for thinking that would take the shoes back.
I had said I didn’t think I was being ridiculous, because this is the first time I bought shoes in the UK, all my other running shoe purchases were in the United States, and EVERY. SINGLE. RUNNING. STORE. I had ever been to and bought from offered any where between a 30-day to 90-day return policy on worn running shoes. How else would you know if they work for you or don’t? They only way to test running shoes is to actually run in them!
I was pretty annoyed but I thought hiding it well…until he said, “Well if that’s the case I’m going to move to America.” Which I think was quite sassy and further implying I was lying and making this crazy excellent return policy up. My response was, “Well pack your bags then buddy.” At this point I knew I wasn’t going to get to exchange the shoes….and I wasn’t fighting for that anymore. I am stubborn and felt insulted and at this point I really just wanted this man to: a) acknowledge that I’m not lying or crazy in thinking that I could return running shoes, b) That I’m not insane for thinking they would return a pair of used running shoes, and c) that in comparison to American running shoes their return policy sucks (ugly American wanting foreigners to succumb and admit America is the best).
So yeah…I didn’t win the battle. But I also feel that while being an ugly American, I was a pretty toned down, well-mannered ugly American. It’s funny because generally I am the first person to air grievances on why America sucks. There’s a big joke here that I’m a wanna-be Canadian (it’s true!) but yet in these certain situations I am left longing for my homeland. Where the customers are always right, and customer service is second to none (you think returning used running shoes is revolutionary, one of my clients is a medical marijuana dispensary and we return and exchange WEED for the love of god).
So I wasted £145 on running shoes that hurt my feet. And now am praying these newly ordered shoes work (because it’s a new model of course and that changes everything). I let the ladies on my online running group know that the UK return policy is not as generous as the American one. And have wised up and added “running shoes” back to the list of things I only buy in American…. along with any electronics (Apple, Garmin, Bose), Mexican food items, and pumpkin scented everything.