≡ Menu

A kinder, gentler customer service. Something is terribly wrong.

I had to run a few errands today that involved going into shops and interacting with shop people, and I’m amazed to say that I had some of the most excellent service I’ve ever had in my life – from just about everyone I talked to. Was it something about my demeanor today? Did I come across as particularly in need of kindness? Was I radiating a warm and fuzzy vibe that made people want to be nice to me? Did I have BE NICE OR I WILL TELL DR. GUNNI ON YOU* scrawled across my forehead in big black letters? Or was everybody just in a great mood because there is a long weekend coming up and they were all in joyful anticipation of getting out of town and getting totally plastered? – Endless questions, with no ready answers. *sigh*

Anyway. First I went to the little mini-mall known as Holtagarðar which in true Nicelandic style is totally modelled on foreign mini-malls and which we just HAD to have too seeing as how all the foreigners have them [keeping up with the Joneses, it’s a national sickness], replete with the conveyor belt up and down between floors and the shopping carts with locking wheels. I got great service in there, which I must not elaborate on here because my visit there had to do with EPI’s upcoming birthday this weekend and there is the VERY MINUSCULE chance that between now and then he might actually look at my blog and find out what I was doing there, which as I said is not very likely, but as you must understand every precaution must be taken.

From there I headed to the Kringlan Mall, ostensibly because my watch needed a new battery but mostly because I wanted to see if there was anything left at the sales. I started by going to a jewellery store, feeling ever-so-slightly annoyed because as it happens I’d had the battery replaced there just after the New Year and now, six months later, it was dead again. So I go in and speak to the sales girl who was as tightly-wound as they come – the sort of woman who, had she been in her 50s, would have had about five facelifts.

YT: Hi. I need a new battery for my watch.


YT: Um, how long is the battery supposed to last?

SC: About a year, year and a half.

YT: Yeah. Because I came here … [blah] … if I keep the receipt and it goes dead in another six months again, can I get another battery?

SC: [looks down on YT with raised eyebrows] I’ll ask. Do you want me to replace it, or do you want to wait for me to ask first?

YT: No, replace it.

So five minutes later she comes back and puts the watch on the counter. YT takes out her wallet.

SC: No, it’s OK, just take it. No charge.

YT: Oh! [genuinely surprised.] So you believe me?

SC: Yeah. We believe you. And you still came back here. We appreciate that.


Buoyant with goodwill, I wandered into Karen Millen – a store I normally avoid because their clothes are ridiculously frilly and overpriced. Perhaps I was in a frilly kind of mood today, because before I knew it I had a pile of garments that were weighing heavy down on my arm … and behind me I heard the generic sales clerk mantra:

“Can I help you?”

Of course I replied with the generic customer mantra: “No, thanks, just looking.”

And then, to my AMAZEMENT, the clerk said: “Can I take those and put them in a changeroom for you?”


Allow me to clarify. This NEVER happens in Iceland. Sales clerks in Iceland don’t actually go out of their way to help customers. They stand around gossiping and then turn around with a surly expression on their faces when you timidly address them. When you’ve tried things on and they don’t fit, they instruct you to put them back where you found them [a notable exception is ZARA, which of course I have gushed about a length in previous posts for being the salvation of the Nicelandic consumer, but I digress]. So I was completely gobsmacked. Oh – perhaps this would be a good time to mention that this particular sales clerk was not Icelandic? She was not Icelandic – although she spoke Icelandic, and very well, too.

Anyway, long story short, I tried on a bunch of things, none of which I was required to put back on the rack, and came away with a totally hot dress, the first item of clothing I have ever purchased in Karen Millen and which, as it happened, was a little bit frilly [but only a little bit]. Detail:

My somewhat frilly dress

It’s a gorgeous colour, a total hourglass fit, gathered beneath the bust and goes down to around the knees. AND it was around 70% off. Score!

Okay. So then I went home and EPI and I cycled into town to do something on which I cannot elaborate because it involves his youngest daughter’s birthday, which happens to be on the same day as his. AAH was working and it was just the two of us for dinner, and the classic “what shall we have for dinner” resulted in our cycling down to our favourite fishmonger’s on Nesvegur for some fresh fish to pop on the barbecue. So we walk in to the fishmonger’s and what’s the first thing we see? Lobster! [The small Icelandic lobster] – piles of it. So we looked at each other and suddenly there was no question as to what we should have – and our super wonderful fishmonger, who is truly one-of-a-kind and ALWAYS gives just a little bit more than necessary – scooped up all the best lobsters for us, put them on the scale, weighed them and printed out the price … and then scooped up about another four handfuls and threw them in “because they were small”. Honestly. Do we need more reasons why we don’t buy our fish from anyone else? I think not.

Okay. This post was supposed to be brief and to constitute just a tiny proof that Nicelandic customer service is not always crap but of course I’ve got all longwinded again. And I haven’t even got around to talking about the Verslunarmannahelgi. Or the


Still tropical. What exactly we have done to deserve this I do not know. I went for a run late this afternoon along the seashore WEARING SHORTS. Until now wearing shorts while jogging along the seashore in the west end of Reykjavík has only been for the certifiable insane [i.e. the typical Icelander when the sun comes out – irrespective of temps] and not for our eminently sane YT. But either I’m going mad or something about our weather is seriously changing . Let’s hope it’s the former ………………………… although methinks it’s the latter. Right now at midnight 14°C [57F] and no I did not watch the solar eclipse behind the clouds this morning at 8 am, just saw it on TV which is infinitely more sensible as you don’t go blind.

* Dr. Gunni has become Iceland’s consumer champion extraordinaire, ever since he opened up the most excellent OKUR! page on his website, where people can vent their frustrations about high prices and poor service.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rozanne August 2, 2008, 1:25 am

    I saw that dress on your Flickr page and had to pop right over here to find out all about it. I LOVE everything about it! It is totally the dress I would buy if I needed such a dress. (It’s been more than a decade, since there’s been an occasion for me to need to wear such a dress. Sigh.) Perhaps you can wear it soon, too–on EPI’s birthday?

    And lobster for dinner and a long weekend? Enjoy!!!!!

  • moiraeknittoo August 2, 2008, 2:47 am

    There was a solar eclipse today. Maybe that’s part of it? And oooo that’s a lovely dress!

  • mary August 2, 2008, 9:09 am

    Perhaps your lovely weather is responsible for everybody’s good humour!
    And here is a very old joke….What is the difference between a shopping trolley and a student? A shopping trolley has a mind of its own!
    Enjoy the weekend.

  • pierre l August 2, 2008, 4:47 pm

    I am very pleased to read that you got good service. That dress is a very lovely colour indeed. Sorry that I have been lurking for a while – I do read and enjoy every post. Happy birthday to EPI.

  • Vikingisson August 2, 2008, 5:22 pm

    I’ll bet that if I could be in Reykjavík right now I could find a sign that translates to:
    For Good Weather

  • alda August 2, 2008, 8:09 pm

    Rozanne – thank you! I have no idea when I’ll wear it, either – certainly not tomorrow on EPI’s birthday – it will be a low-key affair, since everyone is out of town! Unless, of course, I put on the dress while everyone else wears jeans. 🙂

    moira – could be the solar eclipse, although I’m more inclined to think it’s the long weekend.

    mary – heh. Shopping trolley, huh? *ahem*

    pierre – thanks! Good to know – I do love getting feedback, though, as I never tire of saying.

    Víkingsson – Oh yes. There are lots of signs like that around.

  • annie August 3, 2008, 9:38 am

    Ooh lovely dress. I wish you well to wear it, as my mum would say.

  • Kathy August 3, 2008, 5:31 pm

    Beautiful dress! And I’m so happy someone had the pleasure of all this great service. Hope your winning streak continues!

  • Don in Seattle August 4, 2008, 3:21 am

    I’d love to check out the Holtagarðar mall on my next visit, but I’m not familiar with the location. From a web search, it sounds like the old IKEA store on Saebraut was part of this mall. Is that the general vicinity?
    Thanks, Don

  • alda August 4, 2008, 9:06 pm

    Don – yep, that’s precisely where it is. They’ve remodelled it and it’s on two floors now.

  • ReallyEvilCanine August 5, 2008, 12:27 am

    Please please please: which fishmonger? The only “secret place” I had for seafood other than a friend’s son’s fishing boat is a place where another friend no longer works, he having decided to leave for Denmark. There’s a really nice shop in Keflavík with friendly and helpful (honest!) staff by the B&B Guesthouse but that’s a bit far to go for food shopping.

  • alda August 5, 2008, 10:18 am

    REC – Fiskisaga on Nesvegur. I can’t recommend it enough.

  • maja August 8, 2008, 8:43 am

    Sometimes you just have good days, I reckon. Maybe everyone was having a good day too.