Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Informed Customer?

Fernando of BA Cast brings up a great point about another difference between Argentina and the USA in his response to one of my posts.

"I don't know if Argentina is too efficient, but the customer-server communication works in a different way . One in which the former has a little more responsibility in informing his or her tastes, preferences, and recommendations...if you want a particular beer, it's up to you to ask: "¿have you got beer X, beer on tap, whatever?" if you order a piece of meat without clarifying anything, it comes "a punto" (is that "medium"? I always get lost with those scales)...if you want it some other way, you ask in advance."--Fernando

And I agree that the customer would need to clarify what they want when they order. My original point though was that in some of the more traditional cervecerías the only thing you get to choose is the size of the glass or the size of the bottle that you want to buy.

But, you get no choice as to the beer because they only have one.

In any case, his response did jar another point of difference that I had forgotten about.

A long time ago, one of my friends offered to help me replace the front door to my parents house. We went out and bought the door and obviously it came with everything. What I mean by everything is that it came with a door frame, knobs and a locking system, a door bottom, and a still for example.

Here you just get a door. It gives you the freedom to buy everything else and customize it, but you have to know that it´s going to be that way and you obviously need a little more knowledge if you are going to go about installing a door.

But this also extends to other things. For example, when I first got here and I looked around for unfurnished apartments to rent I was surprised by seeing the holes in the ceiling and the walls where there should have been light fixtures.

At the very most, sometimes there was a bare light bulb hanging by a wire.

When people bug out of an apartment or a house here they literally take everything with them.

As to Fernando´s experience with his first New York Bagel, he got me there. We do tend to want to create the biggest, and the best and are driven to include whatever can be included in a package. However, it might have been just a language/cultural misunderstanding.

You can order a plain bagel with nothing on it (exactly like that or a plain bagel, dry) and you should be able to get it. Or, you could order a blueberry bagel with nothing on it, etc.

When I started traveling to the states with my Argentine family I saw that they would try to order a toast, dry, but they did not know how. Since they started hanging out with me they have become experts at asking for dry toast.

So Fer, maybe one day we could find ourselves in New York and I would gladly go with you where you can order your 2nd New York bagel, and if you felt a little adventurous you wouldn´t be limited to a plain bagel.

No sir, you could try Blueberry, Poppy Seed, Onion, Apple Nut, Banana Nut, Cheese Pizza, Cinnamon Raisin, Cranberry Walnut Orange, Honey Oat, Jalapeño and Sharp Cheddar, Parmesan Basil, Pumperknickel, Spinach and Monterey Jack Cheese, Whole Wheat, etc.

I could go on for quite a while longer. And of course, Yanqui Mike lampooned that side of the USA quite accurately in his comment on our last post.

Maybe we could talk about it over a beer?


Radio Ziggy said...

Exactly! And since we don't have to inform which beer, but to order A beer...we'll have more time for talking!

Unknown said...

Actually, I can multi-task that. Besides, isn´t the world a better place if you get this for example just because someone was curious?

Gavin said...

I just keep it simple and order an "everything" bagel. By the way, ever ask a waitress "what's on tap?" at a microbrewery in the US? She rolls her eyes and rattles off 10 varieties, runs out of breath, and gives you 5 more. God Bless America!

Unknown said...

Hi Gavin,

I forgot about those "everything" bagels!

Hey, now you are stepping into microbrewery territory. I don't have anything against those.

There is no "black" beer. There is either a porter, stout, black and tan, Bock, cream stout, and now I just recently found out that there exists a black IPA!

Ordering a black beer is similar to ordering a red wine. Please don't tell me you think that there is no difference between a Malbec, Cabernet, Syrah, Frank, etc.

In the case of wine I say thanks to the god of wine for Italy, France, Germany, Australia, Argentina, South Africa, The USA, and even Chile and Uruguay!

Radio Ziggy said...

But, to my knowledge, the varietales in here, is kind of a new least massively. In the past: vino de mesa and vino fino. I think they were called multivarietales, a kind of "everything tastes like chicken" applied to wine...

Unknown said...

Hi Fer,

Yes, and though many people may not know this, but that generic table wine that in many cases is sold in a box is the most sold type of wine in just about any country.

In fact, now there is a growing nich market of upscale or at least higher end wines being packaged in boxes.

Here is an interesting article from 2009:

However, each of those varieties do taste very different from each other.

Unknown said...


Now you will be able to order either a grosa o re grosa!

SaltShaker said...

This reminds me in many ways of a conversation I had here with a friend about pizzas. In the US we're used to ordering a pizza the way we want it, with our own combination of toppings, and sometimes even specifying how much sauce and/or cheese, type of dough, etc. Here, it's all proscribed. There's a set range of combinations, generally the same or close to it at any and every pizzeria, and trying to order something different can be a very trying experience. I've had pizzerias outright refuse to make any kind of modification - "it simply isn't done" would be the closest translation to the responses. Others make modifications grudgingly, and a good few, thankfully, have no problem with it.

But the conversation I referred to with my porteño friend as to why this was so, or at least my perception, resulted in a statement that could be summed up with: "In the US you're used to telling people what you want and expecting to get it or the best approximation they can give. Here, we're used to be told what we're going to get and we learn to just accept it, with faint, and generally useless protest if we don't like it.
But at least we don't have any stress about it when we don't get what we want!"

Tara said...

I am going to Argentina this summer, how can I order an iced venti skinny vanilla latte in Spanish? :)bra

Unknown said...

Hi Tara,

I am pretty sure that all the names have remained the same so you should be able to order it the same way here.