Friday, July 31, 2009

Sales and Vacations

The business economics of Belgium baffle me. There are many practices that seem inefficient and antiquated. One such policy is that the stores in Belgium are only allowed to have big storewide sales on their merchandise in the months of January and July - as controlled by the government, I think? Can you imagine - no "Black Friday" or Belks discount coupons!?!?! It has caused shopping mania over here. Every store window is plastered with notices of sales ("soldes") and the shopping streets are jam-packed. I guess it could be a good jolt for these two sale months, but it is a little strange for my taste. As the month wears on the sales get better and better. I have seen many signs for 70% off! I have resisted for the most part because the euro prices are still more than the USA.
Another part of shopping in Belgium that I have alluded to before is the way shopkeepers and other service personnel don't seem to be motivated by courteous customer service principles. They seem oblivious and indifferent as to whether or not you give them your business; many of them make an effort to ignore you! The attitude is that you don't ask questions and definitely you never return anything - heaven forbid! So while the sales are highly anticipated, I will wait for American service and sales tactics to shop.
The other thing that is happening in Brussels right now is that July and August are MAJOR vacation months. The city basically clears out (except for the shoppers, of course). If you don't believe me just check out some of the signs plastered on shop windows on our block alone.Of course - the epitome of indecision is exemplified in that all signs are posted in both languages spoken here - Dutch AND French!The Marriott even posts their closure notice in English. Can you even imagine this happening in USA? A note saying, "Sorry, we are closed this month! See ya next month!" greeting customers.Many have asked me how in the world Kirk gets so much vacation from work to be able to travel. Maybe this post will help in explaining the European culture of prioritizing vacation and the important work/life balance... And I guess that is a pretty good thing! Even if the tactics around it seem sometimes hard to understand.

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