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The Customer Isn't King

DW staff (jam)
November 6, 2007

Germany's bad service in shops and administrative offices may be the bane of consumers, but it was a boon for crime prevention in one case. A bank robber who met the icy attitude of a teller turned tail and fled.

A screaming gorilla
What do I have to do to get some service around here?Image: dpa

Entering a German shop or office is often an exercise in steeling oneself up for the worst. The personnel behind the counter or desk generally seem to have trained in the fine art of negativity and, while often less than competent in their jobs, are world-class when it comes to avoiding eye contact, heaving big sighs when asked anything or becoming petulant when the customer does not have exact change.

If customers have not erected psychological steel walls around themselves before encountering this wide-spread attitude, leaving a place of business can often be accompanied by tears or seething anger.

One would-be bank robber, who it is assumed is familiar with Germany's service culture, thought the gun might be more powerful against the disposition, but he was oh-so-wrong.

According to police, a young man entered a bank in the town of Arnstadt, pistol in hand, and put a note in front of a teller that demanded cash. The woman, surely drawing on what she knew best, even in a time of crisis, simply ignored the gun, the note and the man -- completely.

Although he stood there for a while, her icy disregard soon disarmed him mentally. He lost his nerve and fled, realizing that even with a gun, he had no chance against the teller's steely attitude.

Police are still searching for the man, thought to be between 20 and 25 years of age. He is no doubt still shaking for that sub-zero blast of bad customer service, but on the positive side, it might have turned him off a future life of crime.