Tag Archives: customer service

Shopping

21 Jan

I love shopping at Mastnak on Neubaugasse. It’s the epitome of the kind of specialty store Vienna used to have hundreds of (or perhaps thousands–I’m not very good with numbers).

In this case, their specialty is paper and office supplies, although they also have a very good arts and crafts department. A fews days ago when I was there, I was looking for refills for a four-color Lamy pen I’ve had since I was a teenager and erasers for a Faber-Castell propelling lead pencil. (You can keep your Mont Blancs and your Graf von Faber-Castels. I’m a middle-of-the-road kind of woman who appreciates quality and ease of writing but doesn’t want to take out a mortgage for a writing implement.)

I knew that I could get the Lamy refills because I have bought them there many times. I was less sure about the erasers, but having struck out at Libro (the Austrian equivalent of Staples, where I bought the pencil itself) I thought Mastnak was my best bet. I never should have doubted them. Even though I neglected to take the pencil to show them (Faber-Castell makes a lot of different models) they promptly took me to the right drawer and provided me with a pack of three erasers (the original eraser lasted at least five years so we’re talking fifteen years of use here) for a little over EUR 2. While I was there, I was reminded of the year I decided to use up old candle ends and make my own candles. I remembered how to do that from summer camp, but I had no idea where to get wicks. Well, that arts and crafts department I mentioned, which shares the floor with the pencil erasers–they sell wicks, among many other things.

For the record, I am someone who hates to throw out a toaster, for example, because I can’t repair it myself and the repair shop tells me it isn’t worth doing because the repair would cost twice what a new appliance would. I hate being made an accomplice to this wasteful, throwaway society we live in. For that reason, I deeply appreciate how the Mastnak product range and service make it possible to live an old-fashioned economical life, at least in my paper and office supplies. It makes possible a life where things (even old candle ends) aren’t just thrown away but are re-used.

As our grandparents could tell us, living economically in that way is also environmentally friendly. You don’t have to throw away the very nice propelling lead pencil because it doesn’t have an eraser anymore. You replace the eraser and get a couple more decades of use and pleasure out of it.  And beyond helping people recycle old candles and restore their mechanical pencils, Mastnak helps its customers live an environmentally friendly life by having a whole section of office products made, for example, from recycled paper. They even sell the inks you need to top up those refillable flipchart markers that most people don’t bother to refill, probably partly because it’s not easy to find the necessary ink.

Those aren’t the only points that make it a specialty store, though. Their staff know what they’re doing. They know where things are, even though the store is on several floors and has things squeezed into every corner. They understand what you need even from your rather flawed descriptions. And they are helpful. None of the quite common “Das gibt’s nicht” (“There’s no such thing”, which means “I’ve never heard of it” or “We don’t stock it” or maybe even “I’d have to get a ladder to get it down from the top shelf and that is just too much trouble”), which you might hear at other stores in Vienna. At Mastnak, they smile at you and lead you to the thing you’re looking for.

How can Mastnak survive, I hear you asking, when they take up time and space with erasers that only cost EUR 2 for a pack of three? For one thing, they sell Mont Blancs, too, and one Mont Blanc probably pays the rent for at least a week. For another thing, the store was crowded when I was there, with short lines at each of the several cash registers. They probably also have a thriving online business. Being lucky enough to live in this city, though, I’ve never used it.

Customer service

4 Mar

Many Americans don’t equate good customer service with Vienna. I find that you experience the extremes of good and bad customer service here more than in the U.S.A., where service is more standardized. 

This (Saturday) morning I was given really good service. I was passing through the Schottenpassage at 7:15 on my way to teach all day and wanted to pick up a sandwich for my lunch. Mann was not yet open. This left Anker, which was open but had no veggie sandwiches. The woman behind the counter said her colleague could make me one and offered a choice of two kinds. I was about to say that I didn’t have time but then realized I did have some leeway and that the day would be long with just the müsli bar I had in my bag, so I chose the cheese on a whole wheat roll. It was in my hand almost before I had finished paying for it, and I was on my way with provisions. When I unwrapped the sandwich at lunch time it seemed to have more cheese than usual. 🙂

The whole experience really set me up for the day.