Italian Customer Service


Uttering the words Italian and customer service in one breath is as bad as using King Herod and child care in the same sentence they just don’t go together, except in the case of our local macellaio. Mario knows this particular pazzo Inglese can be forced to buy his wonderful homemade sausages, fillets of steak and other tasty produce, all Mario has to do is point at them and say ancora? And I will nod happily and say si si.

I also receive incredible service from the local corner shop. Maria who serves behind the counter always serves me before anyone else in the shop. It doesn’t matter who is waiting to be served or how many people are queuing to pay she always says prego prego as she gestures me to the front of the queue. No no io sono bene. I will reply. But the other women who are either gossiping about local village life or queuing to pay soon join in prego prego they chant.

So I am forced to go to the front of the queue and using my appalling Italian start purchase my shopping. When Maria and the women first started to invite me to queue jump I initially thought it was due to the respect Mrs Sensible holds as the local school teacher; she is not called Mrs Sensible in the village but Maestra. It took the episode of the peaches for me to realise why they always let me go to the front of the queue.

Mrs Sensible sent me to the shop one afternoon to purchase five peaches, now I know you normally buy fruit by the weight but I am aware of my limitations when it comes to ordering in Italian so I began with Io Bisogno cinque pesche per favore, (I understand that I should us “vorrei” and not bisogno but it never sounds right when I say it) Maria gave me one of those looks that are saved for the village idiot, I hadn’t noticed at this point that one or two of the women were already giggling and snorting into their handkerchiefs, I just thought there was a cold going around.

Maria disappeared into the back of the shop where the freezers are kept. I thought this was really odd as the peaches were in baskets just to the right of me. Stupid old bat I thought. Maria returned with one box of fish fingers, one frozen fillet of fish in a box and what looked like a piece of old shoe leather that might or might not have been dried fish.

Fish Fingers

Fish Fingers

Erh no no!! I said, pesche I repeated pointing at the basket of peaches cinque pesche. Maria grinned and said pesca Peter pesca.

The women behind me were dabbing their eyes and thinking the pazzo inglese never fails to let us down this time he ordered five fish instead of five peaches. With as much dignity as I could muster I worked my way through the rest of my shopping and thankfully left the shop.

24 thoughts on “Italian Customer Service

  1. ooh what a wonderful start of my day, LOL I am in stitches !!!!!!! (ps ps it’s macellaio not macellare, edit edit before Signora Maestra comes….) 😉


  2. Oh God, this made me laugh so hard as it reminded me so much of my time in Italy. I lived in the small place (Roe Volciano, close to Salo) and the atmosphere was just like that in the local shops!
    Thank you,


    • Hi Daniela, I can see the glint in their eye as I enter the shop. Maria can serve me without grinning or laughing, but the others just giggle into their hankies. I am glad I made you laugh and thank you for the comment it is great encouragement.


    • It really isn’t fair. Sometimes I will ask Mrs Sensible the correct way to ask for something, and on my way to the shop I will chant the the sentence in my head just like we used to in school 2 x 5 =10 etc Only for someone to wave and shout caio and as I wave back and shout buongiorno I realise that I have forgot the sentence that Mrs Sensible had spent 5 mins teaching me.


  3. A few years ago I was in Naples with a friend who spoke fluent Spanish – I don’t speak Spanish or Italian. So my friend seemed to be getting by pretty well – until in one shop she used the Spanish term for something and everyone fell about laughing because in local slang it meant something very rude. After that I was made to ask for everything in English, which took much longer…..


    • You went to Naples!!!!!

      I drove into Naples by mistake and as I was frantically trying to find the way back to the motorway Mrs Sensible was stripping me of my watch, wallet etc.

      We had a minor domestic when she wanted to hide the Sat Nav in the glove box.


      • Yeah went to Naples and had a great time – never had nothing nicked… of course given that my much missed mother was a skillful pickpocket herself I’ve learnt a thing or two about protecting myself from that sort of thing – the men in my mother’s family went in for burglary and left the dipping and hoisting to the women…..


  4. So funny! Sounds like my Spanish. I never remember the name for “kill” and only remember “mata” which means murder. So the gardeners are used to me saying, “Por Favor mata los caracols.”
    Translation: “Please murder the snails.”


  5. I STILL confuse la sieppe and la siepe – not a problem if I have to write them (but how often does is one required to write cuttlefish or hedge?), but I can get into a mess with the pronunciation and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve spoken about “triming the cuttlefish” and how our “cuttlefish is growing rapidly this year”!


    • Last Christmas, we had just finished a great meal at one of our Sicilian Aunties house, when I decided to thank her for the wonderful dog she had just served. Cane- dog Carne – meat.


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