Service in TnT: Good News/Bad News
If you’re visiting Trinidad & Tobago or planning on staying here for a few years, here’s some good news/bad news you won’t see on our government websites and tourist brochures.
The bad news:
Service in Trinidad is not good (steeeups) and according to some it’s even worse in Tobago. If you've been to Barbados and the tourists spots in Jamaica don't expect that level of service here. As a Jamaican friend described it to me, he said in Jamaica there are three kinds of service: 1. tourist service (good) 2. Friend service (very good) and 3. 'Res' ah dem' service (very bad).
In Trinidad and Tobago we only have the last two and "Res ah dem" (rest-of-them) service is the prevalent everyday service that most people complain about. So unless you have the relationships to get the "Friend" service, make sure to bring your patience and reading material ... this may take a while.
The good news
Service is better than it was a decade or more ago and there are hopeful signs that it’s getting better. I now routinely experience good to very good service at my local Hi-lo supermarket, SuperPharm and StarLite pharmacies that are all located within spitting distance from each other in Maraval. (Wonder if that has anything do with it?)
But I'm also experiencing good service; yes smiling faces and attentiveness at some restaurants and banks (praise for First Citizens).
Unfortunately, as more and more Trinis have international experience and our expat community grows our expectations may be outpacing our ability to find and train good service providers.
Why such bad service?
Here’s what Kathryn McConnie lecturer at the Trinidad & Tobago Hospitality and Tourism institute had to say.
"Service in T&T is evaluated based on international standards. There are varying standards throughout the world. I believe that the Caribbean could create and follow their own service standards as this region is uniquely personal in doing business and providing service. This then being so T&T would still be pretty low down the ladder as we compare to our regional counterparts. But let me say that service in Tobago is certainly worse than Trinidad.
All being said though, we need to review our history, where Caribbean culture originated, how it has been influenced by the varying settlers and under what circumstances they came. This has made the Caribbean a nurturing and caring people as they empathized with each other during their oppressive journey to this region. But they are also bitter as they really didn't want to be brought here. Hence work is an evil necessity. Other settlers who came voluntarily, had the determination to succeed and considered their journey of opportunity as a gift, as such they understand the need for great service. These people are mainly North Americans.
With this in mind if we keep this beautiful warm nature of our Caribbean people and add in the determination to succeed of the North American settlers, T&T along with the rest of the region would be the ultimate providers of service excellence.
Additionally T&T having been spoiled by the wealth of black gold (OIL), has not had the need to understand the great value of service. So the combination of all of these things has resulted in us being poor service providers.
As a person who believes in featuring the positive attributes so as to build self confidence and awareness, I must say that service although it still has a long way to go has improved within the last 10 years (possibly because the poor service has been verbally noted aloud and customers are more demanding and aware of their rights). Maybe if T&T creates the Caribbean service standards we may be more apt to following them thereby improving our service with the ultimate goal being Caribbean Service Excellence."
So Manage Your Expectations
Don't expect world class service and you won't be disappointed, and you'll be pleased when you encounter people really doing their best. And that you will.
We are a naturally welcoming and jovial people with an amazing joie de vivre which you would expect to translate into a uniquely pleasant and effective service experience, but alas ... not so; at least not yet. Oil wealth and the historical influence of slavery have co-mingled to create an unwillingness to serve. Generally speaking of course, and one person's (actually two) perspective so feel free to add your own below.
But focus on d' positive: "we are gettin' bettah!" Stay tuned for some things we can all do help improve service levels in Trinidad.