Spanish Vocabulary for Customer Service Problems

Spanish Vocabulary for Customer Service Problems
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  • 0:02 Different Cultural…
  • 1:05 Customer Service Desk
  • 2:09 Ask in Advance
  • 3:21 After Your Purchase
  • 4:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

The Spanish-speaking culture handles customer service problems differently from the way you may be used to. This lesson gives you the basic vocabulary along with some cultural notes that are as useful as the language tips.

Different Cultural Norms in Service

Sandra is in Bogotá, Colombia, and is very happy she found a sweater for her mom. But when she gets back to the hotel and asks her mom to try on the sweater, it's too small. Sandra and her mom go back to the store and after trying a few sweaters, they realize there is not one that fits her mom. She asks for a refund and finds out the store does not allow refunds. Sandra did not read the sign on the window: 'Una vez salida la mercadería no se aceptan devoluciones,' which just so happens to translate to 'Once merchandise is out, we do not accept returns.'

Do not let this happen to you. Very often, Spanish-speaking stores do not refund or exchange items simply because it's not a common practice. In fact, many Hispanic people are amazed when they travel to countries like the U.S. and find out they can get a refund if they change their mind on an item. The words in the sign above are often placed in the store, but not always. So, this lesson is to help you clarify with some basic phrases. Let's begin.

Customer Service Desk

If you shop in a small store, as many neighborhood stores in Latin America and Spain are, you can often ask to talk to the owner directly. You say:

'¿Puedo hablar con el dueño?,' which means 'May I speak to the owner?'

The good news is small business owners are usually aware of what it takes to keep a good reputation and clientele. Very often, they easily accept an exchange, whereas a refund may be more difficult to get.

For department stores, which are fairly uncommon in smaller cities, you can search for a sign that reads:

'Atención al cliente' or 'Servicio al cliente.' Both mean 'customer service desk.' Here are some useful phrases:

  • 'Tengo una queja' means 'I have a complaint'
  • 'Quiero solicitar un reembolso' means 'I want to ask for a refund'
  • 'Quiero cambiar este producto' means 'I want to exchange this product'
  • 'Quiero terminar el contrato' means 'I want to end the contract'. This is applicable to phone, electricity, and similar services.

Ask in Advance

In case you're not sure about clothing or any other item, you can ask:

  • '¿Se aceptan devoluciones?' means 'Are returns accepted?'
  • '¿Se aceptan cambios?,' 'Are exchanges accepted?'
  • '¿Se puede cambiar esto por otro producto?' means 'Can I exchange this for another product?'

Given that most stores do not have a return or exchange policy, you may need to explain more. To do so, you can add the following to any of the questions above, depending on the case:

  • 'En caso de que no sea la talla correcta' means 'In case it is not the right size'
  • 'En caso de que no funcione correctamente' means 'In case it doesn't work properly'

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