Sunday, 2 May 2010

No smiles in Russia

It won't surprise anyone who has joined the queues to buy metro tickets on Monday mornings, or fallen foul of feis kontrol on Friday night, but Russians are among the world's worst for sunny smiles.

The stereotype of the surly babushka behind the counter, scowling at potential customers, has been backed up by an international survey, Gazeta reported on Friday.

Russia ranks 12th among 14 countries visited by mystery shoppers from local agency Nextep, looking for hints of happiness as they bought their daily bread.

And they found a third of Russian staff were stony faced, with the country scoring just 65 per cent on the smileometer - and tourist staff were among the least welcoming.

Sweden offered the sunniest shops, with 87 per cent of staff flashing a dazzling Nordic grin; Baltic neighbours Latvia (86 per cent) and Estonia (84 per cent) were close behind.

Only Croatia and Pakistan - which polled a miserable 34 per cent - did worse than Russia.

But perhaps Russia's apparent misery is a reflection of working conditions, particularly in the hard-pressed tourism sector and fast-food restaurants where Dmitry Levitsky of Retail Training Group told Gazeta that annual employee turnover runs at 300 per cent.

"We are often asked how to teach people to smile, but you cannot teach it," Levitsky said, adding that managers have to learn to keep an eye on their staff's moods, and cheer them up if necessary.

"Managers usually know how to force, but not how to encourage," he was quoted as saying.

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