Best of British

Bad Customer Service in Britain

As a nation, we have many positives, our Royal Family, beautiful countryside, and extensive history to name but a few. But when it comes to customer service and the levels that we deem acceptable in Britain we are sadly lacking.

The standard of customer service as a whole in this country is woefully bad – and what’s worse is that the majority of us British people accept it as it has become the norm. 

Bad customer service britian

Having spent many years living in other countries before returning to reside in Britain only further confirms that our level of service is poor, to say the least.

There is virtually no eye-contact or greeting on entering establishments, wait times are abysmal, and politeness is a rarity.

So why is our customer service in Britain so very bad, and why do we continue to accept it?

What’s wrong with British customer service?

waiter serving drinks britain

In a nutshell, everything. I have spent much time traveling to other countries and have experienced customer service the way it should be. It is just not so in Britain.

When was the last time you walked into a pub or shop to immediately be greeted with eye contact and a smile with a cheery ‘Hello, can I help you?’.

Instead, cashiers and service staff stubbornly keep their heads and their here lowered as if terrified that they may actually have to engage. Well, I’m sorry but shouldn’t YOU the customer feel like you are the priority?

Service Industry culture

service industry culture

Before everyone that works in the service industry starts leaving comments about customers that are demanding, awkward, unreasonable etc and that they work a million hours for low money I get all that. But that is the nature of the business. 


A number of people will always be terrible to deal will but I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about normal everyday customers who don’t even receive the basic politeness one should expect.

I have witnessed everything in this country from sullenness to downright ignorance and rudeness and our bad customer service in Britain is rife.

As for low wages, many countries pay their service staff much lower rates and the rest is made up of tips. A practice I didn’t necessarily agree with at first but it does foster a culture of being service-oriented and willing to help the customer so maybe it’s not a bad idea!

Examples of Britain’s Poor Service

office table with pile of papers

Where to start? There’s simply just a pervasive culture in the country of low levels of attention to detail and attending to the customer. 

I’ve been to a well known electrical outlet recently to check out a camera I wanted to buy and was told to go and buy it from one of the store’s own competitors as they couldn’t let me see their model in operation.

I’ve been to countless restaurants were servers stubbornly refuse to make eye contact lest, God Forbid, you ASK them for something. I’ve been served food and had to wait 20 minutes for a knife and fork to eat it with, and had generally slow service in numerous places. 

Is bad service an epidemic?

bad service epidemic in britain

It’s everywhere you go, unfortunately, from food establishments to entertainment venues, to shops, and almost everywhere else you go.

But it does beg the question WHY do we continue to accept this poor treatment. Has it become so commonplace that it is now expected. Or is it that we as a culture have been raised with the ‘wait your turn’ mentality?

Whatever the reason terrible service persists and pervades.

Do we in Britain ignore bad service?

person holding opened space gray iPad

It’s not so much that we ignore it. It’s just that it has become so imagined that we are desensitized to it. A recent trip to a well-known theme park for a weekend with the kids, the place wasn’t cheap but the check-in was slow, I noted that the carpets in reception were covered in bits and unswept – not a great first impression, and the toilets in the park smelled strongly of urine.

The breakfast area was dirty and messy, trash all around the coffee machine, food not replenshed on the buffet and staff handling food and bread without gloves! It’s just not acceptable guys!!

What needs to change?

Change neon light signage

A bit of care and attention to detail wouldn’t go amiss but can we really change attitudes as an entire culture? The higher-end places seem to get it right more often but not always, top-end eateries or boutique designer fashion shops for example.

Paying a higher rate seems to ensure a bit better level of service as you might expect, but should we always be paying top rates to guarantee being treated properly as a paying customer?

Maybe the more expensive establishments do better due to increased customer awareness or simply because of better staff training, but as a whole that attention to customers’ needs could do to permeate other industries and outlets.

What can we do as the customer?

man in grey crew-neck t-shirt smiling to woman on counter

The all-encompassing bad service level in Britain has been so long the accepted standard that a change in mentality will be hard to achieve.

Some of it lies with us, the customer, to stop accepting sub-standard, and complain when things are right.

This doesn’t mean being outwardly belligerent or complaining unnecessarily but calmly say when you’ve been made to wait beyond what should be expected of anyone and send that meal back that’s not cooked properly. 


In short, it would be nice to see a better level of customer service throughout Britain and higher attention to cleanliness. (Call me if you need an honest assessment of your business, I’ll be happy to go in and give you an honest undercover review!)

Providing a good customer experience simply can’t be avoided because a place is short-staffed or on the cheapest end of the scale. Bad service should not be our expectation as a society.  

What is some of the worst service you have received recently?

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