Activate Your Shaming Potential: How to Get Things Done in The Beautiful Croatia

Total Croatia News

How does an ordinary citizen get an indifferent official to perform the basic tasks in Croatia when that citizen has no voice or power? Learn how to activate your shaming potential and get things done very quickly. 

(Important note – while the examples in this article are from a blogger’s experience, you really do not need to have your own blog for it to work – the mere potential of a shaming experience often works, according to friends who have used the tactic)

A few years ago on sunny Hvar, the Internet stopped working, a major problem when you are a blogger and require connectivity to spam the Internet with your thoughts. My long-suffering wife was asked to find out what the problem was and when it would be back, only to be told that it would take at least a week. 

Ah, The Beautiful Croatia. As a common man in the system, you do not matter and your voice will not be heard. A week without the Internet? Be grateful that they will let you have it back so quickly, even though you are paying for the ‘service’. 

After two days of relocating to smoky winter cafes in order to do my job, things got somewhat deperate on day three. With my wife in Split, I was forced to take my two young kids into the same smoky cafes in order to meet my writing deadlines for clients. Frustrated, I posted a question on my personal Facebook page, asking if anyone had a ‘Croatian’ solution to get my Internet back sooner. 

And so began a rather interesting journey into an aspect of Uhljebistan, which not many know about but works (to a greater and lesser degree) for all – the shaming potential. 

I received an FB message from a friend with the contact details of a PR lady in the telecoms company. My friend explained that the PR lady hated any bad publicity and would work hard to make sure that no negative publicity surfaced. My friend suggested a polite but frustrated request for help, with the hint that my frustration might boil over into words on the Internet if nothing could be done. An interesting idea. I decided to give it a try.

I am a British journalist living in Jelsa on Hvar since 2002. I am a customer of your company and have been experiencing very poor customer service and general service over the last couple of weeks, and it was suggested that I write to you and perhaps you might be in a position to fix things a little quicker.

My TV package stopped working more than 3 weeks ago. While a little inconvenient, it is not a major crisis. However the Internet stopped working on Friday. As a blogger and journalist who works from home, this affects my life very directly, and your customer support told us it would take a week to fix, which is clearly unacceptable. I have had to spend the last two days sitting in noisy cafes away from my family to meet writing deadlines.

I would ask you kindly to ask someone to look into our internet problem. It is the latest customer complaint I have from the many foreigners who use your service, something it might be interesting to highlight in a Google News article perhaps?

All I want to do is to be able to do my job in the comfort of my own office, which is not too much to expect when we pay for the Internet service.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

What happened next was truly incredible. Just under two minutes later, a reply: 

Dear Mr. Bradbury,

Thank you for contacting me and sincerest apologies for the problem we did not solve;

I informed my relevant colleagues – we will get back to you with the solution asap;

kindest regards,

And less than half an hour later, my Internet was fully restored, my kids’ health protected and my bar bill reduced. I was astonished at just how quickly things can happen in The Beautiful Croatia, if those who can make things happen have a reason to do so. Often this is in the form of money (bribes), but here was a new aspect to bring to the party – the ability to shame them into doing so, rather than these officials being publicly embarrassed or outed for their incompetence. 

It got more interesting. A few weeks later, a friend of mine who ran a tourist agency on the island called me. His business Internet had gone down, and he had been told it would be weeks before they could fix it. During the tourist season. In a panic, he called and asked what I had done to get my Internet fixed so quickly. I decided to email my efficient PR lady once more (I had also had another problem with the company in the interim, which was also fixed promptly):

Firstly, apologies in the delay in thanking you for your prompt action to fix the various problems. I mean that genuinely, and if you were working in PR and customer service in America, it would be hard to find a better response.

The problem is that while you are excellent at your job, the system is clearly not working. I have friends, for example, who run a tourism business on Hvar, and they are now TWO weeks without Internet, which is clearly a challenge when running a tourism business on such a popular island such as Hvar.

They are copied on this email, and if you had time to look into it, I am sure they would appreciate it.

Three hours later, an engineer was on site, and the Internet was restored. Amazed, my friend complimented the engineer on the speed of his response. 

“It is not usual. But I have been told that when the fat English guy in Jelsa complains, I need to react.”

The Shaming Potential in The Beautiful Croatia. It was at this point that I realised that there are three groups in Croatian society – the uhljebs – those in power and positions of influence through cousins, connections and political patronage; the masses who make up most of the population and who do not matter; and the small percentage of the masses who have an outlet to make public some of the shameful things in Croatian society and the worst (or is it best?) practices of our uhljeb friends. Having a popular blog had given me a voice – better to fix the Internet instantly rather than risk some bad press and column inches (especially in English) on the incompetence of an uhljeb and/or his company/organisation. 

But this is the interesting bit. The Shaming Potential is not confined to journalists and popular bloggers, it is there for all to use. An important lesson I learned in dealing with many (not all – there are some truly outstanding public officials in Croatia, who really go beyond their job description to help – sadly they are in a minority) officials is that they have no interest in you or your needs or problems, and if you are not in a position to challenge their world order or make them feel the least bit uncomfortable, then you can forget any help whatsoever. 

I also learned that many officials in Croatia are from the older generation and the older system, and they know nothing about concepts such as blogging, social media and virality. And they want to keep it that way. And this is where your shaming potential can be used to get those simple things done, for the very prospect of them being entangled with blogging, social media and virality has them trembling with fear. 

A few years ago, I imported a car into Croatia. It was a wonderful day, being thrown from office to office, stamping more trees than were planted in Croatia that month, and generally being exposed to Croatian bureaucracy at its finest. I was sent to office number 5, where I was told I needed yet one more stamp. I knocked and entered to find a gruff official in his late fifties concentrating on his computer screen (it turned out that it was a particularly intense game of Hearts or Angry Birds, I don’t remember which). He looked up at me, listened to my pathetic attempts to speak his language, then returned to his screen. This was going to be difficult. 

“In addition to the stamp I need, I am writing a blog for an American website on the changes in the customs procedure in Croatia after EU entry. Could I have a quote from you, and perhaps a photo of you for the article?” There was a look of terror, a motioning to hand over my papers, a stamp and signature applied, and I was out the door in 30 seconds, ready for my next battle. 

He had no idea what a blog was, was even less interested to be featured on it. All he knew was that the last thing his comfortable lifestyle required was to be featured anywhere, and the quickest way to ensure that did not happen was to get rid of this troublesome person. 

And the beautiful thing is that you do not need to have a blog for this to work, you just need to plant the seed that there is a potential of shaming, and it is often enough to do the trick. Are you an older retiree, who doesn’t look like a typical blogger? No problem, you have a son, a foreign daughter-in-law, or some other friend who runs a popular blog and is interested in writing about such things. Frame your question correctly, and you will be surprised at the results. Several friends of mine have been very happy with the results. The important thing to remember is that these uhljebs like things the way they are, and they will go to great lengths to keep it that way. 

Ah, life in The Beautiful Croatia – it would be boring if it was a proper country. 




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