I am 33

Back in February this year, I decided to challenge  myself by coming up with a list of 33 things to accomplish before I turn 33.  Well, here I am just hours away from turning 33 as I’m writing this.  I guess now is a good time for me to reflect on what I have and haven’t done this year.  Out of the 33 things I wanted to do, I managed to complete only 9.  That’s quite bad.  I’m ashamed of myself to be honest.  You see, I have this really bad habit (among many others) of not finishing what I’ve started.  So this is what I’m going to do.  I will complete the rest of the things on my list while I’m 33.  The challenge now is 33 things to do at 33.  Yeah, I know it’s a bit lame but I really want to complete all of them.  Some of the things on my list are very important to me such as learning Slovak.   A student of mine told me that instead of learning one word a day (which I very often failed to do), I should learn one phrase or sentence a day.  I like that idea.  Now I just have to find ways to motivate myself.  I always think of having to speak only in Slovak language to the ill-tempered and unfriendly Slovak immigration officers who don’t speak a word of English.  That usually motivates me.

Oh and to all my blog readers (yes, I have like 3 loyal blog readers)  I want to thank you for all your support and encouragement over the last months.  It is so motivating to hear I inspire you to do the same or that you are learning Slovak language with me.  Of course my friends and students have been wonderful too.  I know that they know I have a blog and that I’m pretty sure they don’t read it.   And I’m wondering how many of them will go, “Hah! I told you you wouldn’t be able to finish your tasks. We know you too well, Hon!”

Blacklisted! (Places and businesses in Slovakia to avoid at all costs)

I’ve lived in Bratislava for 8 years.  I must say my overall experience of living here has been a positive one.  Sure, there are always things that are less than satisfactory but in general, I find that services and businesses in Slovakia are getting better, albeit slowly.  Having said that, once in a while I come across some businesses that are just plain nightmares.   I’m talking about private businesses that treat their customers like crap, have zero professionalism,  probably have never heard of ‘customer service’ and brazenly rip their customers off.  It’s baffling how such businesses in Slovakia are able to run for many years and sometimes, thrive.

I know there’s little I can do as a person to change this situation.  The thing is, I do love Bratislava.  It is my adopted city, my home for the last 8 years and I want the city to prosper and develop.  For every bad business owner, there are tons of other good and professional owners.  I’m only one person but I have decided to make a conscious decision to support good, ethical and professionally run businesses.  By that I mean businesses that don’t treat you like a piece of shit when you walk into their stores or premises.  I will spend my hard earned Euros on businesses that really want to earn their customers’ trust.  And that is why I started a new column on my blog called Blacklisted.

I will add businesses that are on my blacklist here and also tell you why you should avoid them at all costs.  Feel free to pass this list on to your friends so they are informed and will hopefully choose to spend their hard earned money on a better business.  Also, if you have any horror stories regarding any businesses in Slovakia, do send me a message or post a reply below.  Together, we can change the quality of services here for the better, one business at a time.

Hon’s Blacklist

Business name: Foto Studio Video Sopko

Address:  Marianska 12/14, Bratislava

How it earned a spot on the list:

This place is dodgy and dishonest. I went in for a passport photo.  They charged me 10Euros for 4 passport sized pictures.  A bit pricey for Bratislava? Definitely.  But it was urgent and I desperately needed the photos done.  I paid and then I noticed on a sign in the shop that the price for 4 passport photos was 4Euros.  Too late for me.  That wasn’t even the worst part.  My passport picture turned out awful.  I looked stressed and shocked in the picture and I didn’t even get to say if I want the picture or not.  The photographer, who is probably also the owner, chose the picture and had it printed out without first asking me to check the quality of the picture.  Of course, then the sizes came out all wrong even though I told him the exact specifications required by my embassy.  I even handed him the sheet which shows how the exact picture should be.  It was at that point that he got very aggressive and started yelling at me in Slovak.  He refused to print out a new set of photos which conform to the specifications required by my embassy.  After some argument in Slovak, and some mediating from his wife (I assumed that was his wife), he finally printed another set but still with the wrong sizes.  When I told him the sizes are still wrong, he screamed and said the people from my embassy are stupid and some other things which I didn’t understand.  He then proceeded to open the entrance door of his store to signal that I should get the hell out of there.  So I told them thank you very much and enjoy the 10 Euros (in Slovak of course).

New Doc 4_1The actual receipt from the store showing the 10Euros charge for 4 passport sized pictures (That’s more expensive than in Vienna which costs 9Euros).

2013-11-11 11.54.48-1The blacklisted store. Beware! This business is run by walking nightmares.