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.

Completed goal #32

32. Try go-kart racing – completed! (27.7.2013)

So last Saturday I tried go-kart racing for the first time.  I didn’t know what to expect but I must say I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the place was very well run.  They had electric go-karts (pollution free) and a modern facility.  The staff were not very helpful but I think it’s because of language barrier.  Luckily my friends were able to explain how to drive a go-cart to me.  They mentioned about a turbo button on the steering wheel which when pressed, will turbo charge the speed for about 10 seconds.  I didn’t get to experiment with it since I felt I was going fast enough without hitting the safety rail.  Ok, to be honest, I sucked.  I was the slowest driver.  You can see the race results in the picture below.  Anyway, it was still fun.  I already made a mental note to myself that next time I will not be such a wuss.

go cart

Neon Dreams

Over the last few months I’ve been working on a charity event to raise fund for my cousin, Daniel Chong. Read more about his story here – http://www.gofundme.com/2e7j74 Of course I can’t do this on my own. A friend of mine, Tony, has helped a lot. Not only has he volunteered to be the DJ, he also got me a really nice venue for the event. It’s a lot of work organizing a charity event. Still, it’s been a great learning experience. If you happen to be in Bratislava on or around the 20th of June this year, do come and party with me! It’s all for a good cause. Here’s the video I made to promote the event. Making the video itself was a great learning experience. It was the first time I experimented with light painting technique. Again, I’m really thankful to all my friends who helped out as “light painters”. The event is next week and I’m getting really nervous and excited at the same time.

Slovak word of the day

Nikdy sa nevzdávaj – never give up

Today’s Slovak word of the day is actually a phrase.  There’s a story behind this.  I recently met a young Slovak police officer with the English phrase “never give up” tattooed on his forearm.  He spoke very little English. With my limited Slovak and his limited English, we somehow managed to have a brief but rather amusing conversation.  He told me his dream was to visit New York City someday. He said he had been learning English for a year.   He had the phrase tattooed on his forearm to motivate himself to learn English.  I told him in my broken Slovak that I should probably tattoo the same phrase but in Slovak on my forehead.  Not sure if he got my joke but he smiled politely.

I told him that I’m learning Slovak.  He gave me a surprised look and then he said, “Slovak is a very difficult language to learn”, as if to warn me.  He then proposed that we should have language exchange lessons.  I smiled and said, “samozrejme!”, but it was a lie and I knew it wouldn’t work.  Through the years, countless of Slovakians have offered me language exchange lessons.  It’s always the same proposal. They teach me Slovak and at the same time they get to practice their English on me. It sounds like a great idea but in reality, it takes a lot of patience to teach someone a new language. The fact is, not everybody is a good teacher.   It’s like you agree with a friend to swap cars for a week and then you realize what a bad idea it is because your friend’s car is a piece of junk.

Anyway, I really admire this young officer’s determination to learn English.  I do hope he will achieve his goals.  As I’m writing this I realize I’m way behind with my Slovak words this month.  Nikdy sa nevzdávaj!