When dining out at a restaurant, your waitress may be all business. There is no effort made to make small talk, and you may even feel like you've been forgotten between the long stretch of time your order is taken to the moment your food arrives. While eating your meal, you may not see your waiter or waitress. If you're in a hurry, you will have to flag down someone to get your bill.
For vacationers, and especially for those who find the questions of waitstaff in the U.S. patronizing, this lazy, no-nonsense attitude towards serving diners is refreshing. No diner is hurried out of a restaurant or cafe because other diners are waiting. There is plenty of time to enjoy the meal, share a drink, and relax feet tired from walking around Krakow or Warsaw.
However, for those who are in a hurry or have a decidedly Westernized view of customer service, service will be agonizingly slow. Waitstaff in Polish restaurants have been described as intimidating, condescending, or insulting. It's nothing personal; it's just the way they are. Westerners have grown sensitive to this perceived disdain, while in Poland, it's par for the course.
In touristy areas of major cities, customer service will be a bit better. Staff will be used to dealing with foreigners and sometimes offer assistance beyond what their position requires – if you have a question about the menu, the area, or Poland culture, these individuals will help, even if they don't appear to be overflowing with gratitude that you have delayed them an extra minute from returning to prescribed duties.
At shops, no one will leap to assist you. Gaining the attention of a staff member is entirely your responsibility. If, for any reason, you have to stand in line (for example, to buy a train ticket), it is also your responsibility to maintain your position in that line. No one else – least of all the ticket sales clerk – will do it for you.
In Poland, it's questionable whether any staff members at any establishment recognize (or care) that business is important to the establishment's future, so the belief of visitors from the States that their patronage is important to the establishment gets them nowhere. When you visit a Polish restaurant, you are paying for a seat you may occupy as long as you like and a meal that may or may not be to your taste. When you shop for food or other items, you pay for your item and leave. Customer service isn't covered in the price you pay.
One deviation from the norm: if you are served by the owner of the restaurant, shop, or hotel, your service will be good, particularly if the owner is female. New business owners practice customer service that is more in keeping with what is expected in the U.S. - however, do recognize that these individuals are often overworked and do have other patrons that need the same level of customer service.