Dutch people often make jokes about Belgian people in which they describe them as stupid. It's meant in a funny way cause everybody knows it's not true. I'm living in Belgium for more than a year now and I can second that. But I have a theory where the prejudice comes from. A lot of Dutch people cross the border to visit Antwerp for a day. They usually go by train. So the train personnel are often the first Belgians they meet. And in my experience these are the dumbest employees I've ever met. So that's a bad first impression.
This is only an opinion and of course not all railway employees are stupid. But (and maybe it's a total coïncidence) most of them I've met show a total lack of brain activity, are narrowminded and are ignorant to any complaints that you might have. It's not that they lack intelligence. Their problem is that they get orders from their boss and they stick to those orders no matter what. If there's been a train accident, they'd probably give you a fine for smashing in the windows to get out.
And the desk employees are the worst. Today I found that out again. I wanted to get my new yearly ticket. In my hurry to get my train I forgot to check my new pass. On the escalator that leads to the platform I checked if everything was right and I found out that an additional ticket was missing. Because last year they didn't give me one either, I knew that I needed one to get on the train.
I went back to the guy who gave me the ticket. He argued that I should use my old pass because it's still valid. I said it isn't. He said it is. I showed him my old pass and the expired date on it. "That doesn't seem to be valid, does it?". He told me it's valid. "So I can board the train with an expired ticket?", I asked him, "Cause it's not the 13th of February anymore". With a severe frown and a look of disdain towards me he tried to hide his shame for making a mistake. It was as if I was the one who offended him by talking him into making a mistake. He literally tossed the additional ticket to me. Finally my pass was valid, but I missed my train.
And this is not the first time I've had those incidents with desk employees. And I've heard even weirder stories from other people. Who's hiring these people? The train company must get government support for hiring these morons because all they do is giving them a bad name. I trust mentally handicapped people more because at least they'd do an effort to think and would be more precise. I cannot really find a short term solution for solving this problem. Maybe they should send all of the employees on a crash course in customer service. Either that, or they should hang up a sign that says 'use simple words and talk slowly'.