You’re starting to understand the matter. The thing is that when you complain about something or you’re not completely satisfied with some service or product, English speakers are the first to offer you instant solutions. They’re the kings of customer satisfaction, and in addition, they do it in such a way that they really get you to leave content in any situation, no matter how bad it is.
What has happened is that their eardrums are a little bit sensitive and not only do they not support the raised tone of voice that Spanish (and Portuguese) speakers use all the time, but they also consider it a horrible habit that only shows that a person doesn’t know how to keep calm, and it’s rude, which is very, very repulsive to this culture.
Anyone who doesn’t follow the normal rules of Anglo-politeness is out of place. Not only do they ignore you with contempt, but they also set in motion their self defense mechanisms (which basically consist of following strict procedure—i.e. a lot of paperwork).
They have procedures for absolutely everything. They fill out paperwork, totally by hand because, contrary to what you might think, they’re not very automated.
And then, wow, you wise up… you’re clever
That’s how you turn the page (change things). You’ve learned your lesson. You go shopping with your friends because some suspicious, black clouds have appeared over the horizon, so you quickly change your plan from spending the first day relaxing on Miami Beach’s golden sands.
Right after you finish paying for the first outfit you’ve bought, you leave the shop and you realize that it’s ripped! What the hell? You return furious, your eyes become bloodshot… then you have a moment of clarity and you remember your recent complaining experiences.
That’s how you decide to maximally apply, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do,” by imitating the behavior of your American friends that are so wise that in just 24 hours they’ve managed to teach you how to act in their country.
You take a deep breath, you count to ten. You don’t blink. You put on the same face as the flight attendant and, raising your voice (just a little bit in order to smoothen your voice), you first say the magic word, sorry, because “sorry” is like saying “hola/óla” (or hello) for Spanish/Portuguese speakers, and it basically serves to pave the way towards your malevolent objective.
You proceed to explain extremely calmly, without showing your anger and with a big smile, what happened with your purchase. You do the following, you nicely ask for a refund of your money in a firm demand (although suavely and politely). You continue without blinking, and continue smiling the whole time.
The saleswoman begs for your forgiveness. She offers you a thousand alternatives. She exchanges the outfit without even asking to see the sales receipt, and she even offers you not only a coupon for VIP customers so you can choose an accessory from the recently launched summer collection—you already saw a cute necklace that goes with your dress—but she also gives you another coupon (the Americans are also the kings of coupons) so that you can get a free soda (refreshment), on the house.
You’ve learned your lesson! Friendliness is the best way for you to get someone to pay attention to you. You must be firm, of course, but you don’t have to lose your composure. If you had known that in the plane, you surely would have gotten to ride in first class with seven gold-embroidered blankets, talking to some celebrity!