Grab and pay. Don't wait in silence.
Yesterday I went to Carrefour to get myself a radio (something I have been supposed to do for 2 months now). I wasn’t after something fancy, but simply a radio, so when I saw an old-looking, dusty black thing in one of the display window’s at the cashier’s counter I decided to settle for that (decent price as well, 88 kuai). I went to line up, but as usual I was the only one lining and everyone else were just pushing, elbowing and screaming to get ahead. I wasn’t in the mood to engage in that sort of game, so I simply stood and waited until the cashier woman wasn’t busy anymore, and asked her for the black old radio.
My attempted purchase was met with laughter.
-Oh my, that laowai wants to buy that crappy old radio! Said the girl to a workmate and they both giggled. I couldn’t bother to say anything.
But then came a problem. The radio didn’t have a price tag with a bar code, but simply a price tag. The woman had nothing to scan.
-Eh… wait a moment, she told me. By that time, 8964398634 new people had gathered around the counter, wanting to pay for their purchases, and I was pushed to the side.
I watched to cashier woman helping 5 customers, ignoring me completely, until I got annoyed.
-Can I pay for my radio? I said and reached out a 100 kuai bill.
-Eh.. yes. Just wait a moment.
-We have to find a price tag for you?
-Yeah, but you are not looking, you are helping other customers. Who’s going to find the price tag?
She gave me an annoyed look and then yelled for a workmate. Another 5 minutes passed by and another 3 customers were served before a guy turned up. The cashier girl told him to look for an 88 kuai price tag. He gave her a tired look and turned around and was immediately pulled in by a potential customer, wanting to see a mobile phone. I watched him show the customer a phone. Then I watched him show someone else a camera. Then I saw him chit-chatting with someone else.
-CAN I PAY FOR MY RADIO!!! I almost yelled. I had been waiting for 20 minutes, I saw everything that was going on and I knew that no one was looking for a price tag but simply helping other.
-Wait a moment, miss! Said the cashier girl. We are looking for a price tag for your radio. You will be able to pay immediately (she used the word ‘ma shang’ –immediately. I hate this word in China because it has absolutely no meaning. ‘Ma shang’ can mean everything from in 1 minute to in 20 minutes).
-No you are not! I said. You are just serving others.
An amused laughter was heard from the throng of people I was standing in. Some giggling and pointing followed the laughter (I swear I heard someone say ‘lao wai hen sheng qi’ –the lao wai is angry!) and I felt close to my bursting point.
-Can I just please pay!! I said and reached out my 100 kuai bill.
The cashier girl looked extremely annoyed, turned around to her work mate who was busy showing someone else a camera, and asked him for a 88 kuai price tag.
-Huh? I don’t have any? He said.
Big sigh from the girl. She then had to bend down, grab a book full of bar codes, and find the bar code for my radio. It took a total of 35 seconds. Then I could pay, and was handed the radio over the counter.
-Eh.. do you have a box for it? I said.
The girl looked around quickly.
-Eh no, sorry. No box for this.
(Gosh, if she would have at least bothered to open a drawer before she said that!? Then it might have sounded a little bit trust-worthy.)
End of story. Well, I guess I shouldn’t complain too much. I finally got my radio and it works like a champ! (and looks all retro and cool). But seriously. Customers service here in China… a nightmare. No wonder that people don’t bother with polite behavior such as lining up and obediently waiting for their turn. I bet if I would have continued standing there in silence I would still be standing there now.