Friday, November 7, 2008

One of the reasons why so many orders go wrong in China....

First of all, breaking news: there is a SUBWAY (as in the sandwich shop) in SIP in Suzhou!??!?!?! Yeah, and they have been here since the SUMMER?!?! This makes me wonder what I have been doing since I got back here in August as I just discovered the shop 2 days ago... I've basically missed out on 3 months of eating footlongs. Unacceptable! Although I bet my skinny jeans are secretly thanking me...

Anyhoo, when I found out there is a Subway within 10 min bike ride from where I live, I instantly jumped on my bike and headed to pick up a couple of tuna subs. My bf is also a huge Subway fan, so I texted him something like: 'big surprise for you when u get home today' and honestly, the look on his face when he came home to a warm footlong? I haven't seen him that excited for a long time... (He's Finnish -he neve... ehum, rarely gets excited).

But moving back in time, to the Subway shop.

I walked in and was greeted by 10 staff behind the mini counter singing 'helloooooo, welcome to Subway' in choir.

-Well hello you too, I sang back, before I ordered myself 2 tuna footlongs (in English).
-You want tuna on both? the guy asked.
-So exactly the same?
-No, I want one of them to be spicy.
-You want one with turkey
-No, spicy!!! La!!! I tried.
-Ah okay okay!!! He said with a huge smile.

But then, he turned to the young boy standing next to him and said in Chinese:

-Did you understand what she said? I didn't get it?
-No, I didn't understand either,
the other boy replied. So what will you do?
-I don't know... I think she wants two of the same.

-I said that I want them with the same filling, although I want one of them to be spicy with spicy sauce and some chillies. If you didn't understand you should have just asked me again, I said, in Chinese.

Ohhhhhh.... that was nice to be able to do!!! The boys actually looked more relieved than 'busted' (normally when someone speaks about me in Chinese thinking I don't understand and I say something in Chinese, revealing I do, they get this 'busted' look on their face).

-Of course I should have asked you. I am sorry, the boy said (now in Chinese) I'll make sure one of the sandwiches is spicy for you.

Funny how reluctant some staff is to continue to ask their customers what they want when they don't fully understand the order. This happens so many times when u order something a little bit out of the ordinary (eg, you want skim milk in your coffee, or no pickles on your sandwich) and the staff don't really get what u want. But instead of asking again and making sure, they just say 'OK' and end up giving you full cream lattes and sandwiches with pickles. During my student years I worked at a hotel so I know what it is like not to fully understand your customers when they place their orders. But u have to continue to ask and ask and ask and finally repeat their order to make sure u get it right... no matter how stupid u might look while doing it. Some restos/cafes in China do this and I love those places. I hope it becomes the common standard here one day, rather than just saying: "Yes, OK, no problem!" when u don't understand the customer's request.


Anonymous said...

When I was up in Dalian I was at the Subway on opening day, and yet I've STILL not been to the one here in Suzhou. More a testament to my laziness I think. Plus, Yumway makes a decent sandwich and is a stale bun throw away.

Definitely hear what you're saying about many Chinese not clarifying something they didn't understand in English. I think this is because they took the job on the premise they had fan-frigin-tastic English skills, and are worried this might be disproved.

Ironically, most of us are more worried about getting extra pickles than having to explain ourselves multiple times.

It's not limited to customer service experiences either, as I tend to combat it all the time with my wife. I'll be spouting off about something and realize that I'm not using my usual "ESL lingo" but rather my choice of vocabulary and it occurs to me that she might not be understanding some of the low-frequency words I've just said.... but she seems to be following along just fine - nodding, laughing at the right moments, etc.

Then I ask, "do you know what I was just saying?" To which I just get a big grin and a shake of the head. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

So what did you think of the sandwhich? We have a Subway here in Beijing about 10min walk from my apt and I tried it out last week. Not good! The bread tasted like it had been baked three times over and none of the other ingredients seemed very fresh either. Big disappointment since I am a HUGE Subway fan back in the States.

Unknown said...

Haha, exactly!
I studied in SH last spring so I kind of know what youre talking about.. Your posts really hit the spot, as I'm from Finland (and though I rarely get excited, I really was when I found your blog!) and I know the cultural point of view from which you see China and Chinese people. So thanks for the hilarious reading experience (which make me miss China) and keep up the good work :)!

Jonna Wibelius said...

Ryan -I know what u mean by 'laughing at the right moments'.. Whenever that happens to me I take that as a sign as the person I'm speaking to doesn't understand.. and u know why.. Well, because when sometimes when a friend speak to me in Chi, and I don't understand, I tend to giggle and laugh... and go 'mmmm, ahhh... yaaa' ;)

Sarah -I actually loved it... Every single bite. I finished the WHOLE footlong in one go?! I know, I'm such a pig. I felt like a balloon afterwards. I should have known better.

Maija - ("and though I rarely get excited, I really was when I found your blog!") -ah, u made my day by saying this!! I know how hard it is to excite a Finn!!! ;)

Anonymous said...

"Face" was at work diligently when Chinese won't ask for clarification. They rather doing the wrong thing, which they can blame on the customer for not ordering correctly, than to admit that they don't understand English.

Anonymous said...

For me a foot long is too much but the half is too small, am I the only one who has this problem?

Ryan - I think we all do that. I often just nod when someone is speaking Chinese and I don't get 100%.

Little Tiger said...

The 'busted' and 'mortified' look is even better.
When I was in Shanghai and in a shop paying for a t-shirt at the checkout, the checkout lady turns to her colleague and says 'He'd look so much better without those white patches around his eyes' (I had been wearing sunglasses and got a bit sunburnt).
So when I had paid and was leaving, I said (in Chinese) 'Thanks for the advice ladies, bye bye'. The look on their faces was priceless!

Jonna Wibelius said...

woai -well, after eating a whole footlong and feeling sick afterwards I can def tell u that I have the same problem as u -a small one is too small but a full one is waaaaaay too big. Actually, maybe a half one isn't too small afterall? I'm just too greedy.

Little tiger -I thought u had vanished!! :) Agree that the 'busted' look is great... especially when they comment on how u look. Although I have never found a good thing to say when I hear older ladies comment on my weight. I can't really go: 'u know, just because I have some curves doesn't mean that I am fat'... still have to come up with something more catchy.

Little Tiger said...

I have just been a bit busy so I only have time just to read blogs and not to comment.
This blog is my only link to China these days!