Thursday, April 23, 2009

Looking for something to complain about

I’m one of those people who rarely complain at restaurants or cafes, unless something is really, REALLY bad. I know this is my own bad, sometimes I stick with something I don’t like simply because I don’t want to complain, but what can I say? That’s just me!

I guess my anti-complaining behavior comes from having worked in hospitality both during my 3 years of high school and my 3 years as a university student. I’ve been yelled at and abused for completely absurd reasons (when I was 16 and worked at Mc Donalds a fat businessman spent 15 minutes calling me everything from brat to ‘spoiled’ because he didn’t like the taste of his hamburger. The verbal abuse was a result of me –who had simply brought him the burger- said that I wasn’t personally responsible for how Mc Donald’s hamburger tasted like… and on it went!), and I guess I feel that I don’t want to complain about small things unless there is a real need for it. Also, people working in hospitality never (at least not the ones I have worked with) intentionally screw up.

Anyhoo, some days ago I went to buy a bubble tea from a small ‘fast food stall.’ There was a Chinese businessman next to me buying a large-sized deep fried chicken nugget. He was kind of rude to the young boy selling the food, telling him to hurry up and then he got angry when the boy asked if he had any smaller change (the nugget cost something like 4 or 5 kuai and the businessman paid with a 100 kuai bill). Anyways, once he got the nugget (wrapped in grease paper) in his hand, he said:

-This is cold. Give me a new one.

-It’s not cold,
said the boy. It’s a warm nugget. I just picked it up.

-No it is cold I can feel it.

-It is not cold!

The businessman then put his tongue on top of the nugget. He made a grunting noise. I guess he realized that the nugget in fact wasn’t cold at all… although that wasn’t enough. He still looked at the boy as if he was saying ‘give me a new one.’

-See, it is not cold, said the boy.

The man gave him a not-so-friendly look then stuffed the whole nugget into his mouth at once. While he was chewing he said:

-OK, not cold. But not warm either. And walked away.

I was watching everything, trying not to laugh. If he was so sure that it was cold, why not then first take a small bite and see? Stuffing the whole thing in your mouth when you believe it is cold doesn’t really ring through as ‘smart’ to me?

Sometimes I feel these sorts of people just complain because they want something to complain about? Or they want to showcase the fact that they have some sort of power? Him: ‘important’ businessman in suit. Complaining about: a cold, 4 kuai chicken nugget sold by a young, Chinese boy.

Actually, when I worked at Mc Donalds I once watched out shift leader doing something quite cool.

A young man came in munching on a cheeseburger, walked up to the counter and threw what was left of the burger (about one sixth) on the counter.

-This is cold! I want a new one!

The shift leader who was handling the till looked at the tiny piece on the counter.

-Oh, I am so sorry about that sir, she said. Of course I’ll get you a new one!

She took the small piece in her hand, grabbed a new cheeseburger, put the small piece on top of it and cut out the exact same sized piece from the new burger. With two hands she handed it over to the young man.

-Here you go. Here’s a new, warm piece of burger.

-But… what, what… but….!

Oh, the look on his face!! Priceless!

I don’t think one hospitality worker could get away with the same cheekiness here in China. Just thinking about what I witnessed the other day.


Christopher said...

I'm just the same as you in that respect Jonna, I don't like complaining about things too. I worked in a call centre and in retail when I was in High school and uni, and I really appreciate the job these people do now. We always had a lot of customers who would just complain because they had nothing better to do with their lives. People in hospitality and retail really get a lot of flack from customers, I sympathise greatly with them.

People like that guy make me angry. I never really get angry at anything, but rudeness and lack of respect is probably one of the only things that does. I say, "it's nice to be nice".

flyingfish said...

Do you think most people do that kind of thing -- pick on people who are obliged to be polite back -- because they feel unwell or unhappy? Who knows why, maybe because they had a fight with the wife or they don't like their job or they're worried about their kids? I'm not saying this is an excuse, just that I think it might be a reason.

I once worked as a circulation assistant in a library. I was often a bit rude to the readers. I feel bad about it now. Perhaps it was partly due to a rather prickly disposition (my mom would say so, anyway!), but I think it was mainly that I didn't feel well a lot of the time while I was working there, and this made me bad-tempered. I bet a lot of the people who encountered me in that context thought I was a not a terribly nice person. I am quite nice, though, most of the time. It's just that life was very hard for me then.

As they say, you never know what inner battles other people are fighting.

And as Alyosha Karamozov remarked, "Let us be first honest, then kind, and then let us never forget one another!" Sometimes I think that's the best advice I've ever heard, anywhere.

Hang said...

I had worked in one Copthorne Hotel in UK for one year when I was a university student. Lucky, I was verbally abused only once during the 1-year work in hosptality. There are always people who complain for absurd reasons.

What the shift leader did was cool. You're right in saying that it is not applicable in China. It would possibly lead to a quarrel or even a fight. It's not easy to work in hospitality.

Anonymous said...

Take a look at this website is priceless if you've ever worked with people.

I think part of the complaining is a kind of bargaining. Wanting more for less...

WoAi said...

I've spent much longer in the hospitality industry, from aged 13 to 28 (so 15 years) because of my family's business in England. Even now sometimes when I go home for Christmas, I'll work one night if they're short of staff. I could write a book on rude absurd customers. So I'm the same. I get really embarrassed when out with friends who are rude to customers. And I'll never go to eat at a place that is almost closing.

That "businessman" really sounds like a jackass. I can only hope that one day he can't find a job and has to work in a restaurant!

The Candid Yank said...

aaahahahahaha!! your mcdonald's shift leader story, hilarious!!!

Sad but true, I think most people who are inconsiderate jerks to service workers are those who have never done such a job themselves. I do have a friend who is rude to servers, but that is because she is just generally clueless ^_^ It seems obvious that when a customer walks in and blames the wrong person for his dissatisfaction, or demands something that is impossible to give, that s/he has no clue how these places are operated... it makes no sense to shoot the messenger, especially when the messenger is the person handling your food. Not every food worker is as civil as you or I; I have worked with several kitchen staffers who admit to spitting and urinating in the food of customers they don't like. And not in McDonald's either, but in fine dining establishments where people believe they have a right to be jerks because they are spending more money.

Be nice to the servers, always!!!

and like your "women are useless" guy, maybe these people walk in on power trips because it makes them feel like throwing away their lives doing some soulless corporate job entitles them to boss other people around with their money. You almost have to feel sorry for them.

mantse said...

when i worked as a Customer Services in a company before i went into University, my manager always tell us a word "Empathy".

i keep it in my mind until now which trying to be calm and think in others point of view. i don't like some people always scold or shout to others and feel this is their right to do this. i heard some told me that is "they pay for scold" or "their salary include this part". how is their friends, family, gf/bf scolded by others?

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid there was a McDonalds worker in South Australia who was successfully proscecuted for tossing off in the Mayonaise at the beginning of every shift! Caught out by co-workers ....

she said...

I know these complaining things in restaurants of china. Some guys just complain every time when spending money on food. Yes. They think they smart because they could find out the things to complain or some tricks of restaurant like serving them the old food, dead fish etc....They enjoy it but I feel shame if my accompanies trying to do this....

It is kind of way to think about the service. Some guys feel like once they spent the money, they own the food and even the waitress.

But as you know the safety of chinese food is not so good. So people are always trying to find out something wrong before eating.

Veronique Renard said...

So now both our last post titles include the word Complain. Oy vey!

Love to read your stories.

Best wishes from Bangkok. Veronique

Jonna Wibelius said...

Chris & Flyingfish -yeah, it is normally the reason. I mean, I have had to listen to so many angry people over the years and unless it was for the fact that it would probably just make them more angry, I would have told them: 'hey, just because u r having a shit day doesn't mean it's my fault!' but yeah.. not really appropriative, especially not at the last place where I work in Australia, a very luxurious five-star hotel (where even the most jack-ass customers 'always were right'... because they had a lot of cash).

Hang -only once?! Whoooa... lucky u! :) And yeah, I love that shift leader move. I once tried to do the same thing to a business man who was complaining about his burger being cold but he went completely nuts!! So that didn't go so well!

kanmuri -yeah.. I actually have a friend like that back home. She always complains about the most tedious little things... (coffee is lukewarm, the bread doesn't taste 'fresh'... ) and then asks for freebee!! She's totally shameless in her way.. I cannot help but feeling embarrassed when I am with her. I hate that sort of 'asking for more'...

Woai -having worked in hospitality gives you something that all jack-ass-complaining-about-everything-customers don't have... empathy. I am actually really happy that I have my 6 years of hospitality experience. I would hate to be the complaining kind.

Dangerous Des -yeah I def agree with you. The jerks are those ones that have nooooo ideeeeaaa about how places operates. Once at the dairy section at a supermarket in Sweden watched a middle aged woman verbally abusing a poor grocery worker (who just happened to be unlucky enough to be stocking the milk shelves!) about the shop not selling enough 'low sugar' yoghurts?!

Some people just have no idea.

mantse -included in their salary? What a load of bulls***. I glad you keep your 'empathy' mantra!

Anonymous -How was that even possible? The mayo at Mc Donalds comes in packages that u put straight onto the 'mayo-pistol' (or whatever it is called). You never actually open the packages.

She -I also feel embarrassed when I am out with someone who is just looking for things to complain about. Ruins the whole experience.

Veronique -both last posts?? ehhh... no.. last post name was 'Day of Drama'... not a complaining post... :/

Anonymous said...

That Chinese businessmane sounds like a jerk. But on a few occasions, my family and I had a different experience while eating at several fairly nice restaurants in China over the years. We were on vacation in China. Since we are Chinese and speak the language, it was not a problem for us to get around and find some nice, clean restaurants. The most recent one was two years ago. Instead of us customers being rude, it was the waitering staff. When we were given menus, we usually told the waitering staff (there were several of them at a table) that we needed some time to look at the menu first. You could tell that they were very impatient when we told them we needed time. They usually walked away, completely ignoring us. Then when we were ready to order, we had to find them. Finally a waitress came back, and her response was usually "dian la!" (meaning order your dishes now!). We ate several clean restaurants in some nice hotels in Fuzhou, Fujian Province. We liked the food and the cleanness of the hotels. But man, are they rude! I told my kids and wife that we just had to get used to it. T.I.C. This is China.

I have a theory for their rudeness. We are not laiwao nor local big spenders.

Chocolatesa said...

ROFL! That shift leader story was great! I would have loved to see the customer's face! I was going to tell you to check out too but someone beat me to it. I read it every day! I'm the same, I've worked a lot in kitchens and customer service so I always try not to complain.

Veronique Renard said...

I meant, your last post and my last post.

Cheers... Veronique

mtl said...

Certainly in this case the customer was being unreasonable.

However, in China, it's a *sort of* cultural thing that one treats hospitality people sternly. If you are too nice, they might treat you like crap, or be surprised/confused about why you are being so courteous (especially if you are local)

*Note*, this is changing rapidly though. Now this is often not the case as modern hospitality training are widely applied, and people care more about manners.

I don't think this is a Chinese cultural thing, as it's not the case in Taiwan or Malyasian Chinese communities. Prbly a vestige of communist culture.

mtl said...

Also it's similar regarding politeness.

People are still very impolite in China (changing, but too slow imo). E.g. Kids shoving me around DVD stands, their parents see it and say absolutely nothing.

This is absoultely not Chinese culture. This is what happens when ppl are too poor for too long, and their culture erased.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting photos. I feel that most Chinese haven't developed sophisticated taste for how/what/when to wear appropriate clothing, or sense of style (vs. fashion). By the way, I am a Chinese myself.

In several photos, girls wore "Burberry" uniforms (probably "knock-off") at work. Surprisingly, your brother-in-law wore gray socks in a pure white wedding suit during the photo shooting. (I hope he changed that ugly pair of socks at the wedding.

I noticed that you have written some on what-not-to-wear (PJ at markets, girls see-through dresses, etc ). Please continue to help raise the awareness of appropriate attire for millions of Chinese.