12 September 2012

Are You Being Served? 服務為先


I had been sitting at my table for 15 minutes, with neither a menu nor a glass of water. For the fifth time I put up my hand and waved at the waitress who pretended she hadn’t seen me. When our eyes finally met, I gave her a big smile and mouthed the word carte. She gritted her teeth and said: “Monsieur, je n’ai que deux mains.” Translation: “I only have two hands.”

Service without a smile

To many frequent travelers to Europe, my rather unpleasant dining experience at the Parisian restaurant is all too familiar. From store clerks in Rome to bus drivers in Geneva and airport security in London, customer service personnel in Europe are trained to be rude...


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Read the rest of this article in No City for Slow Men, published by Blacksmith Books, available at major bookstores in in Hong Kong and at Blacksmith Books.




21 comments:

  1. The first reader who gets the obscure reference in the title will win a prize!!

    Jason

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  2. What obscure reference? U quoting those dismissive question by those sales/ waitresses/ air hostesses who are the last to give a damn as to whether you are really being served? The ones they dispensed without freely to anyone?

    Christine

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  3. Not so obscure!

    Pete

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  4. Not for you, Pete. And don't you give away your age!! :-)

    I guess the prize goes to Pete Spurrier. I'll buy you a beer. How's that?

    Jason

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  5. "Are you being served" was an old British comedy about department stores. I don't need to google that. It was re-played in NZ when I was a student there. Are you referring to that? I spot the title and thought of the show right away. But I didn't finish reading your article, so I didn't dare to comment until I saw Christine's comments. Hehe.

    Phil

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  6. Absolutely agree that "When it comes to customer service, there is no place like Asia.". Among all, the Japanese are definitely the best.

    Andrew

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  7. Bingo, Phil!! But Pete got it before you did... :-)

    I used to watch it at 2:00 in the morning when I was in New York. It's always on re-run. Funny stuff!

    jason

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  8. Yea, "Captain Peacock, don't touch my pussy without asking me!"

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  9. We all remember that one well, Jeff. :-)

    Jason

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  10. Oh, having lived in US and Europe and having visited Asia frequently, I agree wholeheartedly!
    The bit about opening a bank account in Europe (which I had to do last year) brought me to tears.
    Thank you for this.

    Monica

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  11. I knew the answer, but toooooo late :-(

    Ross

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  12. I remember in HK years ago, the waiter brought change, showed it to you for 10 seconds, and if you weren't quick enough to grab it, absconded with the whole thing. Now, no tipping. Thank you mainland China! N. American service is abysmal, the French are outright hostile. 15% is more than enough in tipping counties. I was followed from an NYC restaurant where I had left 10%. "Was something wrong with the service?" Of course not, so I pocketed the chump change I had left and exited, leaving nothing due to rudeness.

    Ross

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  13. Monica and Ross, thanks for sharing your experiences. Looks like we are in agreement!

    Jason

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  14. I agree with the last comment of Ross. Even with a Chinese restaurant I am very well acquainted with, and I guess partly coz' I used to tip them quite generously, they seem to expect me to do the same every single time and once, one of them actually asked me outright for the tip !!! Big shocked then...

    Christine

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  15. Dear Jason,

    To echo your sharing, may I share this appreciation platform with you: www.praisage.com, a new start-up aiming to promote the appreciation culture in the society and to enhance our praise-quotient!

    Let's see if you would get some insight from it!

    Appreciatively,
    Danny CHAN
    Founder & Co-Creator | Praisage

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  16. Well written, couldn't agree more :)
    The strange thing is that you are local yet you still have good opinion about service quality. I've been trying to explain the differences to my friends in HK and they've always had one reply: "It's because you are gweilo". I do agree that foreigners are treated a little bit better than locals but in my opinion the difference is marginal. My HK friends would never admit that Hk has high standards when it comes to customer service quality :) Maybe it's that strange HK thing about complaining on everything :)
    Anyway, great article

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  17. Here is a true story of me: Years ago when my first time to came to France, I've tried to ask the way in the travelers counter...

    The staff was speaking to me with a fluent tongue, "Don't ask me, I don't know English!"

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  18. That's a good one, 恒一.

    I had a similar experience at a department store in Paris. I asked one of store clerks where the toilet was, and she said: "Why do you assume I speak English? You will have to ask me again in French. This is France." I said to her: "How do you say 'bitch' in French?"

    Jason

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  19. Jason,

    Just an additional quick comment which I experienced over the past few days, with totally mixed feelings.

    I need to get a flamenco dress/skirt plus fan plus castanet for a potential performance. You know these are not the types of gear that you can just walked into any shop to get, so I did a quick google search, and I did locate one which looked professional enough. Well well well

    1. I emailed them and there was no response. I called them up and the lady does not seem to know what I was talking about at all despite repeating myself again and again like a parrot. And she speaks fluent Cantonese, it's not as if we are speaking different languages. That is one of those visit by appointment places. She sounded very agitated and exasperated and impatient all along and eventually told me she was having a class unceremoniously. So we just cut the call short.

    2. On a second occasion I got the details online about another shop selling something else I'd like to get, also visit by appointment. So I called them up again. This time the lady who answered the call was even more discourteous to the point of arrogance. I don't think I get looked down/talked down that badly even if I am to walk into de Beers in absolute tatters today. That lady didn't seem to care whether she get my custom or not so as you guessed it, the line was cut on both sides not too quietly.

    3. I checked out a small shop close to my office selling simple dance and ballet gear the other day, not really expecting much as they seem to cater more to the ballet clientele. To my surprise I did get a simple skirt there (maybe not the most fancy performance dresses, more likely to be a practise skirt which might just do the trick) and a small fan and very very friendly and helpful service. They even promise to contact their supplier and other sources for me to see if they can secure what I want. With that, I am hugely impressed and grateful and I was hoping they will be able to get what I need so that I can give them more custom.

    There goes my waffling, but what is it about the online business in Hong Kong that give them such an arrogant / impatient / bad attitude? Or is my request too outrageous? But they profess to be the professional in their products and I expect them to answer my questions at least if not deliver what I need?!

    Enough complaints : <

    Christine

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  20. Probably because you were buying only one dress and a rare one at that...

    Jason

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  21. The French are definitely some of the rudest people on earth. I don't speak French either, but I've found that whenever I prefaced a question with a "Parlez vous Anglais", things would go quite smoothly afterwards. My sample size is obviously small, 15 to 20 people, but my opinion is that the French takes offense if you simply assume that they speak English, but if you cared to clarify your assumption, they are generally much friendlier.

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