Raven Silvers (_revolutionary) wrote in bad_service,
Raven Silvers

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Bad: Service or Me? A Question

Not so much of bad service, but more of a question. This happened to me this morning, and I'm still wondering whether I'm overreacting or whether this was a genuine case of bad service.

A brief note: I live in an Asian country. Locals have, for the most part, wholly regional Asian features; I'm not an exception.

I went to a downtown Subway for an late breakfast/early lunch, and because it was before noon, this particular Subway wasn't packed like it usually is. There were only three people at the counter, which was fine, because there are maybe five customers there.

I've been there many times, and the guy doing the bread works there regularly. He's never actually been in charge of the cashier because they're usually staffed with more people, but it seemed today he was the most senior of the staff there and therefore overall in charge. I shall call him E for employee because it's easier.

There was a British tourist in front of me who was new at ordering Subway-style, so E, who is also Chinese, had to walk him through it. It's okay; I know Subway can be frustrating because there are so many choices to make. E was a bit snippy with him, but E has always been snippy, so I don't take much notice.

I just waited for the tourist to finish ordering. It took a while, because he didn't understand some parts, but E walked him through it. After the tourist's sandwich is passed onto the vegetable guy, E turns to me.

Here's where things get a bit mucky. He asks me in half-Mandarin, half-English, what I would like. I'm a bit O.o, because, well, yes I'm local, but it doesn't mean I speak Mandarin. (I don't. Not enough to count, at any rate.) I tell him my order, thinking that he maybe though I was a Chinese-speaking tourist.

Everything moves along fine until it comes to payment. The tourist is still in front of me. E asks him if he wants a meal, and there's some confusion because the tourist is a bit overwhelmed with choices. Eventually the tourist says yes, he'll have the regular meal and he pays, then moves off.

My turn next. E turns to me and says something in Mandarin to me. I had no idea what he said, but I can tell he's snippier than earlier. I give him the "bwuh?" look - I assume he was asking me whether I wanted a meal, but I didn't want to leap to conclusions.

Then he sighs and asks me in English whether I want a meal. I'm already a bit put off, especially because of the sigh. I finish up my order and go to sit down.

In brief, here are my points of confusion:

1) Language. E spoke to me in Mandarin, assuming that because I am Chinese I must speak the language. Not an unreasonable assumption, considering that most of the population is effectively bilingual. I find it slightly irritating; for all he knew, I could be a tourist who spoke only French or something. I've never had this happen to me before in town. EDIT: A valid point raised in a comment - English is the main language used around that part of town, and generally the entire country as well. Just to clarify (: /EDIT

2) His attitude. He was mostly okay with the tourist, but he seemed to be deeply irritated with me, even though I was arguably the easier order. I ordered fluently at the start, telling him clearly what I wanted, in the same order that he would have asked the questions (type of bread, length, filling, toasted or not, with or without cheese).

I've had various Subway staff thank me for ordering like that, because it saves both of us time and effort. I keep wondering whether it was this that ticked him off - sort of not letting him ask the questions, though it has never seemed to be a problem before. I didn't cut him off; he gave me the "Hi, welcome to Subway, what would you like?" spiel and I responded with a "Hi. (big smile) I'd like [order]".

3) That sigh. I felt like he was saying that I was an idiot in sighspeak for not being able to speak enough Mandarin to order a sandwich.

Thing is, I know I was being polite, with the possible exception of the brief "bwuh?" look. Could that be considered rude? I don't think so, but it wasn't intentional; it was an honest knee-jerk reaction to being spoken to in a language I don't understand.

There have been complaints that service staff, especially in this downtown shopping area, treat tourists (particularly white Caucasians) better than locals. I've never encountered it before, but I think I may have.

So, here's my question the community: was this bad_service ? Or is it me being paranoid? Because the incident keeps bugging me, and I'm wondering whether I deserve to be on customers_suck  instead.
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