Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Of Good Service And Bad English

I'm a suckler for good service mainly because I once temp-ed as a retailer and was often complimented for my good service. It did not help that the retailer which I temp-ed with was renowned for its good service too. Good service makes me feel happier and I'd tend to want to part my money. Conversely, bad service makes me pissed and I'd turn into the evil alterego and just want to bite everybody in my way. The Ralph Lauren salesman can be witness to my callous remarks.

(For people who don't know the Ralph Lauren story... I once walked past the Ralph Lauren boutique in Orchard when I spotted this blue dress in the display window. Wanting to try it on, I walked in and asked the first salesman I saw about it. I'm not the kind of person who can browse for hours, I've a short attention span. The following conversation ensues...
joan: May I take a look at the blue dress on display?
salesman: Would that be in the men's department or the ladies' department?
If I was at This Fashion or something, fine. But this was Ralph Lauren, the dress cost is in the hundreds, that salesman was wearing a tie and is probably higher paid that the This Fashion salesman and he had the cheek to ask me that question. Needless to say, I was extremely appalled.
joan: (in a very very sacastic tone) Could you find me a dress from the men's department?
salesman: (noticing his mistake) Oh, I'm sorry! (proceeds to find me the dress)
Okay, he wasn't that bad after all, but he's still stupid.)

Today, I had two encounters with good service, but sadly, these two good service incidents was marred by the bad English communicated during the service. To paraphrase Dr Edna Lim, Singlish is not something we are proud of. When chatting with customers, it's okay to sink into Singlish, but during an act of service, I'd think it's still more appropriate to stick to the Queen's English.

The first good service is from Kinokuniya. This isn't the first time I've filled up the Kinokuniya's online enquiry forms. The last time, I filled them up and got a prompt reply, I commented that to my father that despite paying a lot more in school fees that for a book, I get prompter replies from Kinokuniya than from the school administration, and when I get a reply from the school administration, it's one that say "I've forwarded your email to so-and-so". Anyway, prompt replies from Kinokuniya is their feature. I filled up yet another online enquiry form enquirying two manga titles and got a prompt but far from perfect email reply. In fact, the reply was so shit that I had to email them back to further my enquiries.

This morning, I got a call from Kinokuniya. I think I filled my handphone number in the enquiry form. The girl who called me answered all my queries, and helped me to place orders for the missing volumes and ensured that Kinokuniya was pressing the publisher. She also apologised for some misinformation in the email she replied me. But there was a little flaw in her service. The way she talked and some of the words she chose to use. Phrases like "I tell you eh" (luckily it's only eh and not leh or hor), "I'm really sorry eh", "Yar, we know also". I'd really have preferred a more formal tone to have been used during this conversation, but still, kudos to Kinokuniya for their prompt reply and ensuring that I'd be spending money with them. lol~

The other one was with Jason's Marketplace. I dropped by Jason's after school this afternoon because I was particularly missing Germany, and wanted to get back to my lifestyle in Germany where I browsed the supermarket, buy some groceries, go home to cook. Because the one at Raffles City was more convenient, I went there. Jason's as it was supposed to be, is an expat's supermarket, selling mainly imported stuff for foreigners. As a stylised German, I thought that would be the appropriate place to go shopping for my groceries. But of course, I was wrong. Some stuff like my favourite Schwarzwälder Schinken and Westfalen Schinken canonly be found in Germany. I still managed to pick out a couple of items to check out. As I paid, I really felt that I missed Germany, groceries in Singapore are so much more expensive than in Germany. My four tiny pieces of pork was $5, I could have got it for about $4.50 in Germany. Cheese here is so much more expensive, my piece here was like $4.70 while in Germany it would be less than $2. Olive oil here is exorbidant, $12 for a tiny bottle? omg...

Anyway, the point of topic here is not price but white asparagus which I fondly call spargels. I asked the cashier if they had them.
joan: Do you bring in white asparagus?
cashier: White shenme (what in Chinese)?
This is supposed to be an expats' supermarket, speaking in Chinese? omg... Okay, granted, if I knew what the heck was asparagus in Chinese I might have just went on the conversation in Chinese, but heck, I've no idea what asparagus is in Chinese. For a long while, I didn't even know what asparagus was in English. To me it's always spargels.
joan: Asparagus. White ones.
cashier: (to another cashier) ni dong ta yao shen me ma? (Do you know what she wants?) (to me) ni qu wen ta. (Ask her.)
joan: Do you have white asparagus?
cashier 2: White aspagus?
joan: Asparagus.
cashier 2: (to yet another cashier, this time a younger Malay woman, by relative of age, she's still above 35 though) Can you answer her question?
cashier 3: What is it that you want?
joan: White asparagus.
cashier 3: No, we don't carry the fresh ones, only the canned ones.
She then brings me to see the canned ones which looked damn stupid. Really, nothing beats the fresh ones. Somewhere in between, the cashier 3 brought out the store manager. After some tour of the canned food section and the fresh food section, he gave me the number of the Orchard Jason's.
manager: I think Orchard would carry it. They have more expat customers.

Later I did call up Orchard Jason's, another middle aged auntie sounding person picked up my phone.
joan: Do you have white asparagus.
auntie: Yes, we have now. Today and tomorrow.
joan: So you stock them daily?
auntie: No, only today and tomorrow.
joan: Will you have them tomorrow?
auntie: We only have two left for today and tomorrow.
What the heck can I do with two sticks of asparagus???
joan: When would be the next time you'll stock them?
auntie: I'll have to check with the supplier.
joan: Where are the asparagus from?
auntie: Wait a minute, I'd need to check. (insert call waiting music) They are from Peru.
joan: Thanks.

Well, all those salespeople were indeed patient enough to listen to my whinings about wanting white asparagus although I bet none of them ever eaten it before. But the policy of having middle aged, Chinese speaking aunties working in an expat supermarket is kind of not very appropriate. What if I were a non-Chinese, little English say French customer? Well, at least I've managed to locate my white asparagus.

Speaking of middle aged aunties, I really have no idea this incident with this waitress is considered good service or bad. I was at Imperial Treasure Lamian Xiaolongbao and ordered a plate of Golden Fried Prawns (prawns fried with salted egg yoke) and one basket of xiaolongbao. First, while eating the salted prawns, this waitress came and asked me if I wanted rice. If I really wanted rice, I'd have ordered it already, right? Then while I left two of my xiaolongbao not eaten, she came and tell me that xiaolongbao doesn't taste good when left cold. This is not my first time eating xiaolongbao. I think the number of xiaolongbaos I've eaten is about the same as hers but she is like three times my age, I know when is the right time to eat my baos. I actually like to eat half of them hot, savouring the xiaolongbaos the "right" way, first biting of a part of the skin to air out the hot juice inside, then blow the juice and suck a bit of soup, after that biting off bits of bao and meat and soup in like four mouths. But the other half of my baos, I like to eat them cold, so I can stuff the whole bao into my mouth and eat the bao, meat and soup all together. Not a very demure sight, but I like it.

Still trying to decide if that was good service or plain irritatingness and looking down on me. bah~ I know I'm hard to please.

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