So American Girl in China here with fun stories of the customers who can’t handle change. Recently the location of the store I work at was bought out by a Supermarket that apparently is attempting to become some sort of super power and we had to combine with a sister location (owned by family of the owner of my location) that is probably about a 1000 ft. from pizza hell. So back to the bad neighborhood but we are only open until 10 so not so horrible.
The problem arises from the fact that the place we moved into was an express meal based restaurant (think mall Chinese or Panda Express) and we were strictly made to order take out and delivery. Our compromise for the situation was to keep express meals for lunch hours and then switch to our made to order dinner menu at night closing down the heat trays at 3:30. And when I say closed down, I mean all the trays are empty and clean, the overhead lights are off, the queue rope is moved over, and menus are taped up to the glass guards- this is important to picture while reading about the conversations I have to go through.
Of course, I’ve done this long enough that I know the first month is going to be explaining this several times and some customers will not want to wait and just leave. No problem. What I wasn’t ready for was the sheer amount of customers that seemed to lose their ability for rational thought when presented with a menu with words rather than trays of food they could just point and grunt at.
At least three come up to the closed buffet (remember lights off, menus blocking windows) stare for a few moments and ask, “So are you just waiting for them to bring out more food?”
First of all, “more” implies that there is already food there to be added to which there is bloody well not. Second, you really stood there, thought about it, and the most reasonable conclusion you could come up with is that we ran out of and are currently making 16 different dishes at the same time?
Five people made it past the stage of staring at empty trays to try to order off of the menu. Rather, I assumed that’s what they were going to do when they picked up the piece of paper that explained how our food words. Instead, they just declare dishes that they like (rice! noodles! chicken!) and we have to 20 questions our way to a specific size or combo. I remember three distinct people who couldn’t handle the pressure. All were lost on trying to whittle down to a specific type of lo mein or fried rice.
“I want just regular.”
“Well we don’t really have one that’s considered regular, but we have five different kinds.” At this point I both point at list of the different kinds and read them out loud.
“I don’t know, just the regular one. The one that’s in the buffet.”
F&%king all of them point to the empty pan while saying this. Oh yeah... our fried rice made with Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen molecules and no damn rice. Coming right up.
“We don’t have that made right now and it is a little different than the kinds we offer now, but we do have blah blah blah available. Which one of those would you like?”
At this point they either give up and walk out or there is another go around with, “I want regular,” and then they walk out.
I just really thought the waiting for food would be the hardest adaption for people to swallow, not that they have to read and decide among five items. Admittedly, I realized later on that one of the customers that walked out was very likely illiterate (tale-tell signs of panic and embarrassment when I tried to get him to read the menu.) and I was probably less kind and patient than I could have been.
Also, notable at this point is that we have been at the new store for over a month and I haven’t seen the old owners once since then. Before they opened this location, they used to visit us at our place (with their three kids) pretty regularly and when they opened the new place, my store’s owners would work random shifts over there to help out. But since we took over their store? Freaking gone.
I wouldn’t find it that remarkable except a customer actually asked Nelson (owner) where the old owners went. He smiled and nodded. It wasn’t a blank, “I don’t understand your mouth words, but I doubt you said anything worth clarifying anyways,” smile that he gives our rambling customers. It was was creepy knowing smile that often only graces his features on days of group lottery ticket purchases. I’m a little scared.
And a funny story to end it all. I was working with our nighttime cashier who is Chinese when a group of three Asian women came in to order. A moment after they came in a collage-age black girl followed and sat down at a table with a menu. The trio ordered and sat down and talked amongst themselves next to the table the girl was at (who eventually lost interest in the menu and was playing on her phone). Food is done, Trio accessorizes with condiments and such and leaves, young girl trails behind though she hasn’t even looked or talked with them since coming in.
Coworker and I discusses oddity of the situation, I shrug and say, “Maybe she just has an Asian grandmother.”
Coworker replies, “Yeah, that would be strange.”
We lapse into thoughtful silence until suddenly she corrects herself, “Well... not that strange. I have an Asian grandmother”.
It was almost as funny as the time I realized the owner was wearing a hat from a restaurant we never quite opened that was going to be called “Asian Café”. When it didn’t work out, he kept the hat that had the business name on it, but removed the “café” portion of the embroidery. So yes, for several weeks my Chinese boss wore a hat that read “Asian.” He never seemed to understand my fit of giggles when I saw him in it.
--Lexi, American Girl in China