Whenever I go to China, I find my friends and I often complaining about service there.
(Not that the service in Singapore is really any better but that would need to be covered in a separate post. And let me also clarify I like China - my ancestors are from there and I have great friends from the country.)
I have collected a few interesting stories to tell about the service industry in Beijing and Shanghai from my 3 years of living in China.
One of the funnier stories happened to my friend in a restaurant.
A Caucasian friend found a strand of hair in a dish and called the waitress over. She politely pointed out to the waitress that there was a strand of black hair in the dish and then waited, hoping the waitress will offer to change the dish. The waitress took a look at the plate and the hair and then said nonchalantly, “是你的”(It’s yours). We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Firstly because she was suggesting that the hair belonged to the customer who pointed it out and secondly because the customer had golden hair.
Yes, it is a funny story. But not so funny at that particular point in time.
The quality of service is generally poor in most (not all) restaurants. This same service quality extends to most air flights.
During my flight from Beijing to Shanghai on Thursday, it suddenly dawned upon me that perhaps one of the main reason for this bad service is that these service staff are simply.. not happy.
Customers treat waitresses and flight attendants very poorly. They are often being yelled at or spoken to with a harsh tone. Even my normally really nice colleagues have a change in the tone of their voice when speaking to these service staff. To their (my colleagues) defense, I have always tried to speak nicely to waitresses and consequently, am often being ignored or treated badly by them. Those customers who raise their voices and appear really fierce often end up getting better and more prompt service. So is it the service staff or the customers that cause this phenomenon of poor treatment of service staff? I really don’t know.
The other reason why I think these service staff are not happy is because of their more senior colleagues. I have observed on more than a few occasions that the senior waitresses or flight attendants tend to boss over the more junior ones. Perhaps they have once been abused as well by their seniors and think that it is now their time to do this.
But being treated badly by your customers and colleagues wouldn’t give one much reasons to smile and be nice.
And so, they come to work feeling unhappy and with the attitude that customers are a source of great nuisance and should be properly “managed” so that they remain minimally annoying.
I’m writing this post on a flight from Shanghai back to Beijing.. and as I write, the flight attendant is walking around the cabin with a slight scowl on her face asking if one would like more drinks, as if we are all being a burden to her.
With such an attitude, it is really hard to expect her to be all sweet and polite if one were to respond with “Yes, thank you, I’d love to have another cup of hot Chinese tea”.