Customer is king in America. You can demand the shit out of your server, poor soul, and they’ll do it with a smile. They will if they want to keep their job, anyways, because if you don’t smile at a particular customer then your manager will Hear About It. I remember I came into work one day bummed about a parking ticket or maybe an earlier conversation, and as usual I took over the front of house and the customers within it. I, admittedly, could’ve smiled at the customers at Table 1. But I spoke politely, and kept their waters filled. I thought it to be enough. When I collected their signed receipt, I saw that they had left a handwritten message:
Your service is terrible.
I’m sure it was meant to wound my delicate, delicate feelings. Maybe they knew the receipts were viewed at the end of the day by the restaurant manager. That was all right, though, because during my shifts I was–official in all but name–the manager. Their complaint stopped with me if I wanted it so, although I did share the news with my coworker. We exchanged raised eyebrows, because our service was on point. They didn’t leave a tip, of course, even though they ate all of their galbi and side dishes.
See, here’s the thing about American customer service: you need to smile, and you need to know how to apologize. You need to know how to work for your tips, because a college student cannot survive on minimum wage alone.
You don’t tip in China. It’s fabulous, really, except when servers let courtesy fall to the wayside without such an incentive. Instead, the focus is on efficiency. I’ve gotten spoiled with how fast I get served my food in China. In America, the sweet spot of waiting times is 12 minutes. Any longer and the customer is impatient. Any shorter and the customer is suspicious.
Also, servers can pretty much tell you whatever the hell they want.
You’re going to eat all of that?
I think the smaller size is better for you.
Oh, you drink a lot of tea.
Sure, I’ll get you your soy milk. (Proceeds to “forget” for the fifth visit in a row)
And today: You shouldn’t pay part of the bill in coins–it’s really inconvenient. You pay coins at supermarkets, not restaurants! Honestly. I didn’t bring you a jar of pennies, did I? A jar of pennies is a pain in the ass and overly provocative. Our bill was 158 RMB, and we only paid 8 RMB in coins.
Maybe they don’t worry about offending me because I can’t withhold tip out of spite. Or maybe it isn’t offensive at all to dole out “advice” to strangers. It’s certainly happened to me back in the States (Auntie, it’s called leftovers).
Whatever the case, I often don’t get smiles unless I offer one of my own first. American hospitality, according to an Englishman who plays golf with my dad, is apparently notorious for being, well, hospitable. Those American waitresses! So friendly.
I’d rather have both efficiency and friendliness, but if I had to choose one and the food’s delicious I’d take efficiency. Friendliness can soothe the impatience of waiting, and I’ve made good friends here during waits with nice waitresses. But for the most part, when I’m hungry everything else (including friendship) can wait.