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Great Food! Poor Service!

Popularity 16Viewed 4198 times 2015-5-20 04:46 |System category:Life| University, developed, something, evidence, Michael

Things come up, almost daily, that remind me of what the professor at Zhengzhou University told me when I first came to China. When I asked about something that was a bit odd to me that I'd experienced here, he told me, "Michael, China is not a developed country. It is a developing country. If you'll learn this now, you'll have a better understanding of how things are here and how to get along living here."

I often see evidence of what he told me. He had lived in a western country and knew the difference and distinctions between China and the West.

We in the West, have become accustomed to and sincerely expect excellent service when we eat in a restaurant. Most often, a restaurant will work hard to meet those expectations. In fact, I eat out a lot in China and when I'm back home in the USA. I don't remember the last time I was disappointed in my restaurant experience in the USA. I can't think of one now though I'm sure there have been. However, it has been so many years ago that I can't recall it now.

Recently, I was in two different restaurants, here in Zhengzhou, when I experienced these differences.

First, I was at a very popular roast duck restaurant having dinner with a friend. We ordered a lovely salad before our meal. As my friend was eating the salad she suddenly stopped. I looked to see what the problem was and there was a dead fly in the salad. She alerted the waitress and the waitress had to summons the manager to our table to know what to do. Thankfully, they took the salad away. They brought us a small dish of watermelon (I don't care much for watermelon) as a token of saying, 'Sorry.' A nice gesture, but the loss of appetite thinking that you almost ate a dead fly, was inevitable. Regardless, I understand how such a thing could happen in a busy restaurant. They aren't perfect. Not in China and not in America.

The second incident happened last night at a Western steakhouse in the Manhattan area here in Zhengzhou. The steakhouse (this is what we call a steak restaurant) has excellent steak. Great steak is hard to find in China. But, this place has it. It is expensive for China, but well worth the cost. I'd been there in the past and had no problems. Just great steak and good service.

First, last night, it took some time to get seated because every table we chose was apparently 'reserved'. We finally found a table we could sit at after choosing four. Not a good start for dinner.

Second, it took a long time to order. Apparently the waitress was new and obviously hadn't been trained well. Things that I'd ordered there before, she was telling us that we couldn't have. I'd been there only a few days before and had exactly what I wanted last night. There are two waitresses that work there that have great English. She called over one of them. They knew what I'd ordered before and told her that I could have it the way I wanted. She wrote it down and apparently the problem was solved.

It took longer than normal for the food to come. When it came, it was not what we ordered. The steak was different and the side dishes were something other than what we'd ordered. We explained this to both the waitress and the manager who had come over when he saw there was a problem. The manager attempted to get us to accept it as is. A very poor gesture (in my opinion). I refused to do that. Finally, they brought the side dish I'd ordered, but, they didn't make it good for my friend who had also been brought food she didn't order. When I asked the manager about it, he said, "No more." He refused to bring what she'd ordered and insisted that she eat what she got.

We learned later that the chef was also new and obviously not trained well. Another part of the meal is that with steak, you choose spices that go on the side. The spices weren't present on the plate. We asked about them and the waitress went to get them (so we thought). Another server arrived at our table with the spices after we'd finished eating. I told him that we didn't need them now. In fact, there was no food left on the table. He later told the manager (as we learned) that he tried to bring us the spices but that we didn't want them. Well, I don't think it takes a higher education to realize that you don't want side condiments AFTER you've finished eating. (It makes you wonder if these people have ever been in the restaurant business before. Surely they can't be that confused.)

As we got ready to pay and end this ordeal, the manager brought our check. We once again told him about all of the things that had happened. He said, "Well, next time we'll give you something free. We can't do it this time because we already replaced your side dishes for you." I just about blew up when he said this. He acted as if getting part of the order right was something he was doing as a favor to us. I said, "Well, you can be assured that there won't be a next time. I won't come back here again." He suggested to my Chinese friend that my attitude was a bit extreme. When she told me that, I got even more determined that I won't go back. How ridiculous.

The big difference in the West and here in China is that the attitude in the West is that, 'the customer is always right.' This doesn't mean that a restaurant should give away food or be unreasonable in attempting to please an irrational or unruly customer. What it does mean is that the restaurant will do whatever is necessary to make a reasonable customer happy. We were quite reasonable in our expectations. You expect to get what you ordered especially in a restaurant that obviously represents itself as a high end (expensive) restaurant. In fact, I can't imagine going into any restaurant and sitting down and being expected to accept and eat whatever the waiter, chef or manager decided they wanted you to have. How crazy would that be?

The manager took our money for our meal and sent a different person to bring us our change. My Chinese friend said, "He doesn't want to face you again." In the West, the manager would make it good 99% of the time. They would accept responsibility for the flaws and mistakes that were made. They would do what they could to make it right. Several friends here in China have often told me, "Many Chinese restaurants feel that they are doing you a favor by allowing you to eat there. They are right and you, the customer, are wrong. They actually don't care if you return or not. They feel that there are so many people who will come there that they don't need your business."

This is a very different attitude than such places in the West. The attitude in the West is largely that they will do whatever they have to do to earn your business and even more to keep your business when they realize that you are a loyal customer. I certainly WAS a loyal customer at this place. But, loyalty must be mutual. In the West, they want to earn your trust and give you a pleasant dining experience. They know that a happy customer will return many times and spend a lot of money with them. They know that keeping a loyal customer happy is far easier than trying to get new customers.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Michael is the author of the transformational book, Powerful Attitudes. He is a professional educator, an educational consultant, an author. He lives in Zhengzhou, Henan Province. He enjoys playing guitar and writing poetry. He loves China.


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