Friday, August 18, 2006

cultural differences

Ben and I are spending the day at a local coffee shop.  They have wireless Internet and it's fairly quiet here.  We have come to this place twice before.  The food, coffee, and waitstaff are good.... and, best of all: it's clean.

A couple of strange things happened today.  They are strange for me, but I suppose it's normal here.

Early in the day, we ordered a pot of coffee.  While rearranging our books and laptops on the table, I accidentally knocked a cheap plastic napkin holder onto the floor.  It broke into two pieces.  I was not surprised, because it was basically two pieces of plastic glued together.    The waitress brought over a replacement and then told Ben that she was adding 15 RMB (less than $2) to the bill for the damage.   I was a little surprised, but he said this is normal here.   In the US, if such a thing happened a customer would throw a fit.  I thought it was pretty rude.  This place is actually a pretty expensive restaurant.  Many of their specialty drinks are $10-$20.   Later, the waitress came over and told us that it because it was "the fault of the staff", she would take 40% off the charge.  So, now we owe 9 RMB for the plastic thing.   ok, whatever...

In the afternoon, suddenly all of the male waiters in the cafe marched in unison to a location right outside our window.  They stood at attention as the manager carefully inspected each of them.   He especially checked to see if their fingernails were clean by holding a white piece of paper under their hands.  Then, they all chanted some Chinese phrases in unison.  (I suppose it's something like: "we are polite to customers! we keep our fingernails clean! we will charge customers for all damage to napkin holders!).   Then, they marched in formation back into the restaurant.  Ben shook his head and said it's likely that the manager is x-military.  This is his way of keeping quality standards high.

OK, back to work.  hopefully, I can refrain from breaking any more napkin holders. 


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