Sound Off! – Waiters

I’d like to introduce a new feature on blog. It’s called Sound Off! and it’s your chance to get things off your chest! We invite you to comment on the topic and let it fly!

If you have any suggestions for a Sound Off! topic, please email them to us at thenhbushman [at] gmail [dot] com.

Our first feature comes to us, thanks to Todd who has some of the same peeves that I do on this wonderful topic. Of course this topic is Taiwan-centric because we live here. But you may Sound Off! about anything having to do with waiters!

Why can’t waiters understand basic principles?

  1. If you hand me a menu, I need to read it before I can order anything. So, go away and let me read in peace!
  2. Other than telling me about some specials that are not on the menu, or might not be readily apparent, don’t insult me with your hard sell techniques! Just because my eyes stopped at the Ma Po Tofu for 3 milliseconds doesn’t mean I need you to start telling me how great it is.
  3. Clean the frigging tables! Geesh!
  4. I don’t care what other foreigners like. Give me the whole menu and not an excerpt.
  5. I may be able to read Chinese. Unless you ask, you couldn’t possibly know.
  6. Try talking to me in Chinese first. If that fails, fall back on English.
  7. Freezing in one’s tracks while uttering “Eh?” is not a proper way to greet a Customer.
  8. Don’t assume that “beer” means “Heineken.”

We want your stories, anecdotes and experiences!

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  1. How about this: Can I get my food when everyone else at the table gets their food?

    Or this which occurs at places that use a counter: How about asking the person who is standing directly in front of you if he or she would like to place an order before taking the order of the person who runs in from the side and starts screaming their order at you?

    Oh yeah, and for all those places that try to pass themselves off as Western and trendy: Chips and Salsa DOES NOT MEAN Doritos and Ketchup.

    And for the “Italian” restaurants: Simply because it’s green doesn’t mean it’s pesto.

  2. oooohh Todd, that #2 is one of my favorites! you can never hold the door for someone in Taiwan because they will knock you down running to jump in line of you while you’re holding the door for them. also, there is always someone standing beside the ordering window/counter who will stick their arm out sideways and slide something in before the next person in line. i’ve found that if you say anything, people think you have a problem! Patrick Cowsill has remarked about that too.

  3. What about waiters who take one look at you and pass you off to someone else because they don’t want to deal with a foreigner?

    Carrie’s last blog post..Shibuya!

  4. Carrie, that is a great one! we’ve all encountered that one before. there are 2 variations on that theme that i’ve been exposed to also:

    1. the waiter/staff isn’t listening to you, and doesn’t notice that you are speaking in Chinese. they are looking around frantically, asking if there is anyone present who can speak English (another assumption since no one asks if you speak English). several times i have had to slow down and talk like a retard to get my point across – “I AM SPEAKING CHINESE. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”

    2. a Customer in the restaurant will make an issue about a foreigner in the house that ends up being transfered to the waiter/staff. once, i walked into Shao-hui’s and a guy yelled out her name. when she looked up, this guy nodded his head in my direction. he was doing his duty to inform her that a laowai just came in. i asked the guy if he had a problem with his neck. when he said no, i replied, “oh, this is your first time here huh.” other times Customers will yell out stuff about our arrival which serves to inform everyone that they can start interjecting those precious English words into conversations so we can understand that yes, indeed, they can speak English! most of these places have TV sets going with foreigners on it. what is the big deal?

  5. How about those waiters (and waitresses) who wait patiently while you carefully look over the menu and then, after you have decided on what to eat and have told your server, inform you that item is no longer available. Why not just tell me when I first sit down that “We’re out of XXX today” instead of letting me get my hopes up?

    Kaminoge’s last blog post..Walking in one of the eight scenic spots of Taiwan

  6. Huei-Ju, sorry, but I don’t have Chinese support on the blog yet. we’re working on it.

    Kaminogoe, oh yeah! i hate that! it’s bad enough when they tell you while they are taking the order. but what about the ones who don’t know what’s available and go to the kitchen to order, and come back 5 minutes later with a menu because some items are not available?

  7. When you say “Basic principles” you mean, “My basic principles”.

    Gripe #1 is easily solved, simply tell them you’ll need a moment ! Hovering over you like a vulture is considered pre-req for good service (in case you need clarification over what a certain dish is like. I’ve never had a problem telling someone “deng yi xia, wo hai mei jueding”.

    Tod’s Gripe: I hear you ! Although having dishes served up as they are ready does make perfect sense if you’re having an Asian style communual meal …. I can tell you I’d hate having my food served up cold even more. For Western style restaurants (with corresponding prices) however I’m in complete agreement … dishes meant to be eaten seperately should be served *around* the same time.

  8. Panamajack » yeah, well i wrote it, so who else’s would they be? but it’s not just me as other’s comment show. we told that waitress “deng yi xia” and she just said “mei guan chee” not listening to us as usual. so it’s not so easily solved as i related in the article. you ask them to leave and they say that it’s no problem and they hover. what i don’t want is them looking at what i’m reading so they can hard sell me (#2). thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  9. Hi Bushman …. I guess I read “basic principles” as implying these gripes are universally accepted norms of waiting tables … perhaps they are in the West.

    I guess it seems hard to believe for us, but many Taiwanese like the hovering and the hard sell! I know sometimes when going out we often tend to order what we’re comfortable with and avoid trying something new. So, if it’s not too obnoxious, some suggestions from the menu can be helpful. [But ya, usually highly annoying.]

    Anyways, I do find that just a “deng yi xia” isn’t enough too … combined with the “hai mei jue ding”, however, usually gets the job done. If her boss tells him or her that they should hover, it takes an equally persistent customer to ward them off. Being a little curt doesn’t hurt either.

  10. Panamajack » yes, i do like everyone else does, which is to basically think my viewpoint is the correct one, lol. seems like people agree on this one, but i also like to entertain opposing views because that is what we all learn from.

    you touched on an excellent point. in Thailand, that hard sell is found everywhere. when i walk into a bus terminal, dozens of people ask me where i’m going. i never tell anyone because 1. i don’t know them, and 2. it’s none of their business. but one day i sat and i watched how Thais react to this. normally they stop and chat with the sales people, telling them where they are going, and apparently a lot more than that. then one of the salespeople prevails and takes his catch over to his bus ticket agent window and walks them through the ticket purchase. even though that process is designed to make sure that the salesperson gets his commission, the Customer perceives it as VIP treatment. it suddenly dawned on me that people there actually like that kind of treatment. upon my return home to Taiwan i took this realization with me and i believe that Taiwanese also like this kind of “personal Customer service.” the difference is in the definition of what constitutes Customer service.

    you also make a great point that it’s the bosses to tell the staff how to act and what to do. i don’t like having to be curt because i always feel bad later on 🙁

    great discussion. maybe i should open a Forum!

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