Posts Tagged ‘communicate’

Can You Speak Slower?

July 12, 2011

A customer approaches the cash register. He’s holding a large pile of clothes, and I ask, simply, “Ready?” Sometimes I can’t tell if people speak English, and he looked quite iffy. He didn’t look at me and walked by my register, then stopped and turned back to face me. “Are you ready?”¬†What comes from his mouth in the next few seconds bewilders me.

He replies, slightly confused and slightly irritated, “Can you speak slower?”
Okay, so I tell myself, he’s just visiting and doesn’t speak English–although normally, people who don’t speak English can’t say, “Can you speak slower,” usually they say, “I don’t understand,” or “No English.”
So I repeat myself, this time, much, much slower, “You ready?”
He casually places his pile down, and replies, “Yes, my wife is still shopping. I’m going to pay now, and wait for her outside.”

Wait, what? Yes, what just happened? So he doesn’t understand, “Are you ready?”, but can spit out an entire on-going sentence about himself and his wife? Yes. So where did he need me to slow down? Was it the are, the you, or the ready?

Some people make no sense at all.

Customer Types: The Deaf, The Dumb, Learn the Language

Canned Discount in Japanese.

September 12, 2009

There are times we do things for charity, like working with a local food-bank accepting cans in exchange for a discount. There was an older man who spoke no English, who came to the register. I note, I have a simple rule–never visit a country if you can’t speak any of the language. If you do, bring someone that can speak for you. You surely don’t want to embarrass yourself and end up in some story that’s retold later.

So he comes up and hands me a pile of clothes, then he puts the flier on top–which announces the charitable event–canned goods in exchange for a discount. I ring up his purchase, but since he has no canned goods, I act as if he’s just resting the flier on the counter. I press enter, and he sees the total, shaking the paper in my face.

“It says you get discount if you bring in canned food.” I do not know enough Japanese to translate this curious statement for him. Thus if I went to Japan, I would obviously bring someone who can speak the language.
He glares at me, his expression unchanged.
“Canned food. Cans. Vegetables. Food.”
He still stares at me and points at the flier, specifically the line for the discount. I don’t know if he’s totally oblivious to all the other statements on the paper.
“Charity? Fundraiser? Homeless? Starving?” I try to think of words he might have heard in Japan, but to no avail. This is getting quite embarrassing, and not for me. I glance at the long line of customers listening to our exchange, seeing their fliers and the cans they’re holding, knowing they understand exactly what the discount is. They’re looking at the back of his head with the ‘shame-shame’ face. This is one time, being rich isn’t a power against a retail store.
He stands there staring at me, so I go to the donation box and show him a can of vegetables. He shakes his head. Then he spits out the English he does know, “I give, I get can?” He gestures the paper toward the cans, as if we give him a canned food for having a flier. Seriously, this isn’t a third-world country.
“No, the cans are for charity. For the poor. For people that have no home.”
He shakes his head angrily, wanting the discount. I point at the box again. He yells, “No can!” while pointing at himself–he doesn’t want any cans, and I surely doubt he’s homeless.

In the end, he just slams down the flier and says, “No buy!,” as if he was triumphant against the Retail world. He walks away angry and proud. Now there is a man, if he knew what an ass he made of himself–in front of a line of customers–would hopefully be ashamed of himself. Yet, if he wasn’t ashamed of himself, then I feel sorrow for the world.

Customer Type: Learn the Language