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Category: Language & Words

This category features customers whose mishandling of vocabulary and grammar are so bad that we literally have no words to describe them!

Arabian Plights

| Sunrise, FL, USA | Bad Behavior, Language & Words

(I am of Middle Eastern heritage, and I speak fluent Arabic, but because of my Western name and lighter complexion, I often get mistaken for a Caucasian man. I am working on the store’s stock team, running trolleys to the store’s grocery department. A customer in a hijab stops to ask me a question.)

Customer: “Excuse me. I am looking for some [spice I’ve never heard of].”

Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am. I’ve never heard of that before. I can tell you what aisle it might be on, but not if we have it. Why don’t you ask my associate over there? He’s far more familiar with this department than I am.”

(I point to my coworker, who is about 15 feet away.)

Customer: “Okay. I will, then.”

(The customer proceeds to mutter various insults and curse words in Arabic as she looks around the aisle. About a minute of this in, I decide to respond.)

Me: *in Arabic* “You know, it’s really shameful and cowardly when a grown woman, especially one in a hijab, is insulting a worker half her age in a language she thinks he doesn’t understand. Some representative of our culture you are!”

Customer: *in Arabic, sputtering* “You speak Arabic?”

Me: *in English* “No, I just said that specific statement to throw you off.”

(The customer turned bright red with embarrassment, left her cart behind, and exited the store.)

Pales In Comparison To Wales

| Wales, UK | Geography, Language & Words, Tourists/Travel

(I work in a tourist information centre in a Welsh town. As well as its regular Welsh town name, the town has an anglicised version since it is a popular seaside destination for a large swathe of people from central England. The anglicised name sounds similar to another popular seaside resort that actually IS in England, but it’s a good 350+ miles away from us.)

Me: “Bore da, Canolfan Groeso [Welsh town]. Sut gallai helpu chi? Good morning, tourist information [Anglicised name of Welsh town]. How may I help you?”

Caller: “Yeah. I want sailing times for the ferries to the [island near the English town].”

Me: “I’m afraid I don’t have that information to hand, sir. I can either give you the phone number for [English Town]’s tourist services or I can pop you on hold whilst I look it up.”

Caller: “But people sail from [town not far from English town] all the time. Why haven’t you got it to hand? I could look it up on the Internet myself!”

Me: “We are [Welsh town], 350+ miles from [English town]. We tend to only provide information for [Welsh town] and the surrounding county.”

Caller: “I don’t understand.”

Me: “You’ve called Wales, sir. The services you want are in England.”

Caller: “Wales?”

Me: “Yep, Wales.”

Caller: “So you’re not [English town]?”

Me: “Nope, we’re [Welsh town].”

Caller: “Well, what’s the point of that? Why would you do that?”

Me: “Erm, I’m really sorry but I don’t follow?”

Caller: “Why would you be in Wales?”

Driving A Hard Bargain

| Chennai, India | Hotels & Lodging, Language & Words, Tourists/Travel

(I am standing in line at the travel desk of a very nice hotel in Chennai. Just ahead of me is a guest with an accent from somewhere in Britain, but I cannot place it. He is being very abusive toward the young man at the desk.)

Guest: “I’m not paying your rates for a car. I’m going to hire an auto outside the hotel. You people are thieves”

Desk Clerk: “Certainly, sir, but how may I help you?”

Guest: “Write this address down. Write it down in Hindi. I’ll hand it to a driver. I’m not paying you.”

Desk Clerk: “Yes, sir.”

(I watch him write down the address from English to Hindi.)

Me: “I must compliment you. He was very rude and you handled it well.”

Desk Clerk: “Just doing my job, sir. Thank you.”

Me: “You did just what he asked…”

Desk Clerk: *looks up smiling slightly*

Me:“You wrote it down in Hindi. The local language is Tamil… and what are his chances of finding a literate ‘auto’ driver out there, anyway?”

Desk Clerk: *smiling broadly* “You have been here before, sir!”