I Speak Fluent “Customer”

, , , , | Right | November 16, 2018

(I work at a small children’s clothing store that prides itself on customer service. I’ve been working there long enough that I know generally how customers might react to different things, and can sometimes help them preemptively. A Chinese woman has just walked in with her husband and roughly three-year-old daughter, and they’ve immediately gone to the winter coats. Making a guess, I grab a couple coats that were put on hold earlier.)

Me: “Was it your mom who called earlier? Are you [Customer]?”

Customer: “Yes! How did you know?”

(The customer grabs the coats from me and speaks in Chinese while putting one on her daughter, looking at it critically and tugging at the bottom. I go and find a different style that’s shorter.)

Me: “Here, this one is shorter.”

Customer: “How did you know?”

(She switches back to Chinese, getting the girl to switch coats. The girl starts crying.)

Me: “If she really likes the other one, we can try the smaller size. I don’t think it will fit her for very long, though.”

(I hand her the smaller size in the original coat. The customer changes coats again. I think she agrees with me that it’s too small, since she switches back to the other coat. The girl is in tears again, and her mother begins carrying her while she and her husband look for something, still talking in Chinese.)

Me: “Mirror? At the back there.” *pointing*

Customer: “How did you know?”

(They find the mirror, and the girl stops crying, apparently liking this coat after all. I approach with a matching hat, gloves, and scarf. The little girl exclaims something that I assume is “kitty” in Chinese as she grabs the cat-ear hat out of my hand and tries to put it on. While her mom helps her with the hat, I grab a couple other items.)

Me: “If she likes cats, these are also good for winter.”

Customer: “How did you know?”

(Her daughter is now trying to carry all the cat-related items at once, but her little arms in the big puffy coat are making it difficult. Not seeing anything else I can help with, I go back to tidying the store until they approach the cash register, and I go back to help again.)

Customer: “Do you speak Chinese?”

Me: “No, sorry. I tried to learn once, but it was hard!”

(The customer seemed satisfied by this answer, maybe thinking I’d picked up a few words, and we had a little conversation about how different English and Chinese are while she checks out. Really, I tried and failed to learn to count in Chinese; body language and actions are just really easy to read sometimes.)

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