I’m pretty particular about getting service from service industry. Taiwan’s Cooperative Bank isn’t high on my list of service-oriented banks in Taiwan, in fact there aren’t many. The one that actually can turn my stomach is one called Guo Tai. There are people practicing being totally expressionless and never making eye contact that stand at the door with white gloves and greet you loudly, like a loudspeaker when you enter. Talking with them flusters them, although that’s my natural tendency.
Coop isn’t like that. And each branch is very different. They are a good place to get travellers checks, and so I’ve been 3-4 times to a branch that’s now on my daily route.
1st visit took forever. The apparent cause was that the man at the travellers’ check (TC) desk was new at his job. His colleague who was overseeing/assisting him was visibly disapproving of almost everything he did. Mostly I felt compassion for him and thankfulness that I wasn’t in a hurry.
2nd visit. I WAS in a hurry. There was a person in line ahead of me. He seemed to be taking at least twice a long for each act as was necessary. Passive-agressive? I left and went somewhere else after about 15 minutes.
last visit before today. I took a number from the machine (determining my place in line) as I entered downstairs. Upstairs, there was no line. He had developed a cold manner – I guess it protected him. I consciously made this a practice in patience. Maybe after 20 minutes of being up on the 2nd floor doing his process, he sent me down to the 1st floor for the payment process. My number had passed and would not be honored. I had to pick a new number, now with 20 people in front of me. That’s it. Now no patience, but still civility (this is not always the case, by the way). I talked with the security guy (he is like a conductor overseeing the flow of people) saying my whole story, that I’d already been upstairs, that I had another number and now needed a second. Making it clear I was not demanding any particular behaviour from him other than helping me see who it would be beneficial for me to suggest some change to (for another process). Sorry. Nothing could be done. I started sitting, then spotted some senior looking people on the side and approached them to speak. They funneled me to a window that was previously closed. I did my transaction. They said that in fact there IS a process to expedite payment for travellers’ checks. I was upstairs within 3 minutes of leaving. The TC guy was visibly surprised. We completed the process. I thanked him. He didn’t receive it very well.
Today. totally different. No wait downstairs in the bank. Guy upstairs still guarded. I pushed not at all. I really felt I had all the time in the world. Downstairs the security guy pulled the line number for me and came to me to hand it (saving me those few steps). Person at the window was personable. Her colleague teased her that my Chinese was better than the window lady. I entered the conversation. Laughter, chit-chat. Warm feelings. I went upstairs. Took out a book so I could read for as long as it took. Only a couple minutes. Got my check. Folded all the papers and put them safely in my wallet. Left.
Every time totally different. I’m wondering who’s training who or if these are just random (?) differences in group dynamics. It felt like I had somehow earned the smooth process from being polite but clear earlier what I thought was possible in terms of good service. My imagination?
On Wednesday my friend Anne was commenting how incredibly rude Chinese people are. For the life of me I’ve never seen it. For me, I can get irritated mostly when I’m already tired, or late or otherwise frazzled and someone starts repeating things and not listening to my answer. I expect they doubt that they are hearing correctly and my distracted manner causes them to really wonder if I heard. But that’s really it, and if anyone in this story is to be seen as rude, it’s me. She does live in Tienmu where foreigners are abundant and can have a whole lifestyle without interacting much with the local culture. Guess I’ll never know.