I have overcome many cultural differences in England over the years. I don’t feel discrimination in my everyday life, generally speaking.
This afternoon, I visited the Apple store in Southampton. I’m the kind of person who shouldn’t have bought an iPad, as I used it mainly to check emails and read digital newspapers.
My iPad kept shutting down recently, so I took it to the store. The Apple store was heaving with people. Some Apple men in red shirt were standing at the entrance to welcome customers and give them guidance. They act like GP receptionists. If you’ve ever tried booking an appointment with your GP, you know you very much need to impress the GP’s receptionists first. If you’re lucky enough to impress the receptionists, you get to see the GP on the same day, otherwise you’ll get seen 3 and a half weeks later when your GP returns from his exotic holiday when you’re half dead.
The Apple store had a worker with the build of a bouncer at the entrance. A young lad passed me to this bouncer as he was the technical man. I opened up a webpage, in less than 2 minutes, he told me, “I can’t see any problems. There’s no problem as far as I can see. Everything seems working fine…” Yes, sir, there has been a problem, for months, otherwise I wouldn’t have made the tedious trip in this foul English weather to this overcrowded store. While my iPad works now doesn’t mean that there isn’t a hidden problem that hasn’t shown up in the past 2 minutes.
Without further diagnosis, he told me I needed to update the software, as my iPad was running on an old version. Here comes the crucial point, we couldn’t perform the upgrade from home. We had tried many times. That’s why I came to your store.
“If that is the problem, you need to show us the print screen that you could’t upgrade.” He also asked me to go home, to go online, book an appointment and come back again to the store.
This level of customer service was beyond belief. In his tone of voice, there was no warmth, no care. There was no eye contact. There was a total lack of gentle human touch. Needless to say he didn’t go that extra mile. He didn’t invite me to the store for a nice cup of tea.
I left with confusion. I’m not a technical person, but I felt from his tone of voice that his answer was not good enough. His attitude wasn’t right. He simply fobbed me off. I continued hanging around in the shopping mall for a while, wondering why and how I deserved being treated like that.
I had these questions in my head repeatedly, “Could it be I’m a woman that he looked down on me?” “Because I’m Chinese?”
I don’t feel discrimination in my everyday life. However, sometimes discrimination is so subtle. You can sense it, with a tone of voice, with a nonchalant look.
Half an hour later, I decided to hit the store again. I simply couldn’t leave this matter unresolved. This time, I ignored the bouncer at the entrance, crushing all teenagers to the ground and marching straight to the back of the store. There I saw at least 5 red-shirted people. I spoke to one lady with exactly the same problem that I had explained to the bouncer earlier. She took my iPad over, explained to me that it was an old iPad and might just need a complete upgrade. She updated the firmware (please don’t ask me what a firmware is) for me immediately. Everything was sorted in less than 10 minutes. She was efficient. She was smiling throughout. There was warmth in her manner.
Luckily my Apple experience today had a happy ending, thanks to the sweet lady at the back of the store. I asked my husband what he thought of me being mistreated by the Apple bouncer. He explained that some technical people wouldn’t like to deal with you if you couldn’t use technical language. “And, you’re a woman didn’t help.”
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