Wednesday, August 19, 2009

An Innocent Question

I apologize in advance, as this post is not in any real way food related, and might be inflammatory. I don't mean to offend anyone, really - I'm just trying to sort out what happened.

Is it wrong that, as a white (Caucasian), Canadian-born, English-speaking citizen, that I feel like the victim of racial discrimination today? Not racism, per se... there was no violence or outright "anti-white" behaviours directed at me. But while I was at T & T Supermarket (which some of you may recognize as a chain of Asian grocery stores in Canada, recently taken over by the behemoth Loblaws Corp) today, trying to pick up an order for a case of product I had placed last week, I was treated like a total idiot by the staff there. Now, granted, I don't speak either Mandarin or Cantonese, and I don't even know what dialect they tend to converse in - but that doesn't mean I think they're any less capable of doing their jobs than anyone else. I have lots of friends from all over the world - I even go to school with people from everywhere from Columbia to Beijing to Afghanistan - and not a single one is better or worse a person than I or any Canadian I know.

So why, at the store today, was I lied to repeatedly by the clerk? Firstly, I arrived at the store only to be told that my order wasn't in yet - after I was phoned yesterday afternoon by the same clerk and told that it had arrived on Sunday! When I mentioned the phone call, the man became defensive and snipped that he "would check again"... 15 minutes later he arrives, box under one arm, cell phone in the other hand. The entire remainder of the time I was trying to finish what should have been an otherwise simple transaction, he spent 80% text messaging friends and 20% giving me the vacant stares of an employee that has not a flipping care in the world about you.

I know that stare well. I've used it before - during my night shifts at Tim Hortons, shortly before closing. I admit to it.

What pissed me off the most is that after being assured both when I placed my order the first time (in case you were wondering, it was for a particular Malaysian brand of fish balls - I know it's weird, but it's one of the few proteins I can tolerate readily these days) and when I was on the phone with the store that I could in fact repeat this process, the ever so helpful clerk tried to renege on his words, giving me a "maybe this was only time". Uh huh, buddy - I don't think so. So, a call tomorrow to speak with the manager is on my to-do list. I just hope that my accent doesn't give me away.


  1. I think bad service can come from anyone. I worked many years in retail & am very sensitive to bad service, it makes me sooooo mad.

  2. Well, if you felt as if you were being treated in that way because of your ethnicity ... you may very well be right. Unfortunately, there's no way to know, really. It's safer to just chalk it up to bad service.

  3. How old was this clerk?

    I find that the older T&T employees, who have no idea what texting is, take their jobs seriously. I've never seen groceries rung through or bagged as efficiently as I have at a T&T. This goes for all the T&T stores I've been to, Vancouver and Toronto.

    However, I am finding that I get non-attentive service from the younger staff, be it at T&T or at any supermarket. This is especially true of high school aged employees, who are there to earn pocket money to pay for things like the phone and service they text with.

    As a Canadian-born (non-Caucasian), English-speaking citizen, I speak English at T&T. I've encountered 3 dialects. It is simply easier.

    Quite frankly, there are other large Asian supermarkets in Toronto you can go to that offer competitive prices and competitive service.

    The last time I was in Markham, I bypassed T&T and went to Foody Mart.


Thanks for the feedback!