Bad service in Hong Kong: language barrier, poor attitude or just plain racism?
Having taken his laptop along for a US visa interview, my son found it was not allowed inside the consulate. The security guard pointed us towards the sports facility across the road as a possible place to leave it. Once there, as I started to speak in English, the lady at the reception waved me towards the booking counter. I started to explain my situation to the staff there, but was immediately cut off as he said he had nothing to do with the US Consulate, though I tried to explain that I needed a place to leave the backpack.
To my surprise, an elderly man stood up and told me in a not-very-friendly manner that this was a sports facility. I said I knew that, and turned back to the staff at the counter. But the elderly gentleman continued to interrupt me while I spoke to the staff member, whose manner was defensive/hostile.
As I turned around to leave, realising that I couldn’t get a locker there, the old man said: “Next time I will call the police.” Where did this come from and what had I done? And why did the staff member not say something? Was it my race or just poor attitude?
My son later suggested that maybe the elderly man was there early (it was 8.20am) to book courts to re-sell, and took me for someone jumping the queue. If that is the practice, what is the Leisure and Cultural Services Department doing about it?
More than anything, I was surprised at the attitude of the sports centre staff. This is a public facility run by the LCSD and one would expect a level of customer service and politeness. Secondly, this centre is located right next to The Peak Tram station, a place teeming with tourists, who may well walk in there by mistake or to seek information or help. At the very least, one can expect the staff to be accustomed to seeing non-Chinese people around.
I have lived in and visited several other countries where I didn’t speak the local language, and know for sure that the language barrier cannot be an excuse for bad behaviour and poor service.
Niru Vishwanath, Pok Fu Lam