6/12/2011

North Face's Face

The occasional person asks me why I blog. The main point is to put up posts about Taiwan's history, as I feel it is misrepresented at times as well as under-represented. There also seems to be an effort in the media to color Taiwan as something that is Chinese. I guess I am not the only person in Taiwan that finds this problematic. The reason I can't get on board is I come from the US, via Canada, and I don't see myself as Chinese in any way. There are a couple of other concepts that inspire me: 1.) I'm interested in writing about the local history of the places I visit in Taiwan. This could mean simply translating something a taxi driver has told me. Or maybe I'll hit the books to create something bigger. 2.) I'm deeply interested in amusing myself. The next tidbit falls into the latter category. I think I'll get my kicks running over something annoying with the hope of a personal resolution. I suppose I'm being petty, but here goes anyway. It's about the shitty customer service I received at a store called North Face. Ever heard of these guys? 

My wife, daughter and I were killing time and working up an appetite for dinner this afternoon in Gongguan (公館). We wandered into the North Face store on Roosevelt and I saw a satchel that was me. After asking for, and getting, the customary 10 percent discount on the fixed price (NT$3800 = US$125ish), I asked the salesman where the garbage can was. I had my daughter's empty yogurt bottle in my left and an equally light Asahi can in the right. I wanted to inspect the cool pockets of the satchel, try it on, etc., but couldn't because my hands were full. This is where the b.s. started. The salesman said: "We don't have a garbage can. You'll have to go out to the street to find one."

"How do you throw things away if you don't have a garbage?" I asked, looking around.

"Oh? Well, we don't provide this service for our customers," was the reply.

A couple moments later, after his words had sunk in and I had realized what I was dealing with, I said, "And I was just about to buy a bag from you." 

"I'm sorry. There is nothing I can do -- mei ban fa (沒辦法)!" Actually, the salesman just shrugged me off. He couldn't care less.

To make a long story short, I didn't get the bag. The salesman had made his point; he was King and we were pretty lucky to be admitted to his store. In Taipei, the store owner is quite often King. 

15 comments:

Kaminoge said...

Unbelievable. You should have had a word with his manager in order to explain exactly why you were not going to purchase that satchel after all.

Anonymous said...

He must have turned on the snooty attitude when he saw the can of beer.

Either way he's a dick if he lost a potential sale.

Samuel Hutchinson said...

There also seems to be an effort in the media to color Taiwan as something that is Chinese.

Taiwan is Chinese for the past 4 centuries! Where are you living, man??

Patrick Cowsill said...

"Taiwan is Chinese for the past 4 centuries! Where are you living, man??"

The Chinese washed their hands of Taiwan in 1895, ceding Taiwan as a colony to Japan with the treaty of Shimonoseki. The Chinese offered Taiwan to the Dutch in 1624, as an incentive to them leaving the Pescadores. The Chinese tried to sell Taiwan back to the Dutch in 1683 after recapturing it from Koxinga's grandson. After the emperor Kangshi claimed Taiwan was nothing more than a blob of mud floating in the sea, a blob that would never be worthy of inclusion within the Center Kingdom, he pondered repatriating people.

You want to know where I'm living, Sam? Well, I can tell you this: I am living close to a library. Just in case you're confused, libraries have books. Books are full of information and ideas, facts and so on. You open them up and you read them. When you get tired of living inside your own head, you might try visiting one someday.

Samuel Hutchinson said...

Dear Patrick,

let me be honest with you now. I was challenging you in my past comments, I admit, but now I want to be serious.

I think you put too much importance on historic facts, that have nothing to do with the reality of today. In the past 4 centuries, especially since the Qing ruled over Taiwan (from the late 17th century on), the island's majority were Han Chinese, right? Even under Japan the majority were Han. And later on under KMT as well. So it's fair to say that culturally and by population Taiwan was completely dominated by Han Chinese in the (at least) last 300+ years, right? That's the only thing that matters in 2011! The Dutch, Spanish, Koxinga, these are all fairy tales from the past, all this doesn't matter. Taiwan is dominated by Chinese cultures, languages, traditions... If you can't see that, then I want to ask you again: Where are you living, man??

No offence, but you're trying to spin reality your way and I have no idea why. I didn't say Taiwan needs to a province of PRC, but denying Taiwan's Chinese identity is outrageous. Is it a shame to be Chinese? Not at all, if you ask me! Taiwanese should be proud of their heritage (and I know most are), but that doesn't mean they are part of PRC, if they think so. Americans and British have common linguisic (and some also genetic) roots, but they can coexist as friends in 2 countries. I know that Mainlanders use the Chinese identity of the Taiwanese people as reason of claiming their sovreign territory, but is the right answer to that denying the Chinese identity and replacing it with the Taiwanese? Taiwanese have 2 identities like many kids from interracial marriages have. Nothing to be afraid of, don't you think? So why on earth would it be so bad for Taiwanese to be proud of their Chinese roots? Why are you so against that? I'm truly baffled.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Sam,

I don't care one way or the other. In fact, I didn't even finish reading your comments that's how indifferent I am. I am really not a political person.

This post was meant to be about customer service and North Face. Please keep it on topic / no more manifestos, etc.

Anonymous said...

Hey Patrick, stop teaching history to a child. You are wasting your breath. ChoSan

Philip L said...

I'm getting the feeling 'mei banfa' affects you much in the same way as 'you're chicken' affects Marty McFly in 'Back to the Future'. :)

Patrick Cowsill said...

"I'm getting the feeling 'mei banfa' affects you much in the same way as 'you're chicken' affects Marty McFly in 'Back to the Future'. :)"

Yeah, because it's nonsense. In most cases, the solution is quite simple and all we're dealing with is laziness. I will often say, "you shouldn't say mei ban fa. I'm the customer and there is a solution." And I usually get my way. I think the person gives in to shut me up. They don't like attention being drawn to them and the other customers looking at them.

There was no way I was going to buy that bag though. Not a chance.

blobOfNeurons said...

I'm starting to think that when people say 沒辦法 they actually mean, in their petulant hearts

「(你)沒辦法(逼我)」

熊大衛 said...

"The occasional person asks me why I blog. The main point is to put up posts about Taiwan's history, as I feel it is misrepresented at times as well as under-represented. There also seems to be an effort in the media to color Taiwan as something that is Chinese."

Could be the few hundred years as part of China, or the fact that the majority of Taiwanese are ethnically Chinese.


"I'm sorry. There is nothing I can do -- mei ban fa (沒辦法)!"

Is this something localised to Taiwan or is this also common in mainland (PRC) China?

Patrick Cowsill said...

You guys are getting better at posting your b.s. links. I was almost fooled into thinking this was a legit comment. I'll scrape you off in few moments or so. But I have to say, well done.

熊大衛 said...

I think that's a bit harsh to describe my comment as illegit :P

I just dont have my own webpage to link to.

And I'm genuinely curious if mei ban fa occurs in other east asian cultures :P

Patrick Cowsill said...

"I think that's a bit harsh to describe my comment as illegit :P"

OK then. You'll notice I didn't take your comment down though.

Leslie Lim said...

First time I commented in a blog! I really enjoy it. You have an awesome post. Please do more articles like this. I'm gonna come back surely. God bless.

Rica
www.imarksweb.org