Why Are They So Unlucky?
I wonder why so many shop-assistants are so
foultempered? Inspite of so many "campaigns" to improve the
services in the past years, we see no appreciable change so far. If Dad
and Mum are to be believed, the services used to be quite good in the
fifties. But then, they always say everything used to be good in the
fifties. I find the older people grow, the more nostalgic they
Now Granny never
lets a day go by without remi-niscing on the good old things in the good
old days . Once when she saw Xiao Hong and me eating some mooncakes with
relish, she said pityingly, "You poor children, you don't know what
real mooncakes taste like. The worst in the old tasted much better than
the best that rnoney can buy nowadays!" We burst out laughing, not
taking her words seriously.
Now to come back to the bad service in shops and
department stores. People often say that when you buy something, you are
spending money to buy rudeness and anger. Today I saw a loing exactly
that. I was at a department store and I happened to witness a typical
quarrel. I was next to a counter selling tea and I saw an elderly man come
up and ask a young woman was busy weighing and wrapping tea into
standard-sized "packs "Do you have very good green tea?"
The woman glanced up to size him up. He was ordinarily
dressed and spoke with a provincial accent. obviously a man of no
consequence. She went on with her work and the man had to repeat his
question. After another pause the woman snorted out: "Yes: Twenty-six
yuan a liang. " Not believing his ears, the man tried to correct her.
"You mean twenty-six yuaw a jin?" Upon this the woman flared up
and shouted: "I said twenty-six yuan a LIANG ! Can't you hear
straight? If you want a jin, then it's two hundred and sixty yuan. Is that
The man seemed to be stunried by her sudden outburst
but he kept his temper and asked again. "Do you have some thing under
two yuan' a Liang?" Obviously she was makinj things difficult for the
old man for she answered as rudely as be fore;"What do you mean under
two yuan? Anything from on cent to one yuan ninety-nine cents is under two
yuan. " I don't remember what exaetly the man said , but somehow he
manage to find out there was a kind costing one yuan ninety-six a liang
"Can you show it to me?"
"Do you want to buy it or not?"
"Well, I want to look at the leaves and smell the
flavoc first. " "You can look , smell , eat , drink or do
whatever you like with it at home. Here I only sell tea. If you want to
buy it, buy it. If you can't afford it, don't come here to waste people's
time Obviously you don't know what is proper in Beijing ! "
"Look here young lady, it's you who don't know
what proper! I have been living in Beijing long before you were born, and
I've never seen anyone as rude as you are. Your job is to serve the
customers , not to insult them. Now for the last time are you going to
show me the tea or not?"
"And for the last time I am telling it to you.
Either buy it or get out of here! I know the likes of you-you want
something good, and yet grudge the money you have to spend on it!"
"This is insufferable 1 Who is in charge here? I
want to see your head ! " "My head? It's on my shoulders. Take a
good look if you want to. "
The old man went away fuming. "I've got down your
number ber. I'll write to the Evening News. " The threat didn't seem
to frighten the girl. At most she'll have to make a self-criticism, which
costs her nothing. Even if she should lose a month's bonus, it is only a
few yuan. But if she could be sacked, I bet she wouldn't dare to be so
rude and aggressive.
All the housewives who went to the new supermarket had
one great ambition: to be the lucky customer who did not have to pay for
her shopping. For this was what the notice just inside the entrance
promised. It said; "Remember, once a week, one of our customers gets
free goods. This may be your lucky day ! "
For several weeks Mrs Edwards hoped , like many of her
friends, to be the lucky customer. Unlike her friends, she never gave up
hope. The cupboards in her kitchen were full of things which she did not
need. In vain her husband tried to dissuade suade her. She dreamed of the
day when the manager of the supermarket
would approach her and say:"Madam, this is your lucky day. Everything
in your basket is free. "
One Friday morning, after she had finished her shopping
and had taken it to her car, she found that she had forgotten to buy any
tea. She dashed back to the supermarket, got the tea
and went towards the cashdesk. As she did so, she saw the manager of the
supermarket approaeh her. "Madam" , he said, holding out his
handzs, "I want to congratutate you! You are our lucky customer and
everything you have in your hasket is free!"
Three times a man in his early 30s approached Shen
Limin's clothes counter in the Baihua Garment Store on busy Xidan Street
in central Beijing.
The first time Shen showed him the various garments. He
left but returned a while later and stood there staring at a skirt. Then
he went away again, but came back after a few minutes.
Curious, Shen asked, "Why don't you buy that skir
since you love it so much?"
The man said that he really wanted to, but the 198-yuan
price was too much for him. She suggested that he choose something
cheaper, but he replied that the skirt was what his wife would like most.
They started talking and he told her he bought his wife
a gift every year in celebration of their wedding anniversary. Shen was so
moved that she offered the skirt to him for 130 yuan, the wholesale price.
When the man hesitated in surprise, she told h'sm,
"I do that simply because
you are a good husband. "
As a divorcee, Shen, 35, spoke from the depths of her
She could not imagine any husband being so considerate
Her failure in marriage and her divorce three years ago
scared her away men and prompted her to resign from her job as a log
keeper in a film studio and become a self-employed garment seller.
What makes Shen unusual is that she make money to help
Her love of children and her sympathy for the wretched
stemmed fiom the day her six-year-old younger brother was crushed to death
in a mishap in a warehouse near her home.
Her sympathetic nature kept her marriage together for
Her husband had been a clarinet player in an army band.
A go-between had introduced them. One cold snowy night they deeided to get
married. He had been walking her home and kept darting into shops. She
grew impatient thinking he was merely wanting to buy cigarettes and she
stomped off. But he ran after her and presented her with a gauze mask he
had bought. for her to help keep out the cold.
His thoughtfulness moved her to tears. He said that
perhaps they should break up since she cotild not understand him. "I
will marry you if that can atone for my mistake," Shen said she
responded. And so the matter was sealed.
The death of a bosom fiiend seven years later marked the beginning of the
end for Shen and her husband.
As the friend lay dying of heart disease. 20 days after
giving birth to a son-a pregnancy she had risked because her husband was
the only son of hi, family-she asked Shen to care for the child.
Shen promised she would, even though she had a son of
her own. Her husband was strongly opposed, however. Still. Shen would
often go to see the child, who was living in his grandmother's home.
"I felt guilty when I saw the child wearing dirty
clothes," Shen said." I thought the child would not have been
like that had his mother been alive. "
When the grandparents decided to send the boy to
friends in Tianjin, Shen wanted to adopt him. Her husband then moved out
and said he wanted a divorce.
Shen went to Tianjin to look for the child and found
him. But the family refused to give the boy up. Shen would not leave until
she was convinced the child was being kindly treated and properly cared
Her years of marriage had given Shen a comfortable
life-style but that was all, she said. The divorce made her realize'she
had feelings and ambitions again.
Shen had once dreamed of becoming a film actress, and
tried out for roles but only ended up with bit parts. She fared better on
the stage with amateur troupes. But her dreams were shattered when she was
refused admission to a professional art school because of her age. She was
too old to learn how to act , she was told.
New dreams filled the void of her disappiontment. She
turned to helping children. She wrote to the SOS Village in Tianjin, a
home for orphaned children, applying for a job as a nurse. But she was
turned down because she had a son.
She still wanted to help children but did not know how.
Finding a way to make money became a practical and urgent problem. Eerly
last year she started her own business as a clothing dealer, setting up a
stall in west Beiing.
Her mother did not like the idea and felt it would be
bad fos.her grandson to be brought up in such an environment. She
threatened to smash the stall, but gradually Shen won her over.
"I don't want my son to follow my example,"
she said. " expect a lot of him. "
She still maintains contact with her friend's son in
She moved to Xidan this summer when the new Baihua
Garment store pened. She now has two assistants , one of them a university
Shen said that her business life has made her a
different woman, one vho is independent and full of confidence. Friends
try to get her to date but she is not interested.
At first, she said, her distaste of marriage or love
affairs was so strong that she cut her hair short and wore men's clothes.
"I am afraid of falling in love." Shen said
with a bitter smile.
She daubts whether she eauld be a good wife , saying
she woutd better as a friend or companion.
Many of her customers have become friends. To one
frequent calkr, she is Sister Shen.
"I really love my customers," Shen said.
"I do my business for the sake
of love. "