Monday, August 23, 2010

Speaka ze English?

There's been a lot of talk lately about immigrants needing to learn English. I don't really understand all the hubbub myself. When I'm in a foreign country I find it helpful to have my English-speaking-only self accommodated with a few signs and instructions in my language. So, I don't really mind being instructed to "pulse dos para espanol" when I make a phone call.

In fact, lately I've had a couple of encounters that have confirmed my long-held suspicion that it is not foreigners or immigrants who need help with the English language. It's salespeople and other customer service employees. I think we need a special button for them to press because I do not think we are speaking the same language.

I submit as evidence thereof the following two "conversations:"

Saturday, August 21, 2010 in the hair salon at Walmart:

Sales Girl: Can I help you?
Me: Yes, I'm looking for shampoo without sulfates.
SG: Without what?
Me: Sulfates. I had this crazy expensive keratin protein treatment put on my hair and was told to use only sulfate-free shampoo.
SG: Oh, well, let's see.

We peruse the shelves before finally finding one on the last set of shelves in the salon.

Me: Oh good, it's buy one get one half-off.
SG: No, it's not.
Me: But there's a sign on the shelf that says, "All Pure Results products, Buy One Get One 50% off"
SG: That's only for the products.
Me: Right, the Pure Results products. That's what this is.
SG: No, shampoo is not a product.
Me: Huh?
SG: It doesn't apply to the shampoo and conditioner.
Me: But it's hanging on the shelf that contains nothing but shampoo and conditioner. And they are both Pure Results.
SG: We can put the sign on any shelf we want. Shampoo and conditioner are not products.
Me: Do you know what "product" means?
SG: Product means things like gel and mousse and such.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010 in the Atlanta Airport:

Scene: waiting for the train that carries passengers between terminals and the baggage claim area. Said train normally arrives every 90 seconds, and there is a little digital countdown clock that says how long until the next train. On this particular day, the clock keeps going higher (longer wait) every time it gets under 2 minutes. After standing and watching the countdown clock go up and down for about 4 or 5 minutes, I decide to ask the "attendant" sitting at a little attendant stand nearby if he knew what was going on.

Me: Are the trains not running?
Airport guy: The trains are running.
Me: Do you know how long until the next train gets here because the clock keeps changing?
AG: It'll be here soon.
Me: Don't they normally come every couple of minutes?
AG: It comes every 90 seconds.
Me: But, it's been about five minutes. Do you know what's wrong?
AG: Nothing's wrong with the trains.
Me: Well, do you have any idea when a train might actually come?
AG: The train comes every 90 seconds.

So, I am considering launching some sort of initiative for salesperson language training. Or at least a button I can press when I speak to them so that we are both using the same language.

Maybe "Press two for idiot?"


Lenae said...

Hahahahahaha! Awesome.

"Product means things like gel and mousse and such." Oh! Right, right.

Carol DD in CA said...

I completely understand the need for such a button. So funny!

Ellen said...

you are so funny - hahaha! made my day!so did you eventually get the "products" at the discount price?