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Friday, April 24, 2015

Customer Service: A Humility Lesson

I love my Canon camera but it's not been working well recently and only getting worse.  After querying the local expats groups on Facebook, I found the approximate location of a camera repair shop.  I assume such places have actual names and addresses, but it's just easier for foreigners to discuss locations-by-landmark.  To wit:

Yes, this is how well-educated people in a foreign country communicate.
Even sharing random baby news on a buy/sell posting about cameras.  :)

So, my beloved TA and I (I'm teaching two classes at the university now - I love it, but it leaves far less time for blogging, as dear readers may have noticed) went to get my laptop and camera repaired in town today. The laptop repair place (local translation: the HP A/S near Shiway's Home Plus) gave your average Korean service (read: rude but competent).  In short, the repair guy lived in a back room that was stuffed floor-to-ceiling with boxes and cigarette smoke and, oddly, a baby car seat; we stood at the doorway (we weren't invited in and there really wasn't room anyway) while he fiddled with my laptop (don't impose any concept of organization or "dust-free zone" on your mental picture here), ignored most of my/Hee Eun's running commentary about what I/we thought was wrong, etc.  He diagnosed a cord problem, blamed me for it (WHY WOULD YOU BLAME THE CUSTOMER TO HER FACE?), and ordered a new cord for me, due in 4 days. Fine.

We next found the camera shop (ok, Hee Eun found the shop - I, of course, automatically scanned for English signs and totally missed the obvious clue of, say, pictures of cameras on the shop's sign, let alone the giant Korean word for camera (pronounced kah-may-rah) above the shop.).
See it?  It's the white-signed store on the right (for local folks, Home Plus is 1/2 block behind us and
the 5-way intersection is in front of us).

We entered the tiny space, Hee Eun explained my camera's problem (the autofocus has gone from touchy to downright mean), and Camera Guy (whom I initially mistook for an adorable middle-aged ajoshi with bright eyes and rather gel-laden, spiky dyed black hair) interrupted to ask about my camera strap. Well, ok, it's not Regulation Canon Camera Strap, but a soft purple scarf, which is (a) more comfy on my neck, (b) far more pretty and (c) my tiny way of sticking it to the corporate man. He wanted to remove it and sell me a Canon strap; I refused, smiling and trying to pull off the persona of "slightly embarrassed and kind of dumb foreigner."  This might have been a tactical error.

His smiley criticisms continued, flowing right along in Korean.  However, between my status as Very-Observant-Shy-Person-Turned-Social-Psychologist and my actual-though-limited knowledge of Korean and, of course, Hee Eun's tactful translations, I got the message.  To wit:

(1) My camera was dirty - nay, filthy. He insisted we accept beverages (I refused coffee but he gave me a can of Sparkle! McCool! which tastes like carbonated barley vomit - though I may overstate, as Hee Eun rather enjoyed hers) while he cleaned my camera (free! service!).  While smilingly chatting with Hee Eun and joking about how poorly I have cared for my camera, he cleaned it with these highly specialized professional tools: (a) his breath, (b) rubbing alcohol, (c) bits of cotton fluff ripped from a roll, and (wait for it!) (d) a well-used, oily toothbrush (he promised he hadn't used it in his mouth). After each cotton swab, he said "Ha!" and showed us the filth, leaving them in a pile on the counter.

If you can read Korean, you know this
store is called "Sharon Camera."
 Which, of course, is so, SO close to my own name
that I think God laughed pretty darn hard at
today's encounter.
(2) His next smiling stabbing topic was my size.  He freely commented about my weight (Americans eat so much meat!). Hee Eun graciously (and angrily) refused to translate, but I got the gist. Have I mentioned how much I adore my TA?  I must remember to fail her this semester so she can't graduate and I can keep her forever.

In the end, I bought a new lens (it's a more updated version than mine - although he couldn't quite specify HOW it was better - but after his kind discount it was the same price as repairing mine) and I got a filter for it (Ray - thank you for your many gentle nudges) but I refused the hood he also wanted me to buy (to reduce sun spots). I tested my new lens and filter on my shiny clean camera and took 3 pictures. Of him, of course, because I was still trying hard to think of him as a nice guy with a little prejudice against foreigners.  And, of course, I was secretly planning to write this up for my blog.

Now to pay.  Oh - total cost in cash was 100,000 won (about $93) but debit card cost was $150,000 won (surely I heard that wrong?).  Off we went to my bank to get cash, just around the corner. My camera remained behind with him as a requested security (or as a hostage, depending on your current level of cynicism).  As we walked out, he took a phone call and I quickly swept the dirty swabs into my purse. Thus I removed his props for any evening stories about the filthy foreigner and her silly strap/scarf.

We returned and paid; he pressed me to take my remaining fizzy barley beverage which I had strategically "forgotten" on the counter.  Arg. After we left I poured out the beverage on a nearby tree, not wanting to seem rude by leaving it there.

Upon arriving home, I went to transfer today's pictures from my camera to my laptop.  And, inexplicably, saw that some were missing.  Three, to be exact.  Of  him, standing behind the small pile of swabs.

So.  "Customer service" apparently includes removing photos from customers' cameras. Hmmph. That's it.  Game on, Camera Guy.  Game on.

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