Being a Regular
Most of us, if not all, enjoy receiving special treatments. Especially the ones we do not buy. Those that are offered out of sympathy and kindness. They mean the most. They are real.
I love being a regular. People want to be regulars, where ever they go. People want to feel important. To matter.
I used to have a student job working in a huge supermarket as a cashier. It was much more fun than it sounds. With colleagues we'd share stories. One thing we noticed is that we regularly had the same people. They were not picking the queue with the least people, or the closest to the exit. They had made it a habit. They had their 2-3 favorite employees, and became regulars in a store with 10,000 clients a day.
I happen to wonder if it's a lack of curiosity, and imagination. I find a bakery I like and always return to it while some friends know each one of them in the entire neighborhood.
But those bakeries don't know them. My bakery knows me.
It's a concept applicable to a wide range of services, and only requires a small background check. Starbucks have mastered it. From the moment you push the door, it all begins. The eye contact, the flirty smiles, the name on the cup, the payment, the reception of your drink from a different person. This one knows your name. Of course she does. But the use of it. It's perfect. Everything is.
Except the coffee.
I love being a regular. In a bar. In a cafe. In a restaurant. In all the places that will make me feel welcomed.
But now I'm in China. I've yet to be a regular. I've returned to the same places over and over. Not once was I greeted differently. Not once was I asked "As usual?" or "What will it be today?"
Generally, if I haven't decided to cook, I walk into my corner restaurant for dinner at around 8 pm. The picture menu is handed to me as I can't read Mandarin. All without a word. I can say "Nihao", but no reply will be given. I point at the meal I want, either in silence with a gesture showing "one", or saying "one of these." The waiter nods. This is when I pay. In China, you mostly pay before.
I go sit down and wait for my food, which is brought within 7-8 minutes and set in front of me. All without a word. I can say "Thank you" with a smile, but I will just get a nod. Or nothing at all.
Now I'm eating. I look around and most people are on their phones. The lucky ones even received a free bowl of soup they can lean their phone against and watch videos. I recognize some of the people, and none receive a level of service any different from me.
I finish my noodles, push them aside, and walk out without a word.
I have not been a victim of any kind of racism, or a different treatment related to my lack of Mandarin. This is simply where the level of service stands.
I love being a regular.