the real price of ‘cheap’

when i think about it, i’ve been selling things almost all my life. starting from when i was in elementary school, i used to sell name labels/stickers to my classmates, the kind that i ordered by mail with pre-set images & sizes. and then i as i grew older i moved on to selling Avon, Triumph lingerie and eventually Oriflame. these are of course the kinds that i did as a side job thing, but the real kind of ‘hard’ selling happened when i had a small boutique in Jakarta along with my 2 friends.

it was during this time that i learned the real price of ‘cheap’. or to be completely honest, i learned how annoying it is to hear customers bargaining for a cheaper price. i mean, i’m not gonna lie: i also bargain sometimes. but when i knew it firsthand how much work went into our own work (our boutique sold one of a kind clothings, specifically designed by yours truly, the fabrics all chosen by us three co-owners straight from the fabric shops, and all clothes sewn by one single tailor) and someone dared to bargain the prices that we carefully counted so that we got back our work’s expenses & effort, i found it quite insulting. i felt like saying, if you want to bargain, go shop at a market place.

but then i realized something disturbing. why did i feel like saying that, as if a market place is a good place to bargain when usually those markets (at least in Indonesia) are run by people who don’t even have much money. what makes it okay for people, including me, to bargain from an already ‘poor’ person? don’t we appreciate their effort? and instead, most people don’t even blink an eye when they buy overpriced designers clothings. ever heard of anyone bargaining at a Louis Vuitton store? of course not, don’t be ridiculous.

but why? what makes it okay to accept some high price for something that was created with the exact same effort & work, and for other things you just feel the need to bargain until the salesperson finally gave up their original prices and lets you have it for a lot cheaper price?

now let’s imagine how the process goes for almost every thing in this world, excluding fresh produce. somebody, somewhere, had the idea to create something. whether it be a piece of hairclip, a mobile phone, a computer game, or even a logo, after the idea came the work process. this could involve only 1 person or many people, time, effort (sometimes many efforts as there are no guarantees that someone succeeds after only the first try), the final production, and shipping/how to get the thing(s) to the sellers/straight to customers. in some cases, this whole process last hours, but in most cases they could last for months or even years. and all that process are in the end reduced as one specific product, what you actually see & purchase, of which you try to estimate the real value before bargaining and paying. how many of us can honestly say that we think about all the processes as opposed to just the end product before determining how much we are willing to pay for it?

another form of bargaining actually happens without us knowing it. it’s the kind that happens within the work process instead. big companies bargaining sweatshop’s workers’ wages, sometimes even bargaining their lives. and that’s not all. a dear friend told me once that she used to do dozens of creative designs (let’s say clothing designs) per week to then be shown to a big clothing store company who will then decide which one(s) they could ‘buy’. usually out of 12 or 20, there would be only 1 or 2 that was accepted, and the payment for those creative designs were only bearing 2 or 3 digits at the very max. and then those big clothing store companies would mass-produce the designs and sell them for 5-10€ each. she told me this: “so remember, behind every cheap thing you see in stores, there is always someone suffering for it.” either the designer, the tailor, the shoemaker, the seller, or even the ones who prepare the raw materials, ‘cheap’ means ‘suffering’.

i mean, would YOU want to work your a** off and be paid for 2€ a month? no? then why would you bargain at someone else’s cost?

after all this pondering, i can tell you that i very rarely bargain for anything. if i go to a market place, i look for those who sell stuffs for a fixed price, just to avoid bargaining. i feel sorry for paying 3€ for a pair of nice looking earrings, but then again i don’t do it every month or even every year. and i suppose it’s still better for someone out there that gets paid for each sold goods, so as long as i don’t add to the bargaining part, i have to believe that i’m not making things worse.

sometimes, very rarely, i do still bargain. for example when going to Bali, and i knew that when my husband wasn’t with me, the sellers offer me cheaper prices (local prices) and when my husband was there the prices doubled up. well… excuse me for knowing the real price, then. but still, mostly i don’t have the heart to do it. not after realizing all of this.

our work and effort should mean something more than cheap prices. i hope in the future we can all start seeing more of the work & effort that goes to one product instead of just the end product. then maybe bargaining in all shapes will cease to exist. 😉

Advertisements

take it slow

in case you’re wondering (which i’m sure you haven’t been doing) where i have gone to for the past month, here is the answer: nowhere. i haven’t really been offline, though i have been lagging in terms of reading other people’s blogs & updates. here’s something new: i haven’t been sewing either.

it’s not another case of depression this time. it’s simply the realization of just how much clothes i have vs how often i actually wear them. sounds familiar?

usually one would have this problem when one buys clothes, cheap ones, clothes on sale, etc. but when one sews one’s own clothes, is that really possible? well, yeah.

you know how it goes. you can’t seem to stop yourself from getting a nice looking fabric–same thing that goes for nice looking clothes applies as well to fabrics–and you end up getting a few too many. and when you finally have an idea to make something, you open up your fabric stash only to find that nothing there is the right one for your idea! you quickly have to go out and get a new one. repeat by a hundred times.

and then you finally get to make what you wanted. you wear it with pride once, twice, and then you already have another idea for another sewing project, and you repeat the same process all over again.

i’m not saying it happens overnight, of course. i’ve only been sewing now for about 8 years, and already i can see that i have a problem. so i started ‘throwing away’ my old(er) clothes that i bought from stores, and by this i meant either giving them up for charity or bringing them to H&M for recycling. but still it seems that my closet is just getting more and more clothes.

i don’t know yet how it’s going to end, but at least i can tell you that i’m trying to reduce it now before it’s too late. i mean… i’m sure we all know by now just how ‘dangerous’ fast fashion is, right? dangerous for the environment and dangerous for the human resources. now if you thought by making your own clothes you can at least reduce that danger, think again. where do you think the fabrics come from? not all of them grow on trees either. there are still human resources, other than you, the seamstress/tailor, involved in the making of that. it makes me sad sometimes, seeing somebody make dozens of clothes a month, either for him-/herself or for others, and this is just because he/she can. of course i can’t tell just how hollow or full his/her closet is, but still… i think it’s wiser to not be excessive in anything, don’t you?

with that in mind, i am trying to be more careful in what fabrics i buy & what i’ll make from them. i no longer set myself to sew at least 2 sewing projects a month or at least 20 projects per year, or whatever, but instead sew something i actually need & will definitely wear for a long time. i hear you, i’m saying “good luck!” to myself as well! 😀

so anyway, to really answer that question as to what i’ve been doing for the past month, here are some things:

  • read the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child script book. i wish i could one day see the production of this, it looked great in my own imagination! 😉
  • got a short social visit from my uncle and aunt, yay! auntunclenmeit was their first time here in Finland and of course it had to be super windy when they were here. ergh! but at least the sun was shining, the foods were great (i again of course had to introduce muikkuja aka vendace to them), the talks were fun, and i was just so grateful that somebody from the family could visit me!auntnmewe got to visit Suomenlinna – the Fortress island despite the harsh wind, enjoyed our walk in the city and the market square, and also went to the Helsinki City Museum, which is also very nice and surprisingly nostalgic for all of us (even though we come from a different part of the world!). they were really nice 2 days that i spent with them! and hey, that’s the second time this year already that i got to play tourist in my own (new) country!
  • my husband & i and my mum-in-law taught our nephew to say our names, and he succeeded! he remembered who we were, and whenever we ‘tested’ if he knew which one of us was which, he always got it right! and he liked our names so much that my sister-in-law sent us a video a week after that, where it showed that he just kept saying our names over and over again. ❤ that feeling when somebody small who couldn’t really say much of anything yet suddenly kept calling your name is just unbearably lovely!!
  • i learned how to make my first lasagne! also how NOT to make it, LOL. i only followed a recipe though, so it really wasn’t any rocket science. the first time i made it i only managed to put in 2 layers of the lasagna sheet, because the sauce were all already used up, ahahaha…. needless to say, i had to make another one, pronto, and with advices (and okay, a little bit of help) from my husband, i finally got it right this time. lasagne1no picture of the first lasagne because it was quite embarrassing, haha! not that this second one is a good looking one either, but whatever! lasagne2it’s a vegetarian lasagne with spinach and cottage cheese as the main content. it was really good for a beginner’s attempt!

that was pretty much it. of course there are other boring things like going to work and doing house chores some time there in the middle, and oh, watching some series in Netflix, but really… nothing else worth mentioning. :p

it’s time for me to take it slow and enjoy life as it is.

let’s talk about prejudice

i think i can say that i don’t easily get offended by comments from other people that has to do with how i look (= Asian, among Caucasians). since i’m not yet familiar with the Finnish slang words, i doubt i would even understand it if anyone were to offend me with any racist words. 😀 it’s useful to be deaf sometimes.

but i must admit that there are times when the “hidden” meanings annoy me even more than plain racist comments. and here are some that i’ve encountered more than once, and not just towards me here in Finland, but also towards my husband in Indonesia (again, as a reminder, prejudice/racism/discrimination does not only happen in the western world; it happens everywhere).

–“you must like working here!” said some stranger to me while i was at work. at first i didn’t think much of it, and just said something like, “sure, it’s a nice place to work at.” but then she went on to say how it’s great that “somebody like me” can have a job, because she was sure that i would not have the same opportunity in my home country. this was said before she even asked where i came from, and we were talking in the same language. i wondered then if my Finnish was just so bad that i immediately seem ‘foreign’ to her, but then i quickly remembered that i talk the same way to other strangers and they never react the same way as this person. so, i figured, the problem was not with my Finnish, it’s with this particular stranger i was talking with.

and then, as usual, the conversation would went on to this other person asking me if i live here with my family, which would usually mean my parents, my siblings, etc. to which of course i said, no. first of all, it’s really none of anyone’s business who i live with. second of all, upon seeing someone with different skin colour and different eye shapes, of course she would automatically think that i came here with my whole family for a better living. bring the whole neighbourhood to this rich country, steal the native people’s workplace & live happily ever after!

because–and this is an even worse thought–if i had married a Finn, i can’t possibly be working, right? i must be just a stay-at-home mum or shopping-all-the-time wife. the fact that i “like working here” when i wouldn’t otherwise have a job in my home country surely indicates that my whole Asian family is here and i have to work hard to make money for them.

this is just one example, though, and it incidentally happened here in Finland. but rest assured that i’ve seen and heard it many times as well in Indonesia, the ‘locals’ or ‘natives’ being defensive towards ‘foreigners’, thinking that they only want to steal their jobs, steal their land (still traumatized by colonial times, maybe?), etc. and in both countries, people can make these thoughts or beliefs hidden in seemingly polite words.

–a stranger starts talking to you in the assumed ‘native’ language. some (Caucasian) people have tried talking to me in: Thai, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Indian, Chinese. if they were genuinely thinking that i came from one of those countries and wanted to make some kind of conversation to me, i can still laugh about it… though for the life of me, i can’t understand why they did it before asking where i come from. i mean, what if i was born in Finland and have grown up only knowing Finnish language?

anyway, what annoys me is when somebody just say, “ni hao!” or “konnichiwa!” or whatever else just as a way to ‘greet’ me when we pass by each other on the street.

also, making a stereotypical-rhetorical comment/question towards somebody who looks like he/she might come from a specific country falls into the same category. i once sat down next to a guy i didn’t know at the cafetaria of my language course. he wasn’t originally Finnish, and was also a student, just like me. i was being polite and asked if i could sit there since there was nowhere else to sit, and he said yes. and then the next thing he said, before anything else (asking my name or where i was from), upon seeing my lunch for the day (rice), was, “why do Chinese like to eat rice?”

and it wasn’t meant to be a joke, either. i think i only replied, “i don’t know, why don’t you ask a Chinese if you want to know?” with as cold of a tone as possible and ate my lunch as quickly as possible to get the hell away from him.

–“i’m not a racist, because i work with people from all around the world, of all kinds of skin colour, etc.” making a point of saying it to somebody who looks like a ‘foreigner’ does NOT make it sound genuine. i mean, honestly, why bring up the subject in the first place if you really are NOT a racist?

believe it or not, this came out from the same stranger as the one i mentioned at point #1. 😀 i felt like laughing inside when she suddenly said that. of course, when you spell it out like that, it must be really true.

rather than saying it, it would be much more believable if you would act it. talk to me without seeing my skin colour or my eye shape. 90% of the other strangers i meet everyday can do this, so why can’t you?

and to be honest, if you are just curious, i would feel a lot better if you just plainly ask. i never get hurt if someone asks me where i’m originally from, how long i’ve been here, and sometimes even why i came here. straight-forward questions like those are much better than prejudiced statements.

hope for kindness

a little girl, 4 years of age, ran around in an adventure with her slightly older brother in a store while their mum was having a conversation with a friend. meanwhile, another girl, 10 years old, was sitting nicely on a kids corner at the same store, drawing away as 10 year-olds do. when the mum of the first girl was done talking to her friend and ready to walk out from the store, she called for her kids… and noticed that the little girl’s hat was missing. the mum was upset, and scolded the little girl for being careless. she told the little girl to find it, and they all went to search for it around the store. after a while, they decided that the hat was truly missing and all the mum could do was say over and over again how the little girl should learn to be responsible for her things from then on.

suddenly the mum of the second girl came to the mum of the first girl, and said that her daughter had something to say to them. it turned out that the 10 year old girl wanted to give her drawing to the little girl, she said, “to cheer her up.” both the little girl and her mum said thank you to the older girl, and oh, how sweet she was! the little girl and her family finally walked out of the store, the mum no longer upset and the little girl was also skipping along, happy once again.

———————————————————–

a tourist barely got into a commuter train just as the door was closing. when the conductor passed, she told him in broken English that she needed a ticket and said that she was headed for the city center. the conductor was preparing the ticket when he noticed that the tourist was taking out a credit card to pay for it. he told her, “sorry, we don’t accept credit cards here in the train. bank cards or cash only.” the tourist was confused at first, because of her limited English, but finally she seemed to understand and started to look for coins. the price for the ticket was 5€, and all she could find was 3€. she again tried to pay the rest with her card, but again the conductor reminded her that she could not pay with any credit card.

another train passenger, who had been standing behind the tourist’s seat the whole time, asked the conductor in local language how much left was there to pay. after the conductor told him, this other passenger took out some coins from his own pocket and gave them to the conductor. right then, the train stopped at his destination, so he stepped out. meanwhile the tourist was still searching for coins in her bag, until the conductor told her, “it’s okay, it’s been paid now.” the tourist was again confused, “huh? what? who?”. the conductor tried to explain, but since the other passenger has left the train, the explanation died in the translations. the tourist just couldn’t believe her luck. somebody had saved her day.

———————————————————–

these 2 stories are real. i was a witness to both events. none of these went to the newspaper, because, well, they’re just ‘normal, every day thing’.

when November 13th happened, i almost lost faith in human kindness. i was greatly disappointed, my heart was broken by the evil acts of some people.

but then i remembered these 2 small acts of kindness. they happened long before November 13th, and i have never told them to anyone. maybe it was because i didn’t think they were important enough to share to other people. but on the other hand, i kept these memories to myself while remembering every detail about them, exactly so that i could one day reflect on them and remember that there is still hope for kindness.

and now seems like a good time to remember them. i am sure, other than these 2 acts of kindness, every day there are small acts of kindness everywhere in the whole world. when you think about it, wouldn’t that mean that when they are all combined, they are actually much greater and bigger than the evil acts? it’s a shame that they never make it to the news, but know that they are out there. and here, too. they are everywhere. they are real.

yes, there is still hope.

food talk while having flu

just when the summer finally starts here in Finland, i caught a nasty flu. you know how it goes… first you feel the pain in your throat, and it starts to climb up to your nose… the next thing you know you start blowing out your nose and coughing, and at the same time you start losing your sense of taste.

when i was still living in Indonesia, i heard all kinds of stories from my friends and family members who lived abroad, and always, there would be stories about the food abroad. i should mention that most of this “abroad” living means somewhere in the western world, where of course the food culture is a lot different than in Indonesia.

the main thing was always the same: food abroad (in the western world) sucks. they have no taste.

since i never had the experience of living abroad back then, i could not say otherwise. the least i could say was, “huh, is that so.” but since this happened a lot of times, and everybody always said the same thing, well, i was starting to believe it. okay, okay, you are right, Indonesian food is EVERYTHING, we’re the gods of food, there’s really no hope of good food in the western world.

and then without even planning it (i mean, well, not like a life-long plan), i happened to move abroad. and that’s not all… i couldn’t cook any Indonesian food. AT ALL.

so i was aching and crying and panicking while i tried to learn to make my fave Indonesian foods, using 32 different ingredients just for one tiny meal, because how the h**l was i supposed to live without them?? foods here have no taste, that’s what people had been saying!

it took me a long while to “master” cooking some Indonesian foods, and to this date the varieties of Indonesian food i can make (without seeing any recipes) still can be counted only by using one hand. yep. but how then did i survive all these years living in a western country?

it may shock Indonesians, but i actually eat these tasteless foods. these good-for-nothing foods they were talking about, i proudly make them and enjoy eating them. to me, they’re not tasteless. they are good.

once you can open your mind to a world of tastes, no matter how simple and true-to-its-core, you will appreciate food even more. why does everything have to be full of sauce, you can’t even taste the real taste of a green bean? if these Indonesians say that food with no spices or sauces are no good, then i wonder how come they like sushis so much?

even here in Finland, when i met a fellow Indonesian and got into a small chit chat, and my husband asked him how he liked Finland so far… guess what he said? “it’s nice… but the food is not so good.” so my husband asked, “oh, so you don’t like the gravlax?” and the Indonesian man said, “oh, yes i do!”. my husband went on to ask other Finnish foods, to which the man answered that yes, indeed he liked those (out of politeness or was it the truth, who knows). so… um, what was it again about the food not being so good?

strange, huh. but anyway, i generally don’t care what other people think and feel about things that don’t concern me or my loved ones, and really dislike to judge others. but this one makes me feel sad to realize, are Indonesians generally that closed minded when it comes to simple food? it’s sad to think what kinds of simply good food they’re missing around the world just because they don’t have enough spices in them.

so back to my present flu. when i was just beginning to get the full blown flu, goo dripping from nose all the time, feeling unwell, painful headaches, fever and stuffs, i was fortunate to be invited to eat at my dad-in-law’s place. i nearly canceled it, but pushed myself to go after all, and did not regret it once. the menu was simple: grilled whole corns, grilled tenderloin steaks. all grilled by my dad-in-law, served straight from the barbecue grill. and of course, no BBQ sauce used, just tiny hints of salt and pepper.

at first i was afraid that with my flu, i wouldn’t be able to taste a thing. and though my initial craving whenever i have flu is to have a hot & spicy soup (i am still Indonesian at heart), i decided to just enjoy the time with family. miraculously, after a bite of the grilled corn (eaten with melted butter), my sense of taste came back. even if it’s just a simple taste, it tasted really good and heavenly to my tongue. and once i tried the steaks (eaten with garlic butter), there was no doubt about it. these simple foods can do wonders to your sense of taste.

i had a lovely night, and though i am still currently recovering from the flu itself, i will forever remember how it was not some spicy and heavily sauced food that helped me get my sense of taste back. good food is always good no matter if it only uses 1 spice ingredient or 32. sometimes it’s good to stick with the simple things.

i’m not saying that i can get over Indonesian food yet (i still jump at the chance of eating it whenever there is one!), but when i learned how to enjoy every taste of food, be it elaborately seasoned or plain, i find that living–abroad or just wherever–is much easier and i get to feel contented more easily. 🙂

no title

other than being asked what my religion is, another question that always leaves me thinking “what does it matter to you?” is: what did you study? referring, of course, to what i studied in college or university. some questions are even more specific, what academic title(s) do i have?

yes, i get that a lot, in here and in my home country. when asked here, in Finland, it’s even harder for me to answer because i don’t even think the subject exists in universities here (i haven’t done any research though, since i have no interest in working in that field here). but just for the record, as i’ve said before, currently i work in a field that needs customer service skills, sales skills, and also deep knowledge in textiles.

most of the time i get this kind of question while i’m at work. as this country has the best education in the world (say the surveys from around the world), i’m not that surprised that people want to know where other people went to school or what they studied. most people i know here love going to schools. some of them enroll to university after university every time they finish their previous studies. it’s like there’s no end to their thirst of studying.

i’ve been using the word “them” and not “we”, because i guess i don’t belong in the same category. i love learning new things as well, and there is also no end to my thirst of studying. but i don’t necessarily think universities, colleges, or schools are the only places i can study the things i want to study. academic titles have never been that important to me, and i’m happy with what knowledge i have so far that can get me my current job.

with no academic title but excellent skills, you can get pretty far in my home country. but the bad news is, for people like me, it would be hard to find a job in a place like Finland. i don’t mean just any job, of course, but the ones that you probably have eyes on. for example, even though i have no degrees in fashion, i was once a fashion stylist/editor for a local magazine back in my home country. after i moved here, when i was still learning Finnish language, i tried my luck to be a part of the design team in Marimekko. thinking back now, i must’ve been out of my mind to even think i would stand a chance. i’m pretty sure they threw my CV and portfolio straight to the garbage bin. :p

through a twist of luck (i’m pretty sure that was the only reason), i managed to land a job at my current workplace. well okay, maybe my history of running my own fashion boutique back in Indonesia also played a tiny role, in the sense that i knew about textiles, customer service, and sales well enough, regardless of whether or not i actually have any degree in any of those fields.

though i’m still quite far from my dream (which is to have my own fashion store), but i’m forever grateful for this rare chance my previous boss gave me. by doing this daily job, i learn more and more about the things i am most passionate about, the things that would prepare me in the best way for when i can finally run my dream store in the future.

anyway, to be fair, in Finland those people who asked me where or what i studied were mainly curious because they wanted to know what they should study in order to land a job at my workplace. and i could never answer them properly, because i always felt that i’m an exception, since A: i didn’t go to school in Finland, and B: …okay, here’s the truth, i actually studied Advertising back in my home country. Advertising, as in the Communication field, NOT Graphic Design (though i did also learn a bit of Graphic Design there). whereas my co-workers have always been those who studied textile design, fashion design, business, and handicraft, among others. plus, as i said before, i don’t actually have any academic title, because i took a 3 year diploma program (though it did take place at a university). to get an academic title, i would’ve had to take another year of studying, but i decided not to and jumped right into the working life.

comparing my home country and Finland, i can’t deny that i wish things were a bit different, both there and here. i wish it was less strict here, that people don’t necessarily have to have certain degrees or academic title to get a job, as long as the job in question doesn’t involve people’s life or death, of course (as in doctors or other paramedic fields), or academic teaching. jobs that require creative ideas or designs might work for those with no academical background as long as they can prove that they have it in them. but on the other hand, i wish that it was a bit more strict in Indonesia, that not just anybody can end up being an English teacher (who can’t even pronounce the word “umbrella” correctly –> my English teacher in middle school), a translator (who translated “toilet paper” as “kertas amplas” which means “sandpaper”. ouch), and let’s not even mention the political jobs.

i guess both countries can learn a bit from the other one. if you’re like me, and have no title, don’t worry. you’ll do fine in life!

and i hope one day i have the right answer when someone asks me that question again. opiskelin mainonta, työskennelin muotitoimittajana vähäksi aikaan, olin myös freelance romaanin kääntäjä ja mitäsköhän muuta. :p

smile (and mean it)!

only a while ago i was talking about how we’re sometimes reminded to be grateful for what we have. now i’m going to talk about almost the opposite thing: sometimes bad things that happen to you make you look inside yourself and think, i shall never do that to others. from the title of this post, i’m sure you can pretty much guess the theme.

i’ve been working in customer service business for 6 years now (and in foreign language at that!), and way before that i’ve also worked in client service department for 2 years. though they’re not completely the same, but the main idea is: keep them happy! whether it be customers or clients, they’re the ones who are going to end up paying your bills, so yes, it’s important.

through all my 8 years of combined experience, i can’t tell you how many times i’ve been treated like a servant, or probably even a doormat. yet through it all, i always preserve my smile and attitude towards them. in the end, it’s always them who realized that they treated me with disrespect, and ended up thanking me for putting up with their rude behaviour & also apologized for it. i’m a firm believer of fighting fire with water, so when someone is on fire (angry, panicking, etc.) while i serve them, i would just stay calm and try to transmit my positive energy to them instead of fighting back. it’s been working like a charm so far. 🙂 there are a few times when it was so bad that even my smile did not help, of course, but i still did not let it out on them (the customer/client). i can still proudly say that i get positive feedback from my customers almost daily, which is a lot more than any negative ones (come to think of it, i’ve only ever gotten 1 negative feedback which wasn’t even my fault. ha!).

so when the position is flipped around and i am in the customer’s shoes, naturally i pay attention to the service i am getting. i’m not that hard to please though (because, hello, i know what it’s like to serve customers myself!), and i can tell you that i very rarely complain about a bad service. however, this time i just have to.

some time ago, i had dinner with my husband at a restaurant we very often go to. we’ve been going to this restaurant for the past few years, but right now to our delight, they are having a special offer for a certain cardholder where we could buy 2 set menus for the price of one. this special offer is the kind that you can keep using for the rest of the year as many times as you’d like. since we already know the quality of the food and how nice the atmosphere there is, we made use of the special offer. everything went on as usual, the waiter showed us to our place with a big welcoming smile, until the time when i showed him my card and intention to use the special offer. all of a sudden, the same waiter–who had served us many times before–changed his attitude and started by snapping close the menu book right in front of our noses. his smile was gone and he walked right away from our table without saying anything else.

okay, maybe that was just an accident, i thought, not really wanting to believe that someone in the customer service business could just do that to their customers. but when he continued by throwing our plates of appetizers to the table without saying anything, it was clear to us both that he was doing it on purpose. to make matters worse, beside us sat other guests, who bought normal-priced food, and the same waiter also served them but with wide smiles and politeness that immediately disappeared when he came to our table to bring/take away our dishes. the difference was like night and day, and i was so mortified with the humiliation i’ve never experienced before.

this continued all the way to the end of the dessert time when he didn’t even bother to ask if there was still anything else he could do for us. hell, he didn’t even come anywhere near our table, so we had to get up ourselves to their cashier and ask for the bill. needless to say, that was the last time we are ever going to that place.

our decision wasn’t based only on the fact that we got such a poor service that night. it’s more because of the fact that all those smiles we have gotten from him, the very same waiter, in our previous visits for the past few years suddenly felt stale, so fake & disgusting i wanted to cringe. because now we saw his true nature, and all those “good service” we got previously were nothing but lies.

you may say that people who work in this field are good actors. no matter how bad our days have been, we still need to smile to our customers. but i actually believe that customers can and will see through our fake smiles. if not right at that moment, then one day, you will get caught. having lived in Finland for some years now, i can honestly tell you how rare it is to get a smile from a salesperson here. but you know what? they treat you in a matter-of-fact way, politely, and fairly. these, to me, go a looooooong way better than with a fake smile. while i have nothing against people from different cultural backgrounds, just to be clear, i must state here that the restaurant (and the waiter) in my experience above is NOT Finnish (the waiter spoke only a small amount of Finnish language).

after this experience, i was relieved to find that i have always smiled from my heart. even if somebody only purchase some 50 cents worth of something from my workplace, my smile does not falter, i do not treat them rudely, and what do i get in the end? a smile from them, and a “thank you for the friendly service” note the next day. THAT is the reason why i’ve stayed in this business.

the point i’m trying to make is: if you’re going to smile to someone, do it from your heart. be it to your customer, your friend, your enemy, your family, or whatever the situation is, mean what you show. it may seem like a small thing, but really, you’ll just end up causing more hurt if you fake it.