If you are going to run a business in America, SPEAK ENGLISH.

I live in a very diverse neighborhood. It has a healthy mix of Latino, black and white with a little bit of everything else thrown in for good measure. And I love that it’s like that, because it’s the exact opposite of the crushing whiteness of suburbia. (And just for context, I’m white.)

Recently a Chinese-run restaurant opened up in the neighborhood. It’s the standard cheap bodega you see around here that serves cheap Chinese food, along with gyros, chicken, burgers and subs. They have those cheesy posters advertising gyros and apple turnovers on the wall. All the urban Dopers probably know what I’m talking about.

I’ve ordered from them before, and while there is a substantial language barrier, it didn’t prevent me from ordering what I want and getting it. But tonight I decided I wanted a gyro and fries (which I’ve ordered from there before) and when I called, the man I spoke to just didn’t understand me. I said I wanted a gyro and fries, he said “OK” and hung up.

Since I didn’t get a price, order number or anything else, I thought I was disconnected and called back. I said I thought the call was dropped and repeated my order.

But it became clear that he had hung up on purpose and had already placed my order, except that the part where I ordered a gyro just didn’t make any sense to him. I said the order again, and he “Gyro? Gyro?” and asked what number a gyro was on the menu. Well, it doesn’t have a number; only the Chinese stuff on the menu does. I said it was listed with all the other subs and sandwiches, and his response was “What sandwich?”

I said “nevermind” and hung up. I decided that if I ordered in person, that would help. So I go there, say I need a gyro and an order of fries, and he grabs an order of fries that’s already been prepared — obviously he went ahead with my order (or what he thought was my order) even though I said nevermind. So then I say, “I ordered a gyro, too” and he looks at me confused and again says, “Gyro? Gyro?”

I started to repeat myself again but realized it was an exercise in futility. I shook my head and left without saying another word. I was just too fed up.

I hate the fact that I got so angry about this, but I’m sorry: If you are going to run a restaurant in this country, the people taking the orders need to be able to speak enough English to understand the menu. Is that too much to ask?

And, yeah, I know “gyro” isn’t exactly an English word, but it’s still on the menu. If you’re going to sell something, know what the hell it is.

So now I’m hungry with a gyro craving that won’t go away until tomorrow, and that place is the only restaurant within walking distance. And I certainly don’t feel like ordering anything else from a place that can’t grasp such a basic tenet of customer service: Have a staff that’s able to understand your customers.

AMEN!!! I feel your pain. What’s sad is that I was in North Carolina on a trip a few weeks ago, and we stopped at a Chinese restraunt. Our waiter was Mexican, and I almost had to break out my spanish classes from highschool to order. The food was crap too (I swear, we had mexican fried rice, not chinese). I still want some good chinese food :frowning:

Maybe he didn’t understand you because you were saying “jai-row” instead of “year-owe”.

Actually, I forgot to mention that element of the story.

I opted not to go with the full-on Greek pronounciation and went with the slightly compromised “jeer-owe.” I can’t stand, though, to corrupt it to the point where I’m saying “gyro” as in “gyroscope.”

Maybe that’s what I was supposed to do, though. :rolleyes:

Well, I know that’s pretty fucking annoying. I’ve had a similar problem only I didn’t know until I got there and our food wasn’t prepared. The woman tried to tell me in broken english that I must have dialed the wrong number. Yeah, right lady, and got someone who talked just like you and went ahead and pretended to take the order. Golly, what are the odds.

That said, I’d imagine once your stomach stops growling you’ll consider the possible explanations for this. Maybe this fellow doesn’t usually take orders but they were short-staffed that night. Or maybe the time was right, they had the money, an available piece of real estate opened up, there was a big sale on soy sauce–all planets were aligned for opening a restaurant, even though English is still a struggle. I can see where the owners would go for it, even if they knew their language skills weren’t up to snuff. They’re probably banking on learning fast.

Well, if they can learn English fast, or if they can find enough people who speak Chinese to keep their business afloat, then they’ll do fine. If they can’t, then they’ll fail. That’s the miracle of capitalism.

Why the heck were you ordering a gyro from a chinese place anyway? They probably did you a favor by not serving you.

Didn’t you say the place had a poster on the wall advertising the gyros? Why not just point to it?:confused:

Given that you’d already gone to the trouble of going there, I mean.

The first time I went to NYC, I ordered a gyro (year-o) from a vendor on the street. He asked me to repeat, so I did. He asked a third time, so I repeated slowly. I didn’t really pay attention while he put my order in a paper bag. I paid and walked away. When I looked in the bag, there was a can of Yoo-hoo.

I thought that would have been a bit much and way too condescending. I didn’t feel like causing such a scene, as there were other customers in the store.

Anyway, my roommate just ordered from there, pronounced it “jai-ro,” and they understood the order fine. At least I’m not hungry anymore.

We have a Chinese place down the sidewalk from where I work. One of the other employees came in the other night in a complete tizzy over the fact that they barely speak English here. It’s a Chinese restaurant, I said. “They couldn’t understand my order!!!”

He must mumble or something, because I go there all the time and I’ve never had them give me the wrong thing or ask me to repeat myself.

If all else fails, point at the pictures and/or item on the menu/takeout menu.

I had something similar happen, at a Taco Bell drive-thru of all places.

Me: … and a sprite to drink.
Girl: We don’ ha et. Y’wanna seerya misk, izza sam thin’.
Me: … What?
Girl: We don’ ha Sprike. Y’wanna seerya misk?
Me: … WHAT?
Girl: MISK! MISK! SEERYA MISK! Izza sam thin’!
Me: (It’s the same thing?) Okay?

I pull forward and she gives me a Sierra Mist and a glare. I had only first seen Sierra Mist when I moved to Texas, but even if I’d been familiar with the drink I don’t think I’d have been able to understand her. It wasn’t just the intercom either… her accent was unbelievably thick in person too. I don’t mind an accent, or even a thick accent, but she was just plain impossible to understand. I still wonder why they had her in the drive-thru window…

I second the pointing thing. I’ve had to resort to that a number of times when ordering out.

If the food’s good and the price if right, I’ll do it. If not, screw 'em. I’ll give my business to a place that is actually capable of communicating with it’s customers.

Merlchan, I totally heard the accent when reading your post and understood it perfectly.

Must be from growing up in the Bay Area.


lol Well, I’m from the east coast, so while I understand pretty much everyone here in Texas her accent threw me for a loop. I’ve heard accents sort of like that before, but NEVER that strong of one! It wasn’t until I was driving away that I started to piece the conversation together and realize what she was trying to say.

I think “jai-ro” is pretty much the correct pronunciation. What did you pronounce it as?

I’m pretty sure it’s not, based on how I’ve heard actual Greeks pronounce it.

Greek pronounciation: “year-owe”, with just a hint of an “h” sound at the beginning.

My half-assed “I think the people at the restaurant will understand this but I won’t be totally butchering the proper way of saying it” pronounciation: “jeer-owe”

Totally Americanized pronounciation: “jai-ro”

“Jai-ro” or worse, “Guy-ro” only if you want to get tossed out of Greektown. Trust me - some folks get mighty passionate about such things.


And the sauce on them is tzatziki

Yup. I was wrong. I was confusing the short form for gyroscope, gyro, pronounced “jai-ro” with the dish.

The dictionary has yErO and zhirO

It looks like this thread should be titled: If you are going to run a business in America, SPEAK GREEK.