On the whole I like the Chinese. Most are warm, friendly, hospitable, hardworking, determined, and happy.
But what I cannot stand is incompetence.
And there are several in the office that fit that description.
When I arrived last year, human resources personnel at work told me I would have to pay for my Internet connection (ADSL) upfront -- a cool 1,200RMB (US$171.77) for one year.
Fine. I did that and despite a few hiccups along the way, it's been a godsend having Internet access at home to keep in touch with family and friends, as well as keep up to date on what's happening outside China.
And last Sunday I got an automated telephone message saying my ADSL subscription had run out and needed to get it renewed. At least I'm quite sure that's what it said, as it had been a year already.
So the next day I handed the HR person the said amount and asked him to renew my subscription.
He said, well the person dealing with that isn't here but in the United States.
Uh, hello? I need this done. Today.
Do you still have an Internet connection? he asks.
Then you're fine.
What? I got a phone message saying I need to renew it.
That afternoon he gives me two pieces of paper that are supposedly the receipts, but instead of it saying 1,200RMB, it has two figures on it -- 269.50RMB and 930.50 RMB. I ask him what that's for, but he doesn't really give me a straight answer.
I think the matter is over. Not.
He comes over to me this afternoon and explains that the 269.50RMB was used to pay for my phone bill this month.
Excuse me? I gave you 1,200RMB to renew my Internet connection, not pay my phone bill!
But you were going to pay it anyway, right? So the 930.50RMB is the credit left over... so can you give me another 1,200RMB to pay for your ADSL?
Right at this moment I can feel the blood in my body going into the fight-or-flight response, and I am absolutely livid.
Why did you do that? I ask. At this point I know everyone in the office within earshot is listening.
He says he doesn't know.
You don't know why you did that? I ask you to pay for my ADSL, not my phone bill! Get me that 930.50RMB back!
There is no apology, and instead he says well, the company just processed it this way.
In the end he admits that he will get the 930.50RMB back for me -- but that I still owed him, the company, 269.50RMB to make up the balance for the Internet connection.
And he has the gall to ask me when I'm going to give him that money!
I don't know where the company finds incompetent people like him.
Of the 1.3 billion people in this country, you'd think the company would be able to hire people who are a bit smarter.
But then again they aren't paid much -- around 3,000RMB (US$429.33) a month.
And as my dad says, you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.