A few weeks ago my colleague and I wandered around Shin Kong Place, an upscale mall near our office. There's the designer labels like Gucci, Coach, Salvatore Ferragamo, Alfred Dunhill, as well as eateries like Fauchon, Bellagio and Din Tai Fung.
As we walked around we saw few people in there and he asked me, "How does this place make money when there's no one in here?"
While the restaurants are busy, the designer shops and the department store for the most part are pretty sparse with the customers. While there aren't many wandering around, there's even fewer actually buying.
And now I know one of the reasons why.
A few days ago I got my paycheque and wanted to spend it on a pair of Ecco shoes.
Weeks earlier I had spied a pair of sandals I'd liked in the Ecco outlet in the Youyi Mall, or Luftansa Mall which is another place with few customers.
However, my friend thought the one at Shin Kong Place would have a bigger selection since it was a bigger store.
When we finally got there today, it had every other shoe except the one I wanted.
I stood right by the cashier's desk where a shop assistant was doing other things and blatantly ignoring me as I leafed through the catalogue hoping to find it and point it out to her.
But just my luck the sandal I wanted wasn't in the catalogue.
Finally after several minutes she decided to serve me.
"Do you have a shoe called... but I only know the English name," I said, as I had already researched it on the website.
"I don't know the English names," was the curt reply.
"Ok.... Do you have a shoe that's similar to this?" I asked pointing to a different one.
"Oh our store doesn't have it."
And that was that.
There was no apology and offer to call another store to see if they had it and put it on hold for me, or trying to get me to look at the other shoes they had to see if I'd be interested in any of them.
Instead she just went back to what she was doing before and ignored us.
Who trained these sales staff? Ecco shoes are not cheap, but actually it's not about the price, it's about the customer's experience in the store whether they buy or not.
While I'm still keen to get those sandals, I'm very disappointed by what happened this afternoon.
After 30 years of opening up and reform, and now especially with the economic downturn you'd think Chinese staff would be more attuned to trying to serve customers' needs.
Shiny new malls, designer labels... but the customer service, for the most part, is way behind the times.