For each of us, there are different times in life where our eyes are opened and our worldview becomes a bit bigger. For me, one such experience was an overseas trip I took in high school. I was part of a student exchange program that sent a group of students from the U.S. to China, for a nearly 4-week long trip.
The trip to China was an amazing experience, as we got to see The Great Wall, walk through Tiananmen Square, dine at The Great Hall of the People, visit the Terra Cotta Soldiers at Xian, and do quite a few other interesting things. Further, this was over 20 years ago, so China then was far less traveled by Westerners, far less developed, and not the emerging economic power that it has been becoming. From pictures and news accounts I have seen, it was night and day compared to today.
We also got to visit Hong Kong as a gateway to and from China, for one night on the way in, to two nights on our way out. That was when it was under British control, and was a totally different experience.
There were so many life experiences generated from the trip, it would take multiple posts to share them. I’ll probably bring up some of them in future posts – one of them being a Squirreling Gone Wild post I have in mind about an experience in Hong Kong with some devious characters.
One story from mainland China itself that comes to mind was our trip to The Great Wall. It’s been some years now, but I distinctly remember that it was really foggy the day we went there. Visibility had to be less than a ½ mile, so we felt like we were in a bus to nowhere when all of a sudden The Great Wall emerged. I was young, so I didn’t fully appreciate a lot of things then, but even then I realized how physically imposing this thing was. I totally get how it’s deservedly seen by many as one of the wonders of the world.
While the experience at the Wall itself was the most memorable part of that particular 2-day jaunt, a souvenir purchase experience was also something that was quite memorable for me. More specifically, the customer service experience involved with the purchase stood out as quite interesting.
I had bought something called a “chop”, which was a marble piece that was used with ink to be stamp with one’s name or initials. I picked one out that had a cool, ornate design, and paid something around $5 for it. After I paid, they told that it would be delivered to me in the next few days.
“Hmmm”, I thought. We’re leaving the next morning, so that’s an issue. They proceeded to assured me I would get it early and they would rush to finish it, so I walked out of there content.
“Ha! You were taken!” was the reaction of a fellow student in my group. “You’ll never see that thing. They make easy money like that off American tourists.”
I then had the sinking feeling that they totally got me. That was reinforced when I brought the subject up with another guy I befriended on the trip, and he said there’s no chance I’ll get it delivered. Plus, he pointed out, why would they drive 30 minutes to deliver something that cost $5?
It made sense. I lost $5. Oh well, it would be a funny story to tell someday.
The next morning, to my surprise, there was a knock on the door. A guy stood at the door and asked for a person with my name. There was a huge language barrier, as English was not exactly a commonly spoken language in China during that time. But I soon figured out he was looking for me. The guy looked exhausted and flushed.
Though I couldn’t understand much at all of what he was saying in Chinese, I immediately understood that the cynics were wrong the day before:
The guy delivered the souvenir to me!
There it was, the exact stone I picked out, ornately carved, and with my design on the bottom for stamping. They brought stamps too.
What then struck me was the bicycle that was next to him. At first I thought it was odd that he brought a bike into a motel, but then I realized what had happened:
He delivered the thing on bicycle!
Keep in mind that it took 30 minutes by car to get from that shop to the motel. I couldn’t imagine how long it took the guy to deliver it by bicycle in hilly terrain!
That was the best customer service I have ever had.
Now, keep in mind, that the China (non-HongKong) part of the trip was also peppered with some not so great things either. We were not allowed to take pictures of certain things, not given choices of what to eat. The place as a whole was not positive, and when I got back home to the U.S., I kissed the ground. Literally. It was a great trip and life experience, but I’ll take freedom and my U.S. citizenship any day, everyday!
But I’ll give credit for that customer service by The Great Wall, that’s for sure!
How about you?
What’s your best customer service experience?