I take pride in my ability to accept Korean culture for what it is and not do like so many westerners – question and judge every aspect of life in Korea that differs from life back home. But I reached my limit last weekend in Busan. I have absolutely had it with the complete and total lack of customer service in Korea – especially in restaurants. I have been amazed by how rare it is to find a restaurant (with the exception of some small, family-owned places) that cares at all about customer satisfaction.
Before heading to the beach on Sunday morning, Scott, Conor, Kelsey and I went to a place called Thursday Party for lunch. They serve western food and are located convenient to the beach, so it seemed like the perfect option for a relaxing meal. Little did I know that my blood pressure would be through the roof soon.
We decided to sit inside so that I wouldn’t catch on fire in the sunlight (turns out that was a good choice, considering the fact that I got absolutely fried later). As with most western(ish) restaurants here, the primary language on the menu was English. I went straight to the “burgers” section, as I’ve been searching for a good burger in Korea. I decided to skip the section titled, “For Vegetarian and Beautiful Women.”
I settled on the “Bacon and Egg Burger”. The burger comes with egg, bacon, BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and mayo. I’ve had a few burgers topped with a fried egg, and they were all good, so I had to give it a shot. The food came out pretty quickly, but there was some sort of mistake. Something was missing from my burger.
That’s right, there was no beef in the burger. I double-checked the menu, but there was no note warning that the Bacon and Egg Burger is, in fact, not a burger. Furthermore, the price was just as high as all of the other burgers that were…burgers. What the hell?
Of course, everybody else thought it was just hilarious that I bought a damn egg sandwich for 8,000 won (~$8). I tried to get the our waitress’s attention, but that’s nearly impossible. So, I just sat there and left the burger on the plate. I wondered how long it would sit there before they would notice or say something to me.
It took about fifteen minutes for the waitress to pass by and notice that my burger hadn’t been touched. I caught her staring at my plate, but she turned around and walked away as soon as we made eye contact. About two minutes later, she came back with another waitress in tow. Our waitress pointed to my plate, they had a short discussion that ended in giggling, and then they walked away. I was so angry at this point that I could feel my heartbeat in my eyeballs. The fact that Scott and Conor couldn’t keep a straight face only pissed me off more.
Finally, after all of the other plates were cleared from the table, the waitress came by and addressed the untouched burger:
Waitress: Do you want burger to-go?
Me: No, I don’t want it.
Waitress: …what is wrong?
Me: I expected a burger…because I ordered a burger.
Waitress: Oh………that burger have no meat.
Me: Right. I know that now.
That was it. She just walked away, as if the problem was solved. The worst part was that she had the nerve to come over and make sure that I paid the guy at the register. I have never wanted so badly to slap someone in public, but I settled for glaring at her until she got nervous and walked away. The manager, who watched the entire exchange, never thought to ask me what was wrong.
I never thought that I would say this, but I think customer service in the US has spoiled me. But, that’s just the way Korea works, and it’s a minor hangup when I consider all of the things I love about this country. I guess it will just take some getting used to, because I sure as hell can’t change it.
Until next time.