Thursday, 1 January 2015

Observations of Seattle and Hong Kong

A snowman checking his iPhone in the shop window
Living in Hong Kong, going to the United States reminds you what real customer service is.

Rockefeller Center a la Tiffany & Co
As soon as you walk into a shop, staff greet you with, "How are you doing today? Is there anything I can help you with?" which takes you aback because you're not used to such friendliness. In Hong Kong, retail staff just go through the motions because that's what their boss told them to do.

Even more jarring is paying at the cashier, and they ask you again how your day is going, did you find everything you needed? At this point I just want to pay and leave. But at places like Target, there are extra savings if you have the store card, and even better if you have coupons in hand. Makes it an even longer wait for people behind...

And you can pretty much return everything (except sale items). Apparently Nordrstrom has a very good return policy. A friend who was returning some items at the counter, was told by the staff there that someone returned an item of clothing that was bought over 20 years ago! The store did honour it and gave them back the money...

The stores, particularly the big box ones like Walmart, Costco and Target make you realize how much stuff Americans buy. There are rows and rows of items many are useful, others... have no real use, or don't have a good design or made well and end up in the sale heap.

In front of the Seattle Art Museum
How do people come up with these products but more importantly how do they wind up on the shelves of these stores?

Being in Seattle after Christmas, there were major holiday sales. My friend went to Gymboree and managed to get children's clothes for under $3. She also got a casual top at Banana Republic for less than $7. It really makes you question why pay full price for anything...

Which brings me back to Hong Kong -- we don't really have outlet stores (unless Citygate in Tung Chung counts), and everyone is out to find a bargain. People outside of the city have the perception that we can buy anything we want in Hong Kong, but in many cases you do have to pay a premium for it. 

This leads to the discrepancy between the rich and the poor -- the wealth gap in Hong Kong is every increasing, while in the United States at least, the poor and middle class can get by if they look for deals.

A gorgeous blue sky day at Pike Place Market
Here's hoping 2015 will be about greater equality for the vast majority of the people in Hong Kong who just want to be able to live decent lives. Is that too much to ask?


  1. Having lived in the US as well as Hong Kong (along with elsewhere in the world), I have to say that I find that US customer service can be on the overly chatty -- and fake -- side. Also, definitely have encountered some cashiers and salespeople who appear disinterested too.

    At the same time, I've encountered some friendly service in Hong Kong too. One case in point: the laundry I regularly use -- whose staff often like to chat, and have done such as given me snacks they got on vacation after reading from holidays! :)

    1. HI YTSL -- For the most part the people we encountered in Seattle were very nice or they were good actors! Anyway I too had a nice relationship with my laundry people too until I moved! It's that weekly interaction that's nice. Now if only the people selling fruit at my nearby wet market would recognize me coming week after week...!

  2. Thanks for your article as I'm from Seattle living in Hong Kong.

  3. well, in general customer service in Seattle is better than in HK...However, in both places, there are bad customer service...however bad customer service more prevalent and occurs more often in HK.

    with regards to deals, you can find deals in HK too if you take time to look, I have been able to find deals in both places easily...However, you trade a bit of quality in HK while you trade convenience/time in US...

    1. Hi nulle -- Any tips on where you find good deals in Hong Kong???? And for what???