Think store clerk in a mall, but I’ve also had these interesting experiences at 7/11 or FamilyMart. Needless to say, they’re usually very helpful regardless, and more than 80% of the time they fit the last category
The Mute: Will not say a word to you, even if you speak to them in fluent Mandarin. They will not even mention the total price of the items you purchased or say 謝謝. But, rest assured, they will regain their speaking abilities when the next local customer arrives.
The Blind: You will make eye contact and ask a question in fluent Mandarin but they will respond your Taiwanese friend/partner standing beside you instead. Ouch.
The Flatterer/Motivator: 你的中文很好呀，你來台灣多久了？The classic…
The Polyglot: They will respond to your question (raised in Mandarin) by replying in English (usually broken).
The Normal: Will treat you like they treat other Taiwanese customers
I find it interesting how in Taiwan, a lot of store clerks get visibly distressed when they serve me (presumably because I’m a foreigner and my Chinese isn’t very good, though it’s good enough for most transactions) and go through all the kinds of hoops described above to in an attempt to alleviate their distress. But in Japan, which is so close and similar to Taiwan in many ways, the clerks don’t seem to care and just talk to everyone in Japanese regardless of whether the customer understands or not.
In Beijing department stores clerks were assigned a square area in typical rigid Confucian fashion. If you stood with them in one square and pointed to an item a couple meters away in another square they’d get flustered 不不不
In Shida’s books you may remember the books say Chinese did not figure out on their own the obvious : to smile at customer.
Being a store clerk is not seen as a high standard job in Taiwan which in the right opposite in the way that it is one of the hardest job to do. Dealing with people which can be annoying and the rush hours and million things to handle at once. So the clerks there eventually gets fed up and dont bother with anything. They are there just for the sake of paying bills or students working part time and also they get tired of annoying customers. All that accumulate and eventually some clerks cant hide that frustation and it shows in their behavior and body language.
But still some people act very professional and will greet very happily no matter what
The cute 20 something girl with the bob cut at my local 7-11. I speak English to her, which she understands perfectly and she answers in Mandarin because she’s not confident in speaking. We had a very fun exchange this evening and two of the customers waiting behind thought it was amazing. I spoke English to her, she answered in Mandarin and the world continued to spin. Ha.
My favorite is the mime whose gestures make absolutely no sense, often accompanied by weird sounds instead of a human language. “你要不要講隨便任何一個語言？” (“do you want to speak any random language?”) usually sends them running instead of encouraging them to speak.
OP forgot the clerks that physically pull their coworker in front of them as a human shield. Happens a lot at walk up places like bubble tea stands.
The ladies at RT-Mart Jingping (Zhonghe District, New Taipei City) are always in good spirits for some reason, despite being in the basement of a building with a horrible entrance area (escalator has not been running for a few years!!!; hopefully the PX-Mart takeover can fix that.)
Yesterday, one of the ladies saw me buying a styroroam board for swimming and said out of the blue in Chinese, “You are right, summer is the time for swimming.” Then, after handing me back the credit card, she said: “Dadaocheng fireworks coming up on the 30th, but you can watch at home, the same, ha ha!”
Another time another lady told me: “Yeah, those chicken rolls there are really delicious.” I told here: “You are really quick! (scanning those codes).” She replied: “Nah, I am OK, the fastest one is over there (pointing at another cashier lady).” Apparently they have some kind of competition go on. Love it when people are happy at work.