Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Sutaba vs the S-buck

In Japan it's Sutaba, but apparently in Prince George it is "the S-buck." Or at least that is what one teenage girl called it - although given the number of times she had to repeat it, I'm guessing that the person on the other end of her cell phone hadn't heard the new name either. But you could excuse the poor confused individual on the phone, for it is hard to keep up with the changes this town has undergone in the 15 years since my father moved here. Every single time I come back for a visit I notice a new commercial chain that has moved in. Not all last - a branch of Vancouver's best-loved bagel store lasted only a few years, and both Eddie Bauer and Thriftys have both closed their doors - but on the whole the town is expanding and commercializing at a dizzying rate. I think what surprised me the most, however, was the smart car I saw yesterday, for this has always been the land of the pick-up truck. What once was a Tim Horton's town now has three S-bucks with drive-through windows, and people are swapping their double-doubles for soy chai lattes and non-fat extra hot mint mochas.

So there I sat, drinking my toffee-nut latte and trying to work on an analysis paper for my art history class, and becoming increasingly distracted by the chatter of the staff. I listened as they talked about how tired they were, how crazy busy they had been earlier, how they had botched up drink orders (mine included), how they didn't know how to properly dispose of old coffee and might clog the sink... And I got to thinking about professionalism. It surprised me a little that the staff had no problems having these types of conversations in front of customers and at a volume level that ensured that all the customers in the store could hear them. I don't think you would be likely to overhear the same sort of thing in a Sutaba. The Japanese staff would be much less likely to have private conversations at loud levels while they were working. The level of politeness towards the customer and the level of professionalism of the employee are different.\

Of course, that means that you the customer are less likely to joke around with the barista making your drink, chat with the cashier at the grocery store, be patted on the head by your waitress at the pub, or hugged by the manager of the liquor store. Some how an overly perky "IRASHAIMASE!" just doesn't compare...

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