04 August 2005

Service Star

Today I got myself a Chinese/English electronic dictionary. It's one of those electronic gadget that lets one look up words and in some language, in my case, Chinese. I've been wanting to get one, mostly to look up Chinese characters for their English meanings. I have this hardcover Chinese-English dictionary but looking up the Chinese character is a very laborious tasks. The dictionary is sorted by some Chinese system of radicals then by number of strokes. I'm sure a scholar in the Chinese language art has a better explanation for this. I know some of the radicals but lots of time the characters I want to find belong to one of those radicals that I don't know. It's sort of like using an English dictionary but not knowing how to spell it. In that case, wouldn't it be nice if you can say the word and let the electronic dictionary look up the word for you? That's why I've been looking for a Chinese dictionary that allows me to write the character that I want to look up.

Some months ago I visited this store in Flushing, Queens near the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and Main Street. I asked about the dictionary but the salespeople were very lukewarm about it. They just showed me the box and, while I was reading the description on the box, didn't offer anything else. Today, I decided to ask the good folks at World Journal Book Store in Brooklyn's 8th Avenue Chinatown. My mother has bought a number of Korean soap opera on discs and the store always allowed her to return them because of problems with subtitles or video signal. I don't understand why a Chinese store would sell Korean discs with spoken words only in Korean and subtitles only in English and Korean, but the store people were always nice and friendly when taking them back. The most recent problem my mother had was that the disc she got output only PAL signal, a video signal mostly used in Europe. In case you don't know, we in America use NTSC. When World Journal gave my Mom credits for the PAL disc, I asked them if they have any Chinese e-dictionary. One of the ladies quickly took out a Besta 98, charged it up, and let me took a test drive in the store. She showed me how to look up the characters by writing it, which button to press to hear the words spoken in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English, etc. A very different experience compared to the store in Flushing.

Good service is so hard to come by these days. Lack of training, poor wages, whatever. If someone is helpful to me in a store, my first reaction is that the person must be the owner or someone with a stake in the store. It seems the typical employee doesn't care when the business collapses. When getting services or buying things, I avoid dealing with people whenever I can. The ATM and the web do well for me, most of the time. I am against drive-thru fast food, for pollution reason, so I occasionally have to deal with the MacDonald's clerk who says "Have a nice day" but whose uncheerful face says something else.

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