My store is near a hotel and a business park, so it’s common for us to get customers who are visiting from elsewhere. Two older Japanese men came in yesterday to get coffee. Dressed neatly in suits, they looked to be here on business, perhaps for a sales meeting or something.
I greeted them when they arrived at the register and quickly discovered that we had just the tiniest language barrier.
Me: “Hi there, what can we get for you today.”
Mr. Yoshimoto: “Cuffee, preese.” He made a sign with his thumb and forefinger to indicate size. “Smore. Smore.” Note: I am not making fun of his accent. Well, okay. I am a little. But not to be mean. I’m trying to convey how this conversation went. And yes, I picked stereotypically Japanese-sounding names for both.
Me (holding up two cups): “Small like this, or like this?”
Mr. Yoshimoto (jabbing his finger repeatedly at the smaller of the two cups): “Smore, dis one. Smore.”
Me: “Okay, small coffee.” I look at his companion and say, “For you? What would you like today?”
Mr. Yamaguchi (nodding his head furiously): “Yuh, same. Same. Bigger. Bigger.”
Me (holding up the bigger of the two cups): “You want this one, then?”
Mr. Yamaguchi (still nodding furiously and now pointing at the cup): “Yuh, bigger. Both.”
Me: “Alright, then. Two bigger coffees. Anything el-”
Mr. Yoshimoto interrupts me: “No. Smore. SMORE!” He makes the sign with his fingers again. “SMORE!”
Me: “Okay then. One small, one bigger. Anything el-”
Mr. Yamaguchi interrupts me, pointing at the bigger cup: “Both. Bigger. BOTH.”
At this point the two of them have a heated conversation, eventually agreeing on one smore cuffee and one bigger. During this interlude, I notice Mr. Yoshimoto has a $100 bill in his hand. Note to customers: many cash drawers are handled in a way that makes it nigh impossible to change large bills. Don’t act surprised when we can’t take them.
Me (pointing to the bill in Mr. Yoshimoto’s hand): “I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to break that for you. I don’t have enough in my drawer to change it.”
Mr. Yoshimoto (holding the bill out to me): “No? You can’t take? You can’t take?”
Me: “No, I’m sorry. I just don’t have enough to make change for it.”
Mr. Yamaguchi produces a credit card and holds it out to me, triggering yet another animated discussion between the two of them. I can only imagine how dishonorable it must be to allow someone else to pay the $1.50 for your smore cuffee.
I take the card and proceed with the transaction.
As I hand Mr. Yamaguchi’s card back, Mr. Yoshimoto, apparently not willing to take no for an answer even after I’ve taken payment, makes a last-ditch effort.
Mr. Yoshimoto (holding out the bill to me): “You can make change? Make change?”
Me (trying my best to get the point across without being a jerk): “No, I’m really sorry. It’s not that I won’t do it, it’s that I can’t do it.
Mr. Yoshimoto (bowing his head slightly, a common gesture among Japanese): “You’re very kind.”
Wait. What? “You’re very kind”? Seriously, I didn’t know what to say at that point, but I’m pretty sure I just got served.
I may have to start using that one.