How Not to Make Friends and Influence People

I was at Anime Next a few weeks ago. The con itself was pretty decent, but I had a memorable interaction with one of the vendors in the Dealer’s Room that stuck with me as an example of how not to do business. I had been going around the various booths looking for a stuffed animal for my sister, and potentially one or two for myself. (You can never have too many stuffed animals.) There was a Chinese couple running a large corner booth that had some adorable stuffed animals. I’d already spoken to the wife, who’d greeted me when I walked up. There was a cow keychain that I was going to get for my friend Matan and I was going through their larger plushes debating which one I wanted to get for myself… until the husband butted in.

As I was reaching for the plush I’d decided to buy, he saw the kanji (Japanese text) tattoo on my wrist and decided to comment on it. If you have a kanji tattoo, you kind of expect this, which is why I’d put a lot of research into making sure I had the exact characters for the reading I wanted.

My tattoo is 不死鳥 which refers to the Greek version of a phoenix as a bird that never dies. I also like that reading because if you dissect the individual characters, it’s un (不) dead (死) bird (鳥) though the last character is also often used in Japanese menus to refer to chicken, so you have undead chicken.

The guy sees my tattoo and asks if I know what kind of bird that is. Well, duh. It’s my tattoo. So I say it’s aPhoenixx.

No, this guy insists. Phoenix is a singular character, likely referring to either feng (鳳) or huang (凰) for the male or female versions of the birds, respectively. (Though it’s more often written 鳳凰 so I have no idea what this old guy was going for.)

I explain to him that, no, in Chinese there may be one version, but I was going with Japanese, which has multiple readings. I then go through the joke about undead chicken, showing that I know exactly what each character means.

No, he insists. I am dumb American woman and he is smart Chinese man. Maybe next time I get a tattoo, he says, I’ll get it right.

This is the point where I walk away having not bought anything and go back to the booth I was helping at to look up the characters. There it is, right on Wikipedia, the reading I used.

What’s the takeaway here? I’ve mentioned before about good customer service. Part of that is not insulting the person you’re helping, especially when they’re a paying client or about to be a paying client. No one likes to be insulted or made to feel dumb. There is a time and place for corrections. If I’d been chatting with the guy about differences between Chinese and Japanese, then it would be valid, but we hadn’t even spoken before. I was a minute away from spending money.

Does one lost sale mean anything to him? Probably not. But it was an anime con, and I can guarantee there were other people with kanji tattoos and he probably corrected those people as well. He got obvious pleasure out of telling me I was wrong. So maybe that was a couple lost sales. It adds up, especially at a con like Anime Next where people spend so much on hotel and food that they have to be choosy about what they buy in the Dealers Hall and Artist Alley.

Don’t be this guy:

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