I hate to sound churlish (and after all, how good is my Chinese?), but one of the common amusements of expats in Asia is the poor standard of English spoken by people whose jobs have been given to them on the basis that they speak English. I frequently get emails in my inbox at work which clearly have not been read by a native speaker prior to sending. Today one arrived from a Shanghai-based online bookseller which contained the following remarks (emphasis added):
“As we’re embracing another X’mas here in China, we’re being puzzled by the same question: what holiday gift should I give to my family, friends, co-workers and customers? This year, you’ve got a new option. You can visit our cool and innovative website … to search for all the gem American English bestsellers for children, teenagers and businesspeople. Do you believe that we have most of the best known and best selling titles in such categories as children, business & investing, career development, self help and nonfiction? Do you believe that nearly 70% of these titles are not available from any other sales channel in China? … Our hardest core, however, is not the consulting piece, nor our selection, nor our logistic part. Our real core is our passion to make our customers happy at all cost.You may wonder how we deliver our promises. Do business with us once, you’ll know it. We’re a small company with big dream. We know we can’t compete with big guys on the # of items, but we can win by hugging our customers, providing them with more customer value and better customer experience.”
It’s hard to know where to start (and to be fair, you’ve got to admire their enthusiasm), but I draw the line at the idea of anyone “embracing X’mas” or being hugged by someone who is, after all, not my friend, but just someone trying to sell me a book, and a book like How to Make Friends and Influence People at that. Which reminds me of another classic faux pas by someone who came to see me in my office to try to offer some services to my company: halfway through the meeting he brought out, from his inside pocket, a copy of the self-same self-help title and brandished it, claiming that his wife made him read it once a month. How to Make Potential Business Partners Cringe and, Ulitimately, to Guarantee They Drop You Like a Hot Potato would have been more apposite.