What's a Tier 2 city? Well basically China organises their many megacities into Tiers. Tier 1 are cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. In other words the international cities that are household names to most citizens of the world.
Well I guess Shanghai is widely known. Beijing similarly well known although older folk may only recognise it by its other name - Peking.
As for Shenzhen and Guangzhou, they're probably less well known globally despite both having populations will in excess of 10 million and Guangzhou having an international airport that's in the top 20 globally for traffic.
So if Tier 1 cities aren't always that well known, then what hope is there for the many Tier 2 cities?
Well hardly any of the Tier 2 cities will be household names. The other issue with them is that there are generally less foreigners living in them, and with that less Western style
And if you're a Westerner living in them or visiting them then you might find it harder to find places to eat.
I mean how can you order something in a place with a menu such as this:
I would estimate that 75% of the restaurants in my Tier 2 city have menus like this.
Actually I lied. That's not a menu. That's a bus timetable.
But if you don't read Chinese characters, would you know any different?
Anyway, most food menus in my city in China look like this, but the only thing that's different is that each item will have a price beside it.
So it's not surprising that when I'm downtown I often go to Western restaurants. They usually have English language menus, and also have photos or even models of their offerings.
And in my city I usually head to Carl's Jr. I'm a Brit not an American so I've not encountered Carl's before. I understand it's one of the many upscale burger joints they have in California. Whatever its roots, there are now a few branches of Carl's throughout China.
I'm a big fan of the spicy Jalapeno burger. TexMex flavour food is particularly rare in China, so a little bit of chilli now and again is just what I need.
I love this burger. It's 30 RMB. And for an extra 15 RMB you get a large helping of delicious fries and an unlimited refill drink:
I've been to this restaurant many times. More times than I should. But it's in such a convenient location between the metro station and the supermarket where I buy my groceries.
Anyway, yesterday I went to Carl's and ordered my usual combo.
All they would sell me was a burger on its own.
Combo is listed on the big sign above the cashiers. All the other customers are eating combos. But they just gave me a burger. I did manage to get a free drink. But it sucked so much that I didn't get fries.
My Chinese is fairly limited and I made it pretty obvious that something was wrong. I pointed to the combo. I asked for a cup. I said the price of the combo. But it was all to no avail.
Well this kind of thing has happened to me many times here. Customer service is just so seriously lacking. Cashiers will seemingly NEVER go out of their way to help you. EVER.
I guess what might have happened is the cashier originally thought I wanted the mushroom burger. Which seems logical given that I was pointing to the Jalapeno one. Ah, she was obviously new on the job. I'd never seen her in there before, and she didn't seem to know which buttons to press. She wasn't as good as the usual part-time staff, who are usually sourced from the University where I teach. Most of them know a few words of English, well enough to know combo, eat inside or takeout, and how much it might all cost me.
After that who knows. Maybe you can't change an order after its gone through. Maybe she didn't want to admit to her supervisor that she let me order the wrong thing. If my Mandarin wasn't so completely rubbish I might have got to the bottom of it. But even at HSK 2 (I have the certificate to prove it) I could not understand a word she was saying.
Well so that was a bad China day but I hope it was a one off. The burger itself was pretty good. And all credit to Carls for keeping me out of McDonalds.
Next week: Man Goes to KFC and They Don't Have Any Chicken. Again, this also happened to me in China.
If you've had a bad China day or a bad Carl' Jr then let me know in the comments below.