Coffee vs. tea

My breakfast coffee on Sunday tasted like what McDonald’s calls “milk tea”–strongly brewed black tea with milk and sugar. (A friend of mine who lived in Hong Kong calls this “pantyhose tea” because many people use a sexy pantyhose sock to hold the tea leaves when steeping.) My guess is that an employee either accidentally used the tea pot for coffee or mistook the last of a pot of tea for coffee and poured it into the into the coffee pot to free up a pot for the next batch.

I brought my coffee up to the counter and told them the problem. One woman smelled my cup and said, “No, this is definitely coffee.” For the next five  minutes I told them that I wasn’t claiming it was tea, but rather had somehow acquired the flavor of tea mixed with coffee. They countered by constantly repeating that it was definitely coffee and definitely not tea. Finally a manager came over and just poured me a new cup from a pot that I had already confirmed to be 100% coffee. These kinds of stubborn arguments with customers are common at Chinese restaurants, where servers often seem more concerned with winning a pointless argument than making sure the customer is happy. McDonald’s is usually pretty good about training its employees to avoid these arguments, but this one had the entire line of cashiers against me. (In case you’re wondering, no, there is absolutely no chance that I was wrong. I drink several cups of McD’s coffee almost every day, and I know what it should taste like. I also tasted all three pots–one with pure coffee, one with pure tea, and one with the mystery mix that had elements of both.)

SHTig’s Guess:  A McDonald’s employee used a sexy panythouse sock to prepare uncleronald’s coffee. 

Betting the House

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Frederik Balfour at Businessweek writes about China’s “sky high” gambling sector stock market and makes an excellent point:

The conventional wisdom is that China’s greenhorn individual investors will take the hit, while corporate China—the companies that make shirts, build ships, and run utilities—won’t feel much at all. The real economy these companies operate in is far too strong to be affected by stock wobbles, goes the argument. The price of corporate shares may fall, but underlying earnings will power on.

That line of argument, though, is looking suspect for the simple reason that companies big and small are now playing the markets with abandon, using corporate funds to invest in each other’s initial public offerings and bolster their bottom lines. Although figures are hard to pin down, Morgan Stanley figures a third of reported corporate earnings in China stem from investments outside companies’ core businesses—which in almost all cases means plowing money into stocks. “It’s quite dangerous for these Chinese companies because these gains have no cash basis,” says Ding Yuan, a professor of accounting at China Europe International Business School in Shanghai. “It’s really frightening.”

It has been fascinating to watch how quickly Chinese companies and individuals have jumped into the world of investing over past few years, first in real estate and now in stocks. I do admit feeling a bit envious Continue reading “Betting the House”

Chinese Traffic is Unreasonable (so proclaimed by others, not I)

On this cool, drizzly afternoon in Shanghai, I was waiting for the light to change from red to green at a pedestrian crosswalk.  As it was, I was on the curb, but 6 people were one step off the curb in the street (which is a cardinal no-no if you’ve ever been in Shanghai).  The “Traffic Helper” blew her whistle from afar beckoning everyone to hop one step backward, up onto the curb.  Four complied.  The two nearest me, two middle aged Shanghaiese ladies, stood oblivious.  The traffic helper approached, her whistle getting louder as the distance between her and us was reduced and her blowing intensity increased.   Finally the traffic assistant was 2 feet from their faces blowing the whistle but to no avail.

 SHTig, rather than cover the ears, opted to excoriate the women for ignoring the helper.  They ignored me but pointed out to the helper that the intersection had red lights in all directions for pedestrians Continue reading “Chinese Traffic is Unreasonable (so proclaimed by others, not I)”

Do you stiff Chinese wait staff? Shame on you, says Forbes

According to this Forbes Global Guide to Tipping, when dining, “in China, giving 3% is expected at restaurants, while in Hong Kong, 10% to 15% is the norm if the gratuity isn’t included in the bill. For taxis, you don’t need to tip in China, but in Hong Kong, you should round the fare up to the next dollar amount.”

3% tips in China?  Where and how did Forbes’ come about this silly percentage?  With a simple fact check (or an actual visit to China), Forbes would know that tipping for meals is not the norm in China, except at high end places where service charges are added automatically.  My guess on how they got this percentage: Continue reading “Do you stiff Chinese wait staff? Shame on you, says Forbes”

eLong Gets Its Act Together (almost)

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I received an email from eLong with the long overdue news that it will now accept foreign (i.e. non-Chinese) credit cards for payment without the need for a ridiculous payment authorization letter. For those not familiar with the aggravation, if one wanted to pay for a flight with a foreign credit card eLong required you to call them (or they would actually call you) with credit card details and follow that call with a fax or email attachment authorizing the payment that included your signature. Here’s an excerpt from their yet-to-be updated website FAQs:

“For credit card payments, an eLong agent will contact you to retrieve your credit card information by phone. Please note that we require you to fax or email a signed authorization form before we process payments from foreign-issued credit cards.”

Well, no longer. The complaints must have piled up – I certainly lodged mine when paying for tickets. The email announced that payment would be “Hassel Free from Now!”

Next job for eLong, a publicly-listed company: make sure to use spell check on English language e-mails.

Peach Pie = bad

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McDonald’s released a new peach pie a few days ago, and I tried it for the first time today. Disappointing. The peach chunks (assuming that’s what they are) have no discernable flavor, which is instead supplied by some peach-like essence that tastes like candy. I give it a D.

What was wrong with apple pie? They had it, took it away, brought it back, and took it away again. Banana was decent as well. I guess this means I’m staying with pineapple.