Customer Encounters #3 – Not enough money

A few nights ago a teenage girl of about 15 years old came in with her friend and asked for a chicken chow mein with duck and sauce on top. Not an unusual request but one I knew that dad would take issue with serving in a regular container and would have to serve it in a large.

I then explained the situation to said customer who took issue with it and gave me a dirty look and so settled for having just a simple duck chow mein. She just about had the right money and asked if she could have sauce with it.

That would be an extra 50p.

She threw me another dirty look and just left. She didn’t even lok to see if there was a cheaper alternative.

Sometimes in life you can’t always get or buy what you want and you just have to live within your means. Not everyone can afford to eat duck all the time.

Does that come with Free Prawn Crackers?


They say that the best things in life comes free, and prawn crackers are one of them… provided you’re willing to spend £15+ on your order.

Prawn crackers aren’t specifically speaking a Chinese dish; it’s regularly served as a snack or appetizer in a lot of Chinese eateries in the UK, but it’s origins are actually Indonesian where they are called krupuk.

Since then they have become synonymous with Oriental cuisine as an appetiser. As a suggestion try dipping them in either a curry, sweet and sour or barbecque sauce, and they have also taken on many forms from the Calbee shrimp chips with barbecque seasoning varieties to fish crackers.

Who doesn’t love prawn crackers? (those allergic to prawns as it happens as they do contain shrimp or shrimp extract). Those little white discs deep fried in oil blooming into big white fluffy petals of crispiness, left to cool for a few minutes before being lovingly packaged into plastic bags ready for you to enjoy at the price of £1.10 per bag (they used to be £1. I don’t know why there’s been an extra 10p added.).

If only I had £1.10 for every single time anyone asked me if prawn crackers came free.

Admittedly I used to get irritated that everyone would demand free prawn crackers (“Everyone else is doing it!”). To be fair, it’s not an unreasonable question to ask because prawn crackers aren’t exactly expensive and are normally bought in a box (£3.99 for a 2kg box) and we charge up to £1.10 per bag, and that makes just a little bit of money for an otherwise ailing business (as the saying goes: every little helps). Admittedly prawn crackers aren’t exactly our menu best sellers and is not necessarily the snack of choice when you’re on a bus home because the packaging is quite awkward compared to traditional crisp packets (a plastic bag sealed with a one inch strip of tape).

Ideally I would like to give away prawn crackers for free, but unfortunately it isn’t something that my boss (aka dad) would allow.

Customer encounters #1 – Your food is too expensive

Customer: What’s the difference between regular and large?

Me: *takes out a large and regular container*

C: That much for a container that big?! That’s way too expensive.

M: Well times are tough I’m afraid.

C: Right, well I’ll have a large king prawn chow mein. I’ll only eat here once because I’m hungry. I never spend more than £4 on a meal.

M: *internal monologue* well if you think we’re too expensive for you and you think you’re too good for us then you’re perfectly entitled to take your cash elsewhere.

Now I know it sounds really bad and I should be trying to woo customers to spend their money for our food, but it is that feeling that no one seems to appreciate that we are still in a recession and that it has been tough and that like everyone else, we also had to take the heartbreaking decision of raising prices.

And I know I shouldn’t slate customers who say the prices are too expensive (it’s just constructive criticism), but you can’t help but feel that no one seems to appreciate the fact that we’re trying to cope with the current economic climate.

In all honesty I find it quite hurtful when people give us a dirty look and say out loud our food is too expensive. It’s like they live in a bubble world and haven’t realised that we’re still in recession and raising prices is the only option we have to stay afloat.

No business wants to raise their prices because they know it might drive away regular customers or that our regulars will start spending less. Whilst it is posible to lower prices it would affect our income and you would be hard pressed to find a cash a carry that would sell crates of shrimp or prawns for a lot cheaper than they do now.

I guess it’s fair to say that coming from a Chinese background I tend to be more reserved and more muted with my criticism and try not to kick up a fuss unlike a lot of people who come here.

Next time you go into a small business and complain the prices are too expensive, know that we are trying to do the best that we can and that we would be better off with less customers like you.