Perceptions and Generalizations

A few years ago, the Subway where I get lunch occasionally was taken over by an Indian family. The restaurant, (if you can call a Subway that) used to have a bunch of young local kids working there, and the service was slow, the sandwiches were hit or miss, sometimes full of stuff, and other times bread with a hint of meat and toppings. When the Indian family took over, they cleaned up a place that I hadn’t really noticed was kind of shabby. They had more people on the line and less people standing the back hanging out. Sandwiches were made more quickly, and more consistently, and they never skimped on whatever you asked for in the sandwich.

The place is 2 or 3 times busier at lunchtime than it used to be, and while it still takes a few minutes to get to the counter, you can usually have your food faster than you could have with the white kids working there. So I had evidence that appeared to suggest that having an Indian family take over an establishment was a good thing, and there would be improvments.

After living in my little town for almost 10 years, I stopped in to the 7-11 I pass everyday on the way to work. They had some coffee promotion that seemed hard to pass up, and I figured they may be cheaper and quicker than stopping at the drive-thru coffee place for a crafted coffee beverage. There was an older lady working behind the counter, that told me, the Brazillian Bold coffee was good and fresh and that she had made all the coffee less than 15 minutes ago. She walked over and talked to me about the 6 different varieties of coffee they had, and the flavored creamers, and cleaned up the area, and checked the pots. It was nice to have someone actually talk to you in a convenience store, and she rang me up and I was out of there in a jiffy. As an extra bonus, the coffee was fresh and hot.

I started going to that 7-11 on a fairly regular basis. Anytime I was heading to a customer site, rather than to my office, (where I have my own coffee) I’d stop in and get a cup of whatever she said was the freshest. Her most frequent answer was… “All of them are fresh, I just finished making them”

Recently an Indian family (ok, I’m not really sure if it’s a family, or just some Indian guys) appear to have taken over the 7-11. All of the older women who worked behind the counter are gone, and now, when I go in, there’s 1 guy manning the store. He’s always at the register, or cleaning something. He gives you a quick hello as you come in, and that’s the last you hear from him until you check out. Now that’s not really a huge loss for me. While I enjoyed the “coffee lady’s” company for the minute or so that I was dumping little cream containers into my coffee cup, I’m usually not overly interested in some employee chatting with me when I’m trying to get my stuff and go.

The big disappointment was that there seemed to be less variety of coffee, and it wasn’t good. It tasted like it had been sitting on the burner for half an hour or more. I’ve been in there a few more times, and the coffee hasn’t been great. It’s not horrible, it’s just not good enough to be worth stopping, when I will eventually get to the office, or I can run through the drive-thru, pay a little more, and get a more consistently good coffee on my wat to wherever I’m going.

Why do I bring this up? We tend to make rash generalizations, like, having an Indian family take over is a good thing, or having and Indian guy run the 7-11, (ok, that’s a double one there) will lower the quality.

Why do we even care where the person running the store comes from? We have a complete set of people here in the US, from very high quality people, to those who lack any remnant of quality. Why wouldn’t India, (or any of the ‘stan’s) have the same gambit of people.

I was born the deep south, and grew up in Hawaii, where white people tend to be the minority. I do my best to see through the color of a person and try to see “who” they are vs. what they are.

But I fell into the trap with my wild generalization of Subway. The Indian family made it beter… therefore. Maybe a group of more mature adults, with a good manager made it better regardless of their ethnic background. Maybe they’re just a good hardworking American family, that really know how to run a Subway.


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