In Korea, there is a culture known as “빨리 빨리 (bballi bballi)” [“fast, fast”]. This basically just means that Koreans have a shorter patience level when it comes to waiting for things. In some cases, this aspect of Korean culture can be very beneficial. For example, when you order something online, it comes the next day, or how easy swift and their transportation system can be. However, this can also backfire and cause issues for you on an individual level. For example, they can get easily frustrated if something is taking too long. This nature can also create problems that could have been easily avoided if they had just waited a little longer.

So, I thought that I could tell you about the time when this “빨리 빨리” culture caused me some personal grief.

Cashier: You came here earlier this week, right?

Me: Yes.

Cashier (shows a copy of a receipt): You got these, right?

Me (reads the receipt shown): Yes, I did.

Cashier: You didn’t pay for them.

Me: I’m sorry?!

This was the start of a misunderstanding that embarrassed, flustered, and angered me. But before I tell you what happened that night, I should back up a couple days earlier on Sunday evening and tell you how it got to this point.

Earlier in the Week

I had just gotten home from a language exchange meetup and was on cloud nine. Opening my fridge, I noticed that I was low on supplies, so I decided to stop by the grocery store near my place to pick up some necessary supplies. I frequent this store very often since it’s close to my house. I am familiar, on a superficial level, with the owner and her family. Usually, one of the owners’ family members is checking people out but today, an older man, unfamiliar to me, was the cashier.

Not really paying attention, I grabbed some items and brought them to the front desk for checkout. On my up, I remembered that I wanted to buy some paper towels. My arms were full of groceries and had nowhere to really put them. I went to the cashier and pointed them on the counter and asked the cashier man if he could wait one second while I looked for something else. I was the only person in the store, so I didn’t think it would be an issue. He said it was okay, so I went to the back of the store (it’s small) to look for the paper towels. Realizing that they didn’t sell any, I went back to the front. In the short minute or two it took me to look for the paper towels, realize it was not there, and come back to the front, someone had come into the store gotten something and was getting checked out. Problem? No.

The issue was that the cashier man had started checking my items out when I wasn’t there. To help the new customer, he had to pause my transaction, open a new one for the other customer, and then start mine afterward. I had seen this been done before, so I didn’t overthink it. He told me my total, I paid and went on my merry way.

BUT turns out, he didn’t exactly know what he was doing.

D – Day

A few days later, I was on my way home from the gym when I decided to pop into the same store near my house and pick up some eggs. This time, the entire family and the owner were operating the store. Not thinking much of it, I picked up my eggs and went to the front, and this was when things went downhill.

Cashier: You came here earlier this week, right?

Me: Yes.

Cashier (shows a copy of a receipt): You got these, right?

Me (reads the receipt shown): Yes, I did.

Cashier: You didn’t pay for them.

Me: I’m sorry?!

I KNOW that I had paid the man earlier in the week and told her that; however, she insisted that I hadn’t. My confusion must have shown on my face cause the owner pulls me out of the line to explain things further. She tried to explain that some of the items on the receipt hadn’t been paid for. I told her that I didn’t even pick up some of those things on the list, but she kept insisting I had taken them home and hadn’t paid for it.

Mentally I started panicking. Here I was, the only foreigner in the store, doing my best with the little Korean I knew to prove my innocence, but they couldn’t seem to understand me. I could understand most of what they were telling me, but they started to doubt if I could understand them. So finally, the owner decided to pull me to the back to see the CCTV footage.

By this point, I’m terrified. All I wanted to do was buy some eggs and go home, but here I was, being dragged to the back of the store to prove that I was not a thief. I had no idea how far this would drag out. All I could think was, “what am I going to do if they call the police?” I can’t defend myself!

Thankfully, it didn’t get that far. I proved that I was innocent, and I hadn’t bought some of the things on the receipt. We figured out that the issue was that the cashier who was helping out on that day didn’t correctly check me out the first time. I ended up paying the money that wasn’t accounted for and my eggs. The owner gave me a small box of cookies and apologized for the confusion. The others just nodded and watched me leave.

If the cashier had just waited as I asked, the whole issue could’ve been avoided. I was embarrassed, frustrated, and hurt. I may not have been wrong, but now I feel awkward going there. 😅

Even though it was a scary moment for me, I could understand, after the few days, how nervous the owners were probably feeling as well. They probably had no idea how to approach the situation. I can look back at it now and not be as bothered as I was when it first happen.

My determination to learn Korean just multiplied after this situation. 😂 A girl has got to be able to defend herself, ya know?

Until next time,

See ya around, my friend~~

Posted by:ThatKoreanLife

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