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FRESH OFF THE PLANE: Learning to “speak Canadian”

I was new at the job – my first in Canada – and anxious to make a good impression. I had landed the job as a sales associate at      a store specializing in electronics after a long and hard search for jobs. Without Canadian experience, it was hard for me to break into my own field and by the time this job came up through an agency, the funds we immigrated to Canada with were running low. So, needless to say, it was imperative that I keep the job.

I walked in for my shift one day and noticed there was much excitement on the floor. People from the head office were expected that afternoon for a routine check to see how we rated against other locations in terms of item displays and customer satisfaction, etc.

My immediate supervisor told me to be ultra careful in dealing with customers – there could be no unhappy customers that day!

My nervousness increased as I was new to selling and making small talk the Canadian way at the same time.

I was still to learn how to push for a sale without seeming to do so, without revealing my anxiety. I went into the rest room to take a few minutes to calm down. I took a few deep breaths and told myself this could be an opportunity to shine, to show what I was capable of.

The very first customer that afternoon was interested in purchasing a home entertainment system – the latest television, surround sound speakers, the works. His teenage son accompanied him, obviously having done his research into what he wanted dad to buy.

A big sale is always welcome, but in all good conscience, I was unable to push the more expensive models when I knew they would get the specs they were looking for in a relatively less expensive one. The gentleman, however, was keen to get what his son wanted and be done with it. He looked annoyed at what he perceived to be inefficiency on my part, but then when the price difference registered, he got all excited.

“Well then, cancel the whole enchilada!” he exclaimed to his son. “Let’s go with his recommendation!”

Normally, such endorsement from a customer would be great, except that I had no idea what he meant. You see, I heard it as “Cancel the whole initial order”.

“Had you placed an initial order, sir?” I enquired.

“No, we just got started,” he pointed out.

“Then what would you like me to cancel?” I asked, hesitantly, wanting to get it correct. I could not mess up this order, the HO team had just walked in.

Luckily, my guardian angel Sam, a co-worker who had taken it upon himself to watch over me in my early days on the job, walked by just then and took in the situation in a glance.

“The gentleman doesn’t want you to cancel anything, just get the items he wants and help him to the cashier,” he said.

The customer left a happy man – I am not too sure I was his son’s favourite person that day, though. The head office team was happy with the store’s performance, too, and later, Sam explained to me just what cancel the whole enchilada meant! It comes from some movie, but basically means cancel the plan.

                                                                                                                               – Ravi Kamath 


What’s your story? Every newcomer, no matter how savvy or where he or she comes from, has a Fresh Off the Plane (FOP) story to share about their early days in Canada. Do you want to share your story? E-mail it to us at canadaboundimmigrant@rogers.com.


Posted: May 30, 2017

June 2019

Centennial College

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