A Money Coach in Canada

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My favourite local comedienne, Marlene, of the Assaulted Fish clan, had this very disappointing experience when she wanted nothing more than a good, sustaining bubble tea (for readers who haven’t heard of bubble tea … it’s the asian (Taiwanese?) answer to lattes, but tea, with the extra twist of tapioca tossed in. looks weird. tastes wonderful). The story raises the question: When do you take the loss and when do you ask for your cash back? Here’s the episode in her words:


401935678_a642fd31bc_m.jpgSo this happened to me weeks ago but the trauma lingers. I’m sharing this story because no one should have their bubble burst.

I love bubble tea. I don’t need an IV of the glutinous goodness, but I like a refreshing, colourful beverage from time to time. Unfortunately, there’s a dearth of quality bubble tea shops in Kits. I’m not talking about slushies – even I can whirl those up at home. But sometimes, only a regular pearl milk tea will do.

It was a cold and un-stormy night. I was dying for a bubble tea fix and the Dragon Ball Tea House – reputed to have THE best bubble tea in Vancouver – was the closest dealer of the stuff. I’ve had their drinks before and was always sort of disappointed. But desperate cravings called for desperate settling.

The place is empty and kinda messy. Behind the counter, some dude (presumably the owner) is yakking away on the phone. He sees me and gestures to someone at the back. This older woman, wearing bright yellow cleaning gloves, comes out and starts speaking to me in Mandarin. I don’t speak Mandarin. She soon realizes this and calls for someone else in the back.

A floating head appears. Seriously, this girl is so tiny they have to redesign a car for her. She also looks like a victim of child labour, but I’m pretty sure it’s just the Asian genes manifesting.

“Yis?” she says.

“Could I get a regular pearl milk tea, hot, to go?”


“Um, $4.00?”

“Yis.” And off she goes.

Now, I’m sure there are different ways to make bubble tea and I’ve never made one so what do I know? But I’m preeeeetty sure you don’t make it like this:

Floating Head first pulls on a pair of gloves. Not the ones Subway Sandwich Artists use to slap together bun and meat, but these huge, bright yellow, heavy duty, rubber gloves. The kind I use when I’m going to be scrubbing toilet scum for hours.

Naturally, I start to think the bubble tea might be radioactive.

Floating Head takes a cup and proceeds to fill it with tea from three, THREE different tea tanks. Then she puts my cup into the microwave, THE MICROWAVE, and dings it for a minute. Then she takes the cup over to the bubble vat…and well, I can’t really see anything anymore because of the way the counter is designed. But I do hear a couple of “plops”, which I take to be my pearls slopping into the cup of microwaved tea. I hear some stirring…then some more stirring…then one more for good measure.

Suddenly, a yellow gloved hand appears on the counter. It gropes around like some dis-membered thing until it manages to latch onto a lid. This is when I notice that the glove is wet and kinda discoloured. A second later, my bubble tea complete with spoon and napkin, appear on the counter.
“Uh, thanks.”

“Yis.” And off she goes.

At this point, I’m still hopeful. Maybe the microwaving and multiple tea pumping are just some ancient, long-forgotten methods for making the perfect bubble tea…

But no. There, on the white lid, are these black flecks of god knows what. They’re all over the lid, the spoon, the napkin. They look like maggots that have undergone some crazy cell division. There are tons of them!

I can’t believe I left the place without demanding my money back. I actually carry the abomination to my car, where I stare mournfully at it, lamenting the loss of four hard-earned dollars, before pitching the cup of evil into the garbage.

I ended up consoling myself with a spinach and feta crepe. I have had bubble tea since…but only from Richmond.


Readers: I bet you’ve had something similar happen. For me, if it’s under 5 bucks I seem to just do the same are Marlene – leave bummed but without making a fuss. How much does it take for you to ask for your money back?

Photo Credit: phoosh

About the Author

Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com


  1. Angela

    If it’s for 5 bucks, I won’t ask for a refund. However, like you, I would spread the words all over about the horrible experience I had.

    My understanding of hot bubble tea is that the “pearls” are poured into the hot tea. I would assume the store would have hot tea available at all time (would you wait at Tim Horton’s to brew coffee AFTER you pay your money?). So, the idea that the staff would have put a cup into a microwave doesn’t sound right to me. Moreover, if they are giving you those plastic take away cups… those cups should have never been used in a microwave!

    And maggots? Eewww!

    By the way, do you look like a Chinese? Otherwise, I can’t fathom an idea why someone would attempt speaking to you with Mandarin.


    Apr 20, 2008
  2. Jennifer

    I had a problem with a sandwich at Max’s deli about 12 years ago. I was in an assertive phase of my life, so I complained about it to the person clearing the table. She told me she would get her manager. I waited about 10 minutes while my friend ate her lunch. When it appeared obvious that the manager wasn’t coming out to talk to me, I went up to the counter with the sandwich and asked to speak to the manager. When she came out she told me that there was nothing wrong with my sandwich. She said they could make me another one but I would have to pay for it.

    Well . . . I went back to the office and I wrote a letter explaining the whole situation to the owner. In it I talked about the fact that people tell an average of 5 people when they get good service and an average of 9 when they receive bad service.

    I got a phone call from the owner a few days later. He offered me and a friend a free lunch at Max’s along with an apology. Did it make feel better? Yes. Not only that, if I hadn’t heard back from them, I never would have set foot in there again.

    I really believe that business owners appreciate knowing when you receive bad service. I learned how to complain by observing friends in the US. So, I think the lack of willingness to complain is a bit of a Canadian thing. We tend to employ passive-aggressive techniques — like telling everybody else about it rather than directing the remarks to the responsible party(ies). It doesn’t really help you feel better and doesn’t do much to help businesses improve their customer service. At the same time, I have seen some people have temper tantrums and complain loudly and obnoxiously. There is a middle-ground that would be of mutual benefit.


    Apr 20, 2008
  3. I think that anything over $ 3.00 would make me actually harass them!


    Apr 21, 2008
  4. Sometimes I think we are too passive. Recently, I had a co-worker make a Cappuccino, which looked more like coffee with left over milk floating around for a customer. She tried to serve it to the customer anyway.

    The customer made a face and said ‘uh, is this my cappuccino?’ I offered to make her another one. She hesitated and said ‘it’s ok’. I guess it really looked awful because she walked about two steps away, came back, and asked for a new one.

    I was a little surprised. It wasn’t just bad. It actually looked nothing like any kind of decent drink. But then I’m guilty of such things too.

    Don’t be a difficult customer, but if something is wrong say something. Otherwise, people think they can get away with sub-standard work.


    Apr 22, 2008
  5. E

    I’m a firm believer in politely speaking your mind when things aren’t right. I had an episode where something disgusting was served to me in a restaurant. I started choking it down because I rationalized that I had paid for it so I might as well eat it. And some part of my brain said, “You’ve already paid for this with your wallet. Do you now want to pay for it with your body?” Once I reconciled that I was happy to get up, tell the owner that I’m really not happy with that and that I’m going to leave it. Whether they offer to give me my money back (in this case it was offered to me) helps me decide whether I will patronize them again. If it’s over a certain dollar value that I really can’t afford to leave, then yes, I will stay and fight for my money back.


    Apr 22, 2008
  6. Thanks for dropping by everyone. Sounds like we all agree: asking for a refund is worth it … if only we would be bothered to ask! 😉

    As someone who has her own business, I can honestly say I very much want and need people to say when they are not satisfied (ideally, not in an angry way, but in a factual way!). That is the only way I will be able to fix things or make my business better.
    @Angela – good point about the cup. That hadn’t even occurred to me! (note, this was a guest post from a friend. I didn’t personally experience it).
    @Jennifer – kudos on going the distance and writing the letter. I’d be too lazy. And I think you nailed it – it’s passive/aggressive not to say something directly, but to complain to others. Good call.
    @Raul – let’s form an Over $3 Brigade!
    @Esme – hi there! thanks for dropping by. I’d love you to guest post on my blog, if you’d like – on your experience about tips etc. as a barista.
    @E – excellent perspective about making your body pay. I know I often overeat at restaurants; I’ll make your question my mantra from now on.


    Apr 22, 2008
  7. I had this happen at a restaurant a few weeks ago. Horrible service, horrible food, I would never go back, but I paid for it. I am still disgusted at myself!


    Apr 25, 2008

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