When a customer in a Ningbo restaurant complained to the head waitress about a cockroach in his soup, she swallowed the offending insect. Was she just trying to destroy the evidence, or was it all part of the service?
Last Saturday, Mr Luo invited three friends to a restaurant in Mayuan Street, Ningbo, Zhejiang Province. He ordered noodle soup for his companions, but was embarrassed when one of them found a cockroach in his bowl.
Luo complained to the head waitress, Zhang Xue. Zhang apologized and said they would not be charged for their meal. But Luo demanded a note guaranteeing the restaurant would pay his friend's medical bills if he became ill. When Zhang refused to write the note, Luo called the sanitation department.
Shortly afterwards, Zhang walked up to Mr Luo's table carrying a glass of water. With a fixed smile on her face, she picked up the cockroach corpse and swallowed it down, leaving the four friends dumbstruck.
But what would make a woman in her twenties swallow a cockroach?
"I didn't want to eat it of course. But Mr Luo told me that if I ate it, everything would be OK, so I did. The customer is always right," said Zhang.
Luo ridiculed her account: "I didn't make her eat it. She did it to destroy the evidence," he said.
The cashier of the restaurant, Ms. Chen, said that Zhang was an outspoken and headstrong person; she said Zhang probably acted on the spur of the moment because she felt under pressure.
To prevent the situation becoming more serious, the restaurant manager wrote out the note Luo had demanded, but Luo refused it.
"I really didn't want to make a fuss," said Luo. "All I wanted was a reasonable explanation, and to be assured it wouldn't happen again."
Zhang resigned from the restaurant after the incident.
Some people say it is quite common for restaurant supervisors to swallow cockroaches and flies. They suspect it is a way of destroying evidence and getting restaurants off the hook with sanitation departments.
But businessman Wang Bing said Zhang probably swallowed the cockroach out of concern for the customers.
"It's a kind of self-sacrifice", said Wang, "Customers think supervisors will get into trouble in these situations; actually, they have nothing to do with the cockroach thing, the kitchen staff are to blame."
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