Everyone who’s been a victim of bad customer service, raise your hand.
Haven’t we all. Sometimes at restaurants I get people rolling their eyes if I’ve asked to refill my water more than once, other times a store assistant will refuse to help me check if there’s a pair of jeans my size because, I don’t know, laziness? There’s lots to dislike the customer service industry in Singapore for, but they’re not indefensible. Many are paid low salaries and work long hours, plus they’re not immune to bad behaviour from customers. On a side note, I’ve definitely had friends who’ve spat in their customers’ drinks as “punishment” for rudeness, which is why I never treat waiters badly (I want clean water).
Most people would expect a free meal as compensation for bad customer service, which is why it’s hard to believe anyone would pay more to be serviced badly (that sounds sooo wrong, I know). Tsundere Cafe by SubaToki is a pop-up “Insult” Cafe where you can expect servers to treat you with a cold, play-hard-to-get attitude as they greet you by the entrance, walk you to your seat, take your order and serve you food. Launched as a one-day-only instalment last Saturday, we tried to book a table a day before the event. Here is the response we got:
We’re not going to lie, it was really difficult contacting them. One of our designers is friends with someone who’s part of the organising team, so we tried our best to get a reservation there or interview with them. Unfortunately, because of overwhelming applications and that person had signed a non-disclosure agreement, it was so difficult to get any insight about the event. Thankfully, the team at SubaToki were kind enough to do an interview with us to answer the question: why would ANYONE be interested to eat there?
How did you come up with this idea in Singapore?
We were pretty fascinated with the themed cafes in Japan and actually did a number of pop-up maid cafes in local Japanese pop-culture events in the recent years. It was just last year when we wanted to try something different for a maid cafe, hence we thought of having a new kind of service involving the ‘Tsundere’ treatment, which is a Japanese slang term for a character which is hostile on the outside, but caring on the inside.
What are the most interesting services you provide?
Most of the time, our serving staff would pretty much be giving the cold/harsh treatment to our customers, but as session goes by, the serving staff will eventually warm up to the customers and treat them nicely under the right conditions. Our staff also provide services such as feeding, playing games with the customers and cheki/polaroid services.
What kind of customers did you get on Saturday?
We had a mix of audiences from the local Japanese pop culture community who’re familiar with the concept as well as mainstream audiences who’re looking to get to know the culture as well.
Unsurprisingly, we didn’t get any information we couldn’t already find on their Facebook page. The more we tried asking for information, the more secretive we felt they were being. It really bugged us how they would want such an interesting cafe concept to be shrouded in secrecy, so we couldn’t help but find out more about them on our own:
In anime culture, Tsundere (pronounced soon-duh-ray) is an archetypical character who appears emotionally unavailable, almost to the point of mean, but who is actually deep down extremely caring and thoughtful. The word is derived from “Tsun,” which means a harsh exterior and “dere” which means a softer inside. Such characters have not just proliferated Japanese anime, but Western culture where shows with such characters get dubbed into different languages.
There is more than one “-dere”…
How About Tsundere Cafes?
Originating from Japan (obviously), Tsundere cafes popularised as a way for cafe owners to differentiate themselves from typical maid cafes. In such places, customers expect to be treated by waitresses role-playing as Tsundere maids, who will at first treat them with outright disrespect and hatred, but throughout their meal slowly soften up and might even appear loving. Loving not in a PHYSICALLY sexual way, but one that leaves those who would pay for the service satisfied.
Such a disclaimer is proof that many would consider the idea of Tsundere and Tsundere cafes a sexual fantasy. It’s like if your secondary school crush who didn’t give two sh*ts about you suddenly came up to you started acting all coy, you might be pleasantly surprised. Except in Tsundere it’s the expected way to be treated. While many of us can’t suspend reality and buy into such an idea, it certainly sounds like an eye-opener even the biggest skeptics might be willing to try once.
This is how a Tsundere Girl behaves…
DISCLAIMER: Okay, we’re totally joking, this is just how we IMAGINE a Tsundere girl behaves.