TWO KINDS OF TEARS
Author: Amy Wong Mok, 80-20 Board Member; Founder & CEO of the Asian American Cultural Center in Austin, Texas.
A few days ago, one of my staff, Mr. Chan (not his real name) went to a car dealer intending to buy a car for his wife. My staff is an Asian immigrant and is not fluent in English. The salesman persuaded him to put down $2,500 as the down payment for the car and asked him to sign the papers for the transaction. Mr. Chan looked at the bottom of the paper and saw 16.95% interest rate when he signed the paper. The salesman asked him to come back the next day to pick up the car after the loan was processed. He came back to the office and talked to me about the interest rate.
Like others, we at the Asian American Cultural Center have received advertisements in the past from different banks and credit unions regarding their loans at different interest rates. I have never heard of a 16.95% interest rate for a car loan and I was very skeptical, and so I advised Mr. Chan to withdraw his loan application and to look somewhere else for a car. My intuition told me that this just did not feel like an honest deal. On behalf of Mr. Chan, I called the salesman and questioned him about the high interest rate, and I informed him that Mr. Chan was on his way to pick up his down payment check. The salesman did not protest.
Mr. Chan came back from picking up his check with such a grave look On his face. I asked him if they had given him back his check. What he was about to tell me has shocked me to the core of my entire being. Mr. Chan said that when he asked for his check back, the salesman looked at him, crumbled something and threw it on the floor. Mr. Chan thought that what the salesman had thrown on the floor was trash and did not pick it up. The salesman waited a while, picked up the crumbled check and handed it over to Mr. Chan. It was only until Mr. Chan opened up the crumbled piece of paper when he realized that it was his check that was crumbled and thrown to the ground. The humiliation was so overwhelming that Mr. Chan was choked up with tears and he had to run out of the salesman's office. I could only imagine the indignation that he felt at that moment. I was choked up and filled with anger, and so were all my staff at the Center. We all understood. Mr. Chan was targeted for such gross mistreatment simply because he looked and spoke like an immigrant from Asia.
I called up the car dealer and asked to speak to their general manager, a Mr. Smith (not his real name). I told Mr. Smith about the incident. He sounded shocked. I continued to ask for his company policy in regard to mistreatment of customer. He told me he would talk to that particular salesman. I asked him if he had made his expectations clear to his sales staff in regard to customer service and I asked him how he trained his sales staff. What he told me was, I must say, equally unexpected. To his credit, Mr. Smith said, "It is my responsibility and have failed my staff. I did not train them well. I will talk to them. Please apologize to Mr. Chan for me". It was my turn to be choked up.
I was touched by the integrity of this gentleman. His straightforward answer had me choked up with tears. He took the responsibility and he took the blame. I trusted that he would correct the wrong that was done to Mr. Chan.
I share this story with you because I truly believe that when we do not speak up and question any mistreatment, we give permission for injustice to continue and it could happen to someone we love. To bring to the attention of the policy makers mistreatment and inequity is our way to right a wrong and to fulfill our responsibility to create a better world or our future generation, our children. To take action is to make a difference. Please speak up for those who could not speak for themselves. We invite you to join us to work towards a just and fair society for all Asian Americans. Please visit our website at
A Noteworthy Comment from Y.C. Larry Ho, Harvard Chaired Professor; one of the six 80-20 Founders
"Great article, Amy. Almost half century ago, I had a similar experience at work. I consulted a mentor and he advised me to speak up. The result was also a happy outcome from a responsible boss. It was a great lesson I learned early on."