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How to Know the Employee Misunderstood You in Latin America

Published October 3, 2021 in Learning Spanish & Portuguese , Mexico - 0 Comments

Some few days ago, I went to an Carl Jrs Around Lindavista area of Mexico City.

They have some pretty damn good chicken and their curly fries are great.

So I took like a 5 minute walk to the nearby Carl Jrs where the person at the entrance wanted me to scan something with my phone before entering.

It was some “contact tracing” shit or something to let me know if anyone in the building was positive for Covid while I was there?

Or shit like that.

Anyway, I very rarely carry my phone with me ever outside of my apartment.

And the dude at the door was a little bit hesitant at first to let me in until I scanned the thing.

Which, even if I had the phone, I still wouldn’t scan it.

Your chicken and fries are not good enough to go along with that shit.

I’m not letting any business or government agency or whoever the fuck is behind the tech to know that I specifically have been in contact with someone with Covid.

Fuck that shit – I prefer my privacy.

What’s next? You want to get rid of paper money too and have everyone use their card to buy anything so you know what I use with my money?

Fuck off.

Anyway, after a tiny back and forth, the dude finally believes me that I don’t have my phone on me and lets me in.

Which was the main issue – he couldn’t believe at first that I didn’t have my phone on me.

And, even if I did, is their business really OK with losing customers and money over this shit?

You know – I don’t talk about “gringo business ideas” at all really but that could be a good idea…

Just offer a business idea that doesn’t involve enforcing vaccine passports or contact tracing and wipe the floor with the ones that prefer losing customers over it.

Anyway, I digress…

Back to the story!

Once inside, I order my chick and fries.

Now, keep in mind, it’s not uncommon for American businesses to be too lazy in changing parts of their menus down here from English to Spanish.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, they still label some of their offers in English words.

Like naming a hamburger “Western Bacon” whatever.

As a side point, I always found that weird that they keep some of the menu items in English.

Yes, some Mexicans do speak English quite well (many don’t) but, in Mexico, most people speak Spanish.

Still, the topic of businesses advertising anything in English down here – either international businesses or local ones – is a topic for another day that sometimes I do touch on in other articles.

And, on that topic, I remember the chicken being labelled on the menu above me as “chicken tenders” or something like that.

The fries though, if I remember right, were advertised in Spanish.

And so I order asking for “chicken tenders 5 piezas y papas fritas grande.”

The dude took my order without repeating back to me what I said.

I assumed he understood me just fine – especially as “chicken tenders” is in English so my accent can’t fuck that up!

I give him the money and I wait for the food.

Once I get back home, the house dog greets me excitingly.


I notice they fucked up the order.

I did get the curly French fries!

But they gave me a bacon hamburger.

Now, to be fair, the bacon hamburger was actually pretty good.

So whatever!

I didn’t complain nor go back to get the chicken.

It’s fine.

But I was a little bit confused as to how they fucked up the order.

You can’t even blame my accent on this one.

Maybe the lady putting the food together gave me someone else’s order?

Then I looked at the receipt I got when I paid – it said bacon burger.

So I can only assume that the dude at the cash register legit thought I said “bacon burger” when I said “chicken tender 5 piezas.”

How does one hear the other?

Those two orders do not sound the same at all!

But, to be honest, it’s not entirely unusual for something like this to happen to a foreigner.

3 Tips for How to Fix This Problem

Of course, the first way to stop this from happening is to check the receipt when you get it.

So you don’t wait around for 5 minutes, take the food back and realize it’s not what you ordered.

Receipt doesn’t have the right food on it? Take it back before they begin preparing your order!

Having said that, there’s second minor little tip to keep in mind.

You see, as I hinted at before, sometimes it’s your accent that fucks up their understanding of your order.

Actually, whenever this does happen, I’m pretty confident it’s 100% likely to be an accent issue.

Because, in this case, the order was half in English (chicken tenders) in which my accent surely can’t fuck up the pronunciation of those words…

Since I speak English natively!

But the guy on the other hand likely didn’t speak English or spoke it not so perfectly with his own accent.

So, when hearing an accent of a foreigner in whatever language, he still misunderstood it.

Sometimes, in my opinion, when confronted with an accent, said Latino seems to just “give up” and go for the first thing they think you said.

From my perspective, it’s always the ones who aren’t paying much attention, might be very tired or whatever else that makes them not try to understanding your accent.

So, in the end, you ask for one thing (in English or Spanish it seems) and you get an employee ordering you something different.

How else then do you deal with this outside of checking the receipt?


What does the price on the menu say?

50 pesos?

Then he should be asking you for 50 pesos!

If the price he asks for doesn’t align with what the menu says, he CLEARLY did not understand you and put something else in the machine.

Every single time.

It’s a dead giveaway that you are not getting what you ordered.

So, in that moment, the best thing to do is to clarify your confusion on the price.

He’s asking for 60 pesos?

Just say something like “ummm, dice 50 pesos, no?” while pointing at the menu above you two.

Then he looks up behind him and will say “no, no, dice 60 pesos. Quieres el café, no?”

“No, no, quiero TE NEGRO” you say.

And emphasize the words “TE NEGRO”

That’s actually an example that happened to me once at a Starbucks in Roma Norte of Mexico City about 8 months ago.

Which was the last time it happened until the moment at Carl Jrs since I was living in Roma Norte at that time.

I happened to be in the area and the barista thought I wanted some coffee from Chiapas.

Having bought black tea plenty of times at Starbucks, I know the price fairly well.

So he corrected the order on the machine and that was it!

Third, we have the issue with the masks.

With masks enforced in fast food places, it’s even slightly worse if they have issues with your accent.

Which, I suppose, is a final tip here.

Whenever this happens to me, I ALWAYS pull the mask down for a quick second to repeat myself.

Without fail, the 5 employees of the year always understand what I’m saying then.

So the mask does make it more likely for this to happen.

Which, as a side thought, does make me wonder if local Latinos ever have slight moments difficulty understanding each other with the masks on….

Therefore, don’t forget to pull your mask down if this once in a blue moon employee is having difficulty understanding your accent.

Finally, How Often Does This Happen?

It’s actually pretty rare.

First off, if your Spanish is weak, you’re probably pointing at the menu to begin with to guide them as to what you are asking for.

Of course, if your Spanish is non-existent, then I can absolutely see them pulling out an employee who knows some English to help you.

So, even if your Spanish was shit, one of the above two scenarios is likely to happen.

And if it isn’t shit?

Then, in 95% of cases, they’ll understand you.

For whatever reason though, the misunderstanding ALWAYS happens at some fast food joint or maybe a Starbucks.

This has never happened to me anywhere else where I’ve bought something.

Not at an OXXO, 7-11 or anywhere that sells anything.

For some reason, fast food employees are the worst at giving you a bacon hamburger when you wanted chicken.

But, to be fair, it’s rare for this to happen even there.

Like I said, it happens maybe 5 times a year at most to me?

And I eat out most days of the week.

It really does come down to, when it does happen, a difficulty with your gringo accent.

And that’s it really!

A few minor tips for a rare thing to happen every once in a blue moon.

Not all that important but maybe helpful to some other foreigner like me living down here.

Got anything to add?

Drop your comments below in the comment section.

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Thanks for reading.

Best regards,


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