08/21/2013 08:00 EDT | Updated 10/21/2013 05:12 EDT

McDonald's customer alleges discrimination over bad English

A B.C. woman is claiming she was refused service at a Richmond McDonald's because staff said they couldn't understand her English.

Hai Xia Sun ordered a hot chocolate at the McDonald's on Number 3 Road in Richmond last week, but said staff gave her a coffee by mistake.

She said she asked that her order be fixed, but alleges the manager refused and told her to get out of the store instead.

"She said, 'You don't know English,' and then she returned my order. She said, 'We are very busy, don't stay here,'" Hai Xia Sun told CBC News.

Sun called the incident discrimination.

"This is my second language right. And this is discrimination. Yes maybe I speak not very good English but she can't not service to us."

Restaurant blames 'language barrier'

But a McDonald's spokesperson says it was an isolated incident caused by a "language barrier," not discrimination or poor service.

"We regret that this customer was offended during her recent restaurant visit. We have since been in communication with her son who has expressed appreciation for our efforts to resolve the situation," said a later statement issued by communications director Jeanette Jones.

"What is alleged to have taken place is not consistent with the franchisee’s commitment to quality customer service and to reflecting the cultural mosaic of the restaurant’s local community," the statement read.

The Vancouver suburb of Richmond is popular with Chinese immigrants. According to Statistics Canada, 41 per cent of the population lists a Chinese dialect as their first language.

Queenie Choo, CEO of SUCCESS, a Vancouver immigrant group, says incidents of discrimination are uncommon in local businesses.

"Well I think it's a very unfortunate situation. The way I look at it, it's a situation where there's a communication issue. It takes two to tango," Choo said.

Nevertheless, Sun's son David Zhao wants McDonald's to take action by hiring Mandarin speakers at local restaurants.

"In Richmond, how come they don't hire a person who can communicate in Mandarin. All right? That's not a big deal," said Zhao.