Jun 112012

They must regret opening an online store in the Philippines. I needed an extra wi-fi router so D. told me to order online.  His experience with them has been stellar: quick, efficient, stress-free.  I don’t know what happened between then and now, but that has not been my experience.

First, I had to email them a copy of my credit card statement. Next, they made it clear that they need MY signature when the item is delivered. If I’m not home, they will just come back. In short, there doesn’t seem to be room for anyone else to receive my order. These are minor inconveniences and I understand that they must be hitting a lot of fake purchases and scams, so I just scanned my statement and sent it.I immediately got a confirmation and shipping notice. Since it looks simpler if I’m home when they deliver, I’ve been tracking the order. Here’s what it looks like:

Jun 11, 2012   07:55   Mnl – MNL   Clearance delay – Mnl – MNL
Jun 10, 2012   01:34   Mnl – MNL   Clearance delay – Mnl – MNL
Jun 09, 2012   02:51   Mnl – MNL   Clearance delay – Mnl – MNL
Jun 08, 2012   03:11   Mnl – MNL   Clearance delay – Mnl – MNL
Jun 07, 2012   06:45   Mnl – MNL   Processed for clearance – Mnl – MNL
Jun 07, 2012   06:45   Mnl – MNL   Clearance delay – Mnl – MNL
Jun 07, 2012   03:18   Hhp – HHP   Clearance processing complete – Hhp – HHP
Jun 07, 2012   02:13   Hhp – HHP   Arrived at sort facility – Hhp – HHP
Jun 06, 2012   21:22   Sin – SIN   Departed from facility – Sin – SIN
Jun 06, 2012   21:18   Sin – SIN   Processed – Sin – SIN
Jun 06, 2012   18:53   Sin – SIN   Arrived at sort facility – Sin – SIN
Jun 06, 2012   16:18   Sin – SIN   Shipment picked up – Sin – SIN

Since June 7, Manila has been the cause of delay.

Poor Apple. I hope it doesn’t give up on us.

 Posted by at 10:38 am
Jan 162011

I was at The Gap in Alabang this morning and the staff were talking about their personal lives, teasing each other and bantering, as if there were no customers. They were talking and laughing out loud and they were across each other, so that one had a sense there was a private party going on, from which we, the customers, were excluded. I noticed people coming in, browsing, looking at the salespeople, and then leaving. I left and went through Rustan’s and it was the same story. A salesman was bickering to someone about how difficult it is to help people who are ungrateful in turn. Out loud. Really out loud and long.

In S&R;, it was the same thing.  The cashiers were just talking to each other and ringing up my stuff as if I were invisible. It’s the body language that bugs me, too. They’re all animated in their eyes and smiles as they talk to each other, but sluggish in their limbs and bodies as they do their work.

Some will say that we ought to just leave them alone because they don’t have the best jobs in the world, but I maintain that whatever job you have, you must make an effort to do well. I worked as a salesperson in the States, at different establishments, and I was too busy working all the time to be chatting my life away. Here, most establishments are so overstaffed; there’s a lot of idle time for everyone and people tend to be sluggish and lazy because their work comes in fits and starts and then there’s lots of time in between. To chat. Out loud.

If it’s not the blaring music that drives you out, it’s the gunfire chatting and blatant disregard of your presence. They will greet you, this much I will say, then they drag you into their virtual households and there you will stay until you remember all you wanted to do was shop.

 Posted by at 11:31 am
Sep 012010

My internet connection conked out Monday night. Both my phone lines died. One phone was repaired last night. The other, along with my internet, only minutes ago. Here’s a glimpse of one of many similar experiences with Globe service team:

Me: Bakit palaging nasisira ang telepono ko?
Globe: O nga po, on and off.

Iyon lang.

Globe: Maam, kagabi pa po na-restore ang internet dito.
Me: Bakit iyong sa akin, hindi?
Globe: Shrug.

Iyon din lang.

Me: Kung hindi niyo alam, malamang mangyayari ulit.
Globe: Giggle.

Can’t we all do better?

 Posted by at 2:22 pm
Jan 292009

Really. Must I be a witch to get the kind of service we all deserve? I’m not even asking to be treated differently, but I find myself having to bring out my inner witch (which is fast becoming my outer) just to get people to step up to the appropriate level of professionalism. Must it be so?

I recently received a statement to pay for annual fees for a credit card I had terminated last year. I terminated it precisely because they couldn’t get their act together.  I paid my bill as usual and they didn’t post it.  Then they proceeded to charge me late fees and finance charges, despite the number of calls I made to correct their error. So I killed the account.  Then suddenly, after months of thinking I was rid of that, out surfaces another bill.  WHAT??? Whenever I call the hotline–make that tepid-line– I am either put on forever-hold, or have to deal with a busy signal. Why is service so hard to come by?
I sometimes blame years of  living abroad for my frustration, but that’s just the cushion I like to lie on from time to time. The truth is, I’m not wrong to expect things to simply go right!  I have been going through nightmare situations with a plumber, contractors, not to mention the daily irritants with salespeople in stores everywhere. Over the holidays, I walked into the housewares section of an upscale department store, to find a group of salespeople practicing a choreographed dance number, their sound system overriding the store’s own Christmas carols. They were doing this amidst the breakables, mind you, and the presence of customers did nothing to awaken them to the inappropriateness of their behavior. I flashed them a look of displeasure and decided to leave as it was clearly not a day I was going to get good service.
Recently, I noticed a smell coming off some of my plates and asked the dishwasher service people what that might be.  The day they came, my stoneware had the smell but the regular dishes didn’t.  Their diagnosis: don’t use the stoneware in the dishwasher.  That was as far we they were willing to go.  There was no inclination to check further, probe somewhere, think more. That was it. I had to explain, with super-human patience, that I used all the dishes in a tinier dishwasher last year and never had that problem. To date, the company has not given me a satisfying answer. Instead, I asked a plumber (oh, but let’s not go there)to diagnose the problem, which he did, and now we are testing the efficacy of his solution.
Only yesterday I asked another credit card company for a reversal of late fees because their inability to fulfill my request to re-send me paper bills a few months ago, again threw me for a loop.  Yes, sure, they would do that, but first I had to pay the fees. Fine, I said, already gathering my deepest breaths, but I don’t have to call you again to remind you, right?  Maam, I’m sorry but you will have to call us again after you’ve paid because we cannot process the request for reversal until you have paid. Yes, but why do I have to call you again? Maam, I’m sorry but…..
But what, really, I wonder? But I am unable to think beyond the parameters written on whatever handbook I have in front of me? But I don’t want to think that there might be an underlying problem that has nothing to do with whether the plates are made of glass, ceramic or clay? But what?
In the meantime, I wonder why one has to bare fangs in order for people to do what they ought to.  Do we have to get to the point of letter-writing to see things done properly? It’s only when an establishment’s reputation is threatened that people begin to move as they should.
Really, must I be a witch on wheels?
 Posted by at 7:34 pm
May 062008

I managed to get in touch with Cebu Pacific management. They were all courteous and polite. They offered to give me a full refund, though I told them I didn’t really want any exceptions made for me. What’s important is that policies are addressed. It’s not right to charge customers for a refund (which takes 45 days to process, FYI), especially after a bad experience (their fault)with their airline. But it’s not about me. Changes need to be made for all. They said they would look into what happened and initially said the delays were due to a combination of the aircraft engine being fixed and terminal congestion. None of that explains why the situation was handled so poorly. None of that was ever explained to us. It was always “hindi po namin alam” and “wala pa po kaming naririning”.
I’ve seen other videos from passengers on the web and it was total de ja vu–the anger and frustration over not being told what the real deal is, and the bewildered looks of the staff.  My companions returned from Iloilo yesterday. Both their flights (Mae in the morning and Jay, late afternoon), were at least one hour delayed. So it looks like delays are fast becoming the norm.
I told my friends this experience with the airline really brought up existential questions for me because it really made me so angry. I told them what really brought it to the fore was the story of the mother who brought only enough milk for a 2-hour delay. God! That Filipinos are forced to make allowances for terrible service is just the saddest thing. We all have to stand up for our rights as consumers and stop viewing ourselves as small and insignificant.
This is the same story as our plight with our corrupt government. We cannot do NOTHING just because they are too big and we are too small. No such thing. There are a million things to do in a million different ways, but the first is to speak out and stand your ground and stop thinking or believing that one voice is nothing. The less we do, the more big business and government will feel free to behave abhorrently. It is a cycle. Our behavior dictates much of theirs, so we cannot just keep swallowing, swallowing, swallowing.
In the meantime, it is good to get the word out so that people can prepare themselves. For now, I am putting my energies there.
 Posted by at 7:25 am
May 032008

Angry, hungry, tired people–all of them. What could have been done differently? We could have been informed–properly and forthrightly — about the delay, from the moment they knew it would happen. Someone should have come out with a megaphone because the paging system in that departure area is not efficient at all and is mostly drowned out by the deafening noise of humanity and the television sets.  Cebu Pacific officials should have ensured that everyone on that flight was kept abreast of what was really happening so that we could have made choices early on. We should have been given options.  There were many who were still travelling on from Iloilo to places like Antique.  Could they have been accommodated on other flights? Could any of us have been? We waited 6 hours. Surely something could have been done for us in that time.

What they don’t realize is the manner in which they DIDN’T handle the situation is at the crux of everyone’s animosity. We weren’t treated like human beings. Though I don’t blame the harried airport “runners” who must be so used to this sort of ranting from irate customers but who are also not equipped to handle them  (they were already fighting among themselves from the tension), it would have helped if they faced us squarely and told us the truth. Instead, they stopped looking at us.  One counter girl just ignored us until Mae said, “Look. They don’t even look at us. They don’t even bother to listen to us.” Then she made an effort to look. But that was all she could do.
They treated us like we were the biggest, sharpest thorns on their sides. No. We were all paying passengers.  When they started handing out travel vouchers, others were saying all they needed was a plane to get to Iloilo.  “Stop trying to buy us and give us the service we paid for and deserve, ” was the message everyone wanted to shout. My heart went out to the mothers and their children who had been there for hours, each child getting whinier, their mothers getting both worried, angry and irritable. At the heart of this issue is a huge question about truth and service–a question that hovers above and beneath our beloved country.
 Posted by at 8:33 am
May 022008

It was supposed to be a regular flight to Iloilo. Cebu Pacific Flight #5J 457. Departure time: 3:50. We were in the hotter than hot departure area by 2pm, waiting patiently for seats to present themselves. Eventually, they did and we managed to settle and entertain ourselves despite the chaos. We were to board at 3:20.  3:20 came and still no sign of boarding. Then a mother behind us– who was sitting with her husband and baby–said the flight was delayed and we were leaving at 7:15. Unbelievable. It was so unbelievable we didn’t believe it. So we went to the monitor where it simply showed “CHECKING-IN”. It was only at past 4pm that it changed to “DELAYED” with 7:15pm as the new departure time. Strange that some people seemed to know 7:15pm was the new departure time while a good number of us didn’t know anything.

Then came the first delivery of styrofoam-packed food and the long cue of passengers waiting to claim their portion. Warrior-friend, colleague and fellow traveller, Jay, cued up but the ration wasn’t for our flight and the crew refused to serve us, as they needed to do it in batches. It was for the Puerto Princesa flight that was already a good 2 hours delayed (they eventually left after a 3 hour delay). We were to get our food a few hours later. From there the afternoon progressed horribly. No one would give us information. We had to seek it out and mostly got blank stares and practised but empty replies: “wala pa po kasi kaming nakukuhang information tungkol sa eroplano”, “wala po kasi kaming manager dito”.  It was our companion–fierce, wonderful, all- woman Mae, who practically collared one of the runners and told him to go get a manager.  She looked at her watch and said “7:10 ha. 7:10 kita inutusan”. Yes,  by that time it was 7:10 and we were nowhere near boarding.
In the meantime, several flights had come and gone going to Caticlan, Kalibo, Cebu, Tacloban, Tagbilaran–not one was headed towards Iloilo. Horror stories were surfacing. There was no food allocation for the non-paying children. One mother was told they were simply not included. People were angry, asking for an explanation–many of us simply wanted the truth: were we going to be able to leave or not? By then my group had been in the airport for more than 5 hours.
Finally, someone announced our flight number and said the new departure date would be 8:55pm. There was a lot of booing and a lot more chaos. People were angry and there was still no one to talk to. No one was coming forward to address the group and answer questions. We cornered a group of female runners (a term I use for them because they are airport employees but not connected directly to the airline and all they did was run around) who all looked nervous and confused.  One tried to explain: “Baka po mapaaga ang alis niyo ng mga 8:15 po (instead of 8:55)”. By this time it was 7:30pm and last we heard, there was no word yet about the arrival of THAT plane, so how could she tell us we might actually leave early? We pointed this out to her and she crumpled. We asked again to be simply told the truth and be given a guaranteed time of departure (really, how kind and accommodating of us, since we were already sitting there half the day), but all that did was bring us back to square one–the square of no information. At this point they started issuing travel vouchers–one way tickets to any destination in Luzon, free!
Whoopee. Whatever. But we were determined to get any kind of remuneration for our agony. We dutifully lined-up to get ours.  (There were two IloiIlo flights scheduled that day: ours at 3:50 and another one at 7:15. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the aim was to collapse both flights into one at the expense of the passengers.)  By then I had reached the point I normally don’t like to reach because once I cross it I never turn back. This point for me had been reached when 7:15 came and went (that was already 4 hours from the original boarding time plus 1 hour waiting)and there was still no plane.  (Oh, at some point a “manager” did arrive but he should have just stayed invisible because he was just as effective as the other zero-information workers in the area.)But I was with a group so we made a group decision to wait until the arrival of the plane at 8:15. That time came and went. So we started the ball running for our refund.
First, they got our travel vouchers back, “E kasi kung hindi naman po kayo sasakay…” How’s that for really crappy service? But nevermind, I was out of there and determined to never buy another Cebu Pacific ticket. By the time we got outside–back to the ticketing area for yet another round of delays, it was announced that the flight was finally boarding. Alas, I was past that point. Half the group decided to go anyway, while Dale and I decided to go by what we agreed and call it a day. I was sick, tired and angry.
So, there we were–refund time.  Still another round of horrors. Surprise! There was a “refund fee” of P336 each way, per person. Imagine hearing this at the end of a 6 hour and 40-minute wait where you were pretty much treated as invisible–nevermind that I was nursing a cold and cough in that congested, terrible departure terminal.  We suffered, they gave appeasement vouchers which were taken away, and then we had to pay to get our money back which, by the way may or may not be processed in 45 days. Cebu Pacific should just go out of business because it clearly has no idea what it is doing. It has not idea what customer service means.
I had to tell the lady at the ticket counter to stop talking and feeding us with more terrible justifications of their substandard service because she was just making things worse.  Really. Stop already. That’s what I said. Then she shoved two forms for us to sign.  Just look how legible they are. All you can see are the check marks that we were supposed to fill up:

I was so angry and insulted I showed it to her and let it go, making it flutter prettily beneath her. I won’t even go into all the petty exchanges we had and how I had to point out obvious things just so we could be served. I just wanted to go home. With our poorly xeroxed promise for a refund in hand, we finally made our way out of the chaos, nearly colliding with a trolley full of sytrofoam-packed meals. Hah. Another few hours for a few hundred miserable Cebu Pacific customers.  Just as I thought that, a porter muttered, “Naku, may na-delay na naman.” Just another day in the life of a promising service that turned into a business whose time is running out.
In the car at last, Dale’s father called to check on him.  He berated him for even flying Cebu Pacific, “Why risk your lives?”, he asked. At that moment I did  feel that I had experienced a death of some kind– an alternative to the monopoly and bad service of PAL,  the promise of good service and the chance for every Filipino to see the Philippines without breaking the bank or wasting a perfectly good day of his life at the airport.
 Posted by at 10:00 pm
Apr 132008

What does it mean to serve? Let’s not even go beyond the day-to-day, garden variety service that we encounter in coffee shops and stores. In fact, let’s stay there. Last week, I had breakfast at a coffee shop. It was a small outfit offering only 5 or so dishes. Each dish offered either rice or white bread, except one which offered wheat bread. Yay. So I asked if I could have wheat bread with the omelet. The waitress looked at me as if I had just told her she had one month to live. I offered to pay more. I could see her imagining the worst but she bravely said she would “ask”. Well-run establishments would say, “Yes, of course, maa’m. Wheat bread it is!” (Wheat na nga lang e, hindi man lang whole wheat!) I expected her to reappear with a more confident look on her face, assuring me of having a bit of fiber for my breakfast.  But, no. Instead, she nearly tiptoed to the table and said it was impossible.  It was simply not done. I could have fought for it, but since I was busy doing that with contractors, I decided to enjoy the refined, bleached, zero-fiber bread I was going to have instead. Today, I ordered a sandwich from Figaro, Alabang. When I walked in, all three servers were behind the computer trying to figure something out. The cashier barely glanced at me as we negotiated my order. When I asked her how long it would take, she looked at me with irritation and said, “Three minutes.” I said I’d be back. I came back in about six and her 3-minute wonder was yet to be seen. What does it mean to be in the service industry and why do Filipinos–known worldwide for their hospitality–behave so differently towards other Filipinos in their own country? Why can’t I have wheat bread instead of white? Why can’t I get at least respectful service, since I am looking at you, talking to you, and giving you business respectfully? Service doesn’t mean being a slave. It means doing your job and doing it well. It means having a can-do attitude, being respectful, helpful and efficient wherever you are.  Isn’t that all it is?

 Posted by at 2:51 pm
Mar 292008

OK, so my home doesn’t look like this–not exactly– but weeks after I was supposed to move in, it’s still unfinished. So the photo really shows my present inner condition.  I know, I know, everyone says that’s what construction is like here, but my question is: why do we always have to settle? Most of the delays in the construction of my home have to do with poor planning. Make that no planning. They put the lights in, make a mess then repair and paint.  Next comes the exhaust fan, which goes through the same process.  Why can’t it be planned so that everything that needs to go in the ceiling can be purchased and ready so that there’s only one schedule for making holes, making a mess, etc., etc?  If you already have your work planned for the next two weeks, you should see that all necessary materials are complete, ready and accounted for. You can’t be scrambling to line up your tools on the day of the job, only to find out that you’re missing important supplies! Horrors. That’s so pre-school! A lot of time is wasted when suppliers come with the wrong tools or no tools! And I am so sick and tired of empty apologies, head-scratching and worse, blank looks and zero sense of urgency. What’s heartbreaking is the attitude of  “pwede na”. My contractors seemed content to offer me a bathroom with chipped tiles, which they probably hoped I wouldn’t notice, coupled with wrong color,  sub-standard grouting. The problem is, I’m very organized, so I seethe and burn at the cost of this  inefficiency and sloth. I have been told that I should have hired a professional project manager and an architect with a very stable back office, but that’s all water under the bridge now and I just have to live with work ethics that I cannot begin to fathom. Whatever happened to excellence and pride in our work? Why do we have to be unpleasant to get things done? I’m actually getting to the point where I just take a million deep breaths before I go to the site because I know that there will be one disappointment after another and that people are quite comfortable apologizing, apologizing, apologizing, but not getting the job done properly.Excellence. That’s what we need to manifest. In everything we do, we must strive for excellence.  Tama na ang puwede na.  Let’s do the job and do it right. Ohhhmmmmmmmm!

 Posted by at 9:48 pm
Mar 182008

Today I was severely tested. I’m on the last stretch of finishing the home I’m building when a supplier, APO Floors, showed me just how bad and unprofessional business practice can be. I contacted APO Floors in September and agreed on the price for my living and dining flooring.  I faxed back the contract with the agreed upon price. A month or so ago, we got in touch again to say we’re about to install. Then installation time comes and the APO Floors agent suddenly says I didn’t give a downpayment, so they couldn’t do it in time for my move. I clearly remember offering the APO Floors agent a downpayment when we set the price and he said COD would do. I checked the contract and, true enough, it said COD. Next the APO Floors agent starts flaking about the agreed upon price, apparently because he lost the second page of the contract (ang tagal na kasi maam e, nawala ko iyong papel), which he kept repeating, as if that justified his utter lack of professionalism.  To make things worse, the wood I ordered was now no longer available so I have to make do with a smaller cut of wood. (I’m moving next Monday, by the way, and I still have no living and dining room floors). Then Agent APO Floors wasn’t sure if he could deliver soon or if he could install. I gave him an earful and went hunting for his Boss APO Floors who, at first, sounded quite concerned.  He said he would hurry back to the office and call me back in thirty minutes. I haven’t heard from him since and he hasn’t replied to my texts or picked up my calls.  The incompetent Agent APO Floors, meanwhile, miraculously found a way to deliver and install tomorrow but whoa…the price has changed yet again. The price of the wood is cheaper, presumably because the cut is smaller, but he wants me to pay the same lot price. HUH? This boring story happens too often in this country. I was so excited to use APO Floors engineered hardwood floors because I felt it was a good product and a local one at that, but the people I’ve had to deal with there are totally lacking in professionalism and integrity. Because I have to move next week, my architect tried to save the day and spoke to Agent APO Floors, who told her that I was difficult to deal with.  Mind you, I did everything a customer had to do. Why is the burden always on the customer in this country??? APO Floors, what’s going on? The most successful companies are those who know that the customer is their biggest asset! That’s common sense. But here, it seems to be the opposite. For change to happen in this country, people have to really live and breathe integrity everywhere!! We’re not just talking about changes in government and systems. We need to change as individuals for the change to happen in the workplace, in government and in all sectors of society. Inefficiency, sloth, lack of respect, unprofessionalism, going back on one’s word and on an agreement, calling a client names, sheer laziness, making excuses, being untruthful–these are the very things we have to eliminate from the horizon.  Everywhere. Serving with integrity, honoring your contracts and agreements, making every effort to meet deadlines and simply doing your best wherever you are–these will bring us forward. Company owners must realize that integrity is at the heart of customer service and anyone who cannot live it cannot serve the company or its customers properly. Integrity everywhere!!  I’m not sure if my flooring will be from APO Floors anymore, though I don’t have the luxury of time to change, but I’ve left it up to my architect to sort out because I cannot personally work with people who don’t even know how to listen, much less honor their word. Abangan…

 Posted by at 8:17 pm