18 Jul2012

To “run amok” is a highly descriptive phrase for being “mad with uncontrollable rage” according to Wikipedia. It is a Malay term, and in my years in Indonesia, I actually saw one or two videos or newsclips of someone literally running amok in town squares or gatherings in relatively remote locations — it can be quite deadly. Amok is one of my favorite words, literally and figuratively. But amusingly, as I googled with haste, I actually typed in “a mok” and the slang definition of a “mok” in the “Urban Dictionary” was cause for a huge chuckle — “a person with an exceptional(sic) large penis”. That last tidbit is completely unrelated to today’s topic, I was just amused by the twists and turns that language can take us on… :)

I too, am in the service business, with three (and soon to be five) restaurant outlets and a special events space as well as a retail location at the Cebu airport. We serve several hundred customers daily, and there are so many opportunities for service to go wrong… and occasionally it does go very, very wrong. While we are happy with much of the feedback we get from clients, we pay the closest attention to correcting service issues whenever possible. I strongly believe that if clients don’t bother to complain, then we, the company, have lost an opportunity to improve our own operations. With close to 100 employees, and new ones joining us as we expand, this task seems to be a daunting one, but surprisingly, I think we are gaining some ground and service and service recovery is improving. We aren’t where we want to be yet, so I am on the constant lookout for learning encounters and take note of what I would do differently to avoid the same outrageous service situation I just experienced a few hours ago. This afternoon was a doozy, and I hope that outlining what went wrong,from my personal perspective, and what could have been done about it will help both our own service delivery as well as those of other service related companies around the country.

Situation

I had recently read about this kitchen supplies store in a magazine while sitting in a dentist’s waiting room. I took note of their address and telephone number. I looked them up on the internet and the address was the same as I had noted from the article. The telephone numbers were identical. The map on their website led to the address I had noted. There was no other notice that the store had closed, moved, transferred, etc. In other words, as of early this afternoon, on the company’s own website, the data was as I describe it. And I took screenshots just now to prove it. But I won’t even bother to mask the company’s identity and post the screenshots, the company is not the point of this post, it’s the customer service issues. Having said that, the company has been in business for several decades, so I am not talking about a small mom and pop operation, and one would expect at least a minimum degree of professionalism in the way they do business. I asked an assistant to call the company to ask for directions to their store, but the number he dialed just kept on ringing. So we decided to drive over anyway to check visit their showroom.

We arrived at the address, only to find that the shop had recently closed (perhaps just a few days or weeks beforehand). There were tarps in front announcing that the store had transferred just a few meters down the road. We went to the new location, spotted several tarps announcing the new store and products they carried, but when we parked and got out, a guard told us it wasn’t open yet. The doors were half open and the shelves appeared to be partially stocked. It looked at least close to opening. When I asked for the date it would open, the guard couldn’t answer. So we asked for a telephone or contact number to call to ask, and he provided a new telephone number.

Complications

As I sat in the car dialing the new number on my cellphone, I got through and company representative #1 answered and this is the jist of the conversation… not verbatim and loosely translated to English.

Marketman: “I would like to know when the store will open.”
Company Rep #1: “Sir we are located at xxxxxxx.”
Marketman: “Miss, I didn’t ask for your address, I asked when you would open the store.”
Company Rep #1: “Uh, I don’t know.”
Marketman: “Miss, you may not know, but someone else must, can you ask someone who knows?”
Company Rep #1: Disappears for 1-2 minutes, returns and says “We don’t know sir.”
Marketman: “That’s absurd, do you mean to tell me you have no idea when the store will open? Next week? Next month? Next Year? Next millenia? I notice you have already stocked some shelves… I am currently sitting in your parking lot!”

Meanwhile, at the exact same time I am conversing with two company representatives, an SUV drives up, person gets out with his assistant, they walk straight into the store from a side entrance and proceed to browse at the goods on display. They spend a good 10-12 minutes there, and leave just as I am raising a stink outdoors in the parking lot.

Long silence as the Company Rep #1 disappears, and of course Company Rep #2 takes the phone and is completely clueless about what has already been said and transpired so far. Basically, repeat the conversation above, followed by:

Marketman: “It’s a really simple question, when will you open so I can come back then?”
Company Representative #2: “Sir, we don’t know.”

Soon enough, Company Rep #3 takes the phone, again unbriefed about the inane content of the conversation with #1 and #2 so far, and says she is the supervisor, and says something along these lines:

Company Representative #3, Supervisor: “Sir, we will open by September.”
Marketman: “Can you be more specific, does that mean September 1 or September 30 or somewhere in between?”
Company Representative #3: “Sir maybe by September 15”
Marketman: “Maybe? So you are closed? You don’t allow any customers in?”
Company Representative #3: “Yes sir.”
Marketman: “Then why do you appear to have a customer at exactly this moment browsing through your products?”
Company Representative #3: “I will come down and talk to you sir (in the front of the store, in the parking lot)”

More of the same, and basically no firm date for opening. At this point, I pointed out that there were clients let in, so what was the logic to that?

Answers like “existing clients” with appointments are allowed in. Or agents of long-time clients can come in. But retail clients can’t come in. When I asked why they assumed I was a retail client, they shrugged and couldn’t answer. I told them I represented several restaurants, and they couldn’t give a coherent answer why I couldn’t go in. Finally, with my voice raised in amok mode, yet another company representative, now Sales Manager comes out and tries to explain. She can’t give a coherent simple answer either. In fact, in the middle of her muddled explanations, she says “Sir, you may go inside now to look at our products!” How completely absurd is that? I just wanted to know the date it would open, and later an explanation why they didn’t inform clients about the new address, phone, etc. And I pointed out that their website was wrong. And worse, the two business cards they just handed me had the inoperative numbers still on them, not crossed out. Absurd. How such a simple thing could be so mishandled is really a lesson in customer service gone bad.

Sales Manager now says store opening date is mid-October, not September. If this is true and a fact, then why did her subordinate say mid-September?? Manager bold-faced tells me THAT NO CUSTOMERS are allowed in, yet when I point out that there WAS JUST A CUSTOMER IN THE STORE a few minutes before, she claims she didn’t know that. Her own security guards had to acknowledge that that FACT was indeed correct. When I told her to her face that she shouldn’t claim things she can’t back up, she stutters. If there is one thing that sets off my fuse, it’s being told one thing when another is so clearly the case. Why service personnel in general ACTIVELY CHOOSE to alter the TRUTH is beyond me. As a general rule in service situations, LYING is quite easy to catch and if caught, it makes the liar look really particularly silly.

The manager now invites me into the store, as if throwing a fit is enough to break previously prescribed rules that NO CLIENTS are allowed into the store yet. Finally, yet another lady comes out, and is now perhaps head honcho of all previous company reps, and finally she has a good explanation, “we don’t know when we will open as we do not have our business license yet.” Aha! Binggo! Bullseye! Tumpak ang sagot! When I countered why they had clients viewing goods, she lamely explained they were agents of old clients. When I asked if they could order goods, she said they could, using old accounts. When I countered that in theory, you can’t do business in a specific location without a business license in place, she couldn’t respond.

The Key Question

The key issue was simple. When was the store opening? And when they couldn’t answer that, issues just kept veering off on one tangent and another complicating the discussion far more than was necessary.

The Answer or Solution

All of this could have been simply avoided if the following was done, and personally, I will take this as my lesson for my own businesses:

1. When you intend to move your business location, post notices wherever reasonable, on your store, texts to clients, on your website and in notices to clients at the store before you close it. Up until this afternoon, their website still pointed clients to their old address.

2. When you change telephone numbers, leave an answering machine or message to advise clients that your numbers have changed, and that you can be reached at the new numbers. Do the same on your internet webpage. Up until this afternoon, their website still pointed clients to the old telephone number.

3. When you give calling cards out to clients, irate or not, be intelligent enough to cross out the numbers that are no longer functioning, or that you don’t really answer, and write in the new numbers at your new location. As of this afternoon, the two calling cards given to me by the supervisor and the manager STILL HAVE THE WRONG NUMBERS AND WRONG ADDRESSES. Perhaps only their names and email addresses are the same. That to me, is a big, big duh, and I have to avoid that inane situation in our own businesses.

4. When you move address, put a tarp with your new address and telephone numbers. At your new location, if you are NOT YET OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, then post that same message outside your store so that there is no confusion. It would be convenient to clients if you post your opening date, if you know it. Or at least say “Opening Soon”…

5. When people call you on the phone to ask a simple question like “when will you open the new store?” — have an answer. If you don’t know the answer, find out. If you are the boss and you don’t know the answer, why are you the boss? At least give your staff an intelligent response to give clients:

“We will open as soon as we have all our permits in place. We expect that to be mid-September, but can’t be sure. May I have your name and contact number so that I can call you back when we have an official opening date?”

That simple, honest, practical answer would have prevented the loss of a potential client, not to mention the time of five company representatives to deal with an irate Marketman. It is a truthful answer, an understandable answer and it is a pro-active customer service answer.

6. If you admit that you DO NOT HAVE A BUSINESS PERMIT, AND YET YOU ALLOW OLD CLIENTS TO ESSENTIALLY CONDUCT BUSINESS BY PERUSING PRODUCT OFFERINGS ON THE PREMISES AND ALLOW THEM TO PLACE ORDERS USING “OLD INVOICES” then I think you may be violating several laws by your own admission.

7. When you firmly and categorically state thats NO CUSTOMERS can come in, but in the middle of that argument, a customer (whether wholesale or retail, old or new) does indeed walk straight in and views the products on the shelves, then how do you think that will appear to folks who have been told categorically that your showroom is not open and will not open for several months still and who have been told there is no business permit to operate the business? At best it makes the person(s) who stated the policy seem uninformed, not totally truthful, or unreliable at the least.

8. When you reverse course and tell an irate client that they can now indeed enter the supposedly “STILL CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC” showroom, and you back off all earlier pronouncements and pull the rug out from under your own earlier stated positions and answers, it shows a complete lack of backbone. And an obvious double standard.

9. Finally, act swiftly to correct the situation and nip things in the bud. Tell the truth or as close to the truth without divulging any information that is confidential. Understand truly what the client is raising as an issue. Don’t mouth of service training platitudes like “I respect your position” when you can’t even tell the truth about the simple issue under discussion. Don’t allow the situation to escalate by adding fuel to the fire, adding still more inconsistent answers, false truths, inaccuracies. Do not assume that any customer is beneath your treating them equally with any other of your customers. Understand your actions in a retail business can and often do result in lost sales if the situation is handled poorly. Learn from your mistakes rather than dismissing the situation as an unusual aberration that will simply fade into the horizon.

That was five people and at least three levels of staff that handled my call/question eventually this afternoon. The top 3 levels were face to face with answers so varied, so inaccurate, so unreliable, so inconsistent, so unsupportable, and finally thrown to the wind and reversed when faced with an inability to logically explain their earlier positions… Gosh, that’s something I would go ballistic with if that happened in our own company.

The bottom line is this. The company moved locations. They didn’t bother to indicate that move in their website, thus misleading and inconveniencing their clients. They didn’t change their numbers either. They couldn’t articulate a new opening date for up to 2-3 levels below the manager, but MADE-UP opening dates anyway, even though no one could really back them up. They insisted that the store wasn’t open and no one could enter to view goods. They changed that position when it was clear that others did indeed enter the store precisely as they argued it was not allowed. The prohibition against entry was to prevent retail clients from entering. But they had no way of knowing I was a “retail” vs. “wholesale” client. They changed their tune again and said they only let previous wholesale clients in. They admitted they had NO FIRM OPENING DATE as they had NO BUSINESS LICENSE yet and could technically not conduct any business nor make any sales at this new location. They claim that old clients just look, but when pressed, they very clearly verbally admitted they could place orders using “old invoices”. I am not sure that is kosher, but whatever, that’s a government inspectors role to determine, not mine. And finally, after raising a stink, they claim it was now okay for me to look and browse through their warehouse. I declined. I told them that was an absurd change of heart given earlier explanations. And frankly, it was in theory a violation of the law, as the business was not licensed to operate yet and serve customers legally.

In the past year alone, we have purchased millions of pesos in kitchen and restaurant equipment. In the next year or so, that will hopefully grow dramatically. We are indeed very, very small fry and know it. But as a result of this incident and the inability of even the most senior manager to explain the company’s position logically and rationally, we will simply take our business elsewhere. It is the only way I know how to respond to such poor service, and after several levels of management had every opportunity to fix the situation, right on the spot, and didn’t. Thank goodness there are lots of alternative kitchen and restaurant supplies stores out there. Customers need to demand decent service and when they don’t get it, vote with their wallets.

I know some folks think I can make mountains out of molehills. But I continue to subscribe to my motto: “Choose Frustration Over Indifference.” The day people DON’T point out these service issues is the day you CONDONE such outrageous service behavior and in effect ENCOURAGE more of the same. It is also a lost opportunity to improve customer service. I mentioned in a recent post that I thought more and more folks locally seemed to be slipping into a moral and ethical abyss… add to that now a lack of logical, rational, service-oriented capabilities.

This post doesn’t just refer to a situation this afternoon. With a few slight changes, it could apply to a recent situation with another large kitchen supplies store whose staff, when dealing with a huge order for stainless steel products and kitchen equipment, gave answers like “I don’t know the price of that”, “We have no stock of that”, “We don’t know how long it will take to deliver it” and “I am new here, so I shouldn’t be expected to know anything”… One really has to wonder what owners of these businesses consider to be acceptable staff and managerial responses to situations of this sort. Thankfully, in that particular case, the poor service forced me to do a thorough search of alternative stainless steel suppliers, and I found a bigger, more responsive and 10-20% lower cost alternative that manufactured right in Cebu. I have a heightened sensitivity to service issues, but I do not think I am alone in thinking local service levels have just plummeted downwards in recent years…

I know many kitchen professionals out there sometimes drop by this blog. So do cooks, chefs and restaurant buyers. Restaurant and chain owners as well. Do me a favor and please email me with any suggestions of good restaurant and kitchen supply wholesalers that you have found to be reliable and well-priced and that provide sufficient after sales service. Your suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. josephine says:

    What – no chainsaw? Service levels in the Philippines have to be experienced to be believed. It seems the basic business model is to hire plenty of staff (helps keep the unemployment stats down I guess) then give them no training whatsoever. Last year I renovated my mother’s house, and in a major building supply store, it took several staff members THREE hours to tell me that the tiles I wanted were NOT in stock. I came home burning with rage, but family and friends advised me to buy a supply of movie tickets and just to nip over to the cinema, take in a good film and come back for my answer in preparation for such incidents!

    Jul 18, 2012 | 6:39 pm

     
  2. MrsKookie says:

    Filipinos still need to learn about customer service. We are a friendly and always smiling lot but a lot of us are indifferent and have no sense for urgency. I worked for account management at a bank and resigned to help the family businesses, still service oriented. And I would always find the need to orient and re-orient them on how to handle clients, to my standards.

    Im the worst client as my standards are high. But sometimes just telling the truth helps manage expectations.

    Jul 18, 2012 | 7:00 pm

     
  3. Getter Dragon 1 says:

    Angle 2 strike!

    Jul 18, 2012 | 7:02 pm

     
  4. rowena says:

    Thank you for posting this and most especially for this line “Choose Frustration Over Indifference.” …
    I have come to understand my husband better when dealing with customer service issues after reading this post. I was being indifferent.

    Jul 18, 2012 | 7:39 pm

     
  5. Joey in Dubai says:

    That’s the kind of service companies provide when they hire employees for 5-months-and-29-days contract! Can you blame these employees if they have this who-cares attitude? I experienced that with the staff of a restaurant in SM Hypermart when we had to wait for half an hour for our order of fried chicken and pancit canton to arrive. I found out that that waiter who took our order forgot to report it to the kitchen. I raised hell with the supervisor who nonchalantly told me to just wait in my table to be served. Hah! No apologies, no nothing. And then I overheard the cashier (who was nearby), “haay, salamat, tapos na kontrata ko!”. At first I didn’t get what she meant but my wife explained later that it must be her last day of work in that resto. And may be the cashier was relieved that she’s not going to witness anymore disgruntled customers li me.. But, surely, I’ll never step in that restaurant again for sure and I think that’s the best way customers can fight back against service-providers who know nothing about service.

    Jul 18, 2012 | 7:43 pm

     
  6. EbbaBlue says:

    I tried to put myself in the position of the Manager; (I knowing the truth of not having the permit) but professionaly does not want to divulge so much information as to why we can’t tell the “definite” opening date. I might say “things” are not completely in place. Pero yes, I will ask for the customer’s phone number so I can call them back and give that info that they need.

    Now, regarding the question – bakit merong tao na sa loob – how can I clarify na nasa loob lang sila to browse… – against din ba yon sa law dahil insurance wise hindi nga officially bukas ang store, kahit pag-browse eh hindi supposedly allowed?

    hahha.. or could I lie that they are some sort of old clients/partners who wanted to check that the stocks are correct – prior to the opening date.

    Either way, I think I am trying to concot what or how to lie…

    Now for the first 3 reps – they did try to call S.O.S for support – unfortunately, yung mga tinawag hindi rin alam. It could have been prevented if they’re trained to say – yun nga, they don’t have definite date but will call back to give info.

    And Yes – the website – yan – walang excuse yan to have wrong info.

    Bottom line…… arghhhhhhh

    Jul 18, 2012 | 10:32 pm

     
  7. D.B. says:

    It’s very common nowadays for service staff to lie about stuff that they can’t answer or aren’t sure about. I call it “nag-iimbento”. How has our customer service in this country sunk so low? In Singapore, Filipinos have taken over the customer service-oriented jobs. They’re helpful, knowledgable and pleasant without being overly familiar. In short, they’re competent. So it’s not the people who are the problem; it’s the attitude.

    Jul 18, 2012 | 10:47 pm

     
  8. Marketman says:

    D.B., I have to think it has a lot to do with the management as well… and I would also hazard a guess that most consumers in the Philippines do not speak up when they experience bad service… which perpetuates the downward spiral in service levels unfortunately…

    Jul 18, 2012 | 10:54 pm

     
  9. sunflowii says:

    they just say all those things to get you to go away because most times, with other people, it’s enough for them to go away. they just didn’t expect to be dealing with someone like you. =)

    Jul 18, 2012 | 11:23 pm

     
  10. JE says:

    There are a lot more industries out there where we as consumers should indeed vote with our wallets to get the better value and service, yet sometimes don’t do so. Possibly for fear of being alone in our opinions, or because we don’t think there’ll be a noticeable impact from just a single person taking business elsewhere.

    It does take a concerted effort for big institutions to stand up and take notice of a regular customer. I’m guessing its easier in other countries like say the US where your common shopper can sue the hell out of big business for millions of dollars even for just the smallest of slights. It’ll probably take a lot more work here.

    I don’t underestimate the power you and your site has in getting these issues and points across (and sometimes in a big way) to the concerned groups/individuals/offenders, though.

    Jul 18, 2012 | 11:25 pm

     
  11. SuR-USA says:

    A Freudian slip run a mok? Be careful on inadvertently conveying inadequacies on this forum..:-) just yanking your chain…

    A contender as an HBR case? maybe— about elementary customer handling and a reiteration of the mgmt principles of an Istanbulu, Henri Fayol. ;-) I’ve learned in traveling the globe that, for the most part, “efficiencies” are tropes and practices of the industrialized west (+ industrialized japan and China)– it’s the thing that soaks your pores in B school.

    I would not have been as patient. (I’d have lost it after the third paragraph under COMPLICATIONs) Their (in)actions are SIGNALS to me that they are unworthy of my business. My read of this case hinges on this: that they have some monopoly or a player of a limited market that you must unavoidably interface to sustain your own operations (eg the power/ water company). If the last point is, I suspect, NOT true and there is healthy competition elsewhere, they’ve lost out. This is by far the clearest signal you could send.

    What may improve this as an HBR case (yeah I like them – they are world/ problems contained) is some discussion of market context as I’ve got the impression (I suspect an inadvertent omission) that they are one of few or ONLY game in town.

    Jul 19, 2012 | 12:37 am

     
  12. Marvin says:

    nakaka takot galitin si MarketMan….

    Jul 19, 2012 | 12:49 am

     
  13. betty q. says:

    Whoa!!!!…humahaba the nominees for the 2012 Fish Pan Award but my vote is on this one!

    So, now that you have cooled down most likely, MM… maybe head to the kitchen and make a huge pot of comforting KHEER! ….I searched your archives if you have any post on it but I see none. MOst people drink wine or alcohol after engaging in such a buwisit day. But for me, It is Indian Rice Pudding….UBER SARAP and comforting! Invite a few friends over for merienda, grate your NUTMEG over it (omit the cardamom which is usual spice in Kheer) and para kunyari healthy, garnish with pistachios, flax seeds or hemp hearts, sun dried cherries or blueberries. All the Indian recipes out there call for basmati rice. I always use jasmine rice and add a bit of malagkit and it works for me…even the consistency is far better than the Indian version. For every 2 litres of homogenized milk, use a little over 1/2 cup jasmine rice and 1 to 2 tbsp. of malagkit, pinch of salt, 1/2 cup or more to taste. Soak both the malakit and the jasmine rice in cold water. Meanwhile bring the milk to a slow boil, then drain the rice and dump it in the pot. Use non -stick pot. Now, reduce the heat to low and stir. This is where patience comes in. Stir the mixture every now and then until the rice is cooked. Keep on stirring and cook it until rice looks like congee. Then take it off the heat and add the sugar and then pinch of salt. Transfer to a bowl, cool it down and refrigerate. Some people eat this while still warm but I prefer it cold!

    So, MP, Millet, La EMP, CWID, and Ros-Anna…subukan ninyo mga Mrs. my version of this UBER SARAP na Rice Pudding! NO LOW-FAT MILK, please! Best one to use is the Avalon homogenized or standard milk on this rice pudding and even though you are having a BUWISIT day, eating even a bowl of this rice pudding will calm you down. IT does for me!…lalo na if you eat this COLD on this really scorching summer weather we are having! MP…since you are the one with a healthy supply of saffron, add a few threads before you give the bowl to Mr. MP! This is a sosyal na KHEER!

    Jul 19, 2012 | 2:41 am

     
  14. scott says:

    I spoke up about customer service at a restaurant hear in Cebu…and was told to “go back to your own country”

    Jul 19, 2012 | 6:32 am

     
  15. Mart says:

    After MM gets into the store, he then proceeds to order several fishpans, one for each company representative and several more for the future visit to the store in October.

    I second Joey in Dubai’s idea that the company reps’ incompetence probably stems from their “temp” status; if you don’t plan on staying their long enough to learn about the business you have no incentive to do a good job.
    That and doing a good job is not rewarded significantly more than doing a poor job.
    Tipping service people is not customary in the Philippines so doing a good job in terms of customer service is probably just extra work for Filipinos.

    Well, with that said, I’ve been to Japan and though tipping is also not customary there, the service there is excellent. Anywhere. The restaurant, the donut shop across the road, even the free gift-wrapping section at the mall. That’s what I like about the Japanese. They are very helpful and really do a good job of things. At least that was my experience when I was there on-and-off for two years.
    Too bad about Fukushima though.

    Maybe the westernization of the Philippines also has something to do with it? I can’t say for sure for now. I’ll have to mull it over.

    Jul 19, 2012 | 6:42 am

     
  16. Marketman says:

    Hi everyone, with respect to comments on the “contractual or temporary status” of most rank and file employees in the Philippines, I completely agree… it’s a recipe for poor service for the most part. In this particular case, while the first two folks I spoke to I didn’t meet face to face, perhaps that may have been the case, but that is purely conjecture. For the last three people I talked to, they didn’t strike me as being short-termers… in fact, they seemed relatively competent, they just couldn’t answer the simple questions as one would expect them to do so…

    But now that I have slept on it, I am beginning to wonder indeed. A business permit does NOT typically take months to get for a simple retail business. And since they moved their location from just a wee bit down the road, that should actually make it less complicated. I am now wondering if that wasn’t only the tip of the iceberg. Is this a business that was only authorized to do wholesale business? Is it a business that has a majority foreign ownership (there are different rules for companies with less than 60% Filipino ownership)? I noted from company materials that the name of the showroom or business seems to have changed… so it’s possible that corporate registration papers, etc. are also still in the works. So it may not be just a lack of business license per se.

    Regardless the reason, the transfer and subsequent re-opening is/was poorly handled, in my opinion. Why would you transfer a retail showroom but have a two or three month gap where it’s closed to the public? Why would you leave your website with the old contact details still listed? Why wouldn’t you just put a sign outside your new location that it is not yet open and will open by xxxxx?

    Actually, had all other folks who drove up been turned away, the only annoying issue is that inability to articulate an opening date. And the non-corrected website that was misleading. It’s the apparent double-standard with respect to some customers being turned away, while others are clearly given access to the showroom despite vehement statements by company personnel that the store is still closed to clients.

    SuR-USA. Not Freudian at all. And that may become clearer to readers and restaurant folks in Manila in the months ahead. It is an amusing and simply deep-laugh inducing coincidence, I tell you… :) As for your guess on the company… I think it is one of the larger kitchen and restaurant supply companies locally (targeted more at the upper end of restaurants and hotels), but we have happily managed without them so far, and their list of equipment brands is not as extensive as several other kitchen supply businesses in Manila. They are owned by folks who also operate several large upscale restaurant chains, and yes, I have located the CEO’s details and am debating whether to send him a letter about the incident so that their sales people figure out how to handle it better the next time around. They name dropped several large fast food chains as clients, and we are in the midst of a restaurant boom locally, so business is booming… and they carry not only kitchen equipment and supplies, but furnishings and china/cutlery as well. I was always hopeful that if there was really enough healthy competition, then product and price would matter less, and that service, including post-purchase service, would matter most. Unfortunately, I think in many business segments in the Philippines, real, healthy competition is still a dream. In the restaurant business, competition is cutthroat, and yet, service at most restaurants is simply appalling… so I can’t figure that out seeming paradox myself…

    Scott, THAT IS UTTERLY APPALLING! Outrageous. I would have so lost it if a waiter told me that. Yet another sign things are going down the toilet…

    Jul 19, 2012 | 7:05 am

     
  17. bluegirl says:

    I once attended a black-tie chichi event at one of Manila’s top hotel. My seat was undesirable because while it was at the middle are of the ballroom, it was beside/behind a column and I did not have a clear view of the stage. Waiters — Yes, plural and a lot — kept on squeezing themselves between me and the column thus bumping my chair and blocking my view. No “Excuse me” or any niceties but just passing & bumping me. I finally decided it was time to stop this nonsense. I stopped the next waiter who tried to pass and told them not to pass this way but elsewhere. The waiter did not look sorry nor did it seem he understood what was wrong. Worse, I was berated & censured by my ELDERS for making a fuss. I did not raise my voice, I did not stand up & scream. I told the waiter in a calm and firm voice what not to do. And yet I was berated. How can we see improvement if our elders will not support it but actually condone it?

    Jul 19, 2012 | 8:09 am

     
  18. betty q. says:

    Scott: Oh…dear!!!!!! If I were in your shoes, I would have started by saying….exxxxxccccccuuuuuuuuuuussseeee me?!?……… taken a deep breath and remind myself that I am an educated person…go back and tell him/her that I would like to speak with the restaurant manager. I am assuming that the restaurant manager could give you the same kaboodle of an answer, then I would write a letter adressed to the owner and cc the media. If that won’t catch restaurant owner’s attention, as they say in Pinoy…ewan ko na! NO restaurant owner wants negative publicity!

    Jul 19, 2012 | 8:13 am

     
  19. bluegirl says:

    Mart, like you, I do so admire the Japanese work ethic. I do wish we could see it at home but I don’t think it will be in my lifetime. With the Japanese, I sense a deep-seated pride in WORK…whatever that work may be. There is no embarrassing job but there is an embarrassingly DONE job. Not to say that we don’t have employees/workers with this quality, just that it’s not the majority.

    Jul 19, 2012 | 8:16 am

     
  20. PITS, MANILA says:

    It’s exasperating, MM. Having a business but not willing to do business … they don’t sound interested enough to sell you anything (and it’s their loss, of course)… My mom used to ‘engage’ with verbal fencing when encountering such employees … “Let me talk with your Supervisor!” — when she was already speaking to one … and “Call anybody else I can talk with regarding this …” and “Miss, I suggest you let somebody else do your job, somebody who is interested enough to work!” — hahaha!

    Jul 19, 2012 | 8:18 am

     
  21. ami says:

    I’ve actually noticed that a lot of people nowadays simply don’t listen to the question. I’ve experienced countless instances where I ask a question and get a totally unrelated answer to it and I’m usually frank enough to tell them ‘hindi iyan yung tanong ko’.

    Jul 19, 2012 | 8:36 am

     
  22. meekerz says:

    Was I the only one hoping for an experiment in Khmer Amok? Mmmm… ;p

    Jul 19, 2012 | 9:30 am

     
  23. Marketman says:

    meekerz, I actually brought home those amok spices but never got around to cooking a dish with it… :)

    Jul 19, 2012 | 9:31 am

     
  24. Cynthia says:

    You wanna run amok? Try lining up for a flight with Cebu Pacific… :-)

    Jul 19, 2012 | 9:53 am

     
  25. bluegirl says:

    Aside from lack of training, I think bad service / poor work attitude is also a result/reflection of personal attitude. I do not think that most workers realize there are more advantages than disadvantages to a worker for doing a good job, regardless of the work arrangement.
    – He gains experience and proficiency in his craft and the industry
    – He gains a good work reference which can help him land a better job
    – He might entice his current employer to make him a permanent worker
    – A good work attitude might attract the attention of a future employer

    Doing a poor job brings the opposite of the above and hurts everyone, not just the employer. What goes around, comes around.

    Jul 19, 2012 | 10:34 am

     
  26. scott says:

    Thank you Betty Q for the advice, I will take it on board…I find that Filipino people are some of the most generous and polite people in the world, as I have traveled almost all of it…99% of the time I always get a yes sir, no sir..good morning sir etc…I think this was just a one time bad deal! I did lose my temper and well….it was a lessoned learned…I do know now that losing your temper in public is not good! My wife yelled at me in the car on the way home…oi!, On another note customer service in the malls is overwhelming, seems to me there are 10 or so clerks for 1 section/department

    Jul 19, 2012 | 10:54 am

     
  27. MiMac says:

    MM, I hear ya! I have a couple of shops and I try to keep a certain standard for my team. It’s so hard to train people! That’s why when I’m at restaurants or shops and come across a sales staff/waiter who is very good, my initial reaction is, “hmmm… ma-pirate nga ito.” In fact, I have asked some of them– “you wanna transfer to my store?” hahahah! :D

    Jul 19, 2012 | 11:06 am

     
  28. betty q. says:

    Scott….even the kids here who work at McDonald’s have better customer service skills!!!!! That is why when it comes to hiring staff, my hubby always says he would hire in a heartbeat someone who has worked for McDonald’s in his younger days!

    Jul 19, 2012 | 11:08 am

     
  29. niceyfemme says:

    It is one of my frustrations too… Masyadong malamya ang mga staff… Just yesterday I ordered a single serving of Pancit Malabon. Took them 30 plus minutes when there’s 3 of them in front of me and more in their kitchen. I was seriously considering walking out as I am tired of speaking my mind and end up being looking maarte/masungit..

    I had an issue with a rude female security guard in SM two months ago and I reported the incident to the customer service MANAGER. They took note of my number and I asked to be informed as to what actions has been done. The manager promised to update me during many occasions I talked to her. No call or at least text. I came back 3-4 times more to ask for updates and nothing. SHE IS THE MANAGER. And I end up looking like I’m just too fussy. Like I’m making a big deal out of something when their guard is a war freak. I am pregnant so I just let it go. I can’t get stressed out over something I feel is hopeless.

    Jul 19, 2012 | 11:15 am

     
  30. Lyn says:

    typical situation… sad to say. perhaps it’s the “it’s-not-my-business-anyway mentality”. even more typical is the lack of follow-up actions (or non-action) by these “customer service” employees/managers.

    Jul 19, 2012 | 11:48 am

     
  31. Carol says:

    Hi Ms. Betty Q. – I still ahve your palayok …. Please do let me know how I can get it to you …

    Hi MM – I also sometimes figure into these kinds of situations. It does not help that my hubby and my daughter are the ones stopping me and just telling me to just let things pass… Like you, I do get frustrated with lousy service and with people who do not value their work, hence, providing lousy service to clients…In this particular case, my suggestion would be not to spend anymore time, effort and energy, for such a company. They are not worth your business anyway. Why would you care if they themselves as employees and even the owners, do not care enough to have good customer service? I actually wonder why you did not name the company – at least they will get the bad publicity they so rightly deserve! Maybe that will get the attention of the owners, who has the first responsibility and the vested interest to deliver good customer service!

    By the way , congratulations to your booming restaurant business! :) I salute you for being able to generate sustainable employment for the people of Cebu and for being able to have a business which you truly enjoy doing! God bless you more and more! :)

    Jul 19, 2012 | 2:31 pm

     
  32. meekerz says:

    MM, I have an Amok recipe from scratch if you’d like :)

    Jul 19, 2012 | 3:34 pm

     
  33. Marketfan says:

    sounds fishy..does BIR know about this store?

    Jul 19, 2012 | 4:50 pm

     
  34. Cecile says:

    my point exactly! i’ve read through some of your posts that i believe are somehow related to this post and i can’t help but sigh and mumble > my point exactly!
    i think that the kind of discipline woven into this post can be honed from the home, retained and sharpened through education obtained at academic institutions,positive peer or environmental influence to simple observations…if one really is keen on improving his/herself, the institutions, groups he or she belongs to others may and will follow. minsan nga lang nakaka-frustrate!

    Jul 19, 2012 | 5:35 pm

     
  35. Marketman says:

    meekerz, thanks for the offer… I think we have a recipe with the spices, just never got around to trying it… Cecile, yup, it can seem like banging one’s head against a brick wall sometimes.

    Jul 19, 2012 | 8:11 pm

     
  36. Heck says:

    Unfortunately, most local companies are still micromanaged. Hence, everything is still being controlled by just one individual or one group consisting of few individuals. Due to this, staff are normally dependent on what the boss will tell him or her. They are not trained or groomed to have independence, or take initiatives in matters that are within the scope of their work. Also, flow of communication within the company only moves around the circle of those managing it. Therefore, leaving staff completely clueless to any important but work related issues. Again, staff would normally be just told to wait for whatever communication ‘management’ will release through their superiors. All these describe the profile of a micromanaged company. This type of management rarely works and managers or leaders are now being encouraged to shift to a style that is more progressive. Sadly, many business owners cannot let go of their old ways. Eventually, I believe this will soon change as more and more consumers or clients are also getting more and more progressive. Hehe!!

    Jul 20, 2012 | 12:04 pm

     
  37. MP says:

    BETTYQQQQQQ!!!! thanks a mil… of course I will try that sosyal recipe of yours. I just hope I won’t mess it up. But I now have a back-up quip for hubby when he says: “In my next life I want to be bettyb’s hubby”… now i tell him, “In my next life, i will be bettyq and I WON’T MARRY YOU”!!! mwahaha…

    Jul 20, 2012 | 2:08 pm

     
  38. betty q. says:

    MP….typo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! the 1/2 cup refers to sugar!….not salt! The salt is only a PINCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Jul 20, 2012 | 2:26 pm

     
  39. j. says:

    @ Mart, the Japanese believe or used to believe [from what I have been told by my family] that the service is part of what you pay them in terms of the price of the food. It used to be an insult to give out a tip, as it denotes that you went out of your way to be extremely deferential, instead of the fact you hold ALL of your customers in high regard.

    @ Betty Q…I put raisins and pistachios sometimes a couple of almond slivers in my Kheer, never tried malagkit… gotta add that….

    Jul 20, 2012 | 4:12 pm

     
  40. H says:

    Speaking from experience, labor laws in the Philippines _really_ favor the employee over the employer, so I guess that’s why the whole 5 months 29 days hiring has become commonplace (and affects customer service).

    There’s always two sides to a story but discussing what’s wrong in the food service industry is looong and messy. What’s good is that at least it IS improving (it’s really different from what it was 10 years ago), despite the crappy experience you had. Now it’s more open and competitive, and “google-fu”/researching online has made it way easier for people to find the right equipment and get their money’s worth.

    There are two upcoming tradeshows (maybe you’ve already been/heard of it) where you can find a lot of suppliers and maybe cross-reference it with whatever companies people e-mail you with (hopefully the company I work for is in that list!) :)

    WOFEX August 1-4 at World Trade and SMX
    AFEX September 12-15 at World Trade

    Next year is the Fil-Chi Bakery Fair, usually held in the first quarter of the year, mostly baking equipment but a lot of equipment suppliers join because it’s one of the better expos in the Philippines. They only hold it once every other year and it’s definitely worth visiting!

    Jul 21, 2012 | 4:50 pm

     
  41. Marketman says:

    H, thanks for that. I was just in Manila and missed the kitchen show in Cebu last week, and i hope to make the Wofex in Manila on August 1. Yes, there are indeed far more choices these days, in a sense, but it’s still amazing how service levels seem to be lacking given the great opportunities to differentiate one’s company by adding a really reliable layer of pre-sales and after-sales service. Trying to find real service for major appliance manufacturers is still a hassle in Manila… the number of folks who email me for help with their stoves, mixers, refrigerators, blenders, etc. suggests it isn’t even easy to figure out WHERE to get after-sales service. On the positive side, i have run into some very responsive suppliers and sukis, and they have gotten the bulk of our business this year.

    At our own businesses, we do NOT typically employ on rolling 5/29 contracts. I think they are reprehensible. I find if employees are permanent and do something that is just cause for their dismissal, then they are rightfully dismissed. If one is fair in their handling of labor, I think folks will find it is indeed possible to improve employee relations and service standards. At least I am still hopeful that it is… we try to walk the talk so far…

    Jul 21, 2012 | 5:31 pm

     
  42. myra_p says:

    Dear T*chn*lux (oops, was I not supposed to say?), you should send MM a Pasensya Award for password-protecting his latest post, haha. The digital sleuthing is awesome and stupid people deserve to be called out for posting as multiple people. Cowards with bad grammar, no punctuation and low-class language = pet peeve. Ireklamo sa barangay.

    Jul 23, 2012 | 6:04 am

     
  43. joy =) says:

    hmm curious about the pw protected post … any clues ’bout it … =) —- Got it!

    Jul 23, 2012 | 11:14 am

     
  44. Lin says:

    I LOVE your motto of “Choose Frustration Over Indifference”! I have always been a strong advocate of voicing your frustrations when you have the clear right to do so. I used to always encourage my colleagues at work to speak up when it comes to poor customer service. Just yesterday we were rerouted on our way back from Frankfurt to HK and landed in Bangkok instead. After waiting in the plane for 3 hours and finally herded into the airport and not given any answers, I finally raised my voice, exasperated that NO one was saying anything and demanded they tell us what was going on. They told us it is ILLEGAL to let us take another flight to HK and that we must wait for the same plane which will mean at least a 10 hour wait. I finally lost my cool with that ridiculous reason and demanded they put us on another flight. Suddenly they said we can go on a flight that was leaving in 2 hours. All those that said nothing and were willingly herded away were brought to random hotels and waited until today to get on the same flight back.

    Jul 25, 2012 | 12:20 pm

     
  45. Marketman says:

    Lin, you are absolutely correct. I say speak up, and with conviction and force, if you are certain you are in the right. People who choose to say nothing are often simply trampled on… of course they have no confrontation, but they often get the short end of the stick.

    The motto is not my own, it was printed on a t-shirt that some good friends got me as a present. They said I “owned it.” :)

    Jul 25, 2012 | 8:23 pm

     
  46. cw says:

    I have to be honest in saying that I didn’t read the entire post. The first couple of paragraphs took me back to my recent stay in the Philippines and total recall of my daily frustration with ‘staff’.

    I finally came to the conclusion that it’s not because the people are stupid. It’s because they are simply not empowered enough to be the intelligent people they probably are. Hell, I don’t think management over there even knows the meaning of the word. When it takes 3 or more people to fix a simple problem like keying in the wrong price, there IS a major problem. When employees are NOT allowed to think, there IS a major problem. When it’s not OK for staff to say ‘I don’t know, let me get someone who does.’, there IS a major problem.

    I feel this total lack of employee validation one of the major reasons why the Philippines is waaaaaay at the bottom of the Asian food chain. It’s really sad considering what the country used to be…

    Jul 26, 2012 | 6:57 am

     
 

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