Several friends have asked if my Marketmanila rants have ever yielded positive results. My surprise answer to their queries is that nearly 100% of all of my rants have indeed yielded positive results. And I have never had to take down a rant, substantially alter any factual content, had legal action threatened or initiated against me (instead I have initiated legal action once that to this day wallows in the glacial Philippine legal system) over the past ten years and dozens of rants, most often service related in nature. It certainly reinforces my view that we sometimes endure awful service because we don’t demand better, and we don’t bother to complain when we are on the short end of the stick. I know some folks can’t be bothered to raise a stink, but they will continue to experience a downward spiral in local service levels over the next few decades (as we have already seen for the past few decades) as a result of their apathy. If recent headlines are any indication, pandemonium at the airport and MRT and tollways are just some examples of how bad service levels are in our economy. And in almost all cases, there were easy and implementable solutions to those problems.
So here’s another case, a microcosm of the service ills we face day in and day out. Last December 6, I made my way to King Louis Flowers to pick up my Christmas order of poinsettias and it was downhill from there. Basically, I had to lose it in order to walk away with some decent pots of poinsettias, despite having made a reservation weeks before, and confirming the reservation two days before. I then asked staff to get back to me, and gave them 9 days (with no word from management) before I wrote this rant/post on December 15th. I sent a link of the post to the man who apparently runs the company, and two days later I received an email that he was traveling and would call me the following day. He had also had his staff track down the telephone number of my COS who had placed the order. So on the 18th of December, we finally connected by phone and we talked…
First of all, I would like to acknowledge and applaud the quick response of Mr. Chatto, and it certainly set the right tone for a constructive discussion over the service issues raised. Here is a very brief summary of the points discussed:
1. On the issue of the reservation for a better type of poinsettia and it being downgraded to Pot B’s from Pot C’s due to a lack of available stock since they were given to larger clients — Mr. Chatto apologized for the downgrade, acknowledged that they had a “shortage” of some plants hence the scarcity of the Pot C’s, and he acknowledged that he understood why I would be furious with the change particularly if the said original plants were given to a favored mall client instead. He also could not explain why they had accepted the order if they already knew they had a shortage of the ordered item.
2. On the issue of the pots first offered to me at the pick-up point on December 6th, and which I refused to accept as totally poor quality plants — Mr. Chatto explained that there was a “mix-up” in the packing in Benguet and that boxes filled with “rejects destined for sale in local Baguio markets for a fraction of the Manila prices were instead labelled with “Marketmanila” and so I did indeed get really poor and unacceptable quality plants” — I expressed some incredulity at this convenient sounding explanation, and even noted that Manila staff should have picked up on this when the boxes were opened, but since I had no proof, took his explanation at its word. Suffice it to say, they admitted to first delivering plants that were definitely not as ordered or promised.
3. On the issue of why staff at the delivery site first insisted those were the plants I ordered and that they were indeed Pot B’s when they were in fact rejects, Mr. Chatto explained that almost everyone at the delivery site was a new employee, didn’t know much about plants, and had newly arrived from Bohol as OJT’s (trainees) to help with the inevitable and known holiday rush — that’s why they were clueless as to the problem and had no way of knowing how to correct it. While I understood that explanation, I insisted that it was poor business practice to staff any customer interface with 95% new and greenhorn employees and that was agreed. Instead, the one old staff member who did eventually step in to correct and offer better poinsettias was the only one with a history with the company.
4. On the issue of why no one bothered to respond to the complaints for 9 days since I had picked up my plants, he said staff were afraid to say something and the complaint never reached him or the managers of the company. We agreed that was a problem that needed to be fixed.
5. On the issue of the poor quality of poinsettias in 2014, which mostly seemed to shed their greens within days of delivery, he did not address this directly other than to mention some supply shortages and issues. When I told him that several of the pots I picked up looked horrible after just 6 days at home (see photos 2 and 3 above), he said he would look into it. I also take some comfort from Greens & Blossoms comment in my rant that seemed to confirm that florists themselves were seeing quality issues with King Louis poinsettias last holiday season… so I wasn’t making things up.
6. Mr. Chatto and I talked for quite a while, and amicably, and I do feel that the complaint was listened to, though I am less convinced that real actions will be taken next year to take orders professionally, meet those orders, and deliver what is promised. But I can always hope. And while Mr. Chatto told me to just call him next year to avoid any problems, I told him that wasn’t really the best solution overall.
The following day, Mr. Chatto rang back to say that he had checked on quality issues and reviewed the post I wrote and the discussion we had had the day before and he was offering to REPLACE all of the poinsettias I had purchased and was unhappy with. I told him I would accept his offer, as I was indeed unhappy with the quality of many but not all of the plants purchased. The following day, his truck and staff were at our home bright and early, and with them came replacements for all plants purchased almost two weeks prior, and they sent an extra 5 pots as a gift.
The quality of these poinsettias were markedly better and the blooms bigger and while I sent back some of the old plants, I couldn’t send all as I had given them away as presents, etc. Needless to say, we had an abundance of poinsettias less than a week before Christmas, and I thank Mr. Chatto and King Louis for their response to the complaint and the replacement of the plants. I do hope they make improvements to their ordering system, particularly since they sell millions and millions of pesos worth of plants now compared with ten years ago when I first featured them on this blog…
Here a large poinsettia tree set in a basket, surrounded by four pots of smaller poinsettias at the base. I used two of these to flank an altar table in the center of our living room, first photo up top, and they looked spectacular. At any rate, this is another example of speaking up when something goes wrong. I think most companies that are worth their salt will in fact respond and try to make things right.
P.S. In case you are wondering, in most cases where healthy fresh plants are delivered straight from the farm, the potted poinsettias should last a good 3-4 weeks indoors if you water them sparingly and put them out for some sun every other day or so. They should retain much of their leaves and flowers (a misnomer, as they are just leaves turned red, not really the main bloom) and look very good for at least 2-3 weeks. In the U.S., and other colder climates, poinsettias can easily last a month before shedding and looking a bit tired.