Readers' Submissions

When The Chips Are Down Part 2

  • Written by Anonymous
  • April 23rd, 2003
  • 6 min read


Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

By CB



The submission "When The Chips Are Down" seems very familiar to me. During my tenure in Thailand I encountered many such situations of Thai's just serving the food they felt you ordered. I am allergic to peanuts and cannot have any dish with peanuts or peanut flavor in it. Sure enough at a local restaurant in Udon, I was served dishes containing peanuts. My Thai girlfriend was reticent to point out the error to the staff, so I did. The smiles vanished instantly when I pointed out I cannot eat dishes with peanuts, and ordered them specifically (In Thai) without peanuts.

It was amazing to see the waitress turn into a complete bitch and shutdown any form of communication when I pointed out the error in the food just placed before me. My girlfriend pleaded with me not to make a scene, but I asked the manager what the issue was, there was not an issue of communication-My girlfriend (and myself) specifically ordered dishes without peanuts. The manager was a polite older man, but he was on the verge of telling me and my girlfriend to leave, supposedly because I questioned the accuracy and ability of his staff.

In the end, my girlfriend and I left the restaurant, paid for our drinks and never went back. The obvious contempt for anyone questioning the staff or manager was shown. Customer service is an unknown concept when the "chips are down". I tend to evaluate the society by Thai standards, what would a Thai man do? Would he treat the staff like buffalo droppings? Use face to shame the staff into service? I doubt it. My solution was to move on and find another good restaurant.

A number of foreigner friends asked me for a recommendation for a restaurant in Udon. I gave them a few names and told them not to got to the specific restaurant in question because of extremely poor customer service and hostile attitudes towards farangs. A good recommendation brings it's own rewards, a bad recommendation will linger. The Thai people just don't get that fact, I doubt they ever will.

The company I used to work for had a newsletter with recommendations for good places to eat (BKK) and places to avoid at all costs. If you had a bad experience at an eatery, it was expected you would post the name and place on the company intra-net so other could learn from your bad experience. The same held true for good experiences at local eateries.

There was an incident with one of the department secretaries (a Thai woman). Several of my colleagues had very bad service and experiences at a restaurant near the office in BKK. The bad review mysteriously disappeared and a good review appeared in the on-line new letter. The secretary's uncle owned the restaurant in question and managed to bribe her to change the review to positive. I found out about this BS and removed the secretary's update security rules for the intra-net web page with the restaurant reviews. The original bad reviews were restored.

The secretary called technical services because she could not update the restaurant page with her bogus information. Since I managed technical services, the technicians came to me and asked me what to do since my admin account had changed her access. I told them to make an excuse and let the request pass (in true Thai fashion I might add!). A week went by and she finally came to see me, in tears, telling me she could not do her job because I restricted her access to the one web page. I asked her if she had changed the bad submissions to favorable submissions-and let her know that the computer system recorded everything. She lied to me outright and said she didn't change anything. At this point I closed my office door and told her that I knew she changed the submission for her uncle's restaurant. Her face suddenly was cast in stone, no tears, no smile, no expression whatsoever. She was called on the carpet.

Customer service was discussed for a while, I let her know that her uncle needed to change his tact in the way her dealt with farang customers. She new he had lost a fair amount of business from my office, and wanted to get it back-by any means necessary including deception and graft. She said she would talk to her uncle.

Two weeks later I treated my technical staff to a lunch because of the hard work they had done on a large project, bringing the project to completion a week early. We went to the restaurant owned by the Uncle of the secretary. Sure enough, the service was piss poor and downright shoddy (even a touch hostile!). Even the Thai technicians were a bit shocked. Since I was paying, the waitress naturally tried to pad the bill by 50%. I went over the bill with one of the Thai technicians and he took the point and got the tab reduced to the correct number.

When we returned from the lunch, the secretary asked how lunch was. I just shook my head and said "not good at all". To my surprise, some of the Thai techs also chimed in and said the service was very poor (not like Thai men at all!). Techies are a direct bunch, they have to be in the I.T. industry. This second bad review caused the secretary to lose a huge amount of face so she quit on the spot in a melo-dramatic huff. Not a real big loss for the company I might add, the position was filled the next day with an ambitious college gal who was a real godsend for the office!

I learned a lesson that day, bad service is just that, bad service. Accept and let the past be the past, good idea unless you are the one being treated poorly. You will naturally seek a place where you are treated better. I always remembered that I was a guest in Thailand. If a restaurant or bar wants my baht, they better be willing to provide adequate customer service. This holds true anywhere in the world. Restaurants can have ok food, but if the service is exceptional, people will come back. A restaurant can have the best food in the country, but will fail if the customers are treated badly by the staff. After all, you are paying them to provide a service and serve you food. Restaurants in Bangkok tend to forget that precept, they expect you to fork over baht for any service-good, or bad.

Stickman says:

Well fuck me if I didn't just become a victim of shoddy service this morning. I won't go into the details but smiles turned to scowls, and those usually cheerful, chirpy high pitched voices went sour.

If you get jerked around badly, I believe that one should let them know. If they lose face then so be it. Do it subtly, and if done with a touch of humour, it can be very effective. Being abusive isn't really that effective and can have the effect of making you lose face.