Customer Service Above and Beyond – YES! This did happen in Thailand?
Given all the negative writings about LOS on the Stickman site and others, I would like to share a rather upbeat and positive experience from my most recent visit.
A little background (yes, another newbie)…I have been visiting LOS off and on for the past 12 months and will be making my 5th trip next month. I have always been an addict for cheap golf and good cheap beer but now I can add those lovely Thai ladies to my list of ‘the more, the better’ without compromising quality for quantity. I’m a twice divorced 44-year old who takes care of himself…nothing I can do about the baldness though. Most of the knowledge I have learned about LOS is by reading Stick weekly and the daily submissions by some very talented writers. I try not to form opinions or expectations about places or people based on someone else’s experience but reading the articles on this site, it’s hard not to. READING IS NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR LIFE EXPERIENCE. Do not form an opinion about people or places until you have lived the experience yourself because every one of us has different expectations and goals.
I started reading this site after my first visit to LOS about a year ago and was quite shocked to read of all the negative stories with only a few positive ones sprinkled in here and there. Had I read this site before I made the first trip, there’s a good chance I may have by-passed LOS all together and headed further East. What a frightening thought.
After reading about a year’s worth of old submissions, I started to think that I must have missed out on the real LOS experience because I could not relate to 90% of what was being written. During my next two visits, I was somewhat skeptical and more cautious about everything Thai from the little brown girls and airport workers to the boys in brown and the street vendors but I still couldn’t relate to the never ending negative contributions I had read about these people. I can only remember one negative experience during my first four visits but it’s nothing worth noting. I cannot say that about any of the other 30+ countries that I have frequented more than once.
Let’s get to the feel-good story about my last visit to LOS. It all started after landing on time at BKK with a two hour layover before catching the last flight at 9pm to Koh Samui. “This is a good start to my vacation,” I thought as I waited for my luggage. After staring at the carousel for what seemed like eternity, I came to the conclusion that my bags were a no-show and decided to enlist the help of a very beautiful airline worker, Nithima, at the assistance counter. “Lost luggage, not a good way to start a vacation,” I thought.
Nithima confirmed my bags had made it from Washington, D.C., through New York, and onto Dubai but missed the connection in Dubai even though I had a three hour layover which was more than enough time to transfer luggage. I wasn’t sure who to blame and was feeling a little agitated after a 22 hour journey but I definitely wasn’t going to show any frustration towards Nithima who was all smiles, all the time. She had me fill out the required paperwork and promised the luggage would be put on the first available flight to Samui the following day and I should have it no later than the following evening. She slipped me a piece of paper with two phone numbers on it. She explained that the first number was for me to call in case I had any questions about my luggage since I didn’t have a phone number for them to contact me. The second number was her cell phone in case I ever needed a tour guide around Bangkok. I didn’t know it at the time but her number would come in handy later on and not for the reason you are probably thinking right now.
It was approaching 8:15 pm and I only had 45 minutes before wheels-up headed towards Samui. I stopped by an ATM to withdraw some of that colorful money I’ve become fond of and then proceeded up to the third level to check-in. Luckily for me, there was no waiting once I reached the airline counter. There were three very lovely ladies eager to assist me with the check-in process. After handing over my passport and printout of my e-ticket, one lady asked, “Where u luggage?” After explaining about my lost bags, she asked about the two carry-on bags I was toting around. One was obviously my computer but the other was a Dubai duty free bag containing 4 bottles of expensive adult beverages. I always buy a few ‘hard-to-find-in-Thailand’ bottles in Dubai before heading to BKK and then I would stuff them into my luggage before proceeding through Customs. A little illegal but haven’t had a problem yet and if I do, hopefully a few greenbacks will defuse my oversight. Since I didn’t have my luggage to place the liquor into, I just walked through Customs as usual and didn’t even get a second look.
I had totally forgotten about the alcohol and to make matters worse, I knew they wouldn’t let me hand-carry this precious cargo onto the plane. One of the eager ladies suggested in a joking manner, I could leave my package with her and pick it up when I come back through in a few weeks. Had she given me her number along with that statement, I may have accepted her offer. The other equally eager beaver suggested I simply check-in my liquor as baggage. “Not a bad idea,” I thought to myself but given its fragile condition I was skeptical if it would make it to Samui in one piece. Since I had no other choice, I agreed since I didn’t seem to have any other options.
“I need you cod to finish check-in for you”, explained the third lady. Not sure what she was talking about so I handed her one of my business cards. “No, I need cledit cod for ticket”, she stated. Since I booked my ticket online using a bank card, I had to present that bank card at check-in before I could receive a boarding pass. I pulled out my wallet but couldn’t find the card I had used to make the booking. “Solly sir, no cod, no ticket.” she said.
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I used the card 10 minutes earlier at the ATM and must have left the card in the machine. I hurriedly explained my situation and told them I would be back in 10 minutes. At this point in time, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to retrieve my card but since the ATM belonged to the currency exchange business that was still open, I thought my chances were better than 50/50.
Off I go running through BKK like I had stolen something with the boys in brown in hot pursuit. The guard that is supposed to keep people from going into the arrivals hall didn’t even make a sound as I blew past him at Mach I. I make it to the currency exchange booth in record time. I gave a big smile to the homely looking girl behind the counter as I quickly explained my predicament between deep breathes. “Left my card in your ATM machine, need now, no card, no ticket, big problem for me. Can you help me please?” She initially tells me that I must wait until the next day to receive my card because supervisor with key just left for the evening to go home. My look of desperation must have touched her heart as she turned to the other lady working and said something in Thai. The other lady grabs her cell phone and speaks to someone on the other end. She then hangs up and tells me that the supervisor hadn’t left the building yet and is on his way back to assist. “Buddha must be watching over me,” I said to them. They both laughed lightly while concealing their mouth with the hand.
The homely girl asks me for my passport so she can make a copy of it and get everything ready so when the supervisor arrives and retrieves my credit card out of the ATM, I can be on my way. Desperately searching my pockets, I could not produce my passport. Then it dawned upon me. OH SHIT!! I left my passport upstairs at the check-in counter!! I offered two other forms of ID but to no avail. Lap 2 through BKK commences but no record this time because I’m running up hill most of the way.
Arriving back at the check-in counter almost out of breath but within the promised 10 minutes, the three Thai beauties were anxiously waiting. “No card, need passport, be back in 10 minutes,” I said in one quick, deep breath. As I was off and running to start round 3 through BKK, I heard one of the ladies telling me to ‘hully’ because boarding starts in 5 minutes.
I break my own indoor 400 meter BKK sprint record and when I pass the same guard at Mach 1.5, he still doesn’t seem to be the bit interested in what I’m doing. As I reached the money exchange counter, I could see the supervisor had indeed arrived and was holding my credit card. I quickly handed off my passport just like a relay sprinter passing along a baton. A copy of my passport was made in record Thai time and I finally had my passport and credit card in my possession. I offered a monetary award for their service above and beyond the call of duty but it was politely refused. I gave them a heart-felt kahp kuhn krab and quickly started round 4.
I didn’t attempt a record breaking run back to the check-in counter fearing my legs would give out on me during my ascent up the escalators. My legs felt like lead by this time.
I don’t know who was happier as I arrived back at the check-in counter, the airline clerks or myself. After a quick glance by one of the clerks at my passport and credit card, I finally received my boarding pass, said kahp kuhn krab to the lovely ladies, grabbed my computer, and started round 5 through BKK.
After a very short delay at the security checkpoint, I was running to my gate. Not being familiar with the domestic terminal, I wasn’t sure how far my gate was located from the security checkpoint but I can tell you it was located at the very end of the terminal.
Tired and out of breath like I just finished a two hour sex marathon with a nymphomaniac gymnast, I finally arrived at the gate and presented my boarding pass to the clerk. “You (inhale) didn’t (exhale) have to (inhale) delay (exhale) the flight (deep inhale) just for me,” I said in joking manner. The assistant replied, “The lady from the check-in counter called and briefly explained your situation and asked to keep the doors open as long as possible. “What a very nice thing to do”, I thought to myself. I gave the obligatory thank you and started down the bridge to the plane.
After arriving in Samui, I was standing at the carousel waiting for my special package wrapped in a duty free bag. After about 20 minutes, all luggage had been claimed but I still didn’t see my bag. I was thinking to myself that either my bag didn’t make the flight or someone was going to have a drunken party at my expense.
I was about to go file a missing bag claim for the second time in less than 2 hours when I noticed a small tightly wrapped cardboard box sitting on the floor. “It doesn’t hurt to look,” I thought. The closer I got to the box the clearer my name became. “How did my name get on this box but more importantly, is my sweet juice inside?” I asked myself. I came to the assumption that during my chaotic exercise routine between 1st and 3rd floor of BKK, one of the Thai beauties from the check-in counter had taken my bottles out of the bag, wrapped them in paper (discovered this when I opened the box later), and sealed them in a box. This is service at its best.
It is now almost 11pm and I proceeded out of the terminal in search of the taxi that was supposed to be waiting for me. I didn’t see my name or the resort’s name on any of the placards being waved in front of my face. I strike a deal with a taxi to take me to the resort. Being that it was my first time visiting Samui, I wasn’t sure how far the resort was located from the airport. All the taxi driver could say was, “Resort vely fah, 1000 baht.” We finally agreed on 800 baht and off we go. The drive took about an hour including the 5 minute stop at a convenience store so I could get some hygiene items, a few snacks, water, and mixers.
Upon arriving at the resort around midnight, I was greeted by the one of the staff and he escorted me to my villa. As we were walking towards the villa, I noticed a few people sitting in the outdoor restaurant. I asked the staff member if the restaurant was still open because I hadn’t eaten a thing in 10 hours and was famished. “Solly suh, the restaurant close at 11,” he said. I was disappointed but at least I had some snacks and my selection of beverages was better than I could probably find anywhere on Samui. I asked the guy if he could at least bring me a bucket of ice and he seemed more than happy to oblige.
I had been in my room for about 30 minutes eating some snacks, having a well deserved drink, and wondering if I’m ever going to get my ice when I heard a knock at the door. I opened the door to see a man standing there holding a very delicious looking pizza and a bucket of ice. “Hi, I’m Sal,” he said. “I was told you were hungry and since I am the chef, I thought I would cook you something to eat. I hope you like pizza.” I graciously accepted his generosity and invited him in for a drink. We sat there talking for about an hour while I ate the delicious pizza and we enjoyed a few glasses of my Courvoisier (pizza and cognac is a strange combination). Sal asked me why I didn’t use the taxi that the resort had sent for me. I explained that I didn’t see my name or the resort name associated with any taxi therefore I was on my own. He apologized and said that a taxi was sent to the airport and would look into the matter. Later it was discovered that the driver had to go relieve himself about the same time I departed the terminal. For this, I was offered two free taxi rides during my stay.
I woke the following morning at around 10am and made it to the breakfast buffet before closing. While I was enjoying my breakfast, the owner of the resort stopped by to welcome me. He sat down and asked one of the servers for a cup of coffee. He then proceeded to apologize for the taxi and asked if there was anything he could do for me. I explained about my lost luggage and that it was suppose to be arriving later that day and since I didn’t have anything planned, I was going to relax around the pool and catch-up on some reading. The only thing I was missing was a pair of swim trunks. After asking me for my size, he called over one of the staff and sent him to town to get me a pair of trunks at no cost to me.
I lounged around the pool for a few hours enjoying the relaxing atmosphere as I slowly sipped on a few drinks. It is now 3pm and I decided to call the airline at BKK about my luggage but no answer. I tried several times with the same result. I decided to call Nithima in hopes that she would answer her cell phone even if she was at work. Luck would have it that she did answer and was very surprised I had called but she was not at work yet and wasn’t scheduled to work until 6pm. I explained to her that no one was answering the other number she gave me and I asked her if she could help me. She wrote down the resort’s number and said she would call the airport and then would call me back. True to her word, she did just that but had the same luck I did…no answer. She then said something that I hadn’t expected, “I will go to work early and should be there by 4:30. I will give you call after I check on your luggage.” I told her not to worry about it and she shouldn’t go to work early just to check on my bags. She wouldn’t listen to me though.
Nithima called the resort at about 4:50 and left a message that said my luggage had been placed on an earlier flight and should have been in Samui by now. She also left a name and number for the Samui airport I should call to inquire about my bags. I called the airport and gave them the name of the resort I was staying and by 7pm I was reunited with my bags.
I stayed on Samui for a week, moved on to Koh Samet for a week, and then Pattaya for a couple of weeks. I must say that I had a wonderful time with even more very pleasant surprises from Thais and farangs alike. I DID NOT HAVE NOR DID I WITNESS ONE NEGATIVE EXPERIENCE IN MY 4 WEEKS IN LOS. If this wasn’t the best vacation I’d ever had, it was surely in the top three. On my way back through BKK some four weeks later, I tracked down Nithima and gave her a very generous tip for being so kind to a total stranger.
I am looking forward to my next trip in a couple of weeks and plan to visit Chiang Mai initially and then who knows. I know Pattaya is on the agenda since it is my favorite adult party playground. Maybe I’ll spend a few days in Bangkok since I know of a very beautiful ‘tour guide’ that would be happy to see me.
IF LIFE GIVES YOU A LEMON, ASK FOR A SHOT OF TEQUILA.
I have always said that the very worst service I have ever received has been in Thailand….but then so has the very best service. Totally inconsistent!