In last week's column, one of the letters to Mrs. Stick enquired about the assistants in a wine shop giving advice about wines and making recommendations. The concerned reader felt that the assistants didn't have a clue about wine and thought that they had probably never even tried the wine they were recommending. The reader even joked that they didn't even know whether the wine was red or white! Mrs. Stick's response was that the assistants were on commission and thus would recommend almost anything. They were not really concerned about the customer's satisfaction, rather about earning commission, making money.
Unfortunately this situation is becoming more and more common in Thailand and the trend can be seen right throughout the retail and even service industry. It is especially bad for tourists. More often than not, great effort is put into making the sale and very little effort is put into anything else. Customer satisfaction and gaining this person as a long term customer doesn't even come into it. This strikes me as fairly strange in a country where face – read reputation – is so important. Certain standards are implied but are not necessarily delivered. Does the service provider who made these service claims not lose face if they are not made? It would appear not…
There are a bunch of seafood restaurants on corner of a major intersection in the centre of the city where from late afternoon onwards touts stand outside and invite potential customers, read: foreign tourists, to come inside and try the "cheap, delicious seafood". From the outside the restaurant looks inviting with bundles of seafood sitting on ice. But once one gets inside, you discover that you are shown to a cheap plastic table with a waitress who doesn't speak English and a glance at the chef makes you wonder if he is a trained chef or otherwise. For sure, he won't even be in a chef's uniform. The problem is that it is too late to back out. You chose your seafood out front and what you had chosen has been taken to the kitchen and is already being fried up, boiled or seared. One gets the feeling that while they may not have been completely cheated, there was some deception involved.
Walking through Patpong, pretty girls flatter you with nonsense talk proclaiming you to be handsome and invite you inside to escape the hot tropical night and enjoy a cool drink. You go inside and find a very average bar where if you are unlucky the drinks are watered down. To make matters worse, the girls inside are bothersome in the least, downright offensive at worst. All the effort was put into making the sale with the most attractive girls outside. The customer enters the bar expecting to see similar ladies inside or even for the lady who invited him inside to sit with him, but that is not how it works. Sometimes the hello girls will even say, "come inside and sit with me" but as soon as the customer has sat down and ordered she will slip back outside to attract more guys inside. Little is actually done to make the customer happy and seemingly no-one cares if the customer's expectations were met. That a drink is bought is considered a success for the bar.
Tailors are a smooth bunch, operating from tidy, well laid out stores and speaking several languages – and invariably their English is truly fluent. When talking you through the options of making a suit or other fancy garments, one gets the impression that it is this friendly even somewhat sophisticated person who will actually make your suit. They certainly give you that impression. Promised this, that and everything else, a number of customers find that what they get is not what they were led to expect they'd get. That suit you thought was cashmere may turn out to be a cheap wool mix…and given that the average Joe can't differentiate the two, you'd never know. But you have paid for it already and your flight is about to leave in the next 24 hours so what can you do…?
Some of the folks who pose as travel agents and sell bus tickets for VIP buses to far flung provinces know full well that it will be a minivan that turns up and not the big bus which they promised – and which has far more legroom and is much more comfortable for a long journey.
The number of people who email me about these sorts of problems is amazing. It seems that more and more tourists are having major problems shopping or purchasing services in Thailand. Whiel some scams, such as the gemstone scams, are well known, some of these other blatant rip-offs aren't. Sure, there are plenty of honest vendors, but it seems there are almost as many shady characters. Given that shopping is one of the reasons people choose to visit Thailand, it would seem to me that many of the locals are playing with fire. Piss off enough tourists and they might not return.
Too often when buying products or services in Thailand, it seems that every effort is put into enticing one to make the purchase, often promoting the good or service to be something that it may not necessarily be. Once the buyer has either parted with their money or has reached a point where it is clear they will not be backing out, such as actually making an order for food – even though it may not yet have been consumed, little effort is made to actually meet the customer's expectations. And if you want to back out, change your mind or even just make a small amendment, that supposedly kind, friendly service disappears altogether and is replaced by a surly, unhelpful attitude which in a worst case scenario can get nasty. This is something that really needs to be looked at.
Where is this pic?
Last week's pic.
This week's pic.
It was Henry J Beans.
No, it is not Nakon BlarTong.
FROM STICKMAN'S BAG OF EMAIL:
Every resident's nightmare.
And speaking of places that might not be so great for a naughty boy, Soi Cowboy seems to have taken quite a nosedive. A couple of years ago I dedicated the opening piece of the column to Cowboy and mentioned how it was a great place to hang out, with that great mix of being fun, yet laid back. There seems to have been a huge attitudinal shift down there and it is neither fun, nor laid back. Nana, while a little dearer, seems to be a lot more fun. I don't know, but I can't help but feel that Soi Cowboy, some of the bigger bars at least, seem to have lost their way. The smaller bars still seem to be laid back but the bigger ones seems to have lost that. Dollhouse is still fun, mind you.
On Friday night Nana Plaza was visited not just by the police but by camera crews too. In what was probably a follow up visit by police to a certain bar that was showing a week or so ago, the site of camera crews sent many farangs home early and what should have been the busiest night of the week was a bit quieter than usual. A certain bar on the bottom floor continues to play cat and mouse, showing a bit here and a bit there.
And just to prove that it wasn't just Nana which was targeted, Soi Cowboy was raided last night. As I have said many times before, such raids really discourage employed locals from visiting the bars, ever fearful that colleagues will see them in such areas which could potentially sully not just their own reputation, but the company's too.
There appears to be some problem with one of the licences that bars in Soi Cowboy require. Rumours have it that the police have apparently raised the cost from 2,000 baht to 100,000 baht! More as and when I hear it.
Spasso's will be undergoing renovations some time soon which will result in the Italian restaurant and the bar becoming two quite separate areas. I was surprised to hear this given that Spasso's seems to do very well and while the concept of an Italian restaurant being part of a nightclub / disco might sound weird, it does actually work well.
As you sit back in cold, wet Farangland, your thoughts may wander to the Land of Smiles, and to your Thai darling. You wonder just what she is doing, and how she wiles away the time. You wonder if she thinks of you as much as you think of her. Email is your primary means of contacting her. You wonder if the emails she sends you are meant for you because sometimes it seems that the emails you receive from her are muddled. She talks about things that the two of you did that you never remember doing. She asks you how life is in Germany, when in fact you are in America (or Australia or England or…) What would you do to check out her email, just a glimpse, a chance to see if she is also sending emails to Hans or Harry or Herve or Harold. For the girls working in the bars, computers and the internet were foreign concepts before they entered the bar industry and their email accounts was likely set up by someone else, more often than not the staff in an internet café. And these staff usually give the girls the same password. Watch the girls in the internet cafés and you will see that many of them key in the same password….123456. Try it. 999999999 (nine 9s) is another common one.
Following on from the piece in last week's column about the presence of Thai police officers in DEA uniforms searching people who were getting off the Sex Tourist Express, that is the Bangkok to Pattaya bus, The Pattaya Mail ran a piece which explained that the Thai police were acting on a tip off that a daft tourist would be bringing drugs down on the bus. Said fool was caught and will no doubt get pulverized by the Thai judicial system. Drugs and Thailand, some people don’t realise quite how serious this is.
It is not just the JW Mariott that has fully armed Thai SWAT officers on patrol. The Hyatt Erewan does too and while I have not been to any of the other big American hotels, I imagine they are the same. These guys look the part, the look mean, are in great shape and well equipped. They DO inspire confidence that the premises are safe.
Visa overstayers be pleased that you do so in Thailand and not another Asian country. Malaysia has been known to lock people up for a week or two, sometimes longer, while Japan has just enforced some really tough laws, including mandatory banishment from the country for ten years and various other nasty penalties. Why do people do this? Overstaying one's visa is seriously dumb.
There have been some great sunsets in the capital this week, as there usually are at this time of year, the "official" end of the hot season. Photographing them, I find it is best to wait until the sun drops below the horizon and use a slow aperture like F8. It works for me. And remember the sun drops REALLY fast here so you have to be quick.
I had to laugh when a couple of friends told me that their “good run” on Bangkokchat was about to end. When asked as to why, they explained that as the universities are just opening up for the new academic year, all of the students are returning and the numbers on Bangkokchat are dwindling. How sad!
A colleague this week did an illegal turn in his car and just as he had completed it, he saw a bunch of cops who looked like they were about to take chase. Thinking quickly, he drove straight up to them, wound down the window, pulled out a map and started asking them for directions in English. It must have confused them because rather than writing out a ticket or trying to extract a bit of pocket change, they gave him directions (which of course he didn’t need) and he was off on his way! Clever!
From Chiang Mai, it seems that the enforced midnight bar closings are due to fact that no entertainment zone or zones have yet been established – and the local boys in brown are closing them based on the idea that only designated areas can supposedly stay open beyond midnight. Word on the street is that the city wants to put the bars out north of town, far from the tourist areas. Are they actually making a genuine effort to preserve the excellent reputation that Chiang Mai has for, shall we say, “wholesome tourism”. Meanwhile bars on Loikroh Road claim to be losing money because of the combination of shorter hours and the low season. The famous Night Bazaar is also pretty quiet. Fang Thuong hotel on Loikroh, which has been closed for 7-8 years is about to reopen. Funnily enough the reason it was closed was because it was 2 stories too tall! Allegedly, 'guess who's' wife now has an interest in it and a variance was passed allowing it to re-open. Meanwhile work is going feverishly on Dusit, formerly Chiang inn. Not an original pipe, wire or moulding will remain. And the new Panthip Plaza is open at beginning of Night Bazaar Changklan Rd.
If you are looking for a really nice internet cafe, try the Planet Internet cafe just a couple of minutes walk up Soi Thonglor from the BTS. Fast machines, very fast internet connection, nice LCD screens and they even have those nice ergonomically designed mouse. 40 baht an hour may be dearer than most other places, but it really is worth it.
Am I suffering from reverse exoticism? A few things have happened recently that have made me look at myself and try and wonder just why I am reacting the way I am. I changed the screen saver on my computer to a picture I took a few years ago of a farang woman running into the waves at Patong Beach, topless. In a city with so many incredibly attractive local women, I seldom take notice of the Thais but have found myself looking at Western women! And I don’t think it's just me because when mentioning my loss of symptoms of yellow fever to a workmate, he said he had been feeling the same! In fact he has a date with an American woman lined up for this weekend. For Westerners who stay in Thailand a long time, is reverse exoticism normal?
Mrs. Stick's Corner
Each week, Mrs. Stick answers your questions about Thai / farang relationships and general issues that baffle the average Westerner in Thailand. Mrs. Stick likes to think of herself as an open-minded Thai lady so go ahead, ask anything because you won't shock her. Please send questions for her, via me, at the usual email address. Two questions will be chosen each week and answered in the following week's column. The responses are hers and NOT mine although I may attempt to correct her English from time to time. Please note that I may not necessarily agree with what
she says. Unfortunately, she doesn't have time to reply to your inquiries via email. Questions for her should be limited to 100 words. Mr. Stick may answer the odd question in place of Mrs. Stick of he thinks he can do a
Question 1: I am a Canadian and I have met a 55 year young Thai lady on BKK chat. We have been chatting for 1 month now. She is not a bargirl and has no children. We have exchanged pics and we both agree we have jai dee. We chat every day and talk on phone. Our chat is good and not sexual. I am coming to Thailand in August. Should I meet her? Is she real or am I wasting my time? I love your country and I have read about relations over net. What would you suggest.
Mrs. Stick says: There is no harm in meeting her. You're a guy, she is a girl and so far it sounds ok. Just keep in mind some of the stories around about situations like this. A 55 year old Thai woman who can use the internet sounds like an interesting lady! At this age, most Thai woman have stopped looking for guys and searching on the net for guys from a woman at this age is unusual.
Question 2: I seem to do OK with the ladies, however, since I am usually in town for 1-2 weeks at a time, I play strictly in the P4P scene. I am also a huge butterfly but make sure that nobody gets their feelings hurt. That being said, often when I am out and about (usually with a girl), I see other girls (either with their friends or customers) that I fancy. I try to get their attention and pull them over to get their mobile # for a later date. My question is, how appropriate is this? What are the girls actually thinking when I approach them like this?
Mrs. Stick says: Double ugly loey!!! First, you do not have any respect for the girl you are with. If you are with her as a friend then it is ok but if she is your date, you know, that is way off! It's worse when you approach a girl with another guy. After all, you do not know their status for sure, do you. What if she is not a bargirl? People are not goods and you should respect people a little more. Even though you may think you are in a sexual playground, you are not. There are still rules to follow in society and you just broke a big one.
Mr. Stick says: I have to chime in here and say that guys who approach girls who are with other guys have crossed the line big time! This is highly questionable, irrespective of the girl's background and if you're not careful you're gonna get your lights knocked out. I know if someone came on to my wife when I was there, there would be hell to pay and I imagine most guys would respond the same way. It is amazing to watch Western tourists in areas like Sex Tourist Alley (Sukhumvit Soi 1 to Asoke) who approach decent girls and proposition them right there on the street. Not good at all.
Question 3: My teeruk was unpacking some boxes as we've just moved and she came across some old photographs of me with an ex in Thailand which I've now disposed of. Later on the same day she was sorting out my clothes and I noticed that any shirts which I'd been wearing in the aforementioned photos had been put to one side and she said "put in bin". No domestic problems followed as I dumped the pictures but what is the problem with the shirts? Is this taking jealousy to the extreme? She knows I've been a bit of a slapper in the past BUT she only seems to have a problem if she finds anything linking my past to this one particular girl. The others she doesn't give a shit about. Please advise.
Mrs. Stick says: It's obvious that she prepared her heart to get over your past and move on with the new you. Yet, she is not totally fine when she sees the evidence of your naughty past. So, the answer is just this easy; just get rid of everything that would link her mind to that. "Put it in the bin".
Finally this week, best wishes go out to Gordon over at one of my favourite websites, TalesofAsia.com, who finally made a very lovely lady honest today. Wishing the two of you all the very best for a wonderful life together.
Your Bangkok commentator,