Saturday, March 27, 2010
"Am not sure what it is with restaurants these days, but it seems some basic things like making sure your reservation list is updated and ensuring all main dishes arrive at a table around the same time aren't that important anymore.
"Take yesterday, for instance. I took my mum and the boys for what I thought would be a quick dinner at Al Forno's at the East Coast. I made a reservation at 5-ish, for 7.30pm and arrived there slightly late.
"When told of my reservation, the bemused waiter-stand-in-maitre'd checked the list, and asked if our reservation was for the next day instead. I wonder if this is common among restaurant-goers...forgetting which day you made your reservation and arriving a day early.
"I assured her that I might be getting on in years, but haven't quite reached the stage where I can't remember where I'm supposed to be at a particular time. Anyway, after some to-ing and fro-ing, we were finally seated.
"No dramas from there on till our mains arrived (quite promptly, I might add - about 15 minutes from the time we placed orders). That's when everything began to go downhill. My mum's fish and my pasta arrived at the same time, and we waited a bit for the boys' pizza.
"10 minutes went by, and there was still no sign of their food. Several episodes of frantic hand-waving to waiters ensued. One said the food would be there in 5 minutes. Another said two. One finally mumbled a cursory apology and blamed the chef. My mum couldn't wait, and started eating...my pasta was rapidly becoming a noodle biscuit.
"About 20 minutes after my pasta arrived, Joel's pizza landed. Still no sign of Jordan's, however. That took a further 10 minutes or so. My mum was done with her dinner, I could barely swallow my noodle biscuit.
"So much for a family dinner. The bill: $170+ It arrived with nary an apology or explanation.
"That's the second time in as many weeks something like this has happened. Please, restaurateurs, it doesn't take an episode of Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares to tell you this: Send up mains together! There's a reason people sit down to meals together, and it certainly isn't so one group can watch another eat.
"Tip #2: Insulting your customers gets you nowhere.
"Service culture? What service culture?"
Mama Mia, it's definitely a BOO-QUET for Al Forno.
*** LATEST: Response from Al Forno...
"Thank you for the feedback.
I will look in to it.
Apology to your friends.
Alessandro Di Prisco
AL FORNO (EAST COAST) PTE LTD
425 East Coast Road"
Friday, March 26, 2010
I followed it up with a comment in Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan's blog in which I asked whether the MAS or the Ministry of Health (MOH) had given permission to Parkway Holdings, owner of Mount Elizabeth Hospital, to sell the product.
I also directed MOH to my blog to read the details of my experience in the hospital.
Today (March 26), I received the following response from MOH:
"The product marketed to you is not one of the Medisave-approved Shield plans regulated by MOH. It is a private insurance plan jointly developed and offered by Parkway Hospitals (of which Mount Elizabeth Hospital belongs to) and Overseas Assurance Corporation Ltd.
"This product insures against risk of complications through reimbursing the cost of additional medical treatment sought, subject to terms and conditions.
"Depending on the person’s existing medical coverage, there may be some overlap in coverage between this plan and other medical insurance plans such as the Shield plans.
"It is prudent to carefully consider your needs and desired coverage when purchasing insurance. We understand your concerns in the way the insurance plan was presented to you, and will feedback to Mount Elizabeth Hospital."
From the reply, I assume Parkway does not need permission to sell insurance at its hospitals but I am not sure. So I have sent another query to the Minister to ask whether it needed permission from either MAS or MOH to do so.
I am however cheered that MOH understood my concerns about the inappropriateness of the insurance sale and will give the feedback to the hospital.
As I have said, I have no problems with Parkway, as a listed company, wanting to increase its revenue. I only hope that it would do its selling at a more appropriate place and time.
MOH replied today to my latest query:
"The marketing of products in general does not require prior permission from MOH. As a responsible healthcare provider, hospitals should ensure that they do not exert undue pressure or influence on patients in a vulnerable state of mind. "
Well, let's hope our private hospitals will now take heed. I also wonder what the Monetary Authority of Singapore, which is in charge of the insurance industry, has to say!!
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Her story: "A few days back, as I was driving out from my house, my car suddenly stalled and I was unable to drive it. It has only been slightly over a year since I bought my car and a month ago, it had undergone a full engine check and was given the all-clear.
"I was quite frazzled at the time as I was stuck in the middle of the road. Thankfully, somehow, it managed to restart and I drove it back home.
"Unwilling to drive it out again for fear that the same thing would happen, I called the VW service centre up and told them that I needed them to put the car through inspection again. I felt it was dangerous if it were to stall in the middle of the road again. They asked a couple of questions about the car and within an hour, the tow truck came, no questions asked, to pick it up.
"Upon receipt of my car, VW called me constantly to update me about what was wrong and what they planned to do to correct the problem. They ended up changing the whole gear box as well as some of the surrounding parts (FOC as it was still under warranty) to be extra sure that no such problem would surface again. It took them a total of less than two days to fix my car and, better still, they even sent it to my office for me.
"VW deserves a bouquet for the immense help rendered as well as the initiative to call me ever so often to update me about their findings."
***LATEST: Reply from VW:
"Thank you very much for you mail and the hint to the good feedback.
It is always nice to receive feedbacks from satisfied customers.
Thank you and have a nice weekend.
Best regards / Mit freundlichen Grüßen
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
1) NTUC FairPrice for continuing to improve its service. Unveiling its new service drive -- Service From The Heart -- yesterday, it set a target of cutting the number complaints it receives from one for every 30 compliments to one for every 60. That's the way to go.
2) Receptionist/doctor's assistant Sharon of HY Wong Gastrointestinal & Liver Specialist Clinic at Mt Elizabeth Medical Centre. I am giving her a bouquet for conscientiously reminding me of my appointments and -- best of all -- to take the necessary medication before my endoscopy last week.
Monday, March 22, 2010
But she thinks that Fujitsu's products -- at least the notebook that she bought last year -- and services suck. Here is her story:
"I purchased a Fujitsu Lifebook S6420 in March 2009 from a local distributor. The capabilities of the notebook were ok although I did notice that somehow the graphics quality of the display screen was not as vivid as my (by then) 5 year old IBM Thinkpad. Nevertheless I was able to use the notebook until December 2009 without issues.
"Sometime in December, I switched on my notebook and to my horror found that the screen display was so dim that it was almost black. When I brought it to service centre, I was told that my notebook had to stay in the service centre for 2 weeks before it could be collected.
"At around the time, I noticed that the DVD/CD-Rom drive did not always work so I asked for it to be tested as well. 2 weeks later, I collected my notebook to find that the whole screen had to be replaced. I was told that my DVD/CD-Rom drive was fine.
"Last week, I attempted to use the DVD/CD-Rom drive and found that it was not working. It's only been about 3.5 months since my last trip to the service centre but again, I had to bring it in. I was told that my laptop required a replacement of the DVD/CD-Rom drive.
"Essentially, within one year of purchase, the screen and the DVD/CD-Rom drive of what was supposed to be a NEW computer broke down irreparably and had to be replaced. I now have a notebook which is about 50% replaced.
"I'm really appalled by the quality of the product that I was given. This is supposedly a top of the range, made in Japan notebook. Further, the warranty for its parts is supposed to last 3 years and labour charge for 1 year.
"I do not expect so many parts of the notebook to break down within the first year of its use. Neither am I a heavy user. I only use the notebook for word documents, photo-storage and email. I do not use complicated software, I don't play games nor do I download software, games or movies from the internet. I hardly move the notebook as it functions more like a desktop computer than a notebook.
"In the circumstances, the notebook is not really subjected to normal wear and tear of a notebook and all its parts should be in pristine condition. My only conclusion is that I was sold a defective laptop."
Carol has written to Fujitsu asking them to consider the following options to address the defective laptop:
(i) A full refund or replacement of the Fujitsu Lifebook S6420; or
(ii) An extension of both the labour warranty and accessories/ parts warranty by a further 3 years given that more than 50% of the notebook has already been replaced.
But it is not only her faulty notebook that she is upset with. She is also not happy that the service centre she went to as it had "no link to the brand/ head office."
She says: "Fujitsu sets up these service centres which are de-linked from their brand. They know nothing about the notebook except that they can collect it for repair to some unnamed/ unseen engineer who fixes it.
"At the time of collection, they can't tell you save for what is on the piece of paper what went wrong, what exactly was fixed and give any assurance as to the durability of the product.
"When I ask for a replacement/ further warranty, the service centre says that they are not authorised to give me anything more. That's all they knew and that's all they were going to do.
"They gave me the impression that their hands were tied and I had to write to Fujitsu with my complaint. Whilst the service was not bad per se, it was frustrating dealing with people who knew nothing about the notebook or the brand."
"My passport expires this year and as such, I had to apply for my new biometric passport. The online system was straight-forward and simple to use without any complicated login required.
"All one had to do was use Singpass, input the necessary details and attach an acceptable photo. I had some trouble with my photo as I accidentally submitted the wrong photo but this was easily sorted out by email. ICA efficiently dealt with me by email and all I had to do was to submit a suitable photo by email.
"Thereafter I was issued a collection slip requesting that I register online on a date which was convenient for me. I duly registered and was even allowed to select a timeslot (all 15 min apart and with a maximum of 3 persons per timeslot).
"On the collection date, I arrived at ICA with my collection slip and approached the electronic counter to obtain a queue number. I scanned the barcode on my collection slip at the electronic counter and I was quickly issued a queue number.
"Within 5 minutes, my number was called and in the next 5 minutes, I duly received my new passport. The whole collection process only took 10 minutes. Service was hassle free, smooth and polite.
"I am very pleased with the efficiency at ICA and proud to be Singaporean! The immigration department in many countries is generally fabled to be slow, inefficient, bureaucratic and sometimes even corrupt where "payment" could get a person the "express" service."
Definitely a BOUQUET for ICA.
Friday, March 19, 2010
"I was waiting at the taxi stop for Shaw Centre on Scotts Road this evening (March 18).
"A taxi let off a passenger and I got in at about 6.35pm. The driver was ready to take my fare until I told him that I wanted to go to Arcadia Road, off Adam Road.
He immediately told me that he could not take me there as there was a jam. I was about to get out of the cab when I thought, "Why should a cab driver decide not to take my fare because there was a jam???"
"When I told him that, he insisted "see jam, lah. Cannot make business". I was incredulous at this point so I started to take down the cab number and I told him I was doing so. He looked a bit annoyed and then tried another excuse - he said that he needed to go to the toilet immediately.
"I got out anyway after I had his number. The cab number is SHD671Y. I'm afraid I did not get his name... I was rather frazzled coz I was carrying quite a few bags and the incident threw me off balance.
"I did manage to get the next cab quickly. There was no complaint from the second driver, there was no jam and I got home at 6.58pm.
"Some of our cab drivers still have such poor service attitudes. Sigh."
It's boo-quet for that cabby.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
I went to its Endoscopy Centre earlier this week to have my inside checked. Like most people, I was a little anxious about the outcome as I was feeling bloated and uneasy.
As I sat at the registration desk signing all the necessary forms, my mind was imagining all sorts of things that could happen to me. It was unlike the situation five years ago when I had my first colonoscopy. Then, it was routine as I was doing it as a matter of precaution.
This time, however, I was recommended by my doctor to have the colon and gastrointestinal endoscopy done as part of his investigation into the reason for my upset tummy.
But what added to my anxiety and worry was when the registration clerk handed me a form and asked whether I would like to take up insurance to protect against any complication that might arise.
She said the insurance would be activated only for the next 24 hours after the endoscopy procedure and that I could claim up to $500,000.
I was puzzled as to why the hospital would be doing such a thing. One reason has to be the addingof value to its business. As a listed company, Parkway Holdings -- the owner of the hospital -- needs to generate as much revenue as it could. And I really do not have a problem with that.
But this question has to be asked: Why does it need to do the selling at that point in time when the patient is about to go for his procedure/operation and is likely to be at his most vulnerable state of mind? (I understand that other centres in the hospital are also doing the same thing.)
After mulling over in my mind the pros and cons of signing up, I decided to ask the clerk a few questions but she couldn't provide any satisfactory answers.
However, being the kiasu Singaporean and a little muddled at that moment, I told myself "Maybe I should sign up. After all, it is only $88 which I can afford.''
And so I did. Fortunately, when I handed over the form, duly signed, the clerk's colleague leaned over and told her that the premium could not be $88 because of my age. Obviously, I was of higher risk and the premium had to be $200 plus.
That straightaway shook me up and brought me back to my senses. Why was I buying something that did not provide sufficient details about coverage and was being sold at such a high premium?
Further, the clerk was obviously not qualified to sell the product. For instance, she knew that I had insurance coverage for medical and hospitalisation but she did not explain whether the policy she was selling would duplicate what I had.
I am not sure whether this selling of insurance at the hospital has been cleared by the MAS or the Health Ministry. If not, I hope they will do something about it.
Apart from this inappropriate selling of insurance, I am happy to report that I found the hospital's other services above par.
It really should stick to its core business --- taking care of patients' health.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
And the HDB is not giving them any joy...even after writing to the minister for help. Here's her story:
"I have been applying for a flat since 2008 and till today, I have failed a total of 7 times. This is quite an appalling number of tries considering that HDB claims that majority of first timers can get their flat within 2 tries.
" After failing for the 5th time, I wrote to the minister appealing for a flat (I had hoped that the appeal would help me get a flat during my 6th and 7th time). The minister responded quickly within a few hours mentioning that my appeal is being looked into and HDB has been alerted.
"A week later, a HDB officer called and informed me that they are looking into my case. More than a month passed since that phone call and I finally received an email reply from HDB.
"The following is my appeal email and their template reply (which completely sidestepped the point of my letter). I was really disappointed at their template reply as I do not feel that it has truly addressed my concern.
"I also felt that it was ridiculous when it seemed like they were accusing me for not choosing the remaining 3 units (only 1st and 2nd storey were available). The HDB letter of Jul 2009 had already acknowledged that I would not be penalized for rejecting the remaining units as only 3 units remained.
"Apart from that, it has already been publicly acknowledged that there has been an inflated demand for flats regardless of mature/ non-mature estates.
"The government keeps emphasising that couples should plan early, however, when we plan early, we can’t seem to get a flat. It’s kind of disheartening. I will give a big BOO to HDB for this really horrible and insensitive template reply. "
Here's the HDB reply to Priscilla:
"We refer to your e-mail of 26 Jan 2010 to Minister for National Development.
"You have applied four times for a new flat under the Build-To-Order (BTO) System in the non-mature estates. You had a chance to select a new flat on 23 Oct 2009 under the Jul 2009 BTO Exercise, but you did not do so even though there were three units available.
"In addition, you have applied twice for a new flat under other sale exercises, as well as under Dec 2009 BTO for a new flat in the mature estate in Dawson. The flats offered in these sale exercises are located in the popular, mature estates where the supply is limited and the demand is very high. Hence, the chances of securing a flat are very slim.
"You will have a higher chance of success in your flat application if you continue to participate in our BTO Exercises in the non-mature estates, which is our main supply of new flats. HDB is planning to offer 7,000 flats in 1H2010. The projects will have a good geographical spread over areas such as Sengkang, Sembawang, Punggol, Yishun and Jurong West.
"If you need to buy a flat urgently, you may wish to consider buying a resale flat from the open market. As First-Timer applicants, you and your fiance can apply for the CPF Housing Grant to assist you financially in the resale flat purchase, if you meet the prevailing eligibility conditions. However, resale flat buyers may have to pay a premium for the completed flat in location of choice. You can refer to our Website at www.hdb.gov.sg for more information on the CPF Housing Grant Scheme.
"If you need any assistance on the buying of a flat, you can contact our Customer Service Manager, Clarence Cheong at 6490 3657, during office hours (Monday - Friday: 8.30am - 5.30pm).
YEO-HO CHUI HONG (MRS)
AG DEPUTY DIRECTOR (SALES)
ESTATE ADMIN & PROPERTY DEPT
Here's Priscilla's letter of appeal to the Minister:
Thank you for taking time off your busy schedule to read my appeal. I would like to bring to your attention my numerous unsuccessful attempts at sales exercises, and hope that you could give due consideration to my appeal for an HDB flat.
"You mentioned in October last year that 96 percent of first-time flat applicants would succeed on their second try at BTO sales exercises. However, my boyfriend and I have started applying for HDB flats since April 2008, and we have clocked a total of seven times, with the most recent being Limbang Green (Choa Chu Kang), which was launched this year.
"Of these tries, five were for BTO sales exercises, with even two in non-mature estates like Bukit Panjang and Punggol. We believe we are the four percent minority, if the statistics still stands, and thus hope that you could consider helping us out.
Project Applied/Project Launch Date/Result
*Bi-monthly Sales Exercise/10 April 2008/Not invited to select a flat
*Senja Green BTO (Bukit Panjang)/ 26 August 2008/Not invited to select a flat
*Sunshine Court BTO (Choa Chu Kang)/30 December 2008/Not invited to select a flat
*Punggol Residences BTO (Punggol/30 July 2009/Only 2 units left for selection at the time of appointment due to the ethnic quota
*Sale of Balance Flats (Bukit Merah)/1 October 2009/Not invited to select a flat
* Skyville/Sky Terrace BTO (Dawson)/15 December 2009/Application submitted. Results pending.
*Limbang Green BTO (Choa Chu Kang)/5 January 2010/Application submitted. Results pending.
"Based on the frequency of our applications and the estates selected, you can be sure that we are not one of those picky flat applicants who are choosy about the location. We just hope you could grant us a flat soon, so that we could have a place to start our family."
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Here's one from May: "Bouquet to you for your persistence in upholding a principle.
"I think we should try to canvass Case to review the current system of accident claims. It appears to penalise the 'innocent' party in an accident.What do u think?"
My reply: "It is good idea, but I don't think Case is the organisation to do this. It is actually the insurance regulator in MAS who should be doing something but is not as far as I know."
May: "Sure, though I doubt MAS will do anything about it."
Saturday, March 6, 2010
I have no problems with that except for one proviso...the quantum of premium increase has to be fair. But herein lies the problem: Who decides what is fair?
Unfortunately for policy-holders, it is the insurer. What makes it so unpalatable is that he does not explain to us how he arrives at the new premium amount we have to pay. All he tells us, year after year, is that motor claims have skyrocketed and therefore we have to share the misery.
Over the past years, there have numerous discussions in the media about how to curb excessive motor claims and other abuses. Various interested parties have been involved -- the insurers, the motor workshop representatives, lawyers, doctors, the police and of course the motoring public.
To date, I have not heard of any solution or pragmatic action plan to tackle the problem. The insurance regulator meanwhile has remained strangely silent. With the status quo, however, the poor motorists continue to bear the brunt.
I would like to relate my experience with my insurer, the Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance (RSA), to show, as an example, how the Singapore motorist has been taken for granted for much too long.
I was involved in a motor accident in early 2008. I took photographs of the scene and reported quite comprehensively on what happened. Then I told my insurer that on no account should they settle the case without referring to me as I believe I was not to blame.
Imagine my chagrin when I found out months later that my insurer had gone ahead and admitted 90 per cent liability without informing me.
But what takes the cake is this: My insurer had given the wrong location of my accident in the settlement letter -- PIE instead of Gilstead Road.
With everything signed and sealed, what was I to do? I decided that I had to fight back. The battle took me many man-hours. It included going to the scene of the accident with a young RSA officer to show him exactly how it happened and why I was not at fault.
After many email messages and telephone calls, RSA finally conceded. It rescinded the settlement agreement and got its lawyers, Island Law Corporation, to counter-claim from the other party.
The upshot of it all was, the other party admitted to 90% liability in August last year. RSA got the bulk of the settlement money and I received my uninsured loss of slightly more than $1,000 PLUS the satisfaction of seeing justice done.
I must commend the Island Law Corporation for doing a fine job. However, I cannot say the same for RSA. What saddened me was that, throughout more than a year of to-ing and fro-ing with the insurer, it did not have the courtesy of apologising for the mess it had created for me.
A BOU-QUET for Island Law Corporation and a BOO-QUET for RSA.
***WATCH out for the next chapter of my insurance saga -- WHAT'S THE USE OF INSURING AGAINST THE LOSS OF NO-CLAIMS BONUS?
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
"I just bought a Canon scanner last week. It says if I register online, I will get 3 mths extra warranty. When I tried, the website does not recognise my serial number. I emailed their customer service last weekend and got no reply. From my experience, many companies give email contacts but never respond.
"I think it's because our CASE is kind of toothless. Even outright misrepresentation, consumers find it tough to get recourse. My view is that not only service is bad, so is ethics of our businesses. I'm not sure why we keep thinking we are fantastic on ethics."
It's a BOO-QUET for Canon.
*** LATEST...NOW CANON CAN.
The morning after I posted the "Canon Cannot" item above and sent the feedback to Canon Singapore, Ms Lynette Low, its senior manager, Customer Delight Management, called me on my mobile to ask for Prof Mak's contact number. As I did not have it, I gave her his email address instead.
A few email messages between the two parties ensued. In the exchanges, what I found most interesting was Lynette's assertion that the scanner which Prof Mak purchased was sold by the company's business group and therefore did not qualify for online warranty registration as it had not been set up yet.
Online registration gives the buyer an extra three months' warranty, but because Prof Mak's scanner was not considered a consumer product, it failed to qualify.
Obviously puzzled by her reply, Prof Mak wrote back:
"I bought the scanner at Challenger, a retail superstore. I have bought
other business products with other companies (like a high end Sony Vaio)
recently and there is no problem registering online.
"I am not sure how you differentiate between a business product and a consumer product,when both are sold at a retail store. And there is nothing that I can see in any documentation that says so. I was also advised to register online by the Challenger staff to receive an additional 3 months
warranty. I have now just sent in the hard copy of the warranty."
Realising that the professor had made a valid point, Lynette was quick to concede: "On the additional 3 months, I fully agree with you. Whether it is a business or consumer product should not matter to you."
Prof Mak gets his additional 3 months warranty. As for Lynette, I am glad that she responded so quickly to resolve the issue.
However, I am still wondering why Canon would want to differentiate between a business and a consumer product when it comes to a simple thing like online registration for additional warranty.
I also wonder whether other purchasers of "business products" who did not protest over the differentation would have got their additional warranty as well.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
SingPost has finally taken steps to cut queueing time at its post offices.
In a letter to The Straits Times' Forum Page, it announced that with effect from today (March 1), there will be a dedicated queue for postal services such as the purchase of postage stamps and registered article transactions at all its 62 post offices.
It said that customers can also use alternative channels, including more than 800 stamp vendors and 31 postal agents, or opt for cashless transactions through more than 300 self-service automated machines and its Internet portal, vPost.
I am happy that boo-n-bouquet has contributed in a small way to SingPost taking measures to improve its services. In January, I posted an item, Slow Service at SingPost, which related an account by my friend May of its slow service at its Sixth Avenue branch when she went there to buy some stamps.
SingPost replied to the feedback, saying that the Branch Manager "always ensures there are more staff manning the counter during peak periods and he himself will assist also."
But it failed to inform my friend where exactly she could find the stamp vendors which the SingPost staff told her about.
There may be more than 800 stamp vendors and postal agents all over the island. But the information would be useless to most customers if SingPost does not tell us where they are!!!!
Moral of the story: When you want to improve your services, do not forget about the details.
I am afraid SingPost will just have to wait for its Bouquet.
I got up this morning (March 2) happy to read these screaming headlines in our newspapers: "Bad service? The buck stops with the CEO" (Straits Times) and "Bosses get harsh on service" (Today).
Well, well...at last the head honchos are pointing the accusing finger at themselves for our "languishing service standards" and planning to take remedial action. That's pretty refreshing.
Imagine being ranked 9th out of 10 countries and territories for the third consecutive year last year for customer satisfaction and they are just waking up now! I guess it's better late than never.
No one, however, is surprised that our retail sector fared the worst in the service index drawn up by the Institute of Service Excellence at the Singapore Management University.
A total of 150 senior executives attended the forum yesterday to get industry leaders to buck up on our service standards. Let's hope those words of warning got into their heads and they will start to act ... top down.
You can bet boo-n-bouquet will keep a close watch on their action...or the lack of . Stay tuned.