Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bad experience with ASA Holidays

Ms Lin Peimin and her husband say they are put off by all travel agencies after a recent bad experience with one.

She wrote: "I am writing about a terrible service experienced at ASA Holidays which caused my husband and I great distress. On 22nd February 2010, my husband signed up for a tour package for four with ASA Holidays, departing for Tokyo on 4th April 2010.

"Two weeks prior to the departure date, my husband was unable to travel due to an urgent medical condition; he had to be hospitalised to undergo surgeries immediately.

"Without delay, we called ASA to enquire about how we could minimise our losses in any way, perhaps by cancelling the trip, or getting someone else to take my husband’s place.

"However, we were misled by the wrong information given by their staff on several occasions. One member of the staff who served me personally at the office, told me that we would not get any refund eight days before the actual departure date if we were to cancel our trip then.

"We were willing to pay an extra admin charge in order to replace my husband with another person, but she informed me that changing of name for our tour package at that point in time was strictly not possible.

"We found out later that that was not true, and that we could actually get 50% of our money back if we had done so at that time as stated in the "Terms And Conditions" of the signed agreement.

"My husband was seeking urgent medical attention at the hospital, and while he was there, he made many futile attempts to contact an appropriate officer in charge at the agency to clarify matters.

"All the staff who listened to our case agreed to call back to follow-up but none did. Finally, two days before the departure date, we managed to contact the tour leader for the trip.

"He assured us that he would get his GM to revert as soon as possible before the trip, but we were greatly disappointed that we did not receive any call up till the departure date.

"Throughout the whole incident, none of the staff advised me or my husband to document our requests for the changes in writing, and we lost many opportunities to mitigate my losses due to the failure to exercise due diligence by the staff time and time again.

"In the end, three of us went for the trip without my husband. During the trip, the tour leader, Peter asked the three of us if we would like to use one room instead of two.

"When I asked if it would help to mitigate any losses, I was assured by the tour leader that there was no difference at all and it was too late to make any claims for our case.

"After the trip, my husband finally managed to speak to the GM about the whole incident, and the fact that we could have gotten at least a 50% refund if we had not been misled by the staff.

"Instead of being apologetic about our mis-managed case, he kept emphasising that ASA agency had already incurred considerable costs catering for four persons, and that the costs incurred, including the additional hotel room used throughout the trip, could not be recovered.

"Even though my husband explained that we had called the agency two weeks in advance but did not receive any follow-up from the staff, he made a point to remind us that if they had been given more notice, perhaps some actions could have been taken by them to lower their costs.

"We were greatly disheartened that after several attempts to speak to him to explain our case, he still was more concerned about his costs incurred than our distressing experience. After some long-drawn exchanges, he finally agreed to refund us S$687.

"The whole incident was handled very poorly, with the staff not taking ownership and responsibility to help us out in any way, and the GM himself not being able to perform customer service recovery in an elegant manner.

"We were extremely disappointed by our experience. This incident has managed to scare us off from dealing with all travel agencies."

Looks like there is no way Peimin would give ASA a bouquet.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A letter worth reading

There is an interesting letter today (May 24) in the Today newspaper's Voices page
headlined, Why can't I terminate credit card Giro payments?, sent in by Charis Low.

I am reproducing it here for those who do not get a copy of the newspaper because I feel that this is something everyone ought to know.

Charis wrote: "I was shocked to discover recently that upon signing up for payment of recurring bills by credit card Giro, the cardmember cannot terminate the arrangement by giving instructions directly to the bank. The bank only takes instructions from the merchant and not its cardmembers. The only way for a cardmember to stop the arrangement is to cancel the card.

This is different from stopping Giro deductions from bank accounts, where the bank will stop payments to the billing organisation upon receipt of the customer's instructions.

I see no basis for the bank to refuse to accept the customer's direct instruction to stop the arrangement since:

1. The instruction pertains to future bills, and the bank has neither made, nor is under any obligation to make, payment to the merchant for such future bills.

2. The customer has a direct relationship with the bank and there is no reason why the bank should refuse to accept a direct instruction from its customer, but insist on taking instructions from a third party.

3. The Giro forms for payment via credit cards and bank accounts are not any different, with the customer required to only sign and provide details of the account from which payment is to be made in both cases. How then can the customer's authorisation in the case of credit card Giro possibly be construed as being irrevocable?

This practice, which they claim is in line with industry practice, compromises the rights and interests of customers. Why can't the bank leave the customer to sort out any payment due to the merchant separately?

I think card-issuing banks owe their customers an explanation as to the legal basis of this "industry practice" and how it comes about without it being articulated in the cardmembers' agreement.

I've read the agreement, including the latest version available through the bank's website, which is applicable to my credit cards, and there is no provision that states the cardmember cannot revoke any Giro authorisation by instructing the bank directly.

In the meantime, I would urge everyone to reconsider paying by credit card Giro."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Make public service a family affair

I enjoyed reading The Straits Times' interview -- "You need two hands to clap" --with DPM and Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean today (May 21) to mark Public Service Week. Mr Teo is also the minister in charge of the civil service.

What he says makes a lot of sense. He asks a rhetorical question: Would it not be a pleasure to have a society in which public officers and members of the public deal with each other with courtesy and mutual respect, and each understands and empathises with the other's roles as well as concerns?

Yes, "courtesy and mutual respect" is really the nub of the issue when it comes to any service relationship and is probably more critical in the public sector as tax-paying Singaporeans are generally less tolerant of rude or unhelpful public officers these days.

Mr Teo goes on to explain that although public officers have many roles, they are actually one service, one family, with one mission: Making Singapore better and working together to build one future for the country.

I like the "one family" concept. If this could be extended to the people they serve, I think many of the obstacles and problems the civil service faces each day would be reduced.

One could just imagine how a public officer would respond if someone he was serving was being treated as a member of his extended family!

The minister disapproves of a situation where a public officer is threatened by members of the public, who say: "If you don't give me what I want, I will write to the press, I will complain to the Prime Minister, I will make sure you lose your job."

I fully agree with him on that, but I know that sometimes there may be circumstances when a person is driven to seek other avenues of redress simply because he is caught between a rock and a hard place.

One final thought: We should stop referring to public officers as civil servants. The reason is that they cannot be our servants if we hope to be treated as part of the bigger family.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bouquet for drivers of Bus 92

Reader Quek Lay Choo sent a second message today to praise the helpful bus drivers in her estate.

She says: "There is only one bus service 92 that runs through Mount Sinai Estate, so if I miss a bus, I have to wait another 15 minutes for the next one.

"Many times, the drivers have made the extra effort to stop for a while longer at the bus stop although I am still at the opposite side of the road or not right at the bus stop yet. They wait for me to cross the road or make my dash to the bus stop when they can see that I want to take the bus. That is so alert and thoughtful of them.

"There is even one particular driver who greets everyone who boards the bus. It just makes the bus journey so much nicer and happier. Thank you to all the bus drivers of bus service 92. A big bouquet for them!!"

Body Shop's inconsistent service

It was a "sweet and sour" experience for Quek Lay Choo when she went to two Body Shop outlets to buy shaving cream for her husband.

Her story: "I was going to purchase some items for my husband and myself since there was a members' special discount for the week. I went to the branch at Holland Village.

"When I made an enquiry about the men's shave cream because the packaging looked different, the staff told me it was a totally new product that replaced the previous one. She told me it is better to get my husband to go down and select it himself.

"She also, impatiently, showed me some products I was asking about and just walked away. There was no attempt to take the initiative to serve. I was so annoyed that I walked off without buying anything.

"Later, after shopping around Holland Village, I went back to the shop to give them a 'second chance' and save myself another trip to another branch. Maybe it was just pure bad luck just now.

"When I went in, it was worse. The two retail staff were discussing their personal matters and were oblivious of my presence. When one of them finally came to attend to me, she could not answer questions about a product properly. I did not have to consider anymore about buying anything from this shop.

"The next day, I went to the branch at Tiong Bahru. Although one of the staff was a pregnant lady, she was still very friendly and helpful. Another staff told me the shave cream was the same as the previous one, just that they added an extra ingredient. That is why I decided it was safe to buy it for my husband.

"Two shops, two different answers!!?? In the end, because they were very helpful and knowledgeable about their products, I spent more than $100 instead of $0 at the Holland Village branch.

"Good service can really make or break a sale. Retailers must train their staff well, especially in the area of product knowledge and service.

"I would give a boo-quet to Holland Village branch and bouquet to Tiong Bahru branch."

Irony of Tiger Airways

After posting two reports on Tiger Airways recently and getting no response from its management, I was not at all surprised when I stumbled upon a Facebook site called "What I hate about Tiger Airways".

And if you were to read the complaints of the people who have posted their unhappy experiences with the airline, it is very likely that you would think twice about flying with them. When I last visited the site, there were 586 followers.

I am sure the airline management is fully aware of this site, but I wonder whether it is doing anything to address the problems raised.

If one were to go by its feedback policy stated in Tiger's website, then there is no way any of these problems will be looked into. After all, Tiger says that it "wants to provide quality service to our customers through meaningful correspondence instead of casual e-mail responses."

In other words, you have to take out your writing pads and write to them before you can be taken seriously.

What I find ironical is this: while the complaints appear to be piling up, Tiger's financial performance in the last one year has turned the corner. It made a profit of $82.2 million from a loss of $50.8 million the previous year.

What does this mean? To its management, it must mean that it is doing something right. Otherwise, how do you account for the turnaround? To Tiger customers, it means that you will just have to grin and bear if you want to continue flying with the airline -- with all its woes.

I wonder what Singapore Airlines, Tiger's substantial shareholder and renowned for its top-class service, has to say about all this!!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Baby friendly restaurant at Dempsey

A reader, Faith, who chanced upon my blog from another friend's blog, has written to share about a "wonderful restaurant" that she and her family patronised last Saturday.

This is what she wrote: "Singapore's service standards are getting from bad to worse. I work in Hong Kong and I head to Singapore every month to visit family. Sometimes it can be astonishing how bad service can get especially in restaurants and I'm not saying service standards in HK is great.

"I want to highlight a restaurant that I really enjoyed. It was my second time there. I was there last Saturday when I went back to Singapore. I was there with my husband, my parents, sister and her baby.

"We were at E Food and Wine in Dempsey Road. This is the weblink, . We were there for lunch. When we got there, the baby chair was already set up.

"My husband called in advance for reservations. The waitstaff there were very patient and they listened to what we wanted and needed. When my sister's baby cried as she wasn't used to the baby chair, they didn't hesitate to help.

"Her baby finally calmed down when we brought out our own baby chair. The staff patiently cleared away the baby chair and cleared the mess for us. All these was done with a cheerful smile.

"The food came and I must say, it wasn't exceptionally great food but the service was superb. Even my mother mentioned that she'd love to come back to the restaurant.

"While we were still eating, and we noticed that the restaurant was a little empty, we put the baby on the ground and she crawled. They were very kind in helping us to watch out for the baby while we ate in peace.

"And one thing we noticed about the restaurant is that they mentioned that the 10 percent of service charge goes directly to their waitstaff. I was glad to see that. The staff were well-trained and spoke good English. This was my second visit to the restaurant and the next time I'm back in Singapore, I won't hesitate to head back there again.

"I'm proud of Singapore but am quite often let down by its horrid service. And your blog serves as a good platform for the service providers to constantly check their service standards."

A bouquet for E Food and Wine!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Who pays for credit cards these days?

Why do some banks make it a habit of deducting credit card fees from customers' accounts annually without first asking whether they would like to continue using their cards? Surely they cannot assume that everyone would readily agree to paying for them.

It is a well-known fact that few people these days pay for their cards. So why did DBS debit my account -- without informing me --- only to agree to return my money the following month after I made a fuss?

To be fair, it is not only DBS that has done this to me. I had the same experience years ago with Citibank and managed to put a stop to it when I told them that I could not be doing the unravelling year after year because it was really tiresome.

But I know of people, like my friend Su, who does not bother to create a fuss like I do. She allows the fee to remain deducted even though she knows that the bank would not charge her if she did.

Such people are either too busy or too lazy to make a call to the bank, probably put off by the inconvenience of getting through to the officer in charge on the phone.

It begs the question: Should the bank therefore take advantage of this group of people, some of whom may be valuable customers who chalk up huge sums from their credit card purchases each month?

Although my new relationship manager Desmond was very helpful when I told him about my fee deduction, it was still an effort having to call and explain to him --- yet again -- the reason for my unhappiness.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

No Signboard apologises

Ms Lee Ying Wen, who wrote to me yesterday about her "missing credit card" experience at No Signboard Restaurant in Vivocity on Saturday, received a reply from the management today -- a day after her story appeared in this blog.

Ms Lim Lay Hoon, who is in charge of corporate communications, apologised to her for the late reply to her email complaints.

"We will like to send our deepest sincere apologies to you and your husband for the incident at our Vivocity branch," Ms Lim said.

She went on to explain that when Ms Lee's email was received, the restaurant had arranged to investigate the case, but because the staff concerned was on annual leave, it only managed to get her explanations today (May 13).

"We are extremely upset with her irresponsible and careless attitude.
Our management has given her a serious warning and lectures her in regard to the matter." Ms Lim said.

"All our staff have been trained and taught to handle all customers’ cash and credit cards in a proper and careful way. Unfortunately this incident has happened and we will definitely bring it to a stop.

"We definitely know the anger and anxiety that you experienced, and we know that hundreds of apologies cannot amend the mistake.

"Our management will sincerely like to waive your bill as a small gesture with regard to the matter. We hope that we are able to forgive the staff for the mistake."

Definitely a positive action by No Signboard! I am sure Ms Lee will appreciate the gesture.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Saga of the missing credit card at No Signboard Restaurant

Ms Lee Ying Wen would think twice about eating out at No Signboard Restaurant in Vivocity again after her experience with her "missing credit card" last Saturday. Here's her story:

"I was at No Signboard Restaurant, Vivocity, for brunch on Saturday. We were the first customers and the restaurant was empty. When we called for the bill, we were the first customers to ask for the bill.

When the bill folder was returned, it did not contain my credit card. The server denied misplacing my card and started glancing at my wallet and my newspapers (which I was reading).

She made small attempts to look for it at the payment counter. She denied losing it and hinted that I had already taken it back and lost it.

For 10 minutes, I received no apology or any further assistance from them; in fact, I was the one who got down on my knees to search for the card under my table.

When I requested to see the manager, the server explained that the manager was not in yet, and I subsequently requested to see a senior staff. After explaining myself, the senior staff meekly whispered "sorry".

After giving my details, I left the restaurant. At that moment, I had already cancelled my credit card and requested for a replacement. Two minutes after I left, the senior staff ran after us, explaining that she had found the card tucked somewhere.

I wrote an email to No Signboard on Monday, to both the feedback address as well as the managing director listed on the website. So far there has been no response.

The service I received from No Signboard can be best described as incompetence and was one of the worst I have received in Singapore.

I do not blame the staff for making the mistake of misplacing it, but I am amazed at the flippant and indifferent attitude I received from them. Not only did I not receive any apology for the inconvenience, I risked having my credit card stolen and the staff (further) implied that I was the one who lost the card.

By not replying to my email, it could only mean that the whole organisation does not really care about good customer service.

Despite all the efforts that STB put in to ensure good service, it seems that things have not improved."

BOO-QUET for No Signboard.

Bo charp guy at Toys 'R' Us

Mrs Isabel Wee's shopping experience at Toys "R" Us in Vivocity in March this year was totally spoilt by the indifferent attitude of one of its employees. Here's her story:

"Toys "R" Us is a reputable, well-known international retail company that has served the needs of many parents and children throughout the years. That is why I am utterly dismayed by the abysmal shopping experience I recently had at Toys "R" Us, VivoCity.

On March 11, 2010, at 4pm, I visited the VivoCity outlet with the intention of purchasing a baby’s product known as Intex Soft Sides My First Gym. I had travelled all the way from the Tampines outlet to the VivoCity one in hopes of purchasing this product as it was sold out at the Tampines outlet.

At the VivoCity outlet, I had difficulty locating the product in store. So I walked to the “Babies ‘R’ Us” section to look for any available staff for help. I had even printed out the detailed description of the item (including the serial number SKN# 256870) so that it may facilitate the staff to help me locate the item more easily.

It was then I noticed a male staff standing at the "Babies 'R' Us" section. He was a Chinese national who spoke in China-accented Mandarin. I approached him and politely asked if he could help me locate the item in the store; I even showed him the printed details that I was holding.

To my utter disappointment, he did not even spare a glance at the piece of paper I was holding. He immediately said that he could not help me at all and told me to look for the customer service counter. Not only did he not bother to take a look at the product details which I had printed out on paper, but he also did not bother to listen to what I wanted. He simply kept cutting me off and telling me to approach another person for help.

I was thrown off-guard by his complete lack of helpfulness and apparent rudeness to me, a potential customer. I had taken the effort to go to the section where the product would most likely be found and had even taken the effort to print out the product details and showed it to the staff. The least he could do would be to listen to my request.

I tried to find out the name of this unhelpful staff, but he had failed to display his name-tag. (I noticed that the other staff at Toys R Us had displayed their name-tags prominently.) By not displaying his name-tag, could it be that this particular staff was trying to shirk responsibilities without being found out by his bosses?

In the end, I had to look for another staff, a Malay lady, who was more helpful. She immediately helped me locate the item among the shelves.

Unfortunately, the unpleasant experience caused by the Chinese-national staff was so upsetting to me that I chose not to buy from the store even though the item was on discount.

My subsequent feedback to Toys “R” Us yielded only empty promises and half-hearted apologies from their customer service officer and manager, with no action taken whatsoever to win back my trust or my desire to shop at their store.

In light of recent news reports that the retail sector in Singapore still suffers from poor service quality, some questions still beg to be answered:

1) Should a company, particularly a retail one, continue to allow unmotivated foreign employees to work in Singapore when they could hardly contribute to the local society?

2) When a big retail company like Toys “R” Us has failed a potential customer, what kind of symbolic gesture should the company willingly show in order to win back the customer?

Sure, Toys “R” Us may have apologized to the customer either verbally or in writing. But how would they show it in action? After all, words with no concrete action still remain as empty promises.

(P.S. I have previously sent my feedback to Toys "R" Us, but they merely apologized without offering to take any concrete action to win me back as a customer. Only after repeated prompting did they offer to sell me the said product at full price and waive the delivery fee for me... Of course such insincere actions by Toys "R" Us, which smacks of a lack of initiative to 'rectify' the situation, only adds further insult to the customer. That's why I have not purchased the item from Toys "R" Us -- I refuse to give in to such lousy service.)"

No doubt Isabel will give Toys "R" Us a BOO-QUET.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Shang Palace didn't get it right

Aloysius Chew is amazed at how a five-star hotel cannot get a simple thing right.
He shares with us his experience at the hotel's Shang Palace a few days ago:

"On Friday, 6 May, my wife and I were hosting lunch for a couple, our friends. My reservation was made about a week before. My wife and I arrived at the restaurant promptly at 12 noon and this was the time I requested when I made the reservation.

Having given my name at the reception counter, we were duly shown to our table to await our friends who were told the time the reservation was made for. Thus we expected our friends to join us soon knowing that they are usually quite punctual.

We waited for 15 minutes and there was no sign of our friends. So I decided to go and check outside to see if they might be waiting there.

However before I could do so, they appeared inside the restaurant. They were quite agitated as when they arrived at the reception counter and gave my name, the receptionist told them that I had not yet arrived and they were asked to wait.

After waiting for more than 10 minutes they felt that something was not quite right as they know that we are usually quite punctual, whether as hosts or as guests. Hence they decided to walk into the restaurant to check and lo and behold, found us seated at the table.

We made a bit of a fuss with one of the supervisors. She apologised and gave the excuse that the receptionist was from China and her understanding of English was poor.

This was, to me, a very lame excuse. When I arrived and gave my name, she acknowledged that I had a reservation and was shown to the table. How was it possible that someone who arrived about 5 minutes after me was told that I had not yet arrived?

After lunch I confronted the receptionist for an explanation and she replied that there were two reservations with the same name and she was confused.

This I find hard to accept. Undoubtedly her understanding and articulation of the English language leaves much to be desired.

I only hope the recent aberration of service standard is not a fore-runner of things to come at this particular outlet, or any of the Shangri-La outlets for that matter.

A "Boo" for Shang Palace."

Panasonic sucks, says Irene

My friend Irene Hoe is no longer a fan of Panasonic. And she has good reason to be so. She once bought four of its cameras in a row because she believes the company produces technically good cameras.

But she says her latest experience with the service provided by its personnel sucks. So she has vowed that she will tell her friends to avoid Panasonic products in future.

Here's her open letter to the company:

"Dear Panasonic,

It's been a few weeks since I handed over my Lumix camera to your service centre.

Since then, I have received one phone call from one of your service personnel. The person who called made it plain that replacing the LCD was going to cost a lot of money and take a long time.

He said:"You want to replace? Seven, eight many weeks to get the parts."
The unspoken but obvious message of the caller was that I should junk my 16-month-old camera and buy a new one.

I wanted a better idea of the time frame.I didn't get it.

A week later I called to find out just how long the replacement would take. The person who answered said that she would check and get back to me.

She hasn't. And you know what?

I don't think she ever meant to, although your service centre asked for my email address and my mobile phone number when I brought in my faulty Lumix.

Because I was travelling, I went out and bought another camera. I can assure you that it WASN'T a Lumix.

As cameras go, yours have done a good job, technically speaking. So I had bought four in a row, two of them as gifts.

But your service attitude truly sucks.

So does your absurd practice of making every battery and charger for each model different. I can only think that this is to ensure that they can't be interchanged between cameras.

So I am making you a solemn promise now. I shall be sharing my experience with all my friends and relatives. And I shall most certainly advise them all not to buy any Panasonic product in future.

Irene Hoe"

I am sure she has no hesitation in handing Panasonic a BOO-QUET.

***LATEST --- Panasonic has replied to the feedback. Irene got her camera back the same day the posting was made. Here is the reply:

Dear Sir/Madam

Thank you for your email and feedback.

Panasonic Singapore values all feedback from customers and take all efforts to improve our service level to a higher level of satisfaction.

From our system, I noticed that Ms Irene Hoe's camera has been collected on 10th May 2010, at 12.15pm.

Should you have any other enquiries, please do not hesitate to contact us at 6222 7222

Warmest Regards

Janice Tan Customer Service Panasonic Singapore

Friday, May 7, 2010

Tiger, be a copycat

It is strange indeed that in an Internet Age, Tiger Airways would insist on getting its customers to write to them (yes, on paper and posting it) in order to give their feedback.

Its rationale: "Tiger Airways wants to provide quality service to our customers through meaningful correspondence instead of casual e-mail responses.

"We believe our customers deserve professional and well thought out responses to their concerns and that is why we put so much effort into researching and investigating our correspondence with you.

"We answer the letters we receive in the order that they arrive wherever possible, with our best efforts to the matter concerned and whoever the person involved. There may be times where a delay in response is unavoidable because detailed investigations need to be carried out on your enquiry."

I can understand all that it is saying, but why can't feedback be given online which most progressive organisations are doing. Surely "quality service" can be carried out online as well -- in fact, more efficiently.

By doing what it is doing, Tiger is inadvertently discouraging feedback. Unless, of course, it thinks that online feedback will invite a lot more complaints which could prove unmanageable.

I came across Tiger's mode of operation regarding customer feedback when I was trying to find a way to tell them about Shareen Wong's posting, "Tiger, Tiger, not so bright".

When I drew a blank, I got a source to give me the contact number of its media person to whom I passed on the information.

Maybe Tiger should consider being a copycat and adopt the NTUC's "cheaper, better, faster" strategy to help improve its customer service.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Welcome to tell your stories

Since boo-n-bouquet was highlighted in the Today newspaper (pictured above) on Monday, the number of visitors to my blog has skyrocketed. Which, of course, is very gratifying.

It means that there are many more eyeballs reading what I have written. Many have sent me very encouraging comments -- of which I am grateful -- and expressed interest in sharing their experiences.

What is also significant is that many of the organisations that I have mentioned in my blog are monitoring the postings regularly. This obviously means that they care about what we are saying about their service standards.

Hopefully, they will receive our feedback graciously and, if need be, take action to improve themselves. In fact, many have done so and have been awarded BOUQUETS.

When this blog was conceived last year, I wanted it to carry only stories from my friends, family members and myself so that it would be more manageable.

However, with the sudden rise in interest from other readers, I thought it would be useful to allow contributions from outside my circle of friends and family members.

So, if you have a good story to share about an excellent service that you have experienced or one that is totally rotten, do email me at this address:

Please also give me your full name and contact number as I may have to provide them to the organisations that you write about.

One last thing: For various reasons, I cannot promise that all your stories will be published. But if you have one that is so compelling and can be verified, you can be sure that it will be used.

Happy posting!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tiger, Tiger not so bright

Podcaster Shareen Wong is furious with Tiger Airways. Her recent holiday to Bangkok with her family was marred by the airline's bad service. Here's her story:

"I booked three flights on Tiger Airways to Bangkok for the 20th April for my family. With the current political unrest and the state of emergency in the capital, we decided to cut short our trip.

"As stated on the Tiger Airways website, a free change of flights was offered to passengers flying to BKK between 13-19th April. As we were due to fly a day later, I called up the hotline three times prior to my flight (on the 18th & 19th April) to check if this free change of flight would be extended to those who were booked to fly on the 20th.

"I finally decided to pay to change my departure date at about 8pm on the the 19th April upon the assurance of the customer service officer who confirmed that would be no free change of flights offered. I had no choice but to pay an extra $266.10 to make the changes to all three outgoing flights.

"The next day (20th April), I logged onto the Tiger Airways website and to my surprise the airline was now offering a FREE change of flights for flights leaving for BKK from the 20-26 April. I felt very confused and cheated as I had been assured just the day before that this would not happen.

"I called up Tiger Airways to explain the situation, only to be told that the company would not be offering us ANY refunds. I asked to speak to a supervisor and was told that there is no point as he would only tell me the same thing.

"It was only after three attempts that I was finally put through to the supervisor on duty who promised to raise the issue to management and return my call the next day by noon.

"When I did not receive a call from the airlines the next day, I tried to call the hotline again only to be told that the supervisor I spoke to was on leave. I was also rudely informed that the supervisor on duty that day (was too busy with other cases to follow up on mine). He was unhelpful, dismissive and extremely rude!

"I then decided to write a letter to Tiger Airways to explain the situation asking for a refund and a reply by 25th April but yet again I have had no reply.

"Nobody should have to put up with this level of bad service even if you are flying budget! "

Let's wait for Tiger's reply. In the meantime, it's a BOOQUET for them.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Who is checking on the insurers?

I paid a visit to the Competition Commission of Singapore's office in Maxwell Road yesterday (April 3) and spent an interesting one hour with four of its officials discussing the motor insurance industry.

The meeting was sparked by my query whether the industry was acting like a cartel after I was told that my wife's no-claims discount would be cut if she were to move to another insurer after she had made a claim for damages after an accident.

Her policy has a no-claims bonus (NCB) protection plan. To continue enjoying the 50% discount, she would have to stay put with the same insurer. Staying put also means that there was nothing she could do about the size of premium increase she would have to pay.

At the end of the session, the CCS bottomline was: No, the industry was not acting like a cartel because the NCB discount is not portable after a claim has been made. Also, every insurer could set its own premium and therefore there is no collusion.

However, I could sense among the motorists present at the meeting a feeling of unhappiness with what's going on in the industry. Which, as anyone could guess, is no different from the sentiments of 99% of the motoring public here.

I think the right word to describe the prevailing situation is "helplessness" -- the insurers simply increase your premiums whether or not you have made a claim and there is very little you can do about it.

All the insurers need to do to "justify" their action is to repeatedly chant, "We have lost millions the previous year, so premiums have to go up."

Question time: * Who in authority is verifying what the insurers are claiming? * Are all the insurers losing money or it is just a few of them?* If some of them are not losing money, what is the justification for imposing all-round increases in premiums? * Shouldn't the authorities be checking and supervising more closely?

I suggest whoever in authority reading this should make it point to read what my retired insurance friend has to say in his posting, "Wise words from a veteran in the insurance industry".

Free market does not work if there is no transparency and a sense of responsibility.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Anne's bouquet for LTA

Former racing driver Anne Wong Holloway just could not understand how her hubby could have been caught by a red light camera and
fined $200 plus 13 demerit points.

She says he drives "carefully and slowly, maybe too slowly, which is why I think he was caught by the red light camera."

She believes that "if he were a young man in a Ferrari he'd have cleared easily by stepping on the accelarator." (By the way, her hubby is 81 years old).

With that belief in mind, she went about seeking answers to her questions in order for her to prove her theory. She asked her motoring friends and those in the motor trade two questions:

1) For how long is the amber light at a traffic junction illuminated? and

2) Does this vary according to the distance in the box formed by the junction?

Unfortunately, none of them could provide her with definitive answers.
So, she did the next best thing --- write to the Traffic Police for help.

She did, but drew a blank as well probably because it is not their policy to give such information to the public.

Luckily for her, her query was also made known to the Land Transport Authority which promptly gave her the answers.

And the answers are: 1) The timing of the amber light for all traffic lights is at three seconds; and 2) It does not vary based on the distance of the junction.

Anne will now have to figure out whether her hubby was indeed a very slow driver who was caught in the junction when the lights turned red.

Meanwhile, she is giving her BOUQUET to the Land Transport Authority for enlightening her.