Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Coffee Bean shows flexibility

Coffee Bean's willingness to be flexible has left a good impression on Shionge.

She wanted to order two birthday cakes for Saturday (New Year's Day) for her aunt and cousin. So she logged on to The Coffee Bean's website yesterday but was dismayed to learn that she must do it four days in advance (excluding the day the order was made) for an order to be executed.

She said: "Out of desperation, I called The Coffee Bean HQ and spoke with one Officer – Zi-Fong (sorry didn’t get the correct spelling). I explained to him that it is only ‘delayed’ by one day and if he could kindly assist.

"He left a note with the production department and hey…this morning, a Mr. Richard from Coffee Bean called me and acceded to my request.

"Although I was not able to place the order online, I just needed to head down to the West Mall outlet and make out the full payment. By being so accommodating, it really warmed my heart.

"If they had stuck to their policy they might have lost out on a sale and probably a loyal customer as well.

"What a wonderful gesture to end Year 2010."

Yes, a small gesture from Coffee Bean but it deserves a BOUQUET nevertheless.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Internet speed: IDA must act

It is disappointing to read the three major internet service providers' response today (Dec 28) to the government's proposal to have them disclose their average surfing speeds when they go about marketing their broadband.

Their answer is a flat "No". Reason? It is impossible to define what is an average speed because many factors affect internet speed.

This seems odd to me because when I googled to find out the internet speed of other countries, I came across a study that ranks the "average internet speed" of the various countries and Singapore was nowhere in that ranking.

If the three telcos --- Starhub, Singtel and M1 --- refuse to agree to the Infocomm Development Authority's proposal to state their average speeds, then logically they should not be allowed to market their plans based on their "rarely achievable maximum speeds".

It is a case of having their cake and eating it. The IDA must act.

Monday, December 27, 2010

SingPost: Another tale of woe

Anne Wong Holloway has added another tale of woe about SingPost service. She thinks it does not seem to be able to provide a basic one.

She says: "We had been expecting some desk diaries from Hong Kong and it was a good thing I checked - otherwise the senders would have thought us rude not to thank them and I would have thought their mail room staff inefficient.

"As it turned out, the diaries were mailed to Singapore and but have not arrived even after a fortnight. So another package was immediately despatched by DHL and arrived today (Boxing Day) despite the intervening public holiday.

"Providers of postal services in many parts of the world e.g. USPS and Royal Mail are seeing a decline in revenues -- and making efforts to stay relevant.

"If we cannot expect basic postal services in Singapore, Singpost is only hastening its death knell."

With so many complaints about its delivery service recently, I hope SingPost is giving its full attention to this problem.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

One year old today

Today, Christmas Eve, is exactly a year since I started this blog. And I am surprised -- and happy -- that I am still at it.

Although my postings have not been regular as they depend on the number of feedback that I get and whether or not I am in Singapore, I still managed a total of 157 in one year.

I am overjoyed by the words of encouragement that I have received from various people. Many have also signed up as "followers". Some even have links from their own websites and blogs.

TODAY newspaper wrote a piece on the blog on May 3 which helped to publicise it and boosted the "hit" rate. The Straits Times/Sunday Times made mention of it a couple of times, including one last Sunday on retiree Ricardo Rodrigues and his unhappy experience with a senior SQ crew member who reprimanded him for using the airline's A380 Suites toilet.

One indicator of the impact the blog is making is the fact that many organisations which have been the subject of compliments or complaints, have continued to monitor the blog regularly. These include the airlines, the banks, the telcos, our hospitals, various government institutions and retail outlets.

I would like to thank these organisations for taking the effort to respond to our feedback even though many postings were not complimentary. I applaud them for facing up to the issues squarely and welcome their assurances that they would improve on their services.

As for those who did not bother to acknowledge our feedback (you know who they are reading the blog), they still have the New Year to look forward to for enlightenment.

Finally, I would like to thank all the contributors who have taken the trouble to write to me. You have played your part in helping to improve our service standards.

Have a Joyous Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Parcel for Maggie...could it be on a slow SingPost boat from China?

More complaints about SingPost service. This one is from Maggie in Canada who is expecting a package from her friend in China...yes, from China via Singapore.
Here is her story:

"My situation is a little complicated. My friend in China asked a company to send a package to me via Singapore EMS Speedpost to Canada. Apparently, I was told that this route would be faster than if the package was sent directly from China.

"I received a tracking no. as EC401580157SG. On Singpost's track and trace, the status is "Shipments in transit from Origin". The status has not been updated since Dec. 15th.

"From SingPost's website, the estimate delivery period for my package, a WWC Document Item, should be 2-4 days. Regardless of business days or calendar days, it does not seem like this package will make it to Canada in that time as it is still stuck, somewhere in Singapore.

"I am not sure whether Singpost has simply lost my package or the package is stuck in limbo somewhere in Singapore. I have sent an online enquiry to Singpost last Friday but they have not responded. I did not save a copy since it was made on Singpost's website.

"I'm in Canada so it's not really convenient for me to call them. I understand this is the holiday season but I would appreciate if Singpost can provide me with an expected time of delay and the reason for such.

"To make matters worse, I will be leaving for my Christmas vacation on the 23rd and will not return until Jan. 3rd. If I cannot arrange for someone to pick up the package while I'm gone, I'm worry that the package will be returned!! perhaps to SINGAPORE..geesh."

Let's hope SingPost can unravel this one.

**** LATEST: Hours after I alerted SingPost to Maggie's dilemma, she wrote to say
"My package has finally been 'acknowledged' in Singapore...but I have given up on hopes of receiving it before my vacations."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Priscilla and fiance get their Housing Board flat after 9 attempts

Way back in March, I posted a story about Priscilla and her boyfriend, and their frustrations in applying for a Housing Board apartment. They wanted to get married and start a family quickly but, like many young couples here, they could not get a unit to call their own.

At that time, she said she had failed a total of 7 times since her application in 2008. "This is quite an appalling number of tries considering that HDB claims that majority of first timers can get their flat within 2 tries," she said then.

She appealed to the minister after their fifth unsuccessful attempt, but that also did not bear fruit. After her 7th attempt, she told me her story and I decided to blog it. I also alerted HBD to the feedback and was notified to wait for a reply.

Nothing was heard from either the HDB or Priscilla about the matter until two days ago when she sent me a Season's Greeting. I took the opportunity to ask her about her application and this was her reply:

"After the posting on the blog, we wrote a second appeal to the minister (which once again got an unsatisfactory template reply after a month).

"This was followed by a separate email in early May to an MP to get his help after all the disappointments. I guessed the appeal from the MP was unsuccessful as well since we did not get a Jurong West unit which we balloted for in May.

"Just as we were at our wits’ ends, we decided to write in another appeal to specifically target the points raised by HDB in all the previous replies. At the same time, we balloted for one of the BTOs that was launched during this period.

"Fast forward a few months, we received a queue number that was within the number of units available and have successfully chosen a unit.

"This has certainly been a long journey of close to 3 years and I’m glad we never gave up trying.

"But despite this, I can only say that HDB still needs to work on their replies as none of the replies provided have been satisfactory at all (and this includes the final email acknowledging that I have chosen my unit)."

When asked whether her story in boo-n-bouquet was useful, she said: "I guess in some way, the blog post helped and made sure they paid attention to my case. But I sent in two more appeals after the post, attacking every point in their replies. So I guess that, combined with the blog post made them more aware of my case."

Bouquet for Priscilla for her perseverence. As for the HBD, well...

PS...Priscilla's new home is in Bukit Panjang.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gary glitters at Paragon's ishop

Here's a Christmas bouquet for a salesman named Gary at the ishop at the Paragon.

My friend Lulin just wrote to tell of her happy encounter with Gary:

"Any one wishing to buy an Apple product should look for Gary at the ishop at the Paragon. When I wanted to buy an imac and needed to transfer everything from my macbook, Gary was most helpful, smiling and cheerful -- important for me as a shopper as it puts me in a good mood.

"Another sales lady in the shop was also helpful but with an expressionless face that could be seen as unfriendly.

"Fortunately Gary took over and met every one of my requirements. He explained why it would take 3 hours to transfer and persuaded me to return the same evening.

"When I said the traffic would be awful in the evening, he suggested coming back later, as the shop closed at 9.30pm and they often stayed back till 10pm. Good advice!

"Not only did he copied the stuff, he installed my MS Office, cleaned up the clutter, showed me how to use iphoto efficiently, advised me on how to minimise the collection of clutter in the computer, which accessories I needed and which not to waste money on, and a host of other tips. Assured me I could go back for more help if I needed it.

"Plus he was chatty, friendly without being overbearing, interested without being nosey. ishop, give him a large bonus! I am rarely this enthusiastic about good service but Gary deserves it!"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

SingPost goes back to using rubber bands

On Dec 6, I wrote about the continuing problems facing Singapore Post in its mail delivery. I gave my own recent experience and how it took action to ensure that I do not receive letters that are not meant for me.

After that, SingPost started delivering all my mail in a sealed transparent plastic cover.

I was intrigued and concerned, and wrote in my blog: "I do not know whether every household is getting the same treatment. If it were so, then I am sure the cost of delivery would have shot up. The question is, when will SingPost pass on the cost to its customers?

"My other concern about having these plastic covers is that, at a time when the world is trying to GO GREEN, why is SingPost doing such a dumb thing."

Well, the good news is that SingPost has reverted back to delivering my letters in the old way -- all bound by a single rubber band.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Trainee gives excellent service and visitor shows his appreciation

I stumbled upon this item in the South West Community Development Council's Facebook site and thought it was something worth sharing:

"South West SPEAKS: When there's GREAT Service... It brings more than just a SMILE.

What does SERVICE mean to YOU? A customer's entitlement? Or a staff's responsibility to project a positive image? For us, it brings more than just a smile... Such moments might just strike as one of our fondest memories.

Here's a letter by one of our visitors who's impressed with People Association's service delivery in our district. Kudos to the staff of West Coast Community Centre~ :)

'Dear Sir / Madam,

Allow me to introduce myself. I am James Scholefield based in London. The purpose of this letter to you is to compliment a young gentleman that had done more than an extra mile as a service personnel.

Recently, my company sent me and my family to Singapore for a short trip to look and familarise myself with the environment which I will be posted here in the year 2011. I happen to come by with my wife to this area "West Coast" to look at private housing facilities and stumbled upon this place "West Coast Community Centre".

The moment we stepped into the office, we were greeted politely by this gentleman from the front desk. After I told him that we were foreigners and would like to know more about Singapore and this community centre on what it has to offer.

Without hesitation, he introduced to me the many aspects and things he knew to me and my wife. He then started by telling us about the transportation system in Singapore and how to get around in the various modes of transport.

He carried on by sharing with us those necessities of information we needed to know and aware of when we asked him. From there, he started to introduce what this community centre has to offer in terms of facilities and courses where he introduced and explained in details clearly to us the passion card which he illustrated in an excellent manner on how useful is the card is to us as consumers.

Throughout the conversation, he was polite and courteous towards us which we felt that he deserves this compliment. Me and my wife felt that this gentleman had provided an excellent service, comparing to many other service staffs whom I came across during our trip.

As I do not know his name but I clearly remember seeing his name tag shown as "Trainee". He certainly deserves more than just a pat on the back for his excellent service which I believe he should be given the thumbs up for the things that he had done for us and most likely to all other customers that he met too.

I must say this gentleman handled his role professionally and should there be an service excellence staff award from your organisation, I would strongly recomend him to be awarded as he deserves it. Thank you.


James Scholefield' "

BOUQUET to this trainee who showed that he can make a difference and to James Scholefied for taking the trouble to write in to show his appreciation.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ricardo's story a big hit

Ricardo Rodrigues' story about his unhappy experience on board SQ637 from Narita to Singapore on December 4 was given an airing in The Sunday Times today (Dec 12).

As a result,, was mentioned for reporting it. And -- as a result -- the blog saw a huge spike in the number of hits today.

Ricardo, retired regional manager for bookstore Borders, wrote to me after he was reprimanded by a crew member for using a first-class toilet in the A-380 when he was travelling on economy.

He said he was treated "like a child" for something that he just "could not hold" as he was having a stomach ache and all the economy class toilets were occupied.

The responses that I got when I told the story to my friends and family members over the weekend were mixed. Some said Ricardo should have asked for permission before he went into the first-class toilet. My counter was that he just did not have the time to do it.

Others wanted to know where to draw the line on who should be allowed to use those "higher class toilets". They said it would be difficult for the airline because there was always the risk of abuse if those toilets were opened up to those having "stomach aches".

It also has to consider the reaction of the higher-paying passengers if those from the economy class were allowed to encroach into their space wily-nily?

Well, I guess this is something the airline will have to work it out because we can be sure that such a dilemma --- to allow or not to allow? -- will confront crew members again and again.

But one thing that is not in dispute --- all my respondents were surprised that Ricardo was treated so badly, especially by an airline that is noted for being ultra friendly to its passengers.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Anne's two Christmas wishes granted

It's going to be a happy Christmas for Anne after all. At least two of her wishes have come true.

ONE, her application for a HSBC Visa card has been approved, sealed and delivered.
She says "Thanks to Rozilah (Service Quality Team) and Jonathan Shan (HSBC Claymore branch) who expedited getting the necessary documents to the credit card processing department, I received my HSBC Visa card."

HSBC also sent her a gift hamper for "bringing their attention to the glitches."

"Hopefully, the information from my case will be put to good use and future credit card applicants and customers will have a smoother, less bureaucratic introduction to the Bank and its products," Anne says.

"The test of a company and its staff is when things do not go by the book or minor crises arise, their ability to respond in an appropriate and timely manner as they did in this case justifies their shareholders' and customers' confidence in the company."

, her search for the electric Electrolux pressure cooker is over. After the company's PR guy read my blog, he contacted me, and subsequently Anne, and arranged for the machine to be delivered to her doorstep.

Pretty good PR and damage control by HSBC and Electrolux although the latter was faster.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

We are sorry, but no personal apology, SIA tells Ricardo

Hours after I posted Ricardo Rodrigues' complaint to Singapore Airlines about an unhappy encounter he had on board SQ 637 from Narita to Singapore, its customer affairs manager Lindy Lin replied to him:

"Dear Mr Rodrigues

Thank you for speaking with me over the phone yesterday. I have since brought your case up to the attention of my Senior Manager.

Informatively, Customer Affairs department is specially set up to handle
all customers' feedbacks and therefore it will be the central point of contact for our customers and other departments. As such, while we can empathise with the experience you have related to us, we are regrettably unable to provide you with a personal letter of apology from the crew member or allow you a personal meeting with him.

Mr Rodrigues, I would like to reassure you that we will certainly take stern action against this crew member if it is found he had behaved inappropriately and unprofessionally. The incident will be recorded in his file and his performance will also be monitored. We will strive to ensure that a similar incident does not recur as well. I would also like you to know that I will personally follow through with this case and the investigations with our Cabin Crew Manager.

Please accept our sincere apologies for the poor experience, Mr Rodrigues.
Thank you.

Yours sincerely

Lindy Lin
Customer Affairs Manager"

Well, the ball is now back in Ricardo's court.

Ricardo uses SQ business class toilet and gets a scolding from crew

Time and tide wait for no man. I might add a tummy ache and its consequences, too, especially for just retired Ricardo Rodrigues recently.

Ricardo was completely stunned when he was reprimanded by a senior cabin crew from Singapore Airlines for using the Business Class toilet
when he was not allowed to do so while on a flight back to Singapore.

His mitigating factors were: he had a stomach ache and needed to use the loo urgently, and the economy class toilets were completely occupied.

When he got home, he wrote to the airline: "I would like to bring up an encounter with one of your flight crew that happened to me on a flight from Narita to Singapore on Sat 4th December 2010.

"I was on board flight SQ 637 departing Narita for Singapore and was seated in economy class seat 33D. This being a A380 flight, my seat was in the cabin directly behind the Business class section with a galley between the two cabins.

"After take-off, the crew started to serve drinks to the passengers. I suddenly developed a stomach ache and had to use the toilets. I stood up and saw that the toilets behind me were being used and there were other passengers waiting in line for them. I was also blocked by the drinks cart which was between me and the toilets.

"At this point of time, I had no choice but to try and use the Business class toilet. I went forward and saw one of the toilets was empty, and went to use it.

"Before entering the toilet, I saw two crew members near the toilet who did not stop me going in. After I had finished, I exited the toilet and started walking back to my seat.

" I heard a sound behind me, and when I turned around, I saw a senior crew member whom I recognised to be the In-flight Manager behind me and he in not too many words began to "scold" me by saying "These toilets are not for your use, they are solely for our priority passengers, you must use the toilets at the back. Do not use these toilets again".

"I was too stunned for any words, and I stood there and just replied OK. I then turned around and made my way back to my seat. I guess this guy was still not finished with me as he followed me back to my seat and continued to stare at me.

"I would like to admit that I may have made a mistake by using the Business class toilets and I will not make any excuse for using it except that it was an emergency to me.

"What I really expected was for your crew to speak in a better manner and tell me instead of treating me like some child. I may be in economy class, as this was a family holiday, but when on business I do travel on business class on certain sectors.

"I cannot give you the name of the crew, as I was too stunned to take down his name, but he was definitely a senior crew because all he did was walk around the cabin not doing anything.

"He had a crew cut and had quite a lot of grey hair. I also want to inform you that whilst he was telling me off, there was also another cabin crew member near him, and I could see from his face that he was quite uncomfortable to see and hear his senior treating a passenger in this manner.

"I am writing this not so much to get things from SQ, but to highlight the 'new' kind of service cabin crew are giving to passengers. I am sure that dealing with the millions of passengers SQ handles this has to be part and parcel of the job, but I as a Singaporean who always flies SQ, am very shocked by this.

"Kindly assist me by investigating this matter, as I know a simple letter of apology will normally be the case that Companies send and also to say that the person concerned will be counselled. In this day and age all airlines etc are doing the same for customers, but the difference has to be in the customer service both on the ground and in the air. I know this as I have been in the service industry for the last 30 odd years and have just retired.

"I would like to be able to receive a personal apology face to face from the crew concerned, or I may have to take this matter further. Please understand that this is not a threat."

Ricardo tells me that a woman from SQ called him last evening to apologise, but he feels that a more appropriate response would be a personal apology from the crew member concerned.

The ball is now in SQ's court.

Monday, December 6, 2010

SingPost gets more complaints

I had forgotten about my problem with SingPost over receiving letters that were not meant for me until I read three letters in The Straits Times today about people having mailing and delivery problems.

To be fair, I must say that SingPost had responded to me when I wrote to them recently about my problem and they were apologetic about it. After that, I started receiving all my mail sealed in a transparent plastic cover.

I do not know whether every household is getting the same treatment. If it were so, then I am sure the cost of delivery would have shot up. The question is, when will SingPost pass on the cost to its customers?

My other concern about having these plastic covers is that, at a time when the world is trying to GO GREEN, why is SingPost doing such a dumb thing.

These are the three letters in The Straits Times today (Dec 6):

Delayed packages and missing mail
I HAVE been selling baby products online since 2007 and usually I post out 10 to 20 packages a day to online customers, most of the time using SingPost. Recently, I have found that the postal service standards have dipped drastically.

It is stated on the post boxes that packages mailed before 5pm will reach recipients by the next working day. Yet, I have had so many instances of customers receiving my packages only three to four days later - sometimes up to two weeks later. This has been so especially since SingPost switched to a five-day work week.

Also, I have never encountered so many cases of lost mail until this year.
Do consumers have to make do with such standards of service?
Ivy Lam (Madam)
Take action
'The situation has not improved despite complaints.'
: 'Over the past 15 months, SingPost has on 15 occasions delivered to my mailbox letters meant for a unit in my neighbouring block which has the same unit number. They included even confidential letters like those from banks and the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore. The situation has not improved despite complaints to the inspector of post at Kallang Regional Base. Three of our own bills have gone missing so far. Has the implementation of the five-day work week resulted in a heavy load for postal staff at the start of the week, leading to errors? I hope SingPost will take fast action to bring its service back to the good old days.'
Wrong delivery, almost every day...
WE ARE a food and beverage firm located at the Concorde Hotel and Shopping Mall in Orchard Road. Since late October, we have been having problems with the postal service. The mail keeps getting put into the wrong slots practically every delivery day.

Our letter boxes are #01-01 and #01-02 but we have received mail for other units and even letters meant for shops in Orchard Plaza and recently, Centrepoint.

We used to receive at least 10 letters a day but now, only two to three letters reach us. We are worried that we are missing some. Some 20 other tenants in the building are also worried that their mail is going somewhere else.

I complained to Singapore Post three weeks ago. An assistant supervisor from SingPost called and promised that this will not happen again. But three days later, it started happening again.
Tan Ai Li (Ms)
Assistant Manager
Great Treat


No IHT causes withdrawal symptoms

Mr Holloway, Anne's hubby, obviously cannot do without the International Herald Tribune. When the newspaper did not appear on their doorstep over the last few days, he wanted to know why.

Anne got to work. She had an exchange of email with the paper's Hong Kong office followed by a phone call. Then she wrote to me:

"Mainstream print media is bleeding. South China Morning Post and Straits Times have been running subscription promotions to staunch the flow.

"Yet IHT's Subscription Customer Service in both Singapore and HK have missed the message.

"When I was in HK in early November, I renewed and paid for our subscription.

"At the end of November, I received a notice with a Singapore subscription number, telling me that our delivery of IHT in Singapore would cease as of December 3rd.

"Naturally I ignored this as our subscription is HK-based.

"No one from IHT had emailed me to remind me that time was up on our temporary diversion of delivery.

"So when our IHT did not arrive on Dec 4, I emailed IHT - offering to pay for the Singapore issues for 3 months and suggesting they start my HKG renewal when we finally get back to HK.

"Today, again no IHT so my head was on the block as my dear husband was suffering withdrawal symptoms (he needs a daily fix of a decent newspaper).

"I called and spoke to IHT in HK - the quickest they can reinstate delivery is December 8th.

"If he weren't such a dinosaur and would read his papers online, life would be simpler for me."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Electrolux fails to fulfil Xmas wish

Christmas being round the corner and Anne Wong Holloway being a good cook (I assume) is missing the use of her made-in-China Supor Pressure Cooker.

So, when she chanced upon an ad in today's Straits Times promoting 12 Electrolux products including an electric pressure product, she went hunting for it after lunch. But, alas, she ended up with nothing.

"I would be hopping mad if my wild goose chase in 'underground Orchard Road' this afternoon (Saturday, 4 Dec 2010) wasn't good for my health after a huge lunch!" she consoled herself.

Anne has been looking high and low for a replacement cooker after her Chinese one succumbed to a sudden death. She had been become reliant on its "computerized wizardry which helped me produce great tasting dishes in next to no time. Unfortunately it had been purchased online in China and when it decided to die a sudden death no one wanted to take it in to be fixed."

She says Supor has a worldwide distributor in the SEB Tefal Group, but they do not import the pressure cookers into Singapore.

"Anyway, I decided to keep an eye out for something similar and the Electrolux EPC6000 seemed to fit the bill. After I read the advertisement I went to their website to check out the details.

"Poste haste, after Saturday lunch with my friends, I made my way through a sea of humanity to Tang's. Electrolux seemed to only have vacuum cleaners there. The sales representative suggested I try Best Denki, more in hope than certainty and so I made my way there underground.

"Unfortunately Best Denki did not have any Electrolux pressure cookers, the only appliance bearing any similarity being a Philips rice cooker-cum-pressure cooker. So I walked as fast as I could to get home.

"My heart and health benefitted from the walk, but I was no closer to a new electric pressure cooker.

"Electrolux's copy said, '.....we're giving merry deals for you and your loved ones to indulge and delight in." I only wish!' "

Well, Electrolux has failed to make this Christmas wish come true!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

SQ call centre completely fogged up

Last Friday, I posted Irene Hoe's story about how she had missed her SQ flight to the US but was still happy because of the excellent service that the ground staff had given her. But she also gave notice that there was a second part to her story --- one that concerned the call centre and this time, it wasn't a pleasant experience at all.

After a week in the States, she finally found time to write about it. Here's her story addressed to Singapore Airlines:

"Dear SQ,

When I was unable to board SQ62 that morning because of an ESTA problem, I called your reservations line to get me on the next flight out to the US, which was the flight going to LAX.

Unlike my experience with Lily and Dinesh at my abortive check-in, my dealings with your call-centre employee who gave his name as Rafiq proved most trying.

There seemed to be an impenetrable electrolinguistic fog between us that thwarted all my attempts to make him understand what I needed him to do.

His constant and repeated response was to insist that any changes to my itinerary had to be made through my travel agent.

I said this could not be correct. He kept insisting otherwise.

I was quite dumbfounded that he seemed not to understand me when I said again and again that I was still at Changi Airport, that it was 4am in Singapore and my travel agent's office would not open till 9am, by which time it would be too late for me to get on the LAX flight whose ETA was 9.45am.

Finally, after perhaps 10 minutes of this completely fruitless batting around of words, I said: "OK, let me start again. I have missed my flight. I need to get to the United States as soon as possible and this SIN-LAX flight is the next one out. Tell me how I can get on this flight."

Then and only then did he say that I could do so if I paid a $75 re-issue fee. Aiyoh!

Later on, it struck me that this SQ call centre could have been routed offshore to a call centre possibly in India, and that the extra $75 would be such a hefty sum in his terms of reference that he would think it unimaginable that anyone would want to pay it rather than wait a few days for a travel agent to sort it out.

That is the most charitable explanation I can come up with.

Never have I ever been so frustrated in my dealings with any airline's reservations call centre.

When I asked Rafiq if he could help me to change my onward connecting flights, which had been routed through Houston originally, he said bluntly: "No, you have to do it yourself." It wasn't just his words that were annoying but the completely unhelpful way in which they were uttered.

When I asked why I had to pay a no-show fee even though I had tried to check in for the flight, he said: "It's not the fault of Singapore Airlines that you were not able to board."

Ergo, it's YOUR fault, dummy.

At no time did I ever feel that this employee even halfway appreciated the stress that a passenger experiences over a missed flight, much less cared.

Moreover, when he transferred me to an automated system for payment, it kept timing out, and required repeat attempts.

When it came to making payment, Rafiq might as well have been a robot.

Is it is too much to expect a call-centre employee to walk a customer through the process? It would have helped if he had explained the prompts to expect and how I should respond, and to caution me that there would be a time limit.

All he did was inform me that I was being transferred me to some automated system. So, each time the process could not be completed and the call bounced back to him, he would sound increasingly irritated and I, ever more agitated.

By the time I hung up, I was drenched in perspiration from this utterly stressful encounter.

Think about this, SQ: These days, customers contacting your call centre are probably on cellphones. Therefore, each time your payment system prompts a customer to input some number or code, there is a time lag when the customer takes the phone from his ear (not everyone uses a Bluetooth headset) to key in whatever is required.

You may want to rethink the time allotted, unless you truly believe that the only people who call Reservations are digitally deft and perenially Bluetoothed teenagers capable of hitting the right keys precisely and flawlessly while their cellphones are still in their pockets.

Better still, please do investigate how United Airlines manages its call system which answers the issues I have raised. It uses voice recognition to perform most routine functions, referring callers to an employee when requested or when the system detects that a particular caller is experiencing difficulties.

It couldn't have been more of a contrast to Rafiq when I dealt next with United Airlines reservations. Its response to my predicament was sympathetic and helpful. "Sorry you missed your flight out of Singapore, ma'am. Let's see what we can do to get you a connecting flight."

I have one last request. I don't care if you do not respond to this email.

But whatever you do, PLEASE DO NOT send me one of those anodyne and insincere template replies . These form responses are irritating beyond belief and an insult to customers who have identified your system problems and taken the trouble to write to you. "