Friday, December 30, 2011

Goodwood gives a template response

Goodwood Park has responded to my "raw Christmas" complaint about its poor service. It was what I would call a template reply and is unlikely to give me the confidence that its standard of service will improve next Christmas.

Here's the letter from Cameron Smith, its F and B director:

"Thank you for taking the time to provide your feedback with regards your experience on Xmas Eve with regards your pick up from the Deli.  
I do value your comments and the points raised are being addressed with those concerned.
I can assure that this feedback is important to us and we take your comments very seriously.
Once again on behalf of Goodwood Park Hotel, please accept my sincere apologies and I do hope to have the opportunity to welcoming you back to Goodwood Park Hotel in the future."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A really raw Christmas!!!!

Christmas Eve dinner this year had many hiccups, no thanks to the food providers -- Goodwood Park Hotel and Singapore Island Country Club (SICC).

From Goodwood, we had ordered a soya sauce turkey, a Yorkshire pork rack, turkey satay, candied chestnut, potato salads among other things. Allen and Celia were assigned to pick up the food.

Although they were there promptly at six, collection time promised by the hotel, they had to wait one and a half hours before all the food was ready.

The culprit was the turkey, or rather, the people cooking it.

According to Celia, what did not help was the staff who had to manage the impatient customers. Although they tried to appease them with offer of orange juice drinks, they made the big mistake of getting the order of the queue all mixed up. As a result, many who were there first were frustrated.

One middle-aged couple who were behind in the queue managed to get their turkey earlier because the staff succumbed to their unsavoury pressure.

But the long wait was not the only disappointment that evening. When the Yorkshire pork rack was sliced, the meat was found to be severely under-cooked. Our helpers had to give it the once over before it could be consumed.

The next big disappointment came from SICC which prepared our roast beef, pork knuckle, mince pies and Christmas pudding.

Like the Yorkshire pork rack from Goodwood, the two chunks of roast beef turned out to be raw. We could not have it re-roasted because there was no oven in the house, which, incidentally, is almost bare of facilities as it is due to be torn down for rebuilding.

Victor volunteered to send the beef back to SICC. The club, realising its shortfall, took it back without any question asked.

To its credit, someone from the club called up on Christmas Day to apologise and, as a gesture of goodwill, offered to compensate us with another chunk of roast.

That, I must say, was good damage control as it immediately appealed to our forgiving nature and softened us. I wish more people and organisations could do the same.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wang Foong's excellent service -- and here's Lucy to show you the proof

My friend and fellow blogger Lucy was all excited (I guess she must have been!) when she emailed me this morning to offer me a bouquet.

"After sharing with you so many brickbats in the past year, I'm happy, no delighted, to share with you some excellent service I received yesterday," she said.

Her story is pretty long (and interesting, I might add), so I will just reproduce what she has posted in her blog, FOOD fuels me to talk...

Wang Foong’s excellent service Sam

"On Wang Foong Foodstuffs Suppliers’ website there’s a tagline that says “Expect nothing less than EXCELLENT”. And it’s no empty boast!

I experienced first hand such excellent service that I’m quite astounded how a little factory outlet tucked away in the boondocks of Wooodlands could cultivate such customer centric behaviour that leaves so many big organisations like banks — not to say SMRT — and Cold Storage lagging so far behind as to be out of sight!

This is how I got to know Wang Foong.

Last Sunday, Dec 18, I was at OperaViva’s last soiree for the year held at founding chairman Leow Siak Fah’s imposing home off Kheam Hock Road.

Besides the excellent singing and a solo poetry recital on “The night before Christmas”, there was, as always, plenty of food. Besides the host family’s signature dish of mee siam, several of us brought something to share, pot luck style.

And it was the least inspiring looking contribution that caught my eye and taste bud. Note that dark little lump on the extreme left of the pix (below) behind the nyonya kueh. It was the best smoked pork knuckle I’ve tasted in a long time!

Once the outer skin was peeled off, the unprepossessing bundle turned into an ambrosaic tender flavorful knuckle ham, with just enough fat and bite to make every mouthful a heavenly experience.

No wonder then, several of us stood around to attack the meat repeatedly, morsel by morsel so that it was gone in no time.

I simply had to ask the woman who brought the knuckle where she got the yummy fare. She wrote the contact web site on a paper serviette:

That night, I went to the site and sent an email asking for more info and was given an auto response followed promptly the next day by a reply from Mr Samuel Soh, a sales operation executive, explaining that Wang Foong doesn’t take pre-orders but I could call him to find out more.

To cut a long story short, we spoke and I explained that I needed just two knuckles, to justify my drive from Newton to Woodlands. He gave me directions and promised to ensure that I won’t be disappointed on arrival with the “sold out” sign.

This morning, I made the trip but as one auntie who knows Orchard Road and its surrounding best, it wasn’t long be4 I was lost in the wilds of Woodlands. Despite very clear directions on how to get off the SLE to Woodlands Terrace, I found myself outside an MRT station, without a clue which it was — it didn’t help that there wasn’t any easily noticeable sign either!

I lowered my car window and shouted at the first uncle passerby who looked my way to ask. He told me it was Marsiling which frankly in terms of giving me a sense of location, he might as well have said Mars.

So I called Mr Samuel Soh who told me not to worry. He would drive from Wang Foong “to fetch” me. And he did, within 5 minutes and then guided me to Woodlands Terrace by driving slowly with me trailing close behind.

Then he zipped into the sales area and picked up the required pork knuckles. I paid and he was all smiles, as he waved away my offer of a $2 tip “for your petrol lah, to come and look for me”.

This is service par excellence — all for a $39 purchase! Compare this to the terrible service that’s been doled out to me at Cold Storage on a fairly regular basis – where I spend thousands per year!

And no, Wang Foong’s operations aren’t of the “catch fly” variety. There were several customers milling inside its premises when I got there.

Yet it actually spared a sales executive to come and show me the way knowing that I’m no big spender! That’s putting service be4 dollars and cents!

So go eat your heart out all you big business and organisations, which are more interested in being big in sales than big in service! It’s shameful that a small operation like Wang Foong can out-run you like a gazelle can out run a bumbling elephant!"

Thanks, Lucy. I wish more people who write to me would do the same -- give praise when they come across someone who does an excellent service.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Good, cheap and fast --- how they add up

I came across a picture with this sign in my mail recently about service and thought the logic makes a lot of sense in present-day Singapore. It reminded me of labour chief Lim Swee Say's 'cheaper, better, faster' slogan.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Singapore Airport: Should there still be a question of whether it is the best?

The Wall Street Journal (Asia) today carried in its Travel section a story about Singapore Airport that all Singaporeans, myself included, would be proud of.

It would have been a perfect story if the sub-editor (or whoever was in charge) had removed the question mark from the heading, THE WORLD'S BEST AIRPORT?

After all, the story gushes about all the fantastic facilities and amenities of the airport, something that would be hard to match in other airports of the developed countries.

Maybe the ASJ just didn't want to get itself embroiled in any controversy. Here's the story...


On a recent vacation, Andrew Tregonning and his wife, Gill, found themselves relaxing in a spacious rooftop hot tub. Nearby were countless restaurants and shops, many with tax-free merchandise. Next, they could take a bus tour, catch a movie or meander through a tropical butterfly garden.

Ah, the joys of the airport. The Tregonnings were en route from New Zealand to India and opted for a long layover at Singapore's Changi International Airport just so they could play.

"It's the first time we've ever done something like this," said Mrs. Tregonning. "It's wonderful."

Changi is arguably the world's most fabulous airport. Since it opened in 1981, the airport has notched more than 370 "best" awards world-wide from travel trade groups and publications. A look at its operations reveals much about how to run a top-notch airport—and ways other airports could improve.

The airport offers amenities found elsewhere only in airlines' fancy lounges for premium passengers. There are comfortable areas for sleeping or watching TV, premium bars, work desks and free Internet. A nap room is about $23 for three hours; a shower can be had for $6. If you want to put your feet in a tank with tiny fish that eat dead skin, that's $17 for 20 minutes.

The pool is free to guests of the airport's in-transit hotels; otherwise it's about $11 a person. A bus tour of Singapore is offered free by the airport. The tour is arranged so that passengers don't have to clear immigration—the airport retains passports so passengers don't run off.

Simple steps matter, like minimizing annoying announcements and honking carts and instead playing soothing music to reduce stress. Placing rival currency-exchange booths and clothing stores side-by-side stimulates competition. Touch screens in bathrooms let travelers send text messages to supervisors when toilet paper runs out, for example.

Changi figures such perks entice passengers to spend more money at the airport and select Singapore over other connecting hubs. About 750,000 square feet of concession space—approximately the size of a suburban shopping mall—provides 50% of the airport's revenue, helping to pay for amenities and keep down costs to airlines. The airport says its merchants recorded $1 billion in retail sales last year.

A four-story amusement-park type slide is even tied into retail. If you want to use the slide, you have to have a receipt from an airport merchant showing roughly $8 and up in purchases. Without that, you can only ride the bottom 1½ stories of the slide.

Terminal 3, the largest, opened in 2008 with skylights, a wall of windows and an interior wall covered in plants rotated out of the airport's greenhouse. It is a city unto itself: dry cleaners, medical center with everything from dental care to fertility treatments, a grocery store, pharmacy, flower shop, jewelry stores, clothing stores and an indoor amusement park for kids with a balloon bounce house.

The 18th-busiest airport in the world by passengers, Changi is smaller than New York's Kennedy Airport and Amsterdam's Schiphol but larger than Shanghai and Houston's Bush Intercontinental, and is a prime connecting point for flights linking north and south Asia as well as Europe and Oceania. It's not just a hub for Singapore Airlines, but also a refueling stopover for European and Australian carriers. So the airport offers plenty of activities for travelers with time on their hands.

"We wanted to transform the way travel is done and create a stress-free experience," said Foo Sek Min, executive vice president of Changi Airport Group Ltd., the airport's operator. It was "corporatized" into a state-owned company in 2009 and has had plenty of government support, since the airport is considered a key economic development element for the small, fast-growing island nation.

Mr. Foo's personal pet project: a butterfly garden. Soothing and relaxing, it's a two-story tropical garden overlooking gates for Singapore Airlines super-jumbo A380 jets. Since smoking isn't allowed indoors, the original concept was a smoking garden. "Why not do more?" he said.

Changi also has a private terminal called "Jet Quay" that is used by celebrities, private jet-setters, government officials, CIPs—Commercially Important Persons—and anyone else willing to pay. For about $1,150, you get jet-side limo service. For $231 you get the use of a private terminal along with golf-cart rides to gates. For $62, Jet Quay personnel will greet you at arrival and escort you through main terminal areas.

Few of the airport's 28,000 workers actually are employed by Changi Airport Group, but airport management requires new hires to go through a weeklong indoctrination on the airport, its layout and service standards and training on how to help travelers.

"Serving the customer well always correlates with earning money," said Mr. Foo. "Do you need a swimming pool in an airport? No. No one asked for that. We are creating the market, creating the demand. People choose Singapore because they can swim."

Bill Franke, former chairman of America West Airlines who now runs a private equity group that invests in airlines, knows Changi as both an airline operator, having founded Tiger Airways in Singapore, and as a frequent traveler. The quick baggage delivery, easy immigration and security set-ups, pleasant surroundings and sounds all contribute to efficiency, he said.

"When I come into Changi, there's a sense of comfort, a feeling which I don't have at other airports," Mr. Franke said.

Customer service is apparent. Feedback kiosks are scattered throughout. In bathrooms, seemingly always clean and appointed with small flowers, touch screens by sinks ask customers to rate the facility.

Mining company executive Kevin Swendson, heading home to Indonesia after a business trip to Singapore, stopped in at one of the airport's two movie theaters to watch "Fast and Furious 5." The theater has surround-sound audio, wide aisles for maneuvering luggage and patrons who quickly say, "Shhhhhhh!" to anyone talking.

"A lot of airports are boring like hell. But there's a movie here, massage here, food here. It's great," he said. His advice for other airports: "Just have a good imagination and a bit of spice. It doesn't seem that it would be that hard for airports to do it."

Those of you who'd like to read the story in AWJ, here's the link:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Come fly with me...and be surprised!!!!

I received this story this morning and thought that I should share it with you.

Come Fly With Me !!!!!

For those who have flown RYANAIR:
"Spare a thought for Michael O’Leary, Chief Executive of 'Ryanair'.......

Arriving in a hotel in Dublin, he went to the bar and asked for a pint of draught Guinness. The barman nodded and said, "That will be one Euro please, Mr O’Leary."

Somewhat taken aback, O'Leary replied, "That's very cheap," and handed over his money.

"Well, we try to stay ahead of the competition", said the barman. "And we are serving free pints every Wednesday evening from 6 until 8. We have the cheapest beer in Ireland."

"That is remarkable value" Michael comments.

"I see you don't seem to have a glass, so you'll probably need one of ours. That will be 3 Euro please."

O'Leary scowled, but paid up. He took his drink and walked towards a seat.

"Ah, you want to sit down?" said the barman. "That'll be an extra 2 Euro. You could have pre-booked the seat, and it would have only cost you a Euro. I think you may be too big for the seat sir, can I ask you to sit in this frame please?"

Michael attempts to sit down but the frame is too small and when he can't squeeze in he complains: "Nobody would fit in that little frame!"

"I'm afraid if you can't fit in the frame you'll have to pay an extra surcharge of €4.00 for your seat sir." O'Leary swore to himself, but paid up.

"I see that you have brought your laptop with you" added the barman. "Since that wasn't pre-booked either, that will be another 3 Euro."

O'Leary was so annoyed that he walked back to the bar, slammed his drink on the counter, and yelled, "This is ridiculous, I want to speak to the manager!"

"Ah, I see you want to use the counter," says the barman, "that will be 2 Euro please."
O'Leary's face was red with rage. "Do you know who I am?"

"Of course I do Mr. O'Leary,"

"I've had enough! What sort of Hotel is this? I come in for a quiet drink and you treat me like this. I insist on speaking to a manager!"

"Here is his E mail address, or if you wish, you can contact him between 9 and 9.10 every morning, Monday to Tuesday at this free phone number. Calls are free, until they are answered, then there is a talking charge of only 10 cents per second."

"I will never use this bar again!"

"OK sir, but remember, we are the only hotel in Ireland selling pints for one Euro".

Moral of the story: if you fly low-cost carriers, be prepared for the extras.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tammy tells the story of how Citibank has taken away 'three years of her life'

I came across this amazing story by my friend Tammy about her experience with Citibank Singapore when I logged on to my Facebook account today.

She has been so exasperated by this she says she has lost three years of her life. Here's the story in her own words (Her version on Facebook, meant for her friends, is more colourful):

"In my 40 years, I have never been driven to such exasperation by any one organisation as I have in the last six days by Citibank.

"It all started when my husband and I decided to buy a place in Melbourne. Our obvious financing choice was Citibank. It's a global bank with Aussie branches and we bank with them a bit. It all made sense.

"The home loan process started with a guy being attached to us. This banker whom I shall not name, was a nice guy but he didn't seem to know anything about the product he was selling.

"He came with a loan document for me to sign and couldn't even answer simple questions. Eg: why is there a 10% foreign exchange buffer on the loan amount if the loan is to be converted to Sing dollars at point of disbursement anyway? Er..... let me check, was his answer.

"Anyway he left soon after. Months went by and I decided I had better keep tabs on what was going on. My concern was that things were not in place for effective disbursement of funds when settlement was due. I was repeatedly assured that all was well.

"Settlement, we were told last week, is due on 1 Dec 2011.
On Friday, 25 Nov, Citi sent an email with attached loan facility documents which required our immediate signatures - in front of a notary public.

"I asked why these were not sent earlier and was told it was because of our Australian lawyer's fault. But the documents did not come from, our lawyers - it's from Citi's lawyers...

"Anyway we got the documents signed. But I noticed that the loan amount seemed lower than what I remembered. I did my calculations and asked the loan officer why it did not translate to 70% of the purchase price. She did not know and said she would check.

"Hours went by and at about 4pm on Friday, she came back to say the amount was right....and that the loan was lower because valuation had been assessed to be much lower than the purchase price.

"You can imagine our shock. Citi had not bothered to inform us about this. I was livid to say the least. If I had not checked, the settlement date would have come and gone and incomplete settlement would have been made. Who then would have been liable? Penalties would have to be paid and we may even lose our property - all because of shoddy Citi processes.

"To add insult to injury, Citi asked that we pay for valuation costs. We refused to on principle. Citi finally agreed to waive the charges.

"The problems did not end there. I was to find out that Citi was holding AUD30,000 against the loan amount as stamp duty payment - even though the Australian authorities had yet to ask for it.

"More importantly, the property was bought off the plan which meant that stamp duty was much reduced - estimated at a mere AUD800, give or take.

"I asked Citi what right it had to ask for AUD30,000 to hold in trust when the stamp duty was not payable to them anyway. What more, the amount they were asking would not even earn interest.

"I saw no reason to give them the money when there was no documentation to show that stamp duty would be AUD30,000.

"Citi's answer: it is needed because without payment for stamp duty we can't register the property and that is collateral against the loan.That is mind-boggling to say the least. No other bank has this as a requirement. Why does Citi feel it needs to nanny its customers.

"Obviously when stamp duty is due, payment will be made. Why does Citi need to hold an amount 30 times the actual amount just so it can feel "safe"? "

Looks like Citi has a lot of explanation to do. Watch this space.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

OAC explains why it could not process claim

In a previous post, we ran a story on how insurance company Overseas Assurance Company (OAC) had refused to help a policy-holder process an accident claim.

Insurance company Overseas Assurance Company has now explained why it could not do so and I accept its explanation -- unless policy-holder Wong Shi Shen can show that the company was wrong in doing that.

In a letter to the Forum Page of The Straits Times published yesterday, OAC said:

"MR WONG Shi Shen's vehicle was involved in a traffic accident with a Malaysian-registered vehicle in Singapore.

Mr Wong filed the accident report at one of our authorised workshops during which he elected not to claim under his comprehensive Overseas Assurance Corporation (OAC) motor policy but against the Malaysian vehicle's insurer in Malaysia.

Local workshops are not set up to handle cross-border claims, and as such, they are not in a position to assist effectively.

We had advised Mr Wong to claim under his OAC policy for repairs to his vehicle. By doing so, this will give us the right, as the insurer, to recover the amount paid out under the policy from the insurer of the Malaysian vehicle.

As Mr Wong chose not to claim under his policy, OAC has no legal right to represent him in his claim.

Mr Wong's no-claim discount (NCD) will be reinstated and his premiums readjusted once the liability of the parties involved in the accident is established and the recovery is completed.

We advise motorists facing a similar situation to take photos of the damage to the Malaysian vehicle, its insurance certificate and road tax disc.

To help them, we have a dedicated section on our website on how they can report and submit a claim involving Malaysian vehicles."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Insurance company OAC 'refuses to help process an accident claim'

What really annoys me is when I come across someone refusing to perform a service when he has a duty to do so.

This morning when I read the papers, I came across a Forum Page letter in The Straits Times in which the writer, Wong Shi Shen, says that his insurance company refused to help him process an accident claim.

Here's the story for those of you who have missed it...

S'pore drivers at a disadvantage
"RECENTLY, I was involved in an accident with a Malaysian-registered car driven by a Malaysian motorist here. He and I agreed to lodge a police report and to submit our claims with our respective motor insurers.

But when I visited an authorised workshop of my insurer, Overseas Assurance Corporation (OAC), I was told that the workshop did not entertain claims against Malaysian drivers of Malaysian- registered cars because of the red tape involved. I was rebuffed by other similar workshops I called.

What was shocking was that the Malaysian driver managed to submit a claim against me. OAC informed me that it was increasing my premiums upon renewal because it had received a claim filed by the driver's Singapore workshop against me. The increase would be permanent if the claim succeeded.

When I asked OAC to process my claim because all other workshops had refused, OAC refused, stating that it was not a legal firm. I was given to understand that a Singapore motorist had to hire a lawyer to submit a claim for an accident in Singapore involving a Malaysian-registered car.

Till then, my impression was that one was covered for all accidents that happened on Singapore roads.

The irony must be obvious: Foreigners in a foreign-registered car can use Singapore workshops to make a claim for an accident against a local motorist in a Singapore-registered car plying Singapore roads.

Shouldn't the authorities ensure that the laws on our roads prioritise protection for Singapore motorists ahead of foreigners in foreign-registered vehicles?"

If what the writer says is true, I think the Monetary Authority of Singapore
should step in to put things right.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Despite her change, SQ keeps reverting to Anne Wong's old name

No one would blame frequent flyer Anne Wong if she were to develop a split personality. And reading about her recent experience with Singapore Airlines, our national airline appears to be partly responsible for her "disorder".

After her return from Hong Kong earlier this month, she sent this email to SQ on November 16:

"As you can see from my boarding pass stubs, I flew from SIN-HK (6 Nov 2011) and was Anne Wong Holloway.

"Then when I returned to Singapore yesterday I was Elizabeth Anne Wong all over again.

"Last night I printed out my boarding pass for tomorrow's flight to HKG from SIN and am Anne Wong Holloway -- this is enough to give me multi-personality disorder! Who am I?

"Also after printing out my boarding pass in HK, I got to the airport to check in my luggage and I was told that due to problems with the electronics/entertainment system I was moved from the seat I had picked out (somewhere in row 34, I think) to 31D.

"I thought to myself...this is most unusual as have found that no matter Business or Economy, one discovers the seats or the electronics are faulty only when on board. It impressed me no end that in such a big plane, SIA would have such spot-on, ahead-of-time, care-for-the-poor passenger fault reporting.

"However, I noticed during the flight that all the AISLE seats in the rows behind me were fully occupied. So obviously nothing was wrong with the electronics! I shall be wary when next time Singapore Airlines asks me to change my seat...

"In the meantime I hope that you will help me cure my multi-personality disorder."

If you have been following this blog, you would know that this was not the first time Anne had complained to the airline about the confusion over her name. She had the airline changed it to Anne Wong Holloway way back in 2005 but "for some unknown reason" it kept reverting back to her old name.

"This would be amusing if SIA was not our national carrier, but, say, India's," she messaged me.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Feedback demon at Starhub

Avid tennis fan Irene Hoe was happily watching Starhub Channel 211's ATP 1000 Paris "live" on November 8 when she heard something annoying coming from the TV.

Almost immediately, she wrote to the telco's customer service to find out: "Why the hell is there LOUD background music being played during the match now?"

Four days later, Ms Hasda Yati of Starhub replied to thank her for the feeback. But what annoyed Irene was this sentence in her reply: "However, in order for us to feedback to the relevant department, we would appreciate if you would further elaborate on the incident such as the programme or time where the incident occured."

So, she shot back: "What can't you understand about Ch 211 and 'now'? And please note that 'feedback' is a noun and not a verb. Do NOT, I pray you, ask me to elaborate further."

Separately, the telco's Customer Care also sent Irene this standard reply on the same day: "We are currently experiencing higher than usual email volume and regret that we may take longer to attend to you. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused."

Without missing a beat, Irene countered: "You are NEVER going to experience anything but 'higher than usual email volume' since you keep NOT dealing with issues and instead keep the flow going with ridiculous requests for 'more information' so that you can 'feedback' some voracious feedback demon.

"And please do NOT call me to get 'more information' and 'more details' of the 'incident'."

Two days later, obviously realising the mistake it had made in its earlier reply, another customer officer Ms Mabel Lim wrote to Irene:

"Thank you for your email of 12 November 2011. Please accept our
sincere apologies on the delay of our reply due to the high volume of
emails received.

"Rest assured that your feedback regarding Racquet Channel has been
shared with the relevant parties who will look into this. We
sincerely apologise for the inconvenience this may have caused you."

Irene's rejoinder: "I assure you that I am not assured by anything I am told by Starhub. I also assure you that I am in no need of any further assurance from Starhub. I am completely assured only of the certainty that absolutely nothing will be done."

This time, Irene sent a copy to its CEO, Neil Montefiore.

Let's hope he will be able to assure Irene that Starhub means action and not just words.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Silkair flight not so smooth

We are back from our holiday in Jiuzhaizuo/Chengdu and I would like to give an update on the service that we received from Silkair.

The flight up to Chengdu was pretty pleasant. The business class crew was helpful and efficient.

One notable incident that impressed me was when the crew allowed an old man from Economy to use the Business class toilet. Otherwise he would have to walk all the way to the back of the plane to ease himself.

My choice for lunch -- fish and noodles -- turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It tasted good! But my friends who opted for the chicken and rice were disappointed.

Well, I guess it was the luck of the draw. Who's to know what to expect from airline food. You just do not get consistency.

However, I would still give a passing mark overall for our flight MI 934 to Chengdu.

The return journey was a different story altogether. It started off badly. When I tried to check in my wife for her economy flight online, I failed miserably. This despite a phone alert from the airline a day earlier asking us to do so.

Silkair's position on its website was specific -- it said in a statement in red that online check-in was not available and that passengers had to do it at the airport. WHAT A WASTE OF OUR TIME!!!

At the airport, eight of our travelling companions who were on Business class, thought we would have an easier time. Unfortunately, it was not so.

We discovered Silkair had put a trainee to man the Business check-in desk. It probably thought that the number of passengers was much fewer and therefore they did not forsee any problems.

However, it was not to be. By the time the trainee finished checking in the business class passengers, ALL the Economy passengers had already been cleared. And there must have been at least 100 of them.

What was more embarassing was that two of our friends, also on Business class, had to amble over to the Economy desk to check in, in order to speed things up.

On board, the crew was, as usual, pleasant and obliging. But the dinner was horrendous. My fish and fat beehoon was just inedible and I had to tell the stewardess to take it away.

I discovered later that I was not the only one who found the food bad. My friend Ceci thought so too. She said the stewardess could not even get the menu right when it was read to her.

She was told that one of the two dishes offered was chicken with pasta when it turned out to be something else. The stewardess later apologised to her for making the mistake.

As the return flight was delayed by 30 minutes and we finally got home past midnight, I guess there were at least two growling tummies that needed to be fed that night.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hardly a great way to fly!!!!

It may still be promoted as "A great way to fly" but my confidence in our airline is very fast diminishing each time I go into its revamped website to do a booking or to confirm a flight.

It happened again this morning when I spent 45 minutes trying to confirm my flight and that of my wife.

I had really no problem when I logged into Singapore Airlines' website and confirmed my business class seat. But when I tried to do the same for my wife, I just could not do it.

Was it because hers was a redemption ticket for an economy seat? Surely SQ must be totally out of its mind to even think of doing such a thing, I told myself.

I decided I should find out. But the difficulty I had in locating the contact number made me think that SQ does not encourage its customers to speak to its officers.

I finally managed to get the number and got through to a woman who spoke with a very strong Indian accent. She said her name was Ruchira, confirming at the same time that she was speaking from a call centre, which she described as "a commercial desk".

When I told her about my problem, she tried to check but could not enlighten me. However, she gave me a number to call.

I did and got through to another woman, Zaza. She was helpful but, like her colleague, was not able to offer a reason. Knowing that I was getting exasperated, she said she would transfer me to another colleague who should be able to help.

When Shamin came on the line, I repeated my problem and again was made to wait while he went to check. He did not give an answer when I asked him whether the problem arose because of the redemption ticket.

He asked to try logging on to the Silkair website to get my wife's ticket confirmed.

My question is, why didn't they tell me this in the first place?

As I was late for a lunch appointment, I decided that I would try the Silkair website upon my return. Curiously, just as I left my house, SQ sent an email alert to ask that I check in through the Silkair website.

I have since done that and succeeded in confirming my wife's ticket. But I am still not clear why I could do it on the SQ website and she could not!!!! Would SQ blame it on its troublesome, revamped website? I hope not.

But the confirmation issue was not the only thing that got me hot under the collar this morning. Something else I saw on the Silkair website made me blow my top.

More than two months ago when we did our Chengdu bookings, I wanted to mae a seat selection for my wife. But I could not because SQ said the sector was operated by its partner airline and no seat selection was allowed.

At that time, August 8 to be exact, I found the practice a bit strange. When I called the Silkair office later to inquire, an officer named Vera told me that the seat selection service had been stopped. She could not offer any reason for the action.

This morning, when I logged on to the Silkair website to confirm the ticket, to my surprise, a message flashed across the screen to say: "Please be advised that seat selection may be limited on a fully-booked flight."

Wow, what a revelation!!! So there was in fact seat selection, but why was I told otherwise on August 8??? SQ could not have changed its mind between then and now.

I cannot wait for SQ's response to this mystery. Stay tune...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Heidi gets a re-contract fee waiver from Singtel finally

Undergrad Heidi Tan has reported good news from Singtel. The telco has agreed to waive the re-contract fee which it wanted to impose after she had to get a new phone to replace the one that was pickpocketed (see earlier post, Pickpocket takes Heidi's mobile; telco penalises her.)

Heidi was obviously upset when the telco told her about the penalty. She wrote to me about a week ago and her story was posted in my blog. I also informed Singtel about it.

Things moved pretty fast after that. The telco contacted me to ask for Heidi's contact as she had used her Chinese name in her contract.

The two parties eventually got together to resolve her problem. Last night, a delighted Heidi emailed me to say:

"Finally, we have resolved all the issues today. She (the telco's customer service officr) said that she has updated the system to waive my re-contract fee, as a gesture of goodwill. This was delivered as promised upon receiving my police report. I have it in email, so I guess that means it is in black and white.

"Hooray, I am so happy!"

Heidi made a police report after she was pickpocketed at Raffles City . But when she went to Singtel to get a replacement phone, she was told that she would only be eligible for the 21 months' upgrade from 6 June 2012. And under the 12 months' upgrade programme, the top-up charge of $300 is payable.

Singtel had told her: "In view of the price of the handsets sold to customers upon upgrade, we seek your kind understanding that we are not able to waive the top-up charge.

"Our record indicates that the line has an outstanding two years' contract which will expire on 8 Sept 2012. If the line is ceased, the gradated penalty of the set is payable."

Well, I am glad that the telco finally acceded to her request for the fee waiver. Bouquet for Singtel for being flexible and Heidi for not giving up.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Daily dose of boo-n-bouquets

While reading the papers this morning, I was both heartened and saddened by some of the reports regarding the care for service in Singapore.

However, that gave me an idea to start a daily review of the cheerful and not-so-cheerful things that are happening around us (on condition that I am not away. ). So, here goes:

BOUQUET to Changi General Hospital for treating four-year-old American Julian Hanusz for a cut on his forehead. His father, Mark, was so impressed not only with the service but the fee ($85) as well. He wrote a letter to the Forum Page to express his gratitude.

Mark says "tears welled up in my eyes" because he had been charged $16,000 at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital for a "minor knee injury". He did not say when this took place.

They were going home after a holiday here when the boy had the accident at the airport.

BOO-QUET to SMRT for planning to phase out its fleet of 15 London cabs when their eight-year licences expire. This will deprive or restrict many disabled people who are wheelchair-bound commuters from getting around.

I wonder whether SMRT has tried talking to the Land Transport Authority to resolve the issue which is basically a question of profitability.

I also wonder what has happened to its Corporate Social Responsiblity!!!!
BOO-QUET to Samsung for mishandling a customer's phone when it was sent in for servicing. When account executive Nio Jian Qiang got it back last week, he found a stranger's private files in his phone.

Apparently, somebody else's miccroSD card was left in his phone. According to Samsung, the culprit was a former technician who had put in the card for testing.

The mystery is that the card was from a phone that was reported lost by a schoolboy in an Internet cafe in July. Samsung is investigating.

BOUQUET to National University Hospital and four other agencies for coming up with a scheme that takes community elderly care a big step forward.

Called the Singapore Programme for Integrated Care for the Elderly (Spice), the scheme, launched yesterday, brings service to the old folks' homes. For example, these people are given their baths and meals.

At the moment, most rehabilitation centres do not serve such people outside their premises.

The other four agencies involved in the project are: voluntary welfare group Sathya Sai Social Service, the Agency for Integrated Care, and two private medical groups --- Frontier Healthcare, which runs a chain of family clinics, and geriatricians from the Agewell Artsz Medical Group.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rocks Urban Grill and Bar sucks, says Gin Nee

"Great food. Great taste. It rocks." --- that's the tagline Rocks Urban Grill and Bar at The Sail in Marina Bay uses to promote itself.

But as far as Gin Nee Goh is concerned, it sucks. This was after she was told off by the owner of the restaurant, Roxan Villareal, for cancelling her lunch booking for seven people yesterday.

Apparently, he did not care to listen to her reason for making the cancellation, which was made 30 minutes before the appointment.

After the scolding she received, Gin Nee wrote the following email to the restaurant to complain:

"I would like to provide feedback on a very negative and disapppointing encounter with your restaurant. I had made a reservation for seven people at your restaurant and unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances as a result of last-minute unavailability amongst the lunch party, had to cancel the reservation about half an hour before we were due to turn up for lunch.

"I had called the restaurant at the very first opportunity to cancel the reservation so that the restaurant would be able to release the table.

"During the call, I also apologised (very sincerely, I must add) for the cancellation. In turn, I received an extremely rude response rebuking me for cancelling last minute, and telling me I should never make another reservation at the restaurant with my name, and that I am not welcomed ever to dine at the restaurant.

"I am sure restaurants face frustration and inconvenience when customers fail to turn up at the last minute but this I believe, is part and parcel of operating in the restaurant industry, and should never warrant the customer having to suffer such a rude response.

"This, I also believe, applies even to the highly acclaimed restaurants. Also, a restaurant situated in the financial hub and being one of the options for client lunches should be flexible enough to understand that professionals like us very often do not have control over our own schedules and inevitably get called up for last-minute meetings etc which ensue in client lunches then getting cancelled.

"The treatment I received was highly unprofessional (despite the effort I took to actually call the restuarant to inform of the cancellation) and is the worst experience I have ever encountered with a restaurant, be it dining with clients or on a personal basis.

"So now that my client lunch is rescheduled, I would need to make another lunch booking, but I would definitely take your advice to never ever step into your restaurant again. P/s: There is no lack of good restaurants in Singapore where I am certain I would be more than welcomed."

Instead of getting an apology for the appallingly rude encounter, Gin Nee was shocked when she received an email respomse from the owner Villareal himself, all written in caps no less:



To this, Gin Nee coolly replied: "Truly disappointed that the lovely people in MY lovely country have to put up with an attitude like that. It's a good thing we have choices. Such un-lovely attitude has no place here. Would strongly recommend that Mr Villareal tries a new dish - humble pie."


Monday, October 17, 2011

It's only words, DBS

The turnover of relationship managers must be very high at DBS Bank. Every few months I would receive a letter from the bank to inform me that I have a new RM.

I really do not mind the change, knowing that the economy is still humming and opportunities for such personnel abound. So it is to be expected that they will be moving around to gather as much hay as they can while the sun is still shining.

But what I find rather annoying is that in the letter that I receive, there will invariably be a sentence to say that the new RM "will be in touch with you soon."

My experience has been that these RMs never do. My guess is that they consider me "a waste of time" because I have stopped buying any of its products and I do not do any kind of trading through the bank.

I hope the bank would just send me an SMS to inform me of the change in RM and not waste time and money sending me that standard letter.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Watery lollies from Cold Storage leave Lucia hot and bothered

Blogger Auntie Lucia alerted me yesterday to a post she wrote about how ice lollies she had bought from Cold Storage's Chancery Lane outlet turned out to be a watery mess.

Reading that, I guess one would think that such lollies would be in that state anyway if left unrefrigerated for a period of time.

But Lucia says: "Nope, i ... didn’t leave the box (of lollies) lying around on the kitchen or dining table. It went straight into the freezer."
And she adds that she had not been carrying the box around for half a day.

"I live across the road from the Chancery Lane outlet and drove home right home after paying my bill at 15.14.56," she explains. "As I drove, not walk home, it was a bare 5-minute drive and hardly long enough for the lollies to have melted."

At around 4pm, when her mum’s helper Siti went to the freezer to get a lolly for mum, she found on opening the box, that "each and every one was lembek or soft."

Unconvinced, Lucia checked and "sure enough, every lolly was soft, clearly having melted since don’t know when within their wrappers and the box they came in."

Her first reaction was to throw the whole pack away and forget about the $4.85 she had paid for it, remembering at the back of her mind what a nephew once said: “Your time is so cheap meh!”

However, on second thoughts, she decided "not to let Cold Storage get away with it" and, armed with the pack of melted ice lollies, drove back to Cold Storage across the road.

At Cold Storage, she "was somewhat mollified by the carpark lady guard who on hearing that I’d come to return “bad food” allowed me to get into the carpark without paying the mandatory $1.50 parking fee. At least she empathised with my having to make a return trip."

She bristles: "Indeed, had my reception at the supermarket been as acommodating, I might not have written this post at all.

"But no, the supervisor I spoke to and showed my unacceptable purchase to said with a deadpan face:'Ok, you go and get another box.'

"No word of apology. No pleasantries. Nothing. And she wasn’t even serving another customer.

"Actually when I set out, I had intended an exchange. But her take-it-or-leave-it attitude invited me to leave it so I said: 'No, I want a refund.'

"To which she replied: 'Did you pay by card or cash?'

"As I fumbled in my wallet for the receipt, she repeated her question, deadpan.

“ 'Card,' I said, still fumbling for the receipt.

“ 'Just give me the card.'

"I did as instructed, even though by then I had found the receipt and proffered it and which she ignored.

"The refund went through at 16.12.25."

Lucia says the lollies she bought was "not a First Choice brand but an F & N brand, so you might say the fault lay with the manaufacturers." But as the supermarket distributing the lollies, she thinks Cold Storage has a duty to ensure that the stuff it sells is edible.

This was not Lucia's first encounter with Cold Storage. The first was in June when she discovered that its weighing machine was faulty. I had published her complaint in my blog and the supermarket duly contacted her to do damage control.

Moral of this latest encounter, she says is that "I should have learnt my lesson and give the Chancery Lane outlet a miss."

But its nearness to her home is Lucia's " Archilles' heel". "So serves me right for going there again and again, despite the overcharging and indifferent service," she sighs.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pickpocket takes Heidi's mobile; telco penalises her

Undergrad Heidi Tan's mobile phone was pickpocketed at Raffles City last Saturday. She made a police report and promptly went to Singtel to get a replacement phone.

That was when her disillusionment with the telco started. Her friend told her about my blog and she emailed me this story...

"A most unfortunate incident happened to me last Saturday, and Singtel just had to make it worse with their unsympathetic response.

"I lost my phone last Saturday. In fact, I got pickpocketed at Raffles City, no less. Unfortunately, even though they were caught on CCTV, I did not manage to catch them in time. Hence, a police report was made, and it was classified as theft.

"So, I set about to get a replacement phone. I got my replacement sim card without any problems. However, I was told by the woman at Hello shop Singtel building branch that even though it was a theft, I had yet to fulfil 21 months of contractual obligations, and thus I still had to pay $300 to renew my contract, under the 12-month upgrade.

"She said that I could call the 1688 customer service number to try and get a waiver. Following Monday, my father called on my behalf. He was informed that the manager would call him back either that night, or the next morning.

"However, we received no calls. Finally, my father made another call to Singtel. It seems that the manager had no intention to call him at all.

"After much persistence, my father only managed to talk to the supervisor. The supervisor was of no help at all, giving us a negative response right from the start.

"In fact, the supervisor offered us a waiver of one-month subscription fees. Yet, his subordinate had actually offered us a waiver of three months subscription fees!

"It seemed pretty apparent at that moment that the protocol for handling waivers were, to say the least, pretty laissez-faire. My father was fuming. He thought it was ridiculous that after waiting till the next day for a call, the customer service manager thought that his matter was too trivial, or thought it beneath himself/herself to speak to a customer.

"Either way, it did not make a lot of business sense. And my father just insisted that I terminate the line and pay the early termination charges.

"Hence, I called them personally to say I would like to terminate the line. The caller on the other line, upon my request, was only interested to know if I knew that there was a charge for early termination, and whether I was intending to pay it.

"Absolutely no questions asked about reason for termination, and no attempt to retain the customer. I was crushed.

"Assuming that there were no excess charges, I was paying them $62 a month. What am I, to them? Just another customer?

"My boyfriend, feeling all apologetic for persuading me to take up a Singtel line, decided to draft an email for me to send to them. Maybe an email will work, he said. Telephone operators sometimes just do not know better.

"Just for a better chance, I sent my mail to two different addresses. Both came back after a day. The first one, was this...

"Dear Ms Tan,

Thank you for your email. We appreciate the concerns that you have highlighted. Unfortunately, we regret that we are unable to waive the $300 surcharge. Thank you for your support thus far and have a pleasant day."

Yes. That’s all. I typed a letter that was at least 10times as long as his reply. To a customer, it means “I really don’t care”. Or ctrl+c, ctrl+v. (That’s cut and paste, btw.) And may I ask how to enjoy a "pleasant day"?
The second reply....

"Dear Ms Tan,

Thank you for sharing your concern with us in your email of 11 October. We are sorry to hear that you have lost your mobile set. Our record under your line xxxxxxxxx indicates that it is currently eligible for the 12 months upgrade.

"It will be eligible for the 21 months upgrade from 6 June 2012. Under the 12 months upgrade program, the top-up charge of $300 is payable.

"In view of the price of the handsets sold to customers upon upgrade, we seek your kind understanding that we are not able to waive the top-up charge.

"Our record indicates that the line has an outstanding two years' contract which will expire on 8 Sept 2012. If the line is ceased, the gradated penalty of the set is payable.

"In view of that, please do consider retaining the line till the expiry of the contract. In view of that, we have not taken any action on the line till we hear from you again with your further instruction.

"Once again, Ms Tan, we apologise for the inconvenience and seek your kind understanding on this matter. Thank you for your support and have a pleasant day."

"This one is much longer. I acknowledge that she cared a little more. But then again, it was probably just a larger chunk of cut and paste. In the first half, policy regarding the 12 month upgrade was reiterated. In case they failed to realize, yes, we know the policy.

"If our action plan was something that was covered in policy, why would we go to such troubles to get it done? In my email, I mentioned the earlier part about no attempt being made to retain the customer.

"Good that she tried to do what her colleagues failed to. But retaining customer, because if you don’t, “the gradated penalty of the set is payable?” Is this customer care, may I ask? Or does customer threat sound more appropriate for their department?

"I’m appalled and disgusted to finally realise how insignificant we personal mobile line customers are to telcos, and also aghast at how low our service standards are, if the leading telco in Singapore’s service is anything to go by.

"While I understand that there are procedures to follow, shouldn't they review it on a case-by-case basis so that loyal subscribers like me, do not fall through the cracks, getting punished on top of getting pickpocketed?"

Heidi has taken a lot of trouble to vent her frustration. Let's hope Singtel listens to her problem again and waive the penalty.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Revamped SQ website continues to bug Anne Wong

Anne Wong emailed me her latest problem with Singapore Airlines' website on October 6 but I was busy and failed to read it... until now.

She had booked a flight to Hong Kong but the website "just will not let me change my booking". This is her story...

"Tonight (Oct 6), I attempted to change my flight, HKG-SIN on October 24, 2011 to October 16, 2011.

"But it was going to cost HK$382 more. When I continued, I was UNABLE to to go much further because my Krisflyer number was rejected.

"This is despite the name (Anne Wong Holloway) and number being EXACTLY the same with which I logged into the website for the transaction!

"The only reason I could give for this is that the boarding pass I printed out for my flight to HKG tomorrow morning carries this name: ANNE WONG PUI HUNG ELIZABETH.

"There is no logical reason for this name to be on my boarding pass because I changed this years ago (effected 2005 to be exact, when I got tired of having to fill in forms with such a long name including a Chinese name I never use. And had to make a conscious effort to respond when Elizabeth Wong was called!) and have been travelling with SQ boarding passes in the name of Anne Wong Holloway for years.

"My Krisflyer account has the correct name but the name on my boarding pass is way out of date.

"WHY? Because only a couple of weeks ago I emailed SQ to correct my address in Hong Kong as the website profile listed an address that has not been used for several years!

"But then, calling the Krisflyer number 6789 8188 was no help either; a polite woman listened to me, but without being able to show her the screen shots, she did not understand what I was trying to say.

"In the end she could only suggest I call the Hong Kong ticketing office tomorrow - by which time, with my luck vis a vis SIA, the fares would have gone up!

"Now please will someone help me and also give an affectionate kick on the backside to SQ's IT department for not hurrying up.

"If this had happened in America, the airline would have suffered financially because it isn't as close and convenient to get to any airline office as it is in Asian cities. And people in Asia do not rely as heavily on airline web sites as abroad."

I hope Anne managed to sort out her problems. Meanwhile, the woes of the SQ revamped website remains.... So much for "It's a great way to fly."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hilarious --- Irene's experience with Starhub service

Starhub customer Irene Hoe must be totally exasperated with the service provided by the telco.

If you were to count the number of times she has experienced "non-existing" service from the telco, you would begin to appreciate her frustration.

The latest happened late last month after she sent the following message to Starhub:

"Subject: Book 592001 # front of porch

Yesterday morning, I tried three or four times to send this message.
Each time, I received this message in return "Resource unavaiable".
What was the problem?
Was this a BlackBerry problem or a Starhub problem?

Irene Hoe
Xingapore Ink

------ SMS ------
To: 71222
Sent: Jul 28, 2011 09:51
Subject: Book 592001 # front of porch

Book 592001 # front of porch "

What followed was not only hilarous, it would also make a superb case study for those in the communications and service industries.

Enjoy the exchange:

On 29 July 2011 12:08, StarHub wrote to Irene:

"Hi Irene Hoe,

Thank you for contacting StarHub Blackberry Helpdesk.

The sms format that you tried to send is to

We tried sending with the same format and to the same number but we do not received the same error on our end.
Instead we received an error: SMS format was incorrect.

Please check from the vendor as this is neither StarHub or Blackberry

Should problem persist, please reply with your contact details for us to
call back and assist you further.

Thank you.

Best Regards,
StarHub Ltd
Customer Service, Technical Helpdesk

Moments later, Irene replied:

"Subject: Re: Book 592001 # front of porch



Why did I write that in caps? Because you clearly did not read my message to Starhub with due care.


I did not try to contact an online bookstore.

The addressee of the SMS message I sent, which was bounced with the error message RESOURCE UNAVAILABLE was Comfort Delgro.

I often send the SAME message to the SAME number.

I sent the SAME message this morning and got the taxi I had requested. The problem happened the day before.


What I do not understand is how you managed to deduce that I tried to SMS an online bookstore.

I must therefore conclude, Nurul, that it is eminently possible that you are a computer that has been wrongly programmed.

In which case, the time I have spent writing this message has been in vain.

In the event that you are not a computer, I suggest that it would be a darned good idea for you to spend more care and time reading a customer's email before you jump to odd conclusions.

Of course, it may be that this really is not part of your job and you were only doing a colleague a favour, and your real work lies someplace other than answering the queries of customers.

Irene Hoe
Xingapore Ink
(In case there is a doubt, this message was written by a real human being and not a computer) "

Less than an hour later, Nurul wrote back:

"Hi Ms Irene,

Please accept my sincere apologies for the initial response to your email and we do appreciate your clarification on the matter.

Regarding the error message: Resource Unavailable, that you have experienced when you used ComfortDelGro's SMS taxi booking service (SMS-A-Cab: 71222), we have escalated the case to our Network Engineers for further analysis. We will share their findings with you upon receiving their reply.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Best Regards,
StarHub Ltd

Starhub followed this up with another reply from its Technical Helpdesk
later in the day:

"Dear Ms Irene,

We have checked the prepaid cards under your account: 81160122, 91617892 and 91028813. However there are no SMS records sent to 71222 that we can see since there is no cost deducted from your prepaid wallet for the transaction. May we verify the mobile number that you have used for the ComfortDelGro's SMS taxi booking service (SMS-A-Cab: 71222) please?

Thank you.

Roy Looi
StarHub Ltd
Customer Service, Technical Helpdesk

Irene replied to inform the telco that the SMS was from her BlackBerry,
NOT from her prepaid cards.

The following day, 30 July, Nurul wrote:

"Hi Ms Irene,

Based from trace yesterday for mobile number 90111949, a sms was sent to 71222001 at 10:21hrs and another sms to 71222002 at 22:06hrs without any error.

We are still checking with our Network Engineers for further analysis. We will update you again."

At this stage, I could feel the increasing frustration from Irene when
she replied:

"Sigh. The problem did NOT happen yesterday.
Please read the original email.
I just wanted to know WHY the messages that day, NOT yesterday, did not go through."

Shortly after, Nurul wrote to apologise, claiming it was a "typo error".
Then on 3 August, Roy Looi of
Starhub sent Irene an email to tell her about the possible causes...

"Hi Ms Irene

Our SMSC Network Engineers and RIM have updated us on the reported error message that you have encountered on your BlackBerry handset.

From their findings, we see that there could be several causes to the error message: Resource Unavailable as displayed on your BlackBerry handset whenever you are unable to send a SMS to the ComfortDelGro's SMS taxi booking service (SMS-A-Cab: 71222).

These possible causes are as follows,

1. Your device is temporarily out of range and thus does not have sufficient network coverage to send SMS at the location. Hence the BlackBerry handset would reflect the error message since the mobile network is not available at that particular instance. Once the handset is re-connected to the mobile network, the SMS will be sent successfully. As shared previously, our SMSC Engineers verified that there are no records of any SMS sent out to 71222 on 28 July 11. Therefore the SMS would have remained unsent in your phone and so did not reach our mobile network.

To resolve this, please move to another location with better network coverage or wait for your BlackBerry device to come back online. Alternatively, you may toggle the Mobile Service of your BlackBerry Off/On to re-establish network connection manually.

2. There is network coverage but the network may be out of capacity at that instance. However this is unlikely as the frequency spectrum allocated for each planned cell is more than adequate for sending SMS. We will agree that the error message: Resource Unavailable, is generated by the handset rather than the network since network alarm error messages (which is also a different error message) will not be sent to customer’s handsets.

3. The error message was returned by the vendor’s i.e ComfortDelgro’s SMS service.

As these findings remain inconclusive, RIM is requesting for your BlackBerry handset event logs for their review and continued investigation. Please refer to the following link from RIM’s Knowledge Base which will assist you in extracting the event logs for your BlackBerry handset.

How to extract the event logs on a BlackBerry smartphone

This will help provide them with more information to determine the cause for the error message that you have encountered by your BlackBerry handset. We appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter."

Two days later, when Irene did not respond, Roy Looi wrote again:

"We have yet to hear from you.

"The RIM ticket opened for this case is INC000023409936. If you require assistance in extracting the log file for your BlackBerry handset, please provide us with a contact number (preferably a land line) and a convenient time for us to reach you."

When Irene finally responded, she was obviously in a foul mood.
She said:

"Roy, I am no geek.

I haven't the slightest idea what a log file is or how it is extracted or from where it should be extracted.

I would imagine that 99 per cent of BlackBerry users would be in the same position.

All I wanted, all I asked for - if anyone at Starhub really bothered to read what I wrote initially - was an explanation of how and why this failure happened.

Instead, your people began by saying it HADN'T happened. Don't take my word for it. Just look at the email trail.

After too many exchanges of useless email messages, your last but one message offered a possible explanation.

But not before Starhub had once again proved to me that customers finish last in your company's service sweepstakes.

Did I really say "service"? Well, I'm not sure it exists at all at Starhub.

This is not simply a reaction to this particular incident, but to my whole sorry history of Starhub.

You may consider this closed. For now."

Those of you from the communications and service industries may draw your own conclusions from all this. But one thing's for sure: Starhub has failed to nail down Irene's problem in the first instance and it could have it all sorted out easily with a simple telephone call to her.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Faith tells of her bad experience at Marmalade Pantry in Ion Orchard

Faith Sim, who works and lives in Hong Kong, is back for her annual summer holiday. Last year when she was here, she lunched at E Food and Wine in Dempsey Road and was full of praise for its child-friendliness. She wrote to me and I posted her story on my blog.

But she had a different experience this time --- not at the E restaurant but at Marmalade Pantry in Ion Orchard. She obviously wanted to get it out of her system, so she wrote to tell me about it.

Here's her letter of complaint to the restaurant:

"I'm writing in with regards to the lunch experience that I had at your outlet at Ion this afternoon. I am a Singaporean who works and lives in Hong Kong. I'm back in Singapore on my annual summer break. I decided to meet my close friend with her husband at your Ion outlet with my 11-month old son. They were very excited to meet my son as they have not met him before.

"We did have a great time catching up since we only see each once a year and there's nothing to fault the food that was served to us.

"However the lunch experience was marred by a certain wait staff of yours. My 11-month old son was very happy and excited to see my friends and thus he was squealing with excitement and happiness.

"A pudgy female wait staff (sorry, didn't manage to catch her name) came to me and told me that there the other guests were complaining of the baby's squeals and she said that she's not chasing us away but just to let us know.

"I was quite upset about it. When my frend got to the restaurant, she informed the wait staff that there will be a baby joining her for lunch, none of your staff told us that no babies are allowed. There were no signs to say that no babies were not allowed too. Plus your menu does have child meals.

"Therefore we took it that it is a child friendly or baby friendly cafe. I've worked as a wait staff throughout my days at university and interestingly, I graduated with a Bachelor of Hotel Management. I do not have to teach or train your staff to manage the expectations of the other guests. I am a paying guest and I have a right eat and drink in the cafe just like everyone else too.

"Has your staff also considered what if I had a special child who was not able to control his behavior? Wouldn't that be hurtful as well? He was sitting in his high chair having fun and therefore he squealed. He wasn't running around and knocking into people and causing breakages?

"The cafe is set in the middle of a shopping mall and it is not a fine dining restaurant that we have to speak in hush tones. There's noise everywhere. Manage the guests and think of a way to solve the issue.

"I can understand if other guests were irate with the baby's incessant crying or screaming but he was having fun and was excited.

"By the way, as I was walking out, there was a Caucasian lady with a baby that was crying and it seemed to me that nothing was been said to her. Am I singled out because I'm Asian and Singaporean and therefore your wait staff told me off but with the Caucasian lady, she's not saying anything? This is racism and being discriminatory.

"This has really left a bad taste in my mouth. I will not be patronising your outlets anymore."

Looks like Marmalade Pantry has lost at least one customer!


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Misleading ad: Case gives warning to IT retailer Challenger

Case has finally taken action against giant IT retailer Challenger -- three months after Anne Wong Holloway complained to the consumer watchdog about a misleading advertisement taken out by the company during the IT Show in March this year.

However, the "warning" it has given to Challenger seems like a tap on the wrist, especially when the company had obviously taken its time to respond to letters by Case.

Challenger's ad was published in the mainstream newspapers during the IT Show on March 10 with a bold headline, "We Match Show Pricing".

But Anne found it was not true when she went to its Funan Centre outlet to buy a Canon all-in-one printer.

She wrote to me about her experience. I posted her story on March 13 and alerted both Case and Challenger about the complaint.

Two days ago, Thevanathan Pillay, Case's Assistant Director (Legal), emailed me to say that Challenger had "agreed to refrain from publishing future ads of similar
nature to those found in Today and Straits Times. They have agreed to
exercise caution for future advertisements so that it is in compliance with
the Consumer Protection fair Trading Act."

Pillay added: "We take note of their promise and will monitor whether
future advertisements are misleading."

When I informed Anne about the Case reply, she was not happy with its response to Challenger.

She said: "The delay and passing the buck ensured that this incident would be 'lost' and forgotten until nothing concrete can be done. No one wanted to offend an advertiser who spends money placing advertisements --- no matter how misleading and the line of least resistance was to let things pass.

"It just goes to show how little protection is afforded to consumers in Singapore.

"Since there is NO evidence of CASE's letter to Challenger (and their ad agency) nor Challenger's reply, we cannot assume any action was taken or that Challenger 'agreed to exercise caution for fture advertisements so that it is in compliance with the Consumer Protection fair Trading Act.'

"Until there is REAL protection for consumers and the individual in Singapore, we will not be truly in the 'first' world. After all, if we have a Consumer Proetection Fair Trading Act, why is there no penalty for non-compliance?"

Shortly after Anne's comments, Pillay wrote to explain: "What we have done was to write to Challenger to inform them that such an advertisement is not acceptable and inform them we do not expect a repetition of this.

"They have replied agreeing not to do the same in the future. If any person have suffered monetary loss because of the events they can pursue the matter against Challenger as a civil claim as a breach of contract for which CASE can assist.

"We do not view the matter as so serious as to warrant further action by CASE. Our letter to Challenger is considered a warning letter.

"What is important is to inform Challenger of the existence of the relevant Act and get assurance which they have given that their future advertisements will comply with the CPFTA. This is the first time we have receive complaints of this nature concerning Challenger's advertisement . We will monitor future advertisements."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Membership has its privileges? Not with Amex, says customer Irene Hoe

Amex asked for it --- "Tell us what you think (of our service)"

Ever willing to please, Irene Hoe decided to give it to them. She tried to fill up a Customer Service Satisfaction Survey online.

But she got no satisfaction. So she wrote to Amex to tell about her experience....

"I tried.. I spent nearly an hour writing my responses to your questions.

"Then I got to the question that asks what your could have done to make me recommend your card to others,

"I wrote my answer and hit CONTINUE

"But it wouldn't let me. It said that one or more questions on that page needed additional input.

"What other question?

"There was only one question and I had answered it,

"After a few attempts, I decided to call the number at the back of my card as the webpage helpfully suggested.

"So you wait five to 10 minutes while they play the horrible fractured muzak that needs replacing (but of course no one from Amex would call that line so they never know) and then a guy comes on and tells you that he is sorry but he really has no idea what I should do.

"This is just a précis of the fruitless conversation that can make anyone feel that he is talking to a service manual.

"So I decided to google Mr Russell Nickson who had sent me this wonderful form letter inviting me to use the website to tell Amex about my telephone conversation.

"And I found that like me, he was on LinkedIn but wasn't accepting any inMail or invitations to link up. I don't have to guess why!

"I also found a totally laughable collection of politically-correct corporately-correct statements he had made, which absolutely do not reflect my experience with Amex.

"And that's only the latest episode of my encounters with Amex, which has managed to decline my credit card in at least seven countries in the last three years and four times in Singapore this month alone.

"If this is what this company means by "membership has its privileges" it's time we stopped paying for them."

Unfortunately, Irene's feedback may not read. Exactly 57 minutes after she had sent her email to Amex, back came this reply:

"Dear American Express® Cardmember,

This message is automatically generated. To ensure the security of your account information, we cannot reply to inquiries sent through non-secure email.

To contact us by phone, please call the number on the back of your Card.

To view information specific to your country, please click on the appropriate link below:
(what follows is a list of countries with links to their respective Amex websites)."

It is hard to believe that for a multi-national, Amex does not entertain email from its customers!!! Membership has its privileges, indeed!!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cold Storage overcharging: 'What's the big deal?'

Lulin Reutens has written to me to defend Cold Storage (CS) against blogger Lucy Tan's complaint of overcharging because of a faulty weighing machine.

She says: "CS is a huge chain with hundreds of cash registers, each with a weighing machine. Isn't it possible that just one machine malfunctioned, and only for one item?

"The difference was a couple of dollars. I cannot believe CS was trying to cheat anyone for such a tiny amount and only once. And the suggestion of reporting (by a reader of the blog) to the weight and measures people seems like over-reacting.

"Anyway, she pointed out the error and they corrected it and she bought the item at the correct price. So what's the big deal?

"I would be the first to complain about bad service and cheating behaviour. But don't you think we should be more judicious in our complaints?

"Singaporeans already have a reputation of being complainers. Doing it without thought would not help our cause."

Complaint about SIA toilet paper

As Lulin was giving her take on the CS complaint, she took the opportunity to mention her own about Singapore Airlines' toilet paper.

"What is the rationale behind SIA having only tissue paper in their planes' toilets, including the hand towel holders?" she asks.

"Have you tried drying your hands with tissue paper? No wonder bits and pieces fall into the sink and get washed down, clogging the slots in the draining hole.

"Is tissue paper so much cheaper than proper paper towels that it is worth annoying passengers? Or is it because economy class passengers don't deserve proper paper towels?

"If paper towels fill the waste paper container faster than tissues, then get the flight attendants to empty them more often!

"I have written feedback forms regarding this but have never received a reply. No other airlines that I have flown with use tissues for paper towels."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Game of small prints: Citibank joins in

More institutions and merchants seem to have jumped into the game of small prints. This is a game whereby they say one thing in bold prints in their advertisements but the qualifications or conditions are set out in tiny ones that challenge one's eyesight.

Three months ago, Anne Wong Holloway complained to Case about a misleading ad put out by IT retailer Challenger. It was published in the mainstream newspapers during the IT Show on March 10 with a bold headline, "We Match Show Pricing".

But Anne found that it was not true when she went to its Funan Centre outlet to buy a Canon all-in-one printer. (See blog, THE TRUTH IN CHALLENGER'S AD on March 13) . All the conditions were set out in the small prints at the bottom of the ad.

I posted her story on March 13 and told both Case and Challenger about the feedback. To date, nothing has been heard from the company even after Case wrote a second letter to it earlier this month.

Yesterday, while shopping at the Paragon, I found another case of the small prints. This time, the culprit was Citibank.

In promoting its credit cards during the Great Singapore Sale, the bank promises to give a further 5 per cent discount to its customers who use its cards.

I had bought two boxes of golf balls from one of the shops when I spotted the Citibank poster saying: "Additonal 5% off discounted price items".

As I was using my Citibank card to pay, I decided to ask the salesman whether I was entitled to the extra discount.

His answer was "No".

I countered: "Why not?"

His reply: "Read the small prints".

I decided that I should, just to satisfy my curiosity. Squinting my eyes, I managed to read one sentence that says: "Offer is not valid on discounted items above 40% off".

The salesman was right, but Citibank -- just like Challenger -- are wrong in trying to mislead. It certainly does not do their reputation any good.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bus fare overcharging

I like this letter (below) written by a bus passenger complaining about overcharging in the Today newspaper today. We should have more people like Tan Seng Wei to keep our service providers on their toes.

How hard is it to measure the distance?

"I AM writing to highlight the unfair distance-fare charged when travelling by bus between the Johor Bahru checkpoint and Woodlands checkpoint.

Since the end of November last year, the road between the checkpoints has been "straightened". But distance used for calculating the bus fare remains at 3.3km (S$0.81 per trip).

I have measured the distance using my phone GPS and the distance shown was only approximately 2km (S$0.71 per trip). Many people travelling across the Causeway are being overcharged every day.

I wrote to the Land Transport Authority several times and the last response I got in April was: "We are currently arranging with the bus operator and the Malaysian Authority for permission to enter Johor to measure the distance. Please bear with us as it will take some time to get the measurement done. We have no jurisdiction in areas under the purview of Malaysia."

It has been two months since and there is still no change to the bus fare. Is it really so hard and so complicated to get the distance measured correctly? As a commuter, I hope this issue can be resolved as soon as possible and refunds can be given to those who have been overcharged."

This story reminds me of the recent complaint by blogger Lucy Tan about overcharging by Cold Storage because of a faulty weighing machine.
Unless such issues are resolved quickly, consumers will continue to be overcharged.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cold Storage weighing machine that overcharges...

Shoppers, be warned! The weighing machines at Cold Storage outlets are not totally reliable as blogger Lucy Tan (Food Fuels Me To Talk) found out recently.

The one she went to at Chancery Lane overcharged her for a daikon. And she discovered it only because she had pre-weighed the white radish at the self-service machine.

Fortunately for her, she also happened to check her bill at the check-out counter and spotted the discrepany.

She has written to Alan Stephen Nementzik, a big shot in the company, to complain. Here's her letter:

"Dear Mr Nementzik:

It's been a while since I wrote to you. I've not been checking my Cold Storage bills over the months, mostly because there's always such a crush of people at CS outlets.

Also, I found that other places overcharge too and if I complained every time it happened, to every single shop, I would be doing nothing else!

However, very unfortunately for CS Chancery Lane, I saw a neighbour shopping there this afternoon and noticed she weighed all her mango purhases at the self-service weighing machine.

Since I wasn't buying much stuff this afternoon, I decided to emulate her and weighed the three or four items in my shopping list that were priced on a per 100 gm basis.

To cut a long story short, after I paid my bill, I noticed that the single daikon I bought was charged as one full kg ($5.40) when I distinctly remembered it as being well under 500gm when I pre-weighed.

I queried the cashier and she nonchantly said that's what the scanner showed. When I disagreed, she told another cashier to refund me. Which he duly did. And took back the daikon.

When I asked that he weighed it to prove that I wasn't mistaken, he did so. It weighed just 320gm. Then he asked whether I wanted to buy it. I said of course and I was charged $1.70!!!

Picture this to yourself: The $5.40 I was charged originally represents some 8% of my total bill. The difference between the actual price of $1.70 and what was charged originally is $3.70.

If all your customers are regularly overcharged some 5-6%, how much this must be adding to CS' profits? Even tho I've been overcharged elsewhere too, it just doesn't make it right to happen at CS, does it?

Yours sincerely
Lucy Tan"

Moral of the story: Make it a point to pre-weigh your purchases and check the figure against that on the bill at the check-out counter.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Case of "misleading" Challenger ad still unresolved

More than two months after Anne Wong-Holloway made a complaint about a "misleading" advertisement to consumer watchdog, Case, through my blog, we are still waiting patiently for an outcome.

The ad by IT retailer Challenger was published in the mainstream newspapers during the IT Show on March 10 with a bold headline, "We Match Show Pricing".

But Anne found out to her dismay that it was not true when she went to its Funan Centre outlet to buy a Canon all-in-one printer. (See blog, THE TRUTH IN CHALLENGER'S AD on March 13)

She decided to write to me. I posted her story on March 13 and alerted both Case and Challenger about the complaint.

Challenger did not even both to acknowledge my email. However, Case did, and the matter was given to the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) , an advisory council to Case, to look into.

ASAS' job is to promote ethical advertising in Singapore and is the self-regulatory body of the advertising industry.

A month after our complaint, nothing was heard from Case. So I emailed to ask what had happened.

Ms Aringi Ng, a Case official, replied: "The Council (of ASAS) finds that the matter should be referred to CASE to act under the CPFTA. We will inform CASE on this issue." CPFTA refers to the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act.

Well, we are still waiting for a verdict on what we see as a simple case of misrepresentation. I wonder what is taking Case so long!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Starhub, please buck up!

Starhub is reputably the worst service provider among our three telcos when it comes to mobile phone reception. Apparently, this is because it does not have sufficient transmitters to provide adequate coverage.

So subscribers are understandably upset when they are unable to make a call or send an sms especially when they are in places which they expect to have good coverage.

After being its customer for many, many years, I had given up waiting for it to improve its service coverage and switched to its rival M1 when I got my iPhone a couple of months ago.

My friend, Irene Hoe, who has been quite exasperated with Starhub's service for sometime, wrote to me today, saying:

"Whenever I am in the Clementi Polyclinic in Clementi Central, reception slips to no more than one or two bars.

"Each time I am here at the clinic, as I am now, at least once or twice there will be no reception at all and I'll see "searching for network" at the top of the screen.

"Meanwhile, I note that my M1 iPhone displays full or near full bars.

"This area, especially with the newly-opened Clementi Mall nearby, serves a large number of people. Moreover, the bus interchange is due to relocate there, so there will be even more potential users in the vicinity.

"So I fail to understand why reception for Starhub customers should be so poor - unless you deleted a transmitter while construction was underway and decided or neglected to replace it.

"I've reported this before - stupidly, only over 1633 instead of in writing - but it has been nearly a year and there seems to have been no improvement."

Well, it looks like Starhub may lose more of its customers if its does not listen and buck up.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

SBS acts on third-party apps developers' requests

SBS Transit has explained why it needed to block third-party apps from accessing information from its IRIS system.

It was responding to comments made by Lulin Reutens yesterday on why the move did not make sense. Lulin, by the way, does not own an iPhone and takes the bus occasionally.

In her email yesterday, Ms Tammy Tan, SBS Transit's Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications, explains:

"We have introduced a verification process to our iris information as many third party application developers were accessing our information without prior approval.

"Unfortunately, this could result in issues of information accuracy being provided to end-users since we have no control over these developers. But we recognise that it would be useful to end-users to have access to some of these apps.

"As such, we are currently evaluating several requests by third party application developers and assessing them based on the merits of their proposals.

"Separately, we will also be rolling out an iris app for Android users come this July in addition to the iPhone app that has already been available since April."

Bouquet to SBS Transit for recognising the needs of non-iPhone users and doing something about it.

SBS blocking of 3rd party apps makes no sense at all

Retiree Lulin Reutens, who takes the bus occasionally and does not have an iPhone, is peeved when she read, in The Straits Times yesterday, SBS Transit's reason for blocking third party apps from accessing information from its IRIS system.

"It makes no sense at all," she says.

In The Straits Times' report, SBS corp comm's Tammy Tan says the move is "to prevent unauthorised use of proprietary information" and that using the information without approval "could result in wrong information released to end users".

In an email to boo-n-bouquet today, Lulin counters: "Commuters will stop using those apps that give incorrect schedules and the reliable ones will gain popularity. This can only be a good thing; why should that be of concern to SBS?

"Anyway, isn't SBS's main job to get as many people to ride their buses as possible? And wouldn't allowing maximum access to their precious IRIS information help to do this?

"And most importantly, wouldn't that be of great service to their customers? Having the information in one's palm would be many times more convenient than the current situation. Apps developers who have asked for permission have been rejected. So what does SBS want?

"I can just hear SBS's collective minds ticking: How dare anyone make money (through ads) from information that SBS generates! Why not make the money ourselves and prevent others from gaining? Let's stop them, although our version is limited only to iPhone users and other versions won't be ready for months. What's the hurry? After all, commuters have managed without accurate schedules for years.

"What money SBS could make from ads in their own apps would be small change compared to the zillions the company makes from commuters. But it would be a great boost to the apps developers."

What Lulin says makes a lot of sense. We can only hope that SBS Transit will come to its senses.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Six months' wait to do a scan

I was surfing The Online Citizen website today when I came across this posting about a woman's experience with the Changi General Hospital which kept postponing her appointment for a scan.

Yvonne Leng says she had gone to a polyclinic in mid-February because of her agonizing backache. She was given an early April date to do a scan at the Changi General Hospital.

However, because of the numerous delays, her appointment was eventually fixed for the end of August.

"More than 6 months to see the doctor, just to do a scan?" she says. "This is ridiculous, unacceptable and simply insane.. I am really mad."

Here's her posting in The Online Citizen on May 11.

Six months’ wait – just to do a scan

"I had gone to a polyclinic in mid-February and requested to do a MRI scan for my chronic backache which gave me agonizing pain and was affecting my sleep and temperament.

" I was first given a slot in early April to see the orthopaedic doctor. I asked for the earliest slot possible and was told that was the earliest date. I had managed my expectations well, knowing it would take 2-3 months before I can see the doctor. So I waited.

"Come March, I was notified that my appointment had been postponed to almost another 2 months later, from early April to end of May instead. I wasn’t given any explanation; just a SMS and a letter that they “regret” to inform me that my appointment had been rescheduled.

"I decided to do the scan at a private hospital and got a slot the very next day. Results were out the following day too. This kind of efficiency costs me S$1,000 excluding the treatment sessions averaging about S$100 per half an hour. I too accepted it, because it was a non-subsidised hospital.

"6th May 2011, one day before election, I received a sms from CGH that my orthopaedic surgery appointment @ Changi General Hospital (CGH) had been once again delayed – for a second time. This time round delayed another 3 months from the already delayed date – end of August.

"More than 6 months to see the doctor, just to do a scan? This is ridiculous, unacceptable and simply insane. I do not actually need to see the doctor anymore, but I am really mad.

"I called the hospital and demanded an explanation. I was really really mad. And to my surprise, the operations manager reverted back to me within 3 hours and offered me an appointment slot that was just a few days later.

"I was very impressed with her professionalism and efficiency. But somehow this made me even more angry. If I were one of the poor, uneducated, non-complaining Singaporeans or one who does not know which channel to go for help, I would have to accept these delays in seeking medical treatment?

"Is it because my condition is not life threatening that I have to accept this kind of unprofessionalism and inefficiency? Or are the poor and weak supposed to have higher threshold for pain and their lives are not as worthy as the rich?

"I have since written to Ministry of Health and the Straits Times forum page. I have yet to hear from them. I am very sure a lot of people are facing the same problem. And as a fellow Singaporean, (not trying to be label as a typical complaining Singaporean) I think I have to voice out and make attempts to rectify issues like this.

"And convey the message that our healthcare system has a lot of room to improve on. I sincerely hope Ms Tin Pei Ling and Mr Khaw Boon Wan – both of whom espoused the affordability and efficiency of our healthcare system – will be able to read this and make sure what needs to be rectified will be rectified."

Yvonne's experience reminded me of my brother's experience a year ago with the Singapore General Hospital which took 68 days to fill up a medical report for an insurance claim --- despite numerous reminders.

My faith in our "first-class" national health services is eroding rather rapidly.