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."