DISCLAIMER: This is a readers submission and the Author remains anonymous
Before moving to Thailand I was, among many other things, a Customer Service Manager at a couple of call centers. I started with a Class Action Administration company, and later, after studying for and passing the Series 7 & 63 licensing exams to become a registered Stock Broker, I went to work for one of the country’s (USA) leading Financial Services companies.
Both companies had understandably high expectations in regards to any interchange on the phones. Just being polite, articulate, etc., was not enough. Because of the extreme legal volatility of both Class Action lawsuits and anything having to do with the Securities Industry, the calls could be of an extremely technical nature, and the Reps were expected to undergo rigorous training and follow-up monitoring for the entirety of their employment. A literally never-ending process of Quality Control.
The first company only allowed it’s phone reps to read answers, verbatim, from a large binder that was meticulously prepared by a team of lawyers, because in such matters, it’s very important that everybody get exactly the same information–to the word. The latter company was required by law to have anyone speaking to a client about matters involving the stock market, trading, etc. to be fully licensed as a; “Registered Representative”, or Stock Broker.
The financial services company also had an extensive website for trading, banking, credit card services, etc., which needed to be kept up to date in every conceivable way, or there would be hell to pay. So I’ll be the first to admit that when I call into a company’s customer service line, or RECEIVE a call from them, I have high expectations.
Expectations I will have to completely disabuse myself now that I live in; ‘The Kingdom’.
I’m moving to a house in Hang Dong, and it does not come furnished with a TV, like my current condo, so I had to buy one. After looking around the usual suspects (in the stores and malls), I found what seemed to be a good deal on the Big C “Online Shopping” website. I registered for the site and since I already have a Big C member card, that information was included, and I placed the TV in my cart, and checked out. This consisted of indicating whether I wanted home delivery, or delivery to a particular store, for customer pick-up. I opted for the latter because I’m literally in the process of moving, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to try delivery to my new address, so I picked a Big C Extra store close to my condo. There was no paying at the time of placing the order, and I suppose that should have clued me into what was coming, but I did indicate that I would pay cash on pick-up.
Now I should mention that my experience with online shopping back in the USA was fairly extensive, and I had, on multiple occasions, shopped online at stores that also had ‘Brick and Mortar’ stores, and this concept of ordering an item online for later pick-up at a local store was NOT uncommon. They might deliver to your door for a price, but offer FREE shipping to one of their stores.
So I placed the order on the Big C site, and shortly after got some kind of confirmation email.
Next day, I missed an early morning phone call, and I get another email from Big C saying they tried to call to confirm the order, but were unable to reach me. A little while later I get another phone call. I answer in English because that’s the only language I speak with ANY degree of fluency, and I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up. I placed the order on an English language version of the website, my name on the order is clearly in English text (or at least, certainly not in Thai), same for my email address, and all the information from my Big C member card.
Nonetheless, the man calling does not speak English.
Back now, to my own previously referenced Call Center experience.
During my time in Financial Services, we RARELY got a call from a non English speaking person. Nonetheless, we ABSOLUTELY had procedures in place to deal with the possibility. Simply put; we communicated as best we could to hold the line, and then put the caller on hold. Then a quick call to a dedicated number that was essentially a foreign language translation service. If the language was recognized, we could indicate that, and be transferred directly to a translator who would be brought onto the line with the original caller, and all three of us would then have whatever conversation was necessary, even if it was just to tell the caller they had the wrong number (which DID happen to me, actually). If we didn’t know the language, there was an additional step where the translation service would identify it for us. Obviously this was a service we paid for, just to be prepared for the very rare instances we received such calls.
So, if you were to guess at what company might get MORE calls from foreign language callers, would it be;
A: Large American financial services company.
B: ANY large company in Thailand.
Maybe it’s a stretch for me to think the obvious answer is “B”, but the logic I follow is; that as a popular expat retirement destination, Thai companies would not only expect, but HOPE for a large volume of farang calls/customers.
What was the Big C response after calling out to a non Thai speaking customer, upon realizing that I did not, in fact, speak Thai?
Well he hung up on me. Naturally.
Ten minutes later I get another call from Big C from a girl who spoke some English, and she confirmed my order.
Big C sends me another confirmation email–order is official.
Here’s the punchline; the television I ordered DOESN’T EVEN EXIST.
Out of stock, no more for sale, fuck off, etc., etc.
So the process begins again, email telling me the TV is not available, phone call–HANG UP, call back–barely speaks English; do I want to buy a different TV?
Think about THAT conversation. I speak no Thai, she barely speaks English. I’m trying to get across the point that the first order was for a product ON their website, which the website ALLOWED me to place an order for. It had a price, a picture, a description, every part of the process you’d expect when making an online purchase, except, ultimately–the PRODUCT. She told me the store I had indicated in my order didn’t have the item in stock. I told her that I KNOW they don’t, I’ve BEEN to the stores, I know what they HAVE, that’s why I went ONLINE. What they had in the stores wasn’t doing it for me. It seemed a reasonable assumption that a large company like Big C would have a LOT of product, last years models, etc. that, when they’ve failed to sell in the stores, would go to a warehouse somewhere. BUT, still be for sale online, and then shipped to the customer, or the customer’s store, when an order is placed.
Well rethink that fucking logic Mr. Spock, you’re not on Vulcan anymore, THIS is Thailand.
So what now, go through the whole process again, knowing that I can’t trust whether or not the items on the website are even real?
That’s what I did.
I went back on the website and ordered my second choice TV, different brand even, WITH EXACTLY THE SAME RESULTS.
Fuck Big C.
I found another TV on Powerbuy’s website, went into the store, showed the guy a picture of it, and though it was not in stock at that location, I could order it, and it’d be delivered in 3 days.
That’s a line from Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained”. I’m not exactly sure what it means, and it’s not really accurate since I paid in Baht, but I liked the sound of it.
3 days later, the TV did indeed arrive.