I’ve been to enough places throughout east and southeast Asia to understanding vividly that the western concept of customer service is typically a foreign one in these parts.
Here’s a couple examples. A few years back I was at a small ice cream shop called “Dairy King.” Yes, very original. On the menu was a chocolate sundae; however, in the picture of the sundae, it showed that the chocolate sundae was topped with kernels of sweet corn. Adding beans and corn to cold sweet treats in Asia is nothing new, but my American palate likes sweets in the good-ole-American-way – without vegetables. So here is an approximation of my conversation with the young ice cream attendant.
“Hello, I’d like the chocolate sundae, but without the corn.”
“The chocolate sundae comes with corn.”
“Yes, I know. But I don’t want the corn.”
“But the chocolate sundae comes with corn.”
“I see that. But I don’t like corn in my ice cream.”
Blank stare. I decided to try another tactic.
“OK, can you make my chocolate sundae, and after you finish putting the chocolate on top, can you just forget to put the corn on.”
“But it comes with corn.”
“But isn’t it cheaper for you to not give me corn.”
Blank stare. Another tactic.
“OK. I want the corn, but please make my sundae and then put the corn on the side of the plate. All right?”
“No, the chocolate sundae comes with corn on top and so I have to put it on top.”
“Are you going to give me a sundae without corn, or are you going to lose a sale.”
“OK, I will never come back to Dairy King again.”
“Have a nice day.”
Have you ever heard of thinking outside the box? Actually, I had this nearly exact same conversation at a pizza place here when I wanted to order just a plain cheese pizza but all of the options on the menu included some kind of meat.
“Can you just make the pizza and put the pepperoni on the side of the plate?”
“I’m sorry. The pizza must have pepperoni on the top.”
You get the picture.
So I’ve learned just to smile and accept the fact that the menu is always right and the customer is always wrong.
However, there is one aspect in which one must love Malaysia customer service. Everyone, and I mean everyone, from waiters, to servers, from car mechanics to restaurateurs, from vendors and hawkers of all stripes – everyone calls me “boss.”
“Boss, did you order yet?”
“Here you go, boss.”
It is very cool being the ‘boss’ if one remembers that you are actually the boss of nothing.