Friday, January 30, 2009

Daily Report: Good Service

Not a particularly good day of work.

My tax refund arrived today, which is cool. I've got some bills to pay.

Epril insisted her evening tonight
was going to end with a slice of
cake. The Mulberry Hotel has a great
selection, with slices costing just $2.
Can you tell I was excited about that?
Epril and I went out to Spooks for their Friday night expatriate get-together (just for a change). Then, we went out to dinner with Andy and Cynthia to Town Restaurant, and then to the Mulberry Hotel for dessert and a nightcap.

After living in Thailand for 4 years, it's such a pleasant change to go to a restaurant or bar and get competent service. People who have never been there envision Thailand as a place of impeccable Asian service by stunning, graceful, flower-becoiffed, silk-draped beauties. If you go to one of Thailand's 7-star hotels and spend $200 on dinner, you'll get that... otherwise, you go to a restaurant and are surprised when a "hold the tomatoes" order comes out right. You make note of the restaurants that have competent service, or declare a particular eatery one of your top choices because it allowed you to substitute french fries for mashed potatoes.

The Philippines is, on average quite a bit better.

Town Restaurant simply has fantastic service. Mulberry too. Spooks is getting there, though you still occasionally have to holler to get one of the waiters to come over to your table to order a drink. (Zax's service actually is worse than anything you'll ever find in Thailand. It runs the range, but at least they usually get your order right.)

Great example of what you never see in Thailand outside of The Oriental in Bangkok: I ordered the shrimp linguine tonight at Town. It was godawful: It was essentially linguine, lemon juice, and shrimp. I didn't say a word at first, but as I started taking bites, the look on my face obviously concerned the waitresses, and I could see out of the corner of my eye (as I started to look around for someone to complain to) that they had started gathering across the room to see if their initial impression of my unhappiness was accurate. Without me saying anything, our waitress started walking over to our table, a look of concern on her face.

"Could I see a menu please?" I asked. She came back with one, and I confirmed that nowhere on the description of my dish did it mention "lemon". I pointed this out to her. She immediately offered to take the dish back. (Such a thing would never happen in Thailand, as first a manager would have to be brought over, and then the restaurant owner would have to be phoned up, and the rule book would have to be consulted, et cetera, et cetera. Well... actually, the fact is that as soon as Thai people saw a look of complete dissatisfaction on my face, they would have all scattered like mice, and wouldn't have come back until I asked for the bill.) Anyway, since it was my fourth and last dish of the evening, I decided to eat my mistake. I was just happy to be recognized by staff as being dissatisfied.

We then went to Mulberry Hotel, where I ordered "one shot of Kahlua, one shot of milk, one shot of hot coffee, in a glass, no ice." I got exactly what I asked for, no problems. In Thailand, there is no system in place for somebody making up a drink. The Thai staff wouldn't know what to charge... assuming they understood the directions at all. Eventually (if not immediately), you'd just give up trying to make yourself understood, and order a shot of Kahlua, a glass of milk, and a cup of black coffee, paying the extra money, and mixing it yourself. Bonus show of class at the Mulberry that you'd never see in Thailand? When I got the bill, the charge was "one shot of Kahlua, 90 pisos". No charge milk and coffee mixers.

Of course, what I've just described is more or less the minimum of what you would expect in America (or Europe)... even at the local Howard Johnsons. You might even be wondering why it's so notable. But like I said: Asia in general (or at least Thailand, where my experience rests) isn't like that. Even in The Philippines, you don't find what in America we would describe as "the bare minimum" service in most places, but at least The Philippines is the place where you will find it in places where you don't always expect it. And that's a good thing.


Tom N said...

How much of that do you think is related to language? I have know several people who moved from Thailand to the Philippines solely because they could be better understood and they could understand others better.

Jungle Jil said...

I would say that Filipinos ability to understand and communicate with foreigners is 80% language, 15% being primarily a Western culture (American, specifically), and 5% from being Christian/Catholic, from which they get their similar values and morals and beliefs.

DAGO said...

So what your saying is the Philippines is a better place? Im getting tired of Thailand. I have 63 filipinos working for me, they are much more plesent then Thai's, and they arent lazy like Thai's. I think Im going to have to visit before Your President lays me off.