Philippine Sales Attendants: A Lack of Training and Trying

I should say at the start that I am an American living in the Philippines for eight years now and coming here on and off for 30 years. While I love the Philippines in so many ways, I also detest this Country with issues mostly having to do with many of its cultural traits (thanks to 300 years of Spanish Colonialism and Christianity) which I think are the biggest enemy this Country faces and retards its legitimate growth. Some of these cultural traits are: extreme ignorance, incompetence, complacency, timidity, dependency, entitlement and quite a few other cultural stigmas that are addressed very succinctly here on GetRealPhilippines in many of their articles.

I started to think about one element of life here that I unfortunately encounter all too often, that being “Lack of Training” and how often a person such as myself will find themselves in a store that specializes in some product or products and all the sales attendants/staff are as clueless as you are about what it is you may need to buy even thought you describe to them what it is. I can assure you that this happens to 100% of my expat friends here and it drives them insane. Of course I am exaggerating to an extent (as there are aberrations) but not by much. The fact is when I go into most stores the employees there are of almost no help to me at all except to steering me to the aisle where a particular product category is located.

In no store do I find myself dealing with a level of incompetence more so than hardware stores which require a keen knowledge base by the sale employees there. And of the various hardware stores I have been, and there are many: Wilcon Home Depot, Handyman Home Center, ACE Hardware, Citi Hardware,  and finally Trust Home Depot, none are as incompetent as those in Citi Hardware. 

For The Record: The other stores were really not much better. The only standout was ACE as they appeared to train their employees better and I had much less stress while shopping in ACE.



Regarding Citi Hardware: It’s like Citi Hardware management goes out of their way to not train anyone. As an example: Due to the house renovations I have been spending lots of time in Hardware stores in general and in particular Citi Harware as they have better stock than most of the others. During the month of April and May I had been looking more so than anything else, for plumbing and electrical parts for the various plumbing and electrical related jobs I needed to do at home either myself or with installers. This would include: installation of a water tank and all its piping, instant hot water shower, whole home water filtration system, bathroom sink and faucet, two air conditioners with breakers, 10 outlets, outdoor lighting and wiring and a few other projects. I have done this countless time in stores in the States like Home Depot and Builders Square and the well trained sales person there always say “Oh yea, you need this and that” and then proceed to gather even more information about the job I intend to pursue and give me more information. They also know five different other ways to do the same project, but geared to different monetary budgets. I mean that’s fantastic and I walk out of the store feeling confident and just plain happy. Very rarely does something not work out based on advice I have gotten from those stores.

Here is a much different story. I would go into the store, find a sales clerk for the specific department and then I would describe the job or jobs slowly and as clearly as I could about what I was trying to accomplish. It’s not like what I was asking is rocket science. The jobs are fairly common. I just needed to know what parts to buy. Sometimes I would even showed them diagrams and photos for more clarity. I am sorry to say they were totally clueless even with those aids. And NO!!! It’s not from any sort of language barrier as they understand perfectly what I am saying. It is just that they don’t know anything about the products they are selling despite being assigned to the given specialty product department. I can apply this to the electrical and paint departments and so on and so forth. I then walk out of the store thinking in a sense what a killer must think about before he kills coupled with how incredibly stupid can people be. I know, PHILIPPINE STUPID. In fact they should coin a phrase like this to describe stupidity. Bill – “Hey Joe, how stupid was the guy”  Joe –  “He was Philippine StupidBill – “Wow Joe, That’s really stupid

The other really irritating thing is most of these stores work on a consignment basis which means they don’t buy their inventory. They get it more or less for free and pay for it when they sell it. This often times limits them to what stock they have and on more than one, two, three and even four occasions LOL, they don’t stock the most popular or needed parts for specific jobs. I am talking about parts that 99.9% of people will need to use for a very common work. AMAZING. Or they might have a million feet of 1/2″ piping but no 1/2″ elbow or other connectors for that stocked 1/2″ pipe size. Another sign of absolute stupidity by these store owners.

I was so exasperated the other day with Citi Hardware I actually called their headquarters in Davao City to complain (yes, I did use expletives) and to ask a simple question. The question came down to “Why don’t they hire specialists in their various departments”. I am not talking about many, perhaps one during each shift for each department. And it probably wouldn’t even cost them very much (Maybe an extra few hundred pesos for each specialist daily) and would probably easily be more than offset by increased sales through their expertise. I mean how many customers they must be losing now from not knowing what to sell a customer due to sales attendant ignorance. What I suggested is to have a licensed Plumber, Electrician, Painter, etc… to deal with issues customers have and what did I get in response. The typical Philippine repenting consisting of the usual “I’m so sorry sir”, “I’ll look into this sir” and then a lot of EXCUSE mumbling saying not much of anything at all. Of course nothing happened and I expect nothing will. This unfortunately is so typical of the Philippines which surprisingly enough, is a Country that supplies the world with millions of their skilled and highly trained workers. Hmmmmmm, so it’s okay and a good thing to send people overseas with necessary training, but here let’s just hire people maybe for five months and then lay them off because we don’t have to pay them full time benefits or if we do hire full timers, still not train them as that will cost too much money as well.

Companies here, just don’t get it or really care. To them it’s all about saving money and cutting corners. There is no marketing savvy at all. They don’t realize that by having an educated sales staff will ultimately result in a happier customer, a more loyal customer and one that will BUY MORE from them!!! Hello. Interestingly enough, most of the sales people are college educated. What a waste!!!

And I also notice the sales staff has no inspiration or desire themselves to suggest this to management or take time to perhaps educate themselves on their particular department and merchandise. It is not part of their culture to challenge authority and I think they are terrified to do so. Maybe this is a strong case for Unions here.

It is just the same complacent attitude that’s keeps the Philippines in the proverbial toilet while sister Countries like Vietnam and Cambodia are making leaps and bounds and will soon leave the Philippines in their rear view mirror.

Imagine the Philippines not having any OFW’s. Where would the Country be then? Wallowing in their own defecation and probably crying about it like its not their fault or spending hours on end in Church like their prayers will be answered there…..WHAT A JOKE.

What is really amusing is that many of the OFW’s who return back to the Philippines for a holiday after spending a good amount of time in another Country also get frustrated with life here. They actually end up preferring to live overseas and it’s not just about the money they earn. They like the modern conveniences and quality of life. That is easily accomplished here if Filipinos would just get off their asses and do something about it. Most OFW’s only come back home for retirement to take advantage of low costs and services not affordable in the foreign country they were living in previously.

The bottom line is the Philippines needs to change and NOW!!! In my experience since People Power came into existence the Philippines improved only due to the OFW market. There are still so many problems here and many of them are cultural in keeping the Country down. Some are of course political and then there is corruption. All in all the Philippines like most Countries is its own worst enemy. Now If the people take the same attitude they have when going overseas and apply it back here then just watch how things change here for the better.

I certainly will be looking forward to that day

On a closing (this segment) more positive note, proper training is of course being accomplished here in the Philippines by the smarter companies. In fact, most of the International food chains like Starbucks Coffee provide in depth training to their staff on and ongoing basis. Starbucks may not have the best coffee in the World, but they have without question the most well trained staff I have ever encountered. To be able to remember customer names, drinks, smile, be cheerful (even when they don’t want to) and able to handle any task in the store requires very formal training on behalf of the company and extreme dedication and commitment by the employee. BRAVO to Starbucks and all the stores that get it right and DO UNDERSTAND the importance of excellent customer sales service.

FYI: I am not some spoiled, demanding foreigner that looks down on Filipinos. In fact I live with my wife, son and daughter in one of the poorest Ghettos (by choice) in the Country. I love the Philippines and it hurts me terribly when I have to write as I am doing above. If you hate me for what I write I can live with that but I do it only because I care. But I too am reaching my limits of patience and may decide to move away within a few years after my daughter gets a little older.


Post Author: expatinthephilippines

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80 Comments on "Philippine Sales Attendants: A Lack of Training and Trying"

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Brace yourself, the butthurt Pinoys are coming.
But yes, you’re quite right, actually using college diplomas…


I totally agree with this. I experienced the same on a computer store. I asked the sales person TWICE about the SPECIFIC model of a processor but they keep telling me “it’s dual core sir.” and Im like “This store needs to know what they’re selling.”.


I live in the US. When i need customer support during after hours, i dread when i have to speak to somebody from the Philippines. They recite from their scripts and offer profuse apologies, meanwhile, sidestepping the issues of the call. I find myself avoiding after hour calls when i need service or help. Again, the problem here is lack of training. Proficiency in language is not enough…knowledge of the product your company is selling is a must.


True to what Corey said.
our own culture is what tying us down to the gorund.

It might be hard to have competent people in the bigger stores. Believe me, I will slam people and companies when warranted. In the last 6 months Shakeys and Yellow Cab B.S’d me about looking into my complaint. I even have a paper trail. Well don’t cry to me if I ever document it and people Google it online. Those guys are lame. One place I find competence at least from where I am standing is Datablitz. They seem to know their stuff despite all the different platforms. They warn you if you need an HD TV on certain games… Read more »
you forgot mention that some of that negative traits are copied from the people where you came from…that is why call centers is booming to answer some mindless inquiries….any ways every country have it… Well maybe one of the possible reason is that the salary….salaries of those people is not enough, so even if they hire a competent person in that job they can not hold it long because majority of the competent people work in a better compensated company or work abroad…and as you said companies dont think ways for a good marketing strategy instead they prefer to save… Read more »

This community is full of intelligent people but very arrogant. They never help other people to help themselves

The complaints that the author gripes about are well, tough shit! How would the author like to get up to go to work in that hell-hole hardware store and work a 10 hour shift and get paid a grand total of P300, HUH? and that is before taxes! That is about $7.50(seven dollars +50 cents U.S. dollars!). Sorry Buddy but if you want better customer service you are going to have to pay for it, u kno? THE REAL PROBLEM is the cheap scumbags that operate these stores and pay such stinking salaries to people who probably have a college… Read more »
Workers here in the Philippines are victims of the law of supply and demand. There are a lot of workers but very few companies available to hire them. Companies dictate how much salary to pay and what benefits not to give. They also dictate how long can you work for them. Leaving the workers no choice. Skilled workers who don’t want the arrangement leave the country and find a better alternative. I wish one day when our country improves and investments come in, there will be a lot of choice for the workers. Companies would have to compete for the… Read more »
I agree customer service needs significant improvement particularly in retail sector and utility companies – the current method seems to be based upon robotic responses with no inherent interest in either product knowledge, customer service, or most probably the job itself. In essence it pays lip service to the principle without instilling the practices or understanding the importance of good service and the business cost of bad customer service, but there are clearly attempts to improve and areas of success and that is to be lauded. “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the… Read more »

In the US there is the Malcolm Baldrige quality system, in Europe EFQM ( european foundation for quality management) both being flexible models for continuous improvement programmes and more holistic than ISO which is far too procedural/records orientated.
There is clearly scope and benefit in taking a more serious, strategic and sector approach to quality in the philippines particularly to increase innovation, planning and problem solving.

Oh if I had a nickel for every time I heard some store staff employee say “Sorry Sir”! Service and Retail related businesses that actually TRAIN their personnel here are far and few between. At a resort, after becoming so fed up that I was about to “check-out”, the manager came over. I explained to this young lady that simply saying “Sorry Sir” with a smile does NOT equate to good service. As Americans, it is common sense for a business (ANY business) to properly train their employees ESPECIALLY those who are in direct contact with the customer. If a… Read more »
My take on the customer service / knowledge issue is that at the big stores, only a few key people are actually long-time employees. The rest are on contract. My wife used to work in Manila and she tells me she would work for an agency that would place her in a department store. She had no benefits, would have to renew her contract every 6 months,the company would screw up her pay constantly, hold back money and somehow manage to not pay that when she quit working for them. I see all kinds of job postings. Look at the… Read more »

I actually advised one of the hardware chains on this, and they followed through with some of the recommendations to some extent. Unfortunately, they can’t (or won’t) get away from the contract labor idea, so it doesn’t last; they’ll have a couple of knowledgeable employees for 5-6 months, contract ends, and they end up replacing them with dummies. It’s frustrating.


Filipinos should stop calling Americans “Joe.” That is so backward and caveman-like.


Reminds me: the concept of “customer service” is very recent, and I believe is western in origin. In contrast, when you go to local stores, probably those owned by old and grumpy Filipino-Chinese, if you just browse and don’t buy anything, you’ll get barked at with, “stupid! you look and look, but do not buy! Get out!”


I feel so sad that some companies believe the “less educated people = less training” mantra. Train these people rigorously and they can be as competent as those people with above-average paying jobs.
This is part of the reason I love small specialty stores instead of the big ones. Of course, you can’t expect them to be able to cater to bigger orders immediately but some of them are nice enough to help you with ordering from bigger distributors if they’re unable to do so. As for training, I agree with the article. I can’t remember how many times I’ve had to correct a salesperson about small but critical details. I’ve found that the best source of info this side of the planet are online forums, though you have to be really specific… Read more »

One of the best retailers is nordstrom in US. A pleasure to shop there, and they have the same goal every year – improve customer service.


[…] exceeds demand. Indeed, this is the phenomenon observed by my fellow author Corey who remains frustrated with the unimpressive way Filipino staff deliver even the simplest services in the country’s […]