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.

wilcon1

acehardwarecitihardware1
trusthomedepot

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.

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

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

  2. 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.”.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 and things like that.They tell you if there is different version of same game in your hand that may have more features / content. Still I doubt your hardware story is an exaggeration. I feel your pain.

  5. 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 more money….though I agree some of your complain instead of complaining why not continue to educate them about the things that needed to change….

    btw i sedomly experienced that in bacolod, cebu, and manila….anyways if you really want people to answer you in the way you want why not go to a plumbing, electrical, electronic store instead of this big time outlet….

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

  7. 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 education. It is just a screwed up mess that the country is in that the problem is circular! Taxes on imports sold in the store lead to lower wages which in turn leads to shitty attitudes of ill-paid workers. Lets not forget the electricity rates devouring most, if not ALL profits on the sales for the day and it is no wonder why the country is at an economic standstill with no improvement anywhere near being seen.

    I will still say that speculation in the energy sectors(gasoline/electricity) has got to stop, Slash all taxes so Petrol is P35/litre and the electricity rates are on par with Thailand. NEXT, the import tariffs should be cut as well. Lets say by 66%, just to see if it could stimulate some economic growth where it is needed…in the barangays, NOT Fort Bonafacio Towers, OK?
    These two measures implemented now, I suggest, could have an immediate effect on ‘quality-of-life’ for the average Filipino worker. As well as an increase in minimum wage to the equivalent of at least P800/day. The savings in electricity bills for the business owner could off-set the increase in wages. The lowered tariffs could send prices falling in the malls to where the average citizen could spend some Peso’s to get the economy moving at the lower end of the economic strata.
    Is there anyone who disagrees that the status-quo has not been working for the last 30 years? and that it is time for something drastic along the lines of REAL change in order to improve the lot of the average Filipino who wants to go to work and do a good job BUT also would like to get compensated at a decent enough level to be able to eat? The rich will not be effected adversely by the above suggestions and the gov’t. coffers will still be ringing as long as payroll taxes were paid and some of the corruption is stopped at the GOCC level as far as coughing up overdue taxes, EH?.
    AND MAYBE requiring business’s with over 100 employess have to have mandatory “FULL-TIME” employees so as to stop the constant lack of coughing up P400/per employee for health benefits, P400!!! The CHEAP bastards can not employ FULL-TIME workers just to save $10 fuckin dollars/month????
    OH IT IS TIME for some real change in the way Filipino’s are treated in the work-place.
    Maybe then there wouldn’t be so many mal-content EX-PATS like the author whining about the shitty customer service he receives at the hardware store.
    I’d like to see him even show up for work at P300/day!

    1. Gerry what you are saying has absolutely nothing to do with TRAINING!!!! Wages are what they are and to the Filipino workers that is what they are accustomed to. The point of the article has to do with TRAINING and the fact the stores are not providing it to their employees whether they earn one peso or 1,000P a day. And if someone is not happy with their wages they should do whatever they can to improve their knowledge base about what they are doing so they become a more valuable commodity perhaps to another employer who will pay more for that knowledge base.

      1. @ Corey I understand completely what you are talking about.MAYBE you are missing what I am talking about. and that is:because Filipino’s make such crappy wages the people they work for are lucky they even show up for work. Seriously, even if they were paid P1,000($25 USD/36Euro’s) they would still be UNDERPAID.
        Like it or not, the customer service is what it is in he country due to one fact:the people are dreadfully underpaid. SOOOOOO, You get what you pay for, and only then…if your lucky.
        If you think that Filipino’s are used to making dog-shit wages, well maybe, BUT IT IS OBVIOUS, they sure do not like it. Especially now that they are getting educated and see what a bunch of criminals they have running their country.

        and finally, rhetorically, would you show up for a 10 hour shift at a hardware store if you knew you were going to get paid less than $10/15Euro for the ENTIRE day?

        1. I would have to disagree. The workers I refer to show up daily. Many are full timers. They just aren’t trained. As for the wage argument again I disagree. This is something endemic to the Philippines. Most all the hardware stores certainly encourage their employees to be enthusiastic and they greet you at the door and take you where you want to go but then it all stops as to product knowledge

    2. Why are expats so badly treated, as if they’re the enemies? The Filipino’s own hard-headedness is the enemy.

      1. Corey,

        I think what Gerry’s trying to imply is that low wages do not inspire employees to be innovative, knowing that their ideas and hard work would go to waste. True to a point, however as a Filipino I am not proud to say that in this country, we are not known for being innovative in fields other than the arts.Just look at our politicians who live like kings. You’d think since they get so much money (take note that I didn’t use the term “earn”) they’d have proposed some sensible laws right now, but they even botched up our anti-Cybercrime bill. And Gerry, Corey wasn’t lashing out at employees, he was lashing out at companies and employers who lack innovation, who’s only desire is to take more money from us poor schmucks. In my experience, company owners prefer to maintain the status quo, rather than evolve. If it’s broken for them, no need to fix it if it works for us. The “bahala na” system, you know.

        1. @Ron,
          it doesn’t matter who is being lashed out at here. my singular point is that at P300/day the customer svc. rep is not going to even want to be inside the rat-hole he/she is working in and is certainly not going to be motivated to be helpful even to the slightest degree. and who could blame them? WAIT…found that out already.

          N E WAY…
          truth be told? it ALMOST boggles the mind that these people do not just become bank-robbers/criminals than actually show up for work, in massive numbers, for P300/Day.

      2. You miss the point Gerry, the point here is is that Filipino companies need to evolve, so that it will be actually be worth working for them, and for customers to be willing to do business with them.
        I am of the same opinion as corey, it doesn’t matter if the sales staff earn a shitty salary, I as a customer indirectly pay your wages when I buy your merchandise and so expect to be served well. How can we go forward as a nation with this kind of attitude? If you’re not passionate about your work, then find another one. Or better yet, become an enterpreneur.
        Just don’t maintain the status quo.
        Peace bro! ^_^

  8. 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 limited workers. Just like what is happening now in developed countries. Because of the vast investments and limited workers, they find the need for overseas workers like Filipinos.

    Skilled workers will have their choice locally. Customers, like Corey, will be happier.

    1. @Jun,

      You blame the number of companies. Now, can I blame the number of workers caused by the parents who fuck like rabbits?

  9. 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 company
    from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else”.
    Sam Walton

    Increased competition, better management, improved training & labour practices, and wage levels also play their part, but ultimately excellence comes from passion within and a culture which expects, demonstrates, and rewards high standards.

    The BPO/outsourcing sector is particularly prone to perceptions of customer service which is largely its raison d’etre, and can be given credit for doing a good job to date. Their next challenge is to achieve growth and move up the value chain without sacrificing quality/lowering standards.

    Quality is free, but it is not a gift – it has to be learnt and earnt, respected and protected.

  10. 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.

  11. 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 business becomes known for one that provides piss-poor-service then that business will lose its clientele and the business will fail. But, here’s the rub… In the US, we have something called a CHOICE. Businesses know that they (with the exception of Microsoft LOL) do not operate in a monopoly. There is an endless amount of competitive business out there for consumers to choose from. This is not the case in the Philippines. It doesn’t matter if the cashier at McDonald’s has a college degree if he/she doesn’t possess the intelligence, common sense and TRAINING to properly execute the job. I could fill an encyclopedia with all the complaints I have about the piss-poor-service in this country but, for the most part, it will fall on deaf ears since I am a “Foreigner” and if I don’t like it, I should just go home. But that doesn’t solve the problem; does it? And YES! There IS a problem here! So, if I come across a business or service provider that gives good service, I stay with them. Sadly, every business here (with very few exceptions) lacks CONTINUITY so my list of “Good Ones” changes frequently and reduces exponentially.

    There will be numerous posts by Filipinos who will react to this article negatively but… That’s because the article is written by a “Foreigner”. I, for one, think the article hits the nail right on the head. For those who can’t handle the truth; instead of the usual “well that’s because of (ad Bullshit excuse here)…”, try ADDRESSING the problem and then FIX IT!

        1. “…and that’s how my country turns away foreign investors, my dear sirs. :p”

          Well, there are other things too that will drive away foreigners/foreign investors from the Philippines.

        2. Indeed! But adding to what Robert mentioned; its not just the investors, its the visitors. Service and product knowledge is an alien concept here. Again, saying “Sorry Sir” with a smile does NOT equate to good service. Most Hotels/Resorts I have visited, although they claim to be “World Class”, don’t even rate one Star in my book. There are a few exceptions. Most notably is the Shangri-La Mactan, WOW! No complaints there! But that’s the exception to the rule when it should be the norm. When it comes to foreign visitors, businesses should understand that its easy to get people to come once. The REAL success is getting them to come BACK… That being said, this pathway to success should be adopted for ALL, not just foreigners. But then again, its us foreigners who are more apt to voice out our complaints directly to the source.

  12. 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 basic requirements: 18-26, pleasing personality (we all know what that is), some minimum height, and some other qualifications that make it seem like they are actually looking for quality workers.

    What they should put on the postings:
    “Wanted sexy girls to work in department store, naivety a plus, not looking to advance. Under minimum wage, no benefits, no 13th month, no future. OA Bayots also encouraged to apply.”

    I do not expect quality service from Handyman or Citi hardware employees and therefore I am not disappointed. what I like about Handyman, is that the employees are too busy engaging in some serious chikka chikka to care what I am doing. If I am looking for something, I go to the guard, which is usually the most knowledgeable person in the store. It is easy to call the employee ignorant or attack their work ethics, but they are just warm bodies to the companies. I do not blame them for just hanging out, folding plastic bags, unfolding them, refolding them. They are experts at “busy work”. That is their job. When I really need something that requires the assistance of someone, I head for the small store that is family owned, and also get a referral from them to find someone that can install what I need for me.

    I have not been here as long as Corey, just 6 years, but early on, I found out about the 60% rule. I called globe to complain about the DSL speed (who has not done this?) and they told me as long as I am getting 60% of what I am paying for – 1.2MB of 2.0MB subscription – they are fulfilling their contract.I just apply that to everything. If I go to McDo, and they have no pickles or they are putting a small bun on a Big Mac, I look at it and it still falls into the 60% rule so it’s all good!

    I have a dirty kitchen under construction right now. The carpenter said he is done, but it is about 60% finished. I paid him and sent him on his way. I will hire another one to take are of 60% of the remaining 40%, which will leave 16% to be finished by another, which will leave 5% of the total project unfinished after 3 carpenters. Success!!

    I also have a trike body being built. I found a fabrication shop that is owned by a tricycle operator. I brought a trike in that I wanted to inspire the design from, told them that I know they cannot build it the same and that if they feel that they can improve upon the design to please make it better. I am extremely happy with the progress.

    It is easy to point out the bad here, but there is so much good that really needs more room than a comment.

      1. So you have left the “City of Gentle People” for good? Sounds like you are doing a major remodel. Good luck with that Corey.

    1. I have not been here as long as Corey, just 6 years, but early on, I found out about the 60% rule. I called globe to complain about the DSL speed (who has not done this?) and they told me as long as I am getting 60% of what I am paying for – 1.2MB of 2.0MB subscription – they are fulfilling their contract.

      We’re worse. Ten years ago, we subscribe to Globe for internet connection. For the first month, the speed is amazing, but on succeeding months, our connection is so slow that dial up connection is much faster.

      We called the help desk and were promised to have our attend to our issue, but we see no improvement. What’s worse is that we’re still billed for the connection.

      After a while, we decided not to pay them, after all we’re not getting what were supposed to pay them.

      Well, it’s already ten years, right? Guess what, I’m not alone when dealing with Globe’s “customer care”

      ———

      Well, to be fair with them, I had better experience with Globe on using mobile broadband when I was staying in Metro Manila.

      1. The classic “bait and switch” tactic.
        If I’m not wrong this could get a company sued in the States. But then this ain’t the States, so…:p

        1. I use Globe and have had them for several years the connection is good, my neighbors all use Smart mainly because they call family members in other area’s, we don’t do this so I use the Globe it has a better cell phone and internet connection than Smart in my area, lower Laguna, unsure what the Smart connection is like but none of these Internet spots guarantee anything.

      2. Globe customer care, don’t call the free line what ever you do, the call center is full of boobs and idiots that’s a total fact you actually need to pay for your phone call and they will fix issues on the same day. I know exactly what you’re talking about because Globe uses two different call centers you never ever want to dial that free phone call, that’s the problem.

  13. 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.

    1. add to that the fact that the competition is really the same exact thing. sooo, there’s only one winner.

      Living in the Philippines requires adjusting to almost everything being done differently than in the West(and badly too!), despite the familiar brands.
      it is also extremely troubling to me that in a country such as the Philippines boss’s will treat their fellow countrymen so terribly as that 6 month contract/no benefits horse-shit to go along with the dog-shit pay and then treat the employee as if they are lucky to have a job when it is a fact that the boss is actually the lucky one. to even have such a willing idiot to even bother to show up for work.
      I know what I would do.

      1. My solution to most things I need is to find the best local purveyors and stick with them. For example, there’s a hole-in-the-wall hardware store nearby (called Marsan Hardware — they deserve a plug) that either has everything, or knows what the hell I’m talking about it and can get it for me.

    1. I’ve had other expats give me a lot of shit for getting offended by that, but I do. It’s a slur, no matter how wide the smile that’s uttering it.

  14. 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!”

    1. I thought only the full-blooded Chinese working here like in 168 Mall act like that. My father would scare them to deportation if they acted that way.

  15. 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.

  16. 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 with the details of the job.

    1. BTW, I’ve noticed some of the bigger stores seem to be bad at seeing sales trends but react highly to marketing hype. You’d see them trying to sell tons of new and popular items but some basic items go out-of-stock for weeks.

  17. 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.

  18. 300 years of… Christianity?

    I don’t think so.

    You meant to say, 300 years of neo-pagan pre-Reformation Roman Catholicism. That’s the basic problem.

    Christian countries generally do well. Catholic countries do not. Part of the reason is exactly what we see in the Philippines: in Catholicism everything is subject to interpretation by the bishops – they’re the fixers in Philippine terms – whereas in Christianity the Bible acts as an unmoving Constitution.

    Anyway, as long as the Philippine Constitution remains as the primary barrier to entry of foreign corporations, we’ll continue to be stuck with the Third World standards of the local oligarch-owned enterprises which exist purely because of a lack of competition.

    1. My mistake. Anyway, to me all religions SUCK!!! and are the reason we have so many problems around the world. Isn’t there supposed to be separation of Church and State in this Country as well. Oh right I forgot how vigorously they also enforce the anti-dynasty thing too. This place has so many issues it needs 100,000,000 shrinks to solve them. LOL

      1. I would venture that even an Atheist faced with certain death might make a last minute prayer to God – just in case he is real. I mean, what is the harm? If you just go POOF! you were right, if you go to Heaven, then you were wrong.

        You are in luck, as the Pope has declared that Jesus died for Atheists too and as long as they are good people they go to Heaven anyways. Knowing you personally, I would say you have a pretty good chance of going to Heaven if you want to or not!

        As an aside, being raised Protestant in the US, I have always heard that Catholics are going straight to hell. Ironically, here in The Philippines, when you ask a Catholic what they think of Protestants, they have nice things to say about them. Catholics are much more compassionate than Protestants.

        Jesus Loves you Corey! hehehehe!

  19. When the husband of my older sister went to auto shop to have his car fix, one of the mechanics points on one part to another of the engine. Afterwards, he’ll tell us that the mechanic has no clue on what he’s saying. He’s simply impressing him.

  20. Sorry Dude, you may be in a country, where incompetence is a virtue. Look at our politicians. Most of them are incompetent. The President , himself is the most incompetent of all public officials.
    Most of those salespeople in hardware stores, have no experiences in construction. They are just there to sell. People with construction experience are already working as OFW in the Middle East.So, pardon Dude, our incompetence.

    1. Don’t say sorry… Do something! This is what I hate with my fellow countrymen. I may be young and very incompetent and may not be proud to be Filipino right now (and quite ill-tempered to add) but I want to be someday. And I’m doing the best I could do that I know of. For example, I e-mailed a lot of concern to the Office of the President. And of course, with no luck. But still, I’m trying to do something and I don’t intend to be unheard forever. And I know I can’t do this alone. If you find this silly then shame on you. Shame, when one day, out of impatience, I leave and apply for another country’s citizenship and help them instead 🙁

      1. @ Anony

        I agree with you make light of an issue and contact officials for change. Change won’t come about until there’s more jobs, people accept being an OFW? What a nightmare life without your parents or family members.

        Manila has been way over developed and the developement needs to move N or S, government offices are only located in Manila except for registering your vehicle, I only wish I was closer to Manila for this mundane task because its so corrupt it’s hard to avoid fixers, the registration office is not clear and defined it has offices outside it’s compound, it takes years to figure this out because of the sneaky practices, this year I have figured out how not to get stuck paying for a fixer, dang 400 peso’s lost, my grandson could have used diapers.

  21. The comes the Cebu Pacific incident where it was reported the flight attendants were crying or stunned. Means they also have a lack of training and trying. It all adds up.

  22. I’m an expat to and have gone through everything you mentioned plus employee’s flirting with one another and it’s looks like they are hooking up, I don’t even want to get bothered by them, I try and get stuff on my own and don’t bother even making eye contact with any store employee’s it’s a wasted event with a very poor person that probably cooks with charcoal when they get home they have no clue or have any need for many of the things expats might be looking for, this goes for those Appliance stores in the SM malls. I have been told to just relax and have come to accept or put up with what is the norm here.

    1. I cook with charcoal and take real offense to that statement. Kidding. I actually do cook with it. And I am doing it in a very expensive portable grill which was gas but it’s not working any longer. Charcoal is actually pretty good to use here. Only problem with your statement is you must know what to buy. I don’t so can’t have the luxury you have. wish I did

      1. I realize you were citing one example and there are many other examples in different industries you could also cite.

        Maybe next time you start a home improvement project you should hire a skilled worker to help you design the project, come up with a list of materials, and accompany you to the store to purchase them.

        Once you get to the store and some items are not readily available, you and he / she can make some decisions / substitutions on the fly while at the store. The cost of hiring this person to help you will offset any costs related to purchasing un-needed or wrong items. The “high-blood” factor alone is worth a few hundred pesos.

      2. I use charcoal also with meals that take time like beef and black beans. I am a retired helicopter mechanic and had some other skills so I do have an advantage but not alway’s I will take a neighbor or the worker with me to get the parts, neighbors can be invaluable because they won’t waste any money and have several contacts that can fix a concern, I have found that sharing things that I would have thrown away or just burned up such as wood or too much fruit has benefits, my neighbors have started opening up on how to save money in raising animals, such as pigs, alternative feeds, my in-laws have never shared any of this information with us.

  23. Well, it is a case to case basis I think.

    These DIY Stores or Construction Depots are basically where you will find it hard to find good customer service.

    I think when it comes to looking for products, you should actually be looking for the specific merchandiser.

    You see, they are running these stores basically like how supermarkets. You think all of those staff are their employees? Nope. They are actually hired by the supplier/brand and sent to the branch to represent them. As such, the “diser” is only versed in their product line.

    So the approach is basically start asking from general, then to slowly to specifics. Sample.
    Pipes, then type of pipe (PVC, PPR, ABS, BI etc), then specifics (fittings, valves etc)

    This won’t guarantee finding your item but may help easing your burden. If no one can answer, you are better off then looking for it at your local hardware stores as they are more versed in those things. I understand though that it isn’t as convenient.

  24. Corey,

    although I never experienced what you described but then again I never needed to buy hardware. I think and guess its just a tip of an iceberg; an example out of many.

    My partner (from Cebu) and I eat out a lot and most of the times, either her plate is brought way sooner than mine (or the other way around).

    When employees in my country have good ideas about how to do things differently (read: better) then they will tell that to their manager/head. And if the employee can substantiate it (back it up) with good arguments, he/she will be given the “go ahead” and do it. This new situation should be always a “win/win-situation for the employer, the employee and the customer.

    Why does this work in my country (and many other countries)? Because kids have been taught – from a young age already – to think critically and be criticial and to think in challenges, opportunities and options.

    Personally, I think this is exactly the “bottle-neck” in the Philippines. They are so family oriented, so family focused and so afraid they might hurt others (which will lead to losing face (Hiya), that at the end of the day nothing will change.

    1. Robert,

      You mentioned probably my biggest peeve, going out to eat and having the plates arrive over the span of 30 minutes. The obvious solution is simple. They need a chart in the kitchen with the cooking time of each item and need to train the staff that if one item takes 20 minutes to cook, and another takes 10, that using a timer, they need to start cooking the one that takes 20 minutes and then 10 minutes later start cooking the item that takes 10 minutes so they will be done at the same time. Wouldn’t that be nice!

      1. Chris,

        as far as “customer service” is concerned I am not that negative. Although, I got pretty scared and frightened when taking a night boat from Lilo-An Boat Terminal (Cebu) to Sibulan Ferry Terminal (Negros). If we got hit, we would all drown and I can say that I can swim but it would have been hopeless with a boat so fully packed and crammed, like sardines in a tin.

        I do get more frustrated about other things happening in the Philippines. I guess I mentioned those in other and earlier Blogs here.

        1. It’s essentially maximizing passenger per trip sarcasm.

          I bet you’re aware that the same thing happens on buses in the Philippines, where passengers on peak hours are packed so much that there’s no moving space.

        2. Thats correct. On some Ceres bus trips (Cebu), the aisle was completely occupied by passengers while we sat in the back. When we had to get off, I almost had to walk over their heads to get to the exit.

          If DOT is so anxious to get/attract more foreign tourists then they should do something about this safety issue.

  25. I know you have only lived here for 9 years so you probably do not realize that this is the Philippines, not a clone of Los Angeles, Bern, Dusseldorf,or Portsmouth. Here people speak Filipino English as in Fiji it is Fijian English or The Bahamas where it is Bahamian English, both places I have lived. Yes, customer service can be a problem at times. That is why it is good to learn two phrases in the local dialect of where you are. For example 1) Saan ang pako? and then 2) Magkano ang pako?. For appliances, look in inside the box for the spec sheet or ask “Saan ang instruction manual? However, I know all that can be really burdensome. Here is another suggestion. Find a friend or associate that has renovated their house successfully by using a local contractor who of course will cost you probably a tenth of what you would pay in your home country. Your wife can certainly help you wade through the local way doing business that is sometimes, perhaps often, an affront to your Western sensibilities. My wife does. And by the way, if you came here on a crusade to change things to your liking rather than enjoy the way things are, you are right. . .it is definitely time to “decide to move away”. Honestly, you probably will not be missed except by those that wish they could stow away in your suitcase.

    1. Excellent response John and excellent suggestions. how true. You can’t win trying to change anything for the better here except in your own household.

  26. Salary of the person depends on the skills he can commit. What do you expect people working to be trained well if the company terminates their contracts in as short as 6 months? As much as you are exasperated with these people consider how horrible their pay conditions are.

    I do not need to complain how stupid they may be everytime I shop around for house improvements but I do read EVERY detail of the things I want to buy and NEVER rely on the seller to give me recommendations.

    They can’t afford the stuffs you want to buy. You will be the one using those things. You should know better.

  27. It would help if some of them paid their staff more. What’s it worth for an actually competent person to work for those wages? I’ve had sales people outright lie to me about things in the Philippines to try to make a sale.

    (American here, been there 3 times)

  28. Corey hit it right on the button. As for Gerry, doing only the absolute minimum that one can get away with is most young people’s attitude – unfortunately. Continued education requires more than minimum input. Prayers alone won’t get results. To achieve real progress, Filipinos need to drop the wide spread “herd mentality”. However, once the herd moves in one direction, it’s very hard to turn it, even slightly, and therein lies the problem. This also applies for the general acceptance of the 60% rule and every other substandard crap no one does anything about.

  29. Govt. corruptions and incompetence are the root causes of all these problems by legalizing contractualization of workers, low wages, unemployment/underemployment etc. Daang matuwid ba ito?

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