Singapore service sucks and…

… here are some tasting portions.

  • In the post immediately be4 this, I wrote about going to this noodle and congee place at ION. While I didn’t mind the waiting (too much) or the perfunctory order taking, what took the cake was how they handled an incident that occurred while our food was being served.

One wait person knocked over my cup of Chinese tea. There was a lot of apology and wait staff were all a fluster. With different ones coming up to provide paper napkins and wet “ones”.

Yet no one noticed that my pair of jeans was wet on one leg from mid-thigh to knee and there was a small puddle at my feet — this despite my standing up and asking for tissue paper to help dry my pants and feet.

I accept the restaurant is probably not well prepared for such incidents — for example why no decent towels available instead of bits of paper to mop up what was a fair amount of spill?

What I expected, like a dessert or discount on the bill by way of genuine make up for what was an appalling service lapse that was entirely the restaurant’s fault ie the wait person knocked over the tea, not me or any one at my table.

Alas, the bill came in full. There was no complimentary dessert. I should have known better. This is Singapore. I had set my expectations too high 😆

  • Then there was the Unity store at Raffles City I went into the other day. On my way to an appointment. I went in to quickly check out items on offer. In particular QV cream and wash.

To my delight, I found QV wash on offer: 2 bottles of 500mg each for about $44 together, a saving of almost $10! Made a mental note to return after appointment to pick up, especially as i was impressed by their staff’s polite greeting of “May I help you?” left, right and centre.

I was in for a huge disappointment. Everything regressed to the Singapore service norm on my return.

While I was again greeted by “May I help you?”, that was as far as service went. I discovered to my disappointment that there just one bottle of QV body wash available and was refused the discount.

“You must buy two,” one of the sales associates told me assertively, “to qualify for the discount.”

“How come you are left with one when your offer is based on two per sale?” I asked.

“Because someone came in and wanted only one,” was the terse reply.

“OK, give me the other one?”

“There would be no discount.”


“Because you must buy two to get a discount.”

“But you only got one..”

“That’s why there’s no discount.”

As if what happened was my doing…

She added like something of a concession: “Come back tomorrow. We may have some more.”

As if I would make a special trip to Raffles City just on the off-chance of buying QV cheap!

What got me riled was the lack of empowerment. Sales person claimed to have sold the last but one bottle at full price. Couldn’t Unity have given her the power to sell the last bottle at the discount price, seeing that when taken together the takings for the pharmacy chain would be more by selling the last two bottles (one with discount; one without) than selling one without discount and not selling the last bottle at all!

  • But then again why should I be riled or even surprised by this service or lack of it at a lowly retail outlet to a casual customer-to-be when a well-known medical chain I go to annually for health screening showed complete lack of bedside manners that’s tantamount to no service.

This year, I received a call from the clinic to go back to the doctor for a review –just two days after my tests were done, when the norm in the past had been almost a week be4 getting that call.

Naturally I was surprised and anxious — thinking the early call meant something was amiss. I dashed down to the clinic just be4 noon on a Monday, thinking by then, the sniffles and cughs would have been done with.

I was wrong. The clinic was stubbornly packed although in reality there were about six patients ahead of me and with two doctors in attendance, I thought I shouldn’t have to wait too long.

Again, I was wrong. I was seen just be4 1pm. And no, it wasn’t a bad medical report. Just the same-old. Why was there need of a review? Why bring me all the way down? I seethed within but managed only to say: “It took me almost an hour to see you.”

To which the doctor replied nonchalantly: “Sorry. You shouldn’t have come on a Monday. We are always crowded.”

There were retorts aplenty in my mouth, such as “Why didn’t your clinic staff tell me this when they called? But I swallowed all protest and gave a weak smile.

I could write a whole series about the indifferent to downright bad service I’ve encountered in Singapore but decided that, the other common factor besides service is me. It could be I attract bad service like light attracts fireflies?

Otrherwise how could our Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shamugaratnam say at a service excellence presentation tonight — with straight face in the Singapore context — that reducing reliance on manpower does not mean that service standards need to be compromised.

Mr Tharman said: “The traditional concept of good service in the Asian context, is one that emphasises personal attention. Many of our service businesses have hence relied on more manpower to provide better service because service involves personal attention and if we want to provide more personal attention and more frequently, it often means more manpower.”

Alas, even a full complement of manpower hadn’t translated into good service for me. I shudder to think what might happen when Singapore will have to rely on less people power and rely more on brain power to deliver the service. Or perhaps service can’t get worse than it already is 😆 😆



2 thoughts on “Singapore service sucks and…

  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 12 Apr 2013 | The Singapore Daily

  2. I like this system. Your tip is appreciated. I have yet to experience real bad service staying in countries with this practice.
    I enjoy shopping where at entrance, you pick up flyers listing what are on offers, rain checks etc. And I don’t need any salesperson to hang around.
    When my doctor sends me for laboratory tests, the understood is no news is good news and the laboratory will tell you when they will be posting out the results. To see my doctor,it is advisable to call ahead and schedule the appointment. If I cannot wait, I ask the pharmacist for recommendations, and if I evaluate it as serious, I pop into the hospital prepared to wait it out as there will be thousands likewise thinking like me.
    Tharman is absolutely right. A low staffing level doesn’t equate to a deterioration in service. When I first moved to the developed countries to work and stay, I learn to appreciate the value in each other’s time.
    It took me a few months to learn to live without a live in domestic help, to the point where I almost call it a day and return. Eventually I surmounted my Everest, and today I am so proud that I can do my own laundryman breeze, whip out brunches, dinners without sacrificing our privacy to a live in help. The spare room I get turns into my personal den.

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