Revised and updated, 09 May, 2013
Recently I wrote Customer Service Philippines Style regarding some of my adventures in Philippine living and the issues you should be thinking about rather than just the perpetual “">">">How Much Do Things Cost in the Philippines?” question.
(See also excellent blog on What things cost in the Philippines, from Christian Skoda, his costs are from early 2008 and have not changed much, if you apply today’s slightly less favorable dollar/peso rates).
First Things First
- 0.1 First Things First
- 0.2 Forget about the Phone (Business only happens face-to-face):
- 0.3 Bring in the Physical Evidence and PROVE It Was Our Fault:
- 0.4 I Knew That Business only Happens Face-to-Face:
- 0.5 You Have To Keep Your Desired Outcome In Mind
- 0.6 Don’t Talk To Underlings (they can’t fix the problem anyway, they have no authority):
- 0.7 Don’t “Abdicate” Your Responsibility to a Filipino If It’s YOUR Problem:
- 0.8 Be Polite, But Insist They Talk To You;
- 0.9 Decide Before You Start What Outcome You Want and Stay On Topic
- 0.10 Keep Your Voice Down!
- 0.11 Stick To Your Issue, Don’t Try To Manage Someone Else’s Business:
- 0.12 Don’t Just Assume The Business Understands What You Want:
- 0.13 You Can Get Resolution If It Is Understood, Clearly:
- 0.14 And I Spent the Refund Five Minutes After I Got It
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Now the first thing I want to do here is put up a little disclaimer. First of all, I don’t give legal advice, and nothing I say should ever be construed as such. Ditto with financial advice .. ok? Everything I write is based on personal experience on what has worked for me, and as we always say on the Internet, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). But here are some thoughts you might want to consider:
Forget about the Phone (Business only happens face-to-face):
In most cases in the US, when you have a problem with a business, you can get resolution on the phone. (It may be resolved by working with a Call center agent in the Philippines, but no matter, if the issue gets solved, the customer is happy and all’s well with the world)
In the Philippines, I find this pretty much useless. You typically will get NOTHING “fixed” over the phone, even if you can find a number to call and someone even pick sup the phone to speak with you … both events are rare in and of themselves.
As an example, recall my diesel/gasoline mis-fueling story?
When we first found out what had happened my wife got on the phone with the gas station who had made the error. Know what their response was, after a lot of hemming and hawing?
Bring in the Physical Evidence and PROVE It Was Our Fault:
They told my wife that we should drain out the contaminated gasoline/diesel fuel mix and bring it back to them … 20 miles away (the wrong way) on the expressway so they could examine it.
I was only a little pissed when the incident first happened. I as a lot pissed when I heard their proposed solution.
I Knew That Business only Happens Face-to-Face:
Rather than argue with them on the phone or waste my own precious mental energy in getting madder and madder, I just had the mechanics at our “rescue station” finish draining out the bad fuel, take apart the water separator/fuel filter and clean and flush that out. I did not let them mess with my fuel injectors or timing pump … I know enough about diesels to avoid that faux pa at least.
I then bought a new full tank of diesel, got a receipt for everything that was done and went on my way to Zambales as planned, three hours or so behind schedule.
You Have To Keep Your Desired Outcome In Mind
Remember, annoyed as I might be by the error. my mission was to go to Zambales for some farm and family business … not to sit around all day until somebody showed up to receive my wrath and make restitution on the spot. Eyes on the prize, so to speak.
The next day, after we were home and rested, I drove to the offending gas station and went straight to the office and politely, but firmly asked to speak with the lady we had spoken to yesterday who claimed to be the manager. My wife was with me … always a good idea, except read the rest of the story.
Don’t “Abdicate” Your Responsibility to a Filipino If It’s YOUR Problem:
After explaining who we were and why we were there a huge, animated discussion started between my wife, and the manager, an assistant manager who had come running in, and I think the guy who had been mopping the rest rooms as well. The office was soon crowded with people. ;-).
Be Polite, But Insist They Talk To You;
I of course couldn’t follow all of the discussion, but I could tell the main focus of the conversation was about finding the young guy who had made the mistake and what action could be taken against him … after firing him I think throwing him under a bus was discussed ;-).
The assistant manager ran outside and I observed him hollering and screaming and waving his arms at all the pump attendants and the manager, inside with us, kept repeating over and over again, to my wife how sorry she was.
I quietly and politely interjected again that I wished to be addressed personally … my wife was not the one who bought the fuel and if necessary, I would ask my wife to leave the room, since they were refusing my reasonable request. This took the wind out of the manager’s sails a bit and she quieted down and started telling me, in perfectly adequate English how sorry she was and how hard they were trying to find the employee who had made the error and if they did, they would fire him on the spot.
Decide Before You Start What Outcome You Want and Stay On Topic
Now getting a guy fired may make you feel good, but it won’t accomplish much for you, especially if your object is to get a refund in the first place..
It’s very human to be pissed off and want to see some dummy given the axe, but it won’t replace wasted time or money and in the end, only his children suffer … at my age I know how easy dumb mistakes are to make … and I’ll wager I (and you) will make a lot more before we pass on.
Keep Your Voice Down!
I was proud of myself on this occasion because I remembered a key factor.
Filipinos talk loud, especially when excited, but a double standard is in effect. Might as well accept this, or stay home.
If you, as a foreigner, start raising you voice, your stock starts going down. The louder you get, the less you will succeed.
It’s hard to accept, especially when you are very, very much “wronged”, as I certainly was in this case … but especially if it gets up to the shouting stage? You are not going to leave happy … trust me on this.
So I carefully, and under strict vice control, stated to the manager that I was not interested in any way what action they took regarding the errant employee.
Stick To Your Issue, Don’t Try To Manage Someone Else’s Business:
I told the manager that firing (or not firing) the worker was her issue to deal with as the manager, after she settled my problem. Her eyes got big. Apparently in years of resolving issues like this she was only used to dealing with unhappy customers with “blood in their eye” who wanted to witness the employee getting chastised or fired.
A good friend reported a similar incident to me where he suspects the guy got fired before my friend even realized what was happening. Unless the wrong you are trying to right is actually the direct business of your spouse or ‘helper’, keep control of the situation yourself. Again, eye on the prize.
Don’t Just Assume The Business Understands What You Want:
“Ma’am, all I want is a refund of the money I am out of pocket. Please.”
After this sunk in on her I handed her the receipts for labor and refueling from the “rescuing” gas station, plus a handwritten sheet I had made up that showed how much “good” fuel had been in my car when I got there (which they had ruined)… calculated from what they had sold me and what we drained out, the gasoline she had sold me in error, the service charges I paid at the other station and the diesel I had to buy to bring my tank up to full, which had been my original intention.
I then told her something else. I was not interested in HER being sorry. Ma’am. I don’t want anyone made any more ‘sorrowful’. I accept any and all apologies and just let us move on.
She looked back at me and asked, “You mean a refund is all you need, Sir David”?
You Can Get Resolution If It Is Understood, Clearly:
She was out of the room like a shot, “For a while, sir.” came back to me over her shoulder.
She was back in five minutes, the exact amount of money in her hand, a cash receipt voucher for me to sign, two air freshener gimmick give away’s in her hand and a genuine smile and look of relief on her face.
I have no idea what happened to the miscreant, nor do I care. I took the money, my wife and I left with smiles and “maraming salamat’s” all around.
And I Spent the Refund Five Minutes After I Got It
On the way to our car I got roped into spend some of that money in my hand on a fancy pre paid expressway toll transponder (more on that at another time) and a nice lunch in a rest stop restaurant. A good morning all around.
Always remember and never forget, if you are there to get your money back, and you get it back, you have succeeded beyond expectations, so be happy.
As my hero, Harry Chapin once sang, “… well another man might have been angry, and another man might have been hurt … I stashed the tip in my shirt.” 😉
Another happy day living in the Philippines.