Foreigners & Tourist Areas = Lousy Service

After spending a few months working my socks-off in Bangkok, I’m finally falling back into the more mellowed and chilled-out routine of living upcountry here in Suphanburi.

This blog of mine today, is actually related in way to Richard’s one lately about the scammering Siam Ocean World at the Siam Paragon. Putting a two-tier price system in place is bad enough but when prices for locals are quoted in Thai numerals and for foreigners in Arabic, then that is just sheer deception. What is even more sickening, is that Siam Ocean World is run by Australia’s very own Oceanis. Do you honestly think that this friggin company would dare try that back in their hometown of Perth, if not, then what excuse can they give for pulling the stunt off here?

In fact, I looked into the legalities of the two-tier price system last week and contacted a lawyer I knew. Not surprisingly, he turned and said “Of course it’s illegal, you can not charge one person more than another, regardless to whether they are white, black, yellow or violet”. So, if you are pished-off too with the likes of Siam Ocean World illegally charging foreigners twice the price, then you have the right to complain – the folk in the government to contact about price scammers are the Office of the Consumer Protection Board, they can be emailed at: Perhaps an actual petition would really wake them up!

Now, during my few months in Bangkok, I was staying not too far from the Khao Sarn Road area, for a while on the early Samsen Road sois and then Thanao Road near Democracy Monument. I came back home every weekend to Suphanburi (conveniently, the passenger van leaves from that very area too) and since I’m already paying rent for a house here, cheap budget guest-house accommodation was enough for me in BKK.

Getting straight to the point, most service at tourist areas, is crap. Ranking top of the ‘Lousy Service List’ in tourist areas, winning hands-down is none other than 7-Eleven. I have noticed for years and years the two-tiered service system they implement. In other ‘Thai’ area of Bangkok or upcountry (just get away from foreigners) and you’ll be greeted with ‘Sawatdee Kha’, told the amount to pay and perhaps given a smile when you leave. On the whole 7-Eleven staff are usually pretty courteous, gotta give hem that.

Generally speaking however, in the tourist areas, most of 7-Eleven’s service is totally sub-standard in comparison. I have noticed this a lot, I Mr Farang walk-in, and the girl doesn’t bat an eyelid nor say a word, in behind me walks some Thai geezer and he gets a ‘Sawatdee’. What the heck! Next, I go to the counter and about to pay, after she totals the amount, she stares me blankly in the eyes, as if I were some kind of alien dork, and just waits for me to hand over the cash. Doesn’t say a word – just offers one of those ‘Yeah… what you waiting for’ looks. Geez… even if I was a fresh-off-the-boat Farang backpacker, I think I would appreciate someone just saying something regardless to whether I actually understood their language or not. Altogether, the service at most of the 7-Elevens in the Sukhumvit Road and Banglumphu areas, from what I have seen anyway, is lousy.

I actually have some stories about lousy 7-Eleven service over the many years here but the worst came this time around during my stint in Bkk. It was just on the stroke of midnight at one of their gaffs along Samsen and my buddy wanted a couple of beers (I had to get up early, so it was a little too late for me). Clearly in view was a Thai bloke at the counter buying about 4 bottles of Heineken. I’m stood outside like, waiting for my mate and 2 minutes later I sees him arguing with the girl behind the counter – she wouldn’t serve him – claimed it was past midnight. Even though I butted in and explained that ‘that Thai geezer’ had just been serviced in full view of us – she was having nothing of it.

A couple of weeks after this, I got such bad service that I contacted HQ about it and giving them a bitta praise like, they did conduct an enquiry and informed me after about the ‘corrective action’ they had taken. The story goes like this. At another 7-Eleven not far from the one above, I was in a situation similar to my buddy’s. It was on the stroke-a midnight and this night I fancied a bevvie for my room. Just as I opened the fridge door a hand came out of nowhere, grabbed the bottle out of my hand and stuck it back in. He was one of the two plain-clothed shelf stackers (rather strange not?). He then turned to his colleague and said something in Thai, along the lines of “Stupid Farang”. Right there I replied in English “Well, the beer fridge isn’t locked yet, so doesn’t that mean the shop’s still selling. On this, the whipper-snapper turns to his mate and completely insult me in Thais, words of which I won’t repeat here. To cut a long story short he found out I spoke Thai, but nonetheless swore at me directly in may face. As for the girl cashier, she was in hysterics.

After I complained to the head office, my friends in the guest-house noticed too that the staff in this particular 7-Eleven had suddenly transformed into ‘polite’ staff, just like they ought to have been in the first place.

When asking other expat long-timers in both the Sukhumvit and Banglumphu areas about their experiences it seemed that they too have been disgruntled about the sub-standard service offered by 7-Eleven in tourist areas. Moreover, over the years I have heard and read so many stories about their lousy service that I could write a handbook on the subject.

I have also had a couple of runs-in with that rather expensive fast food joint Burger King. The last one was also a couple of months ago with the one on Thanao Road opposite one of the far ends of Khao Sarn Road. I walked in and told the ‘boy’ that I wanted the promo special of Chicken nuggets and French fries.

“There is no such a thing” was the reply.

“What you mean? There’s a huge sign up outside and besides I’ve had it twice in the past couple of weeks” was my explanation.

So, there he was for the few minutes arguing in front of all the other customers (in Thai) that the joint didn’t have the promo I was after.

On seeing this commotion, out comes some young bloke who looked liked the manager-on-duty. After explaining the matter, he turned around to the ‘boy’ laughing and said “Of course we have it, there’s a big sign outside”.

Pretty pished-off by now, I give the manager about two sentences of opinion on lack of staff training; that was until (still smirking away) he raised his hand and gave me one of those hand gestures signifying ‘just leave’ and turned away while I was looking on in disbelief.

Giving the B King management at head office credit, they seriously looked into the matter and I was afforded a detailed email from one of the customer services managers about the disciplinary actions that were being conducted, and especially against the manager Mr Sombat. Then, a few weeks after, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a registered letter of added apology and 3 free whopper coupons.

This isn’t the first time I’ve got complimentary coupons after complaining. A long while back a waitress at Pizza hut swore at me in front of the wife (again one of those rather racist “f**kin stupid Farang” remarks). This happened after I refused to pay more for a spaghetti dish than what was stated on a promo sign ie… the promo was two days invalid but they’d forgotten to pull down the sign. I’m absolutely certain that she would have never sworn at a Thai customer like that. This kind of lousy service is given quite obviously cause the staff think they can get away with it, just cause you’re a foreigner. I have witnessed second-hand a lot of sub-standard service for foreigners in such places, but again too much to write here.

A lot farang folk will try to explain something like “It’s because a lot of foreigners are impolite”. I’m sorry, these kinds of places are not Pattaya bars where a lot of the foreigners are on the point of obnoxious, especially when they are drunk and in the company of cheap for-hire flesh. How can any cashier like this judge a foreigner they’ve only known for less than a minute. And besides, Thai customers are often much more inclined to be impolite to service staff than foreigners, and especially Farang.

As for KFC and Mc Donalds, I’ve never had any problems with them. Well done.

That said, the likes of 7-Eleven in particular, need to employ a board of top customer care management who are serious about their job. Since 7-Eleven is an international company, they ought to adhere to international standards. First and foremost, their staff trainers ought to be trained themselves into realizing that customers are customers regardless of age, creed, caste or colour.

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