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A quote I just thought about

Between Insanity and Persistence lays something called Discernment

A quote worth living by

Celebrating Steve Jobs’ retirement and career, here’s a quote I believe should be worth living by for everyone:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

[Stanford commencement speech, June 2005]

Tip for new restaurants

Here’s one interesting and crazy thing that happens in Indonesia quite regularly: bad service.

With so many malls popping up everywhere, it also follows that many new restaurants open up in those malls.

You would think that the owners of these restaurants would know when their establishments would be fully packed and need extra staff to serve the customers (especially because new facilities also require new staff, who will have a steeper learning curve).

What you get when you fail to plan enough servers near opening day is crappy service. I’ve lost count of the number of crappy first experiences I’ve had to deal with while in Indonesia. And crappy service, is not the first impression you’d like your customers to have.

As they say, first impressions are important, so why can’t these smart owners who have enough money to open such fancy restaurants be savy enough to plan such things ahead?

Kids birthday gift ideas (NOT)

Thinking of something for your kid for their birthday? How bout surprising them with some of these ideas?

- TASER X3 triple shot
Good way to teach them about how the police can subdue unruly people without truly hurting them. Hey, isn’t that kinda like teaching them about not always using force to get your way? Diplomacy training for kids :)

- Mount a 100″ TV in the ceiling
This will definitely make you a mom/dad of the year candidate, and also set yourself up for some obesity/eye problems in the future. Hey, at least you’re gonna keep them home a lot this way.

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Stupidity of the day

*sigh*.. one of those days.

Here’s the situation:
- I have an Indonesian credit card, have been using it with no problems for the last few months. I used it last night with no problems at all at a restaurant in Jakarta.
- On the 10th of July (last week), I authorized a charge for my transcript request from my university in Canada. It got rejected.
- I have a recurring charge for Facebook Ads (US based) that goes on my credit card every week or so. And for the last 6 months or so, has had no problems whatsoever.
- On the 14th of July (last night), the Facebook charge failed.

Logically thinking:
- Credit card is working fine in Indonesia up to the 14th.
- Credit card is refused in Canada on the 10th.
- Credit card is refused in US on the 14th (when it was working fine the last 6 months).
- There must be something wrong with this card’s processing foreign based charges.

The call to customer service (please allow me to do this beforehand: @#$^@#$&^@#$&@#$&#$&!@#$&!#$^!#$&):
Me: (Explained the situation above to her)
CS: Please hold, our system is slow
Me: …
<5 minutes later>
CS: Thanks for holding, according to our records, the problem is from the Canadian side, please ask them to try again.
Me: Really? Then how do you explain the failure from Facebook (US) on the 14th?

[Repeat these next 4 lines about 3 or 4 times]
CS: Not sure, please try again, and if it fails, call us again.
Me: That doesn’t make sense, it failed on the 10th in Canada, it failed on the 14th in the US, 2 different countries, 2 different institutions. It must be your system that’s having problems.
CS: It’s the overseas system that failed. That’s what I’m told by our people, please ask them to try again and call us again if it fails again.
[Sigh, apparently these people cannot think for themselves and are just parrots repeating their higher up parrots who just cannot be bothered to get off their asses and check what's actually wrong]
Me: And what difference would that make? Why can’t you just check it now?
[End repeat]

CS: Our system is slow, please call back again if it fails.
Me: …

Conclusion:
- Indonesian customer service is crap, just like any other public facing service here, be it government or private.
- It seems people here are not trained to think at all (as proven by that repeat loop in the middle of my conversation). Maybe they’re required to have their brain taken out before they can apply for customer service positions.
- Customer service in Indo just shoves the problems aside and hopes it goes away (note: no, it doesn’t) or the people needing service get tired enough of their stupidity that they get frustrated and quit trying to find answers through customer service.
- I’m still @#$&^@#&^@#$&@#$&@#$&@#$&@#&@#%&@#&.

Thanks for reading.

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Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta “supposedly” international airport

There were some details that I forgot to include in my previous post about that trip to Singapore. It has to do with Jakarta’s international airport, Soekarno Hatta. A series of unfortunate events you might say, or in this case, unanticipated by airport authorities, causing annoyances to prospective passengers.

Try and imagine another international airport who’d have service like this:

Most Indonesians probably know that you have to fill in a “Departure Card” after check-in before going to the immigration counter. Unfortunately, there is NO such information anywhere for those who don’t know this. Beginning from entering the passengers area, the check in counter, the fiscal check, and even up to the line-up to meet the immigration officer. No signs, no notices, and no cards to be seen anywhere (you’d think if this was mandatory they’d make it easier for people to see and fill in these items).

I haven’t departed from Jakarta for awhile, and didn’t remember this rule. So, I got through check in, fiscal check, and lined up for quite awhile before I found this out. Shouldn’t there be at least some cards available from the immigratoin officer to fill in on the spot? Noooo way, the officer said it’s the check in counter who’s supposed to have these cards, so we have to walk all the way back to the counters and re-line up after filling in the cards.

So I go to the nearest check in counter and ask for a Departure card from the guy behind the desk. He says that the cards are tailored to each individual airline and we’d have to get ours from where we checked in, which was near the end of the building. I’m a bit sceptical, but decide to follow his instructions. Mid-way through the walk, I see an international airline counter, and think, “hey, why would they tailor each card to each airline? it makes no sense, since the card itself asks for a flight number, and the card is marked ‘Republic of Indonesia’, not ‘Airline Republic A’”; so I ask the person behind this counter, and of course was told the cards are all the same. *sigh, just remembering this makes me pity the customer service knowledge and skills of those people behind the counter*.

Well, you’d think that’s all that went wrong in one night right? Wrong!!!. After lining up the second time and getting through immigration, we walk all the way to the gate printed on our boarding passes. It turns out the gate has been changed to the one right beside it. We can see some people who have already entered the passenger waiting areas after going through baggage and personal screening. Quite a huge lineup, so me and my friend just chat while the line moves forward slowly.

Suddenly, the line just stops moving and people are kept waiting. Then, the officer at the front of the line said that the gate was changed, and everybody, including those who’ve already been screened would have to go to another gate and line up again, because the plane would park at another gate (wth??? can’t they just organise themselves???). So off we go to the new gate, and voila !!! no security, no officers and nobody at the screening area at the new gate. Passengers are just left to stare around for up to 15 minutes before they finally came around and started the screening process.

I just can’t believe how disorganized Jakarta’s airport is, considering that 2008 is supposed to be Visit Indonesia Year (side commentary: check out this snafu by those smart people making that promotion, a case of “we don’t proofread our globally targeted campaigns” – it’s mind boggling that a country’s ministry wouldn’t have at least some competent people who’d be able to correct grammatical errors before it gets plastered on the national carrier planes all over. That would make quite an impression on foreigners, “look, a country whose English knowledge is so bad they actually allow grammatically challenged phrases to be pasted on their airplanes. We’ll definitely have to visit that country”.)

So there goes my rant about Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta international airport. I just hope that the people in charge do something about making it a real “international” standard airport because it’s quite embarassing to see in the state it is right now.

 

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Singapore after more than 15 years

The last time I went to visit Singapore (not counting transits) was probably more than 15 years ago (I can’t remember exactly when), because either the MRT wasn’t built or it was just finished. In any case, it was a long long time ago :).

Last week, I had the chance to go there for a couple of days, and I must say it’s quite a nice place to visit. Clean air, little traffic, modern, good public transportation, and organized. I only had a little time to go around and sightsee, but managed to go to Suntec City, VivoCity, and along Orchard Road for a bit (I like malls :)).

I’ve heard quite a few of my friends, who’ve actually stayed in Singapore, say that after awhile you do get bored with life there, but for the few days I was there, I really felt if I had to live in Singapore, I wouldn’t mind it at all. Granted, Singaporeans do work like crazy (so I’ve heard), and property cost is off the roof, but should push come to shove and a really good opportunity presented itself, I think I wouldn’t mind trading Jakarta’s pollution and traffic for such a life.

Another tale of crappy customer service

This time, courtesy of the HobbyCraft store at Mal Puri Indah in Jakarta. Here’s the story:

A couple of days ago, my wife wanted to buy some knitting accessories. She doesn’t know much about knitting and just wanted to buy basic beginner’s stuff, so she went to the Hobby Craft store and based on information she had, purchased a pair of knitting needles and woolen threads.

When she got home, she found out that she had bought the wrong type of knitting needle, so she thought, “no big deal, I’ll just exchange it for another type”.

The next day, I accompanied her to the store and just couldn’t believe how crappy their customer service was.

1. The clerk said it couldn’t be exchanged for anything because it was my wife’s fault.

2. The clerk called the owner, and the owner said no exchange because the computer system can’t handle it and will create a mess in accounting.

3. The clerk who sold the item the previous night came in and had the gall to put up an attitude and raise her voice at my wife and kept saying “it’s your fault for not knowing the correct type to buy”

Now, where else can you find such an issue with returning a $3 item except in Indonesia? And this not in a side walk dubious store; it’s quite a well known crafts store in Jakarta.

My issue is that:

1. Yes, it’s my wife’s fault that she bought the wrong item. That was acknowledged when she told the clerk she needed to return the item in the first place. My wife kept saying, “I’m sorry, I bought the wrong item”. Good customer service dictates that you acknowledge a customer’s issue and in good faith respond to it. The principle of shifting blame over and over again seems so unprofessional.

2. What kind of owner risks the wrath of a customer for the equivalent of a $3 item? Just take the god damned item back and gain a new customer instead of risking embarassment should one of those be an influential person somewhere.

3. What kind of POS (double meaning intended here) system doesn’t handle refunds such that it creates a mess at the end of month calculations? And if you have such a crappy system, why not hire me to make a good one for you?

4. Raising your voice/showing displeasure at a customer really shows how bad your customer service skills are. This is even doubly embarassing considering my wife was not even trying to pick a fight with them. I probably could understand clerks getting upset if a customer was shouting obscenities and threats at them, but getting upset at a customer trying to exchange an item is just ridiculous.

5. My wife knew that she probably had to purchase another item in addition to returning the item, and she said upfront, “I’m gonna buy something else and add to the purchase”. By refusing to do this vehemently, aren’t they just refusing profit?

In the end, my wife convinced the first clerk to let her exhcange the item and buy something else in addition. But the experience has left a bitter taste in her mind, and she has told me she’s not going back there even if it means going to another store further away to buy her crafts goods.

So, if you’re ever trying to buy some hobbies/crafts items, I’d strongly recommend against going to the Hobby Craft store at Mal Puri Indah. Bad customer service, unfriendly and an extremely stupid owner.

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Which bank issued your MasterCard? Does it really matter?

Here’s a general mindset of Indonesians, in action. The individual rather than the group, the specific issuer rather than the brand.

Conversation I had in a retail store yesterday, trying to purchase a steering wheel lock for my wife:

Me: (hands over item)

Clerk: That’ll be Rp. 155.000,00

Me: (hands over MasterCard)

Clerk: (ponders over the card for awhile)

Clerk: Where is this from?

Me: What is where from?

Clerk: This card, which bank?

Me: Canadian bank

Clerk: Oh, foreign huh? (Note: Is there a territory named Canada in Indonesia I wonder???)

Me: Yeah

Clerk: Have any other card?

Me: No, what is the matter?

Clerk: I’m afraid this might not get processed

Me: (It’s a MasterCard for crying out loud, it should be accepted anywhere a MasterCard logo is displayed!!!)

Me: Of course it’ll go through, it’s a MasterCard, doesn’t matter who or what issued it!

Clerk: (Runs the transaction through and what do you know, it works) (duh!).

This is quite mind boggling for me. Somehow the clerk’s concept of a credit card is still wrapped around the fact that it’s issued by a specific bank instead of a bank using the MasterCard brand, as if a MasterCard issued by a foreign bank would be rejected just because the transaction is in Indonesia. Such a narrow mindset makes me wonder just how ready Indonesia is for globalization.

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Jakarta’s Traffic Solution is…

… to make me governor :). Just kidding, I know it’s nearly impossible to fix this situation without probably blowing up the whole city and doing proper urban planning. But here’s some ideas I think would reduce traffic congestion by a huge amount (just don’t know why nobody’s doing these since they’re pretty common sense if you think about it).

So here goes my Jakarta Traffic Solution Guide:

  • The Busway is a good idea, but the implementation in Jakarta is as bad as you can get. It’s supposed to have its own lane created from scratch, not taking an existing lane and converting it. If you really want to do this, then accordingly, take out all the other public transportation on the regular roads to reduce congestion. Without doing this, it’s basically, “oh, let’s cramp these already packed 3 lanes into 2 and see how people like being squished together in cars”.
  • Everyone in Jakarta knows that most of the old public transportation like the “MetroMini”, “Kopaja”, “Kopami”, “Mikrolet”, “KWK” and the rest of them drive like maniacs and have no regard for everybody else on the road, plus they stop wherever they want whenever they want, thus causing havoc on the roads. Get rid of these and leave maybe 1/4 of the ones that drive properly.
  • As an added bonus of doing the previous step, we’d probably cut Jakarta’s pollution by a huge amount.
  • Double or even triple the amount of current Busway armada. Right now, there are roads all across Jakarta for the buses, but hardly enough buses as evidenced by the sardine-like packed terminals at Harmoni during peak hours. With enough buses to ensure comfortability, more people will be enticed to use it.
  • Make the Busway stations and buses comfortable for people to use. Right now people are sweating it out in the stations because there’re no air conditioners. Now imagine this at 5 PM with Jakarta’s striking heat and a whole place full of irate, annoyed people who just want to go home.
  • Provide parking lots near end points of the Busway routes. There are stations right now, but where do you expect people who drive cars to park them? In the middle of the road?

Ending thoughts: As I said at the beginning, the Busway is a fine concept with bad implementation. The government says they’re trying to get people out of their cars on to the buses; but who in their right mind would do such a thing if it meant suffering through heat, long wait times and crowded transportation? Without improving the conditions of the terminals and buses, I hardly see anybody in their cars wanting to leap for joy and join the Busway crowd.

So, anybody care to make me governor someday? :)

 

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