Customer Service Level in Singapore has Reached a Record High?

MiddleFinger

Recently I read that The Institute of Service Excellence at the Singapore Management University has released the 2013 full-year results for the Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore, which indicated that customer service level in Singapore has reached a record high.

Caroline Lim, Director of ISES said, “Three straight years of improving national customer satisfaction levels is very encouraging.”

She’s got to be kidding!

I’ll leave it to textbookish academics in their ivory towers to convince you but I for one am not convinced.

Customer service is not just conducting surveys, interviews, or focus groups with random tourists and local consumers. (By the way, typically, tourists from the west are more “generous” in their rating of service levels here.)

Customer service – good or bad – is what I experience the moment I step out of my house. Measuring customer service levels is barely scratching the surface of national consciousness. It has to do with our national psyche. What confronts me is usually symptomatic of something way deeper. Attempts by organizations like ISES are at best, superficial.

Do my neighbors greet me? Do their kids offer to help carry my stuff? When I call for a cab, do I interact with a warm, helpful human being or do I listen to recordings of mechanical voices? When I phone my bank, do I tear my hair out because getting to speak to a human, or one located right here without a Filipino or Indian accent, is near impossible? In crammed, narrow aisles of the supermarket, do staff insists on getting their way, rudely cutting across my path, instead of stepping back to let me go first? On the roads, do motorists exhibit courtesy? Do cyclists stop demonstrating that they harbor death wishes? Do pedestrians stop jaywalking? In a restaurant, do staff insist that I pay for tap water even if my total spend is 500 bucks? Do I get asked about the dessert I want while my companion is still eating? Do they give me one – just one – toothpick when I ask for toothpicks? At the food court, do grouchy cleaners use the same foul-smelling, blackened rag to wipe my table as they clear away other diners’ plates and bowls, often plates and bowls filled with used tissues? (Why do people do that, throw used tissues into their used plates and bowls?) In a retail store, do sales people with bad halitosis breathe down my neck and follow me everywhere I move and quickly re-arrange merchandise I’ve touched, giving me the impression that I am nothing but a major irritation in their lives and that they can’t wait to go back to their Facebook updates?

Customer service level in Singapore has reached a record high?

Yeah right, and pigs fly our fighter jets.

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Is the E-pipe Here to Stay?

E-pipeThe Health Sciences Authority said on Monday that three individuals have been fined about S$100,000/- in all for selling illegal electronic cigarettes, or battery-operated gadgets that simulate cigarette smoking.

In Singapore, e-cigarettes are currently prohibited under Section 16 (1) of the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act, which is enforced by the HSA.

More than 5 million people globally are said to die every year from the consequences of smoking. That is one death in ten. 70 types of carcinogens from tobacco are blamed for 90% of all cancers.

E-cigarettes (or e-cigars or e-pipes) would seem to be the answer, right? I mean, there’s no second-hand smoke, they don’t smell bad, and so far no credible scientific study has proven that e-smoking is harmful. E-cigarettes contain none of the carcinogens, such as tar and arsenic, present in regular cigarettes because they contain no tobacco.

Wrong! Many in positions of power are up in arms against e-smoking.

The World Health Organization and the US Federal Drug Administration are planning to officially classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products. WHO wants to reduce tobacco use by 30% by 2025. It’s determination to stop e-cigarettes is therefore incomprehensible.

I can only think of three reasons:

One, e-smoking may lead to smoking the real thing. But nothing has proven that this is the case; in fact the reverse is true – e-cigarettes now outsell nicotine patches.

Two, the vapor-producing liquid that is the main ingredient of e-smokes may be harmful and addictive. Sure, so is sugar, so is salt, so is excessive sex, so is beer, so is red wine and so is a one-party government, if you get my drift. And the contents of these liquid vials can be quality-controlled to ensure that they cause minimal harm or contain zero nicotine.

Three, e-smoking products may overtake the sale of real tobacco products, causing the government to lose shitloads of revenue. If the government can ban chewing gum but is reluctant to ban tobacco products altogether – despite scare tactics and years of campaigns to castigate smokers – it can only mean that it is greedy for the lucrative revenue that the taxes on such products bring. (Plus a total ban would be seen as yet another draconian decree and would alienate voters even more.)

In any case, it is already clear that whatever health risks may emerge in studies of e-smoking, they are vastly less lethal than traditional smokes.

The risk of getting more people addicted to something relatively harmless is well worth taking, given the opportunity for curbing dramatically the world’s single-most-harmful voluntary activity, says The Economist.

Now, WHO, FDA and HSA, put that in your pipe and smoke it!

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The Ballsy, The Ball-less and Our Rightful Response

Singh

When crossing swords with one of the most corrupted politicians in Malaysia Karpal Singh said “You can be the lion and I can be the tiger, because there are no lions in Malaysia.” The moniker stuck and from then on he was often referred to as the “Tiger of Jelutong.” (He was Member of Parliament for Jelutong.)

More pit bull than tiger, Singh spent over three decades being a thorn in the side of the ruling coalition. Not a single politician in Singapore could be compared to him. Where are the men and women of Singapore who stand up for their principles nowadays? Men and women who are prepared to make genuine sacrifices, even go to jail for what they believe in? (Instead of pencil-pushers with fancy degrees and obscene salaries.) Karpal Singh, son of an Indian Punjabi immigrant to Malaysia, had received death threats, been arrested, charged and jailed yet he continued to take on tough, controversial cases fighting for those whom he felt were wrongly accused. He would not hesitate taking on even the Malaysian king, (who named one of his dogs after him) or dictatorial strongmen like Mahathir, who told him that he was “the most contemptible of politicians and individuals.”

Karpal Singh was known for being a principled man, a giant with an indomitable spirit. He died in a car accident last week. He was 73. Thousands showed up for his funeral.

His name “Karpal” (which means “kind” in Punjabi) sounds like the Malay word “kapal” meaning “ship” and while Karpal Singh has passed on, his reputation will continue to stay afloat like an unsinkable ship.

Dickhead

The same cannot be said for Indonesian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief General Moeldoko who sailed into deep shit recently.

The dickhead has clarified that, in his interview with Channel NewsAsia last week, he had not apologized to the Singapore Government for the naming of a warship after the Indonesian marines who infiltrated into Singapore and bombed MacDonald House in 1965, killing three and injuring over 30.

Instead, said the general, the apology had been for the fact that the decision to name the ship Usman Harun was final and would not be changed.

On TV he was shown saying on record “Once again, I apologize. We have no ill intent whatsoever to stir emotions; not at all.”

Following the airing of the interview, Gen Moeldoko posted a link to the Channel NewsAsia story on his Facebook page. There was a backlash in Indonesia. He was questioned by some Indonesians as to why he had apologized.  His “clarification” soon followed.

What should our response be?

Honestly, we’re big enough not to require an apology (sincere or otherwise) just to show that the other side has capitulated. We don’t thrive on those things. Those are the little things little people get mired in.

We are more than conquerors. We are Singaporeans. We stand on high moral grounds.

We are not like those bloodthirsty Indonesian peasants-turned-butchers in Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing.

We should focus on being a flourishing nation with a cultured citizenry and equipped with world-class capability to defend ourselves against intruders and modern day conquistadors.

Success, after all, is the best revenge!

Let the little people continue to talk through their asses by all means and let them drown in their own cesspit of jingoism.

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The Meaning of “Irony”

Something for your teeth, from the Singapore Dental Association, no less:

SDA

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Honey, Look! (40 Years Later)

Honey,Look!

Awed by what they saw 40 years ago, they stayed.

Fast forward to 2014:

She: Honey, look! It’s flooding!
He: Nah, floods happen only once in 50 years here. In this country full of surprises, they call it “ponding.”

She: Honey, look! Pioneer Package!
He: What rubbish? They give you one dollar, they take back five dollars. Hardly surprisingly huh?

She: Honey, look! Lots of budget hotels everywhere!
He: Really? There’s a surprisingly cheaper option – many Singaporeans seem to prefer staircase landings.

She: Honey, look! So nice to see politicians united and working in harmony, unlike those in the Philippines.
He: You kidding? Lim Wee Kiak was reamed for speaking the truth! And I’m not surprised.

She: Honey, look! People here seem to like the ruling party, they win every election!
He: Heard of gerrymandering? And ridiculous setups like GRCs where weak newbies hang onto the coattails of some of the better veterans? This way they are swept into the government. On their own I’ll be surprised if they get elected as class monitors!

She: Honey, look! It’s so peaceful here, no cops anywhere! Surprised?
She: Well, it’s bad planning. They didn’t hire enough. They need a thousand more at least!

She: Honey, look! Power sockets every where! We can charge our mobile phones!
He: Sure, if you want to be surprised by a 400-buck fine!

She: Honey, look! Why are people covering their noses? What’s that stench?
He: Oh, what a surprise! Is Amy Cheong and Anton Casey back from Perth?

She: Honey, look! A train in every 90 seconds!
He: Yeah, and pigs can fly.

She: Honey, Look! Eight-dollar bypasses!
He: Yeah and I suppose you can pay using SingTel m Rare-Meat, er I mean mRemit.

Inspired by two recent puke-inducing, cringe-worthy, government-backed promotional videos targeting our Pinoy neighbors.

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Simplified!

ThunderTeaRice

You either hate it or love it – the Hakka dish “Thunder Tea Rice.”

Said to originate from General Zhang Fei’s time when a herbalist concocted a mixture of tea, basil and herbs to go with rice to cure the General’s soldiers who were down from an epidemic. That’s the glamorized version. I suspect the truth is that in ancient times, those poor Hakka buggers – who were wondering nomads (“Hakka” literally means “guest people” with no fixed homes) – couldn’t find any meat to eat, so they just chopped up all the vegetables they could forage, dumped them into rice and poured in tea and voilà, a dish was invented. In Hakka it is called Lei Cha rice. “Lei” meaning “to grind” or to render all the ingredients into small little edible bits and the herbs that get ground into a paste that goes into the potion. “Lei” also sounds like “thunder” and “Cha” is “tea” hence the name “Thunder Tea Rice.”

Today a green-tea-based concoction is poured into a bowl of rice filled with tiny cubes of bean curd, dried shrimps, pickled radishes, finely-chopped long beans, peanuts and God knows what else.

It looks simple but takes hours to prepare because so many ingredients are needed. If you opt for brown rice, the faint nutty aroma of the rice plus all those stuff you’ll end up chewing makes the dish a very interesting experience for the person who eats it. It gives the jaws a good workout and has a nice “mouth-feel” to it and since no meat is involved, it’s a guilt-free treat.

I overhead two ladies at Food Republic talking about this one-dish meal. One obviously loves it and had just introduced her friend to it. Her friend, tasting it for the first time, was actually somewhat offended that she was being treated to such a simple meal that tasted so weird. “This rubbish must be like food they dish out to prisoners, or something they throw to stray dogs!” she harrumphed in disgust.

It reminded me of that time when I served 25-year-old Macallan single malt to a Neanderthal only to have that human train wreck complain that it “tastes like cockroach.”

Well, I don’t know about that. I have never eaten a cockroach before.

Often the difference between what is sublime and what is crass is a thin line, like the line between genius and insanity.

Psychophysicist Ernst Heinrich Weber’s theory about just noticeable difference (Weber’s Law) applies.

The naked girl gyrating on stage in some sleazy third-world lap dance bar or strip club is not the same as the nude in Le déjeuner sur l’herbe but I don’t expect Neanderthals to know that.

Sometimes, things that appear simple are not that simple after all.

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Fêted!

The 4th Chapitre of the Confrérie du Sabre d’Or, Singapour, was held on March 28th.

The Committee.

The Committee.

It was a multi-course dinner featuring the cuisine of guest international masterchef Philippe Mille, an award-winning two-Michelin-star chef from France and executive chef Bobby Saravanan Krishnan of St Regis Singapore as well as the creations of some other chefs.

I will list some of the more memorable dishes here.

First, the Amuse-Bouche by Sous-Chef Edmund Cheah:

Amuse-Bouche

Chef Bobby’s Sri Lankan Crab Meat & Prawns (Crab Meat & Prawn Salad, Green Pea Pate, Avruga Pearls, Sweet Pea Sprouts, Sauvignon Blanc Reduction, Tomato Powder) was accompanied by Brut, Champagne Vieille France Blanc de Blanc, and Champagne Besserat de Bellefon:

CrabandPrawns

After that dish we had Double Boiled Lobster Consommé (Raviolo with Ragout of Chicken, Porcini Mushrooms & Tarragon Lobster Tail, Tarragon Oil) prepared by Executive Sous Chef Fabio Granata; it was accompanied by Brut Réserve, Champagne Pol Roger, Espirit De Diraud Brut, Champagne Henri Giraud.

Next came Philippe Mille’s Braised Cod of Quiberon in Wild Mushrooms, (Iodinated Kohlrabi with Shellfish flavored with Mountain Lovage) paired with Brut Nature, Penet-Chardonnet Grand Cru Grande Réserve and Brut Rosé, Champagne HATT et Söner:

Cod

2010 AOC Bordeaux and Bernard Magrez L’Egregore accompanied the following main courses, Chef de Cuisine Pabrice Passicos’ Grilled Beef Tenderloin (Sautéed Savoy Cabbage, Smoked Foie Gras, Chick Pea Pancake, Truffle & Madeira Sauce):

Tenderloin

and Chef de Cuisine Stefano Arrigoni’s Duo of Lamb (Rack of Lamb in Mustard & Herb Crust, Sautéed Green Vegetables with Parma Ham, Braised Lamb Shoulder in Red Wine with Traditional Polenta):

Lamb

The evening ended with Chef Bobby’s Amadei Chocolate (Toscano White – Freeze Dried Strawberry Parfait, Latte e Noccile – Chilled Milk Chocolate & Hazelnut Foam and ’9′ Extra Dark – Fondant with Dried Apricot Coulis) with the following to accompany: Brut Rosé, Champagne Mansard and of course coffee and tea, Mignardises.

Photographs by Thomas Choong were furnished by Maître des Caveaux & Maître de la Communication (Interne) Dr David Jen, to whom I hereby thank whole-heartedly.

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Steamed!

If you like steamed fish, head out to Zai Shun at 253 Jurong East Street 24 #01-205.

No, the fishes are not live ones swimming in a tank but they are extremely fresh nevertheless. Zai Shun even sells the Empurau from Sarawak, reputed to be the most expensive fish in the region because of its diet of the Engkabang (butter fruit) flowers and fruits. There are reports of tycoons flying into Malaysia on their private jets to taste the fish at prices as much as MR10,000/- a kilo. That’s about S$3,800/-. Here in Zai Shun, the price is only S$180/- a kilo. But do phone the owner Mr Ong at 65608594 to check for availability before you go. And do it only if you are dead serious. Please don’t inundate the super-busy owner with mindless phone calls. Zai Shun is my all time go-to stall for steamed fish and I was there again recently, this time with international jet-setting gourmet Charles, who has never been to Zai Shun before.

Fish galore in ice-boxes:

IceboxPlates of fish waiting to be steamed:

WaitingI was there with Charles last Friday and we decided to try something unusual – collagen-packed shark cartilage:

CartilageAnd of course, a must-have: my favorite garoupa:

GaroupaZai Shun is open every day, except Wednesdays, from 7am to 3pm including public holidays. Go early to avoid the crowds. Other dishes are also available including the more exotic ones like sea cucumber, fish maw and pork tendons.

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Skewered!

At New Bridge Road, on the same row where Lim Chee Guan bak kwa is located, is Dong Bei restaurant, operated by mainland Chinese and their grilled meal on skewers is to die for:

DongBei

On the second floor of Bukit Timah Market and Food Center at 116 Upper Bukit Timah Road is stall number 123, Yong Seng, a traditional satay stall operated by local Chinese; pork, mutton and chicken satays are available. It’s one of the few Chinese satay stalls around and it has the traditional pineapple sauce in additional to the usual peanut sauce:

Satay

 

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EQ? No, More Likely MQ!

They couldn't stop this 64-year-old retard from crashing through the immigration barrier and they want a thousand more of such policemen?

They couldn’t stop this 64-year-old joker from crashing through the immigration barrier and they want a thousand more of such policemen?

Some people bring happiness wherever they go, some WHENEVER they go.

When Mrs XX passed away, some of us seriously thought of popping our vintage champagne to celebrate.

Yeah, it’s a cruel thing to say, but Mrs XX was a super obnoxious bitch and gave everyone a hard time with her high and mighty attitude, her self-righteousness, her sanctimonious smirk, her complete lack of interpersonal skills, her insufferable arrogance, her sense of entitlement and her belief that everyone else was stupid except her.

We thought that the worse of Mrs XX would die with her.

Not so.

Her son who is rather high profile – being the head (at one time) of a particular government-backed campaign here in Singapore – is not much better.

This jerk is said to lack EQ. In fact, he’s known for that.

Imagine, having a reputation for not having EQ.

Yeah, really deep shit right?

But I beg to differ.

I think he’s simply immature. He lacks the Maturity Quotient – MQ.

Despite all that BS impression that Mrs XX was trying to project, the fact of the matter was that she didn’t bring her kids up well.

Well, you can tell by her son’s immaturity. Zero MQ.

And the difference between EQ and MQ?

The idiot throwing a tantrum because a restaurant has changed its menu lacks EQ. Another example of someone who lacks EQ is someone who uses what little intellect he has to judge and criticize others without realizing he is projecting a superior and judgmental attitude, and without awareness of how his actions impact others’ feelings. (Like Mrs XX above. She’s the one without EQ, not her son.)

On the other hand, two recent examples of people who lack MQ would be the person who ignores my existence and all my communications but who will not hesitate to reach out to me when I am needed; or the retard meeting me for the very first time yet would not bat an eyelid to tell me in my face that my solid gold Rolex is nothing but a mass-produced watch.

The difference is subtle. Bottom line: they are all douche bags.

Why do so many so-called “leaders” and those in senior positions exhibit such characteristics?

I know of another person who’s on this board and that board. Yet this prick doesn’t even know how to maintain eye contact when he’s having a conversation with you.

The recent BOI on the Little India riots, and the conduct of Malaysian Airlines’ officials at press conferences over the missing flight MH370 opened up and exposed the vulnerabilities of so-called “leaders” in our midst.

It has always been a tradition to pluck the brightest and smartest of the land and place them in key leadership positions. Even in ancient China, the ruling elite came from the scholar class. The warriors were regarded as “barbarians” – the brawn, versus the brain.

Singapore seemed determined to change that, however, by placing scholars into the armed forces and the police force, much to our dismay. Then these mollycoddled, fragile, precious, untested princelings are moved to run state-owned or government-linked enterprises. Just look at them! Just look at SMRT!

Singapore’s modus operandi almost guarantees that when men – and women – schooled in academic, textbookish theories are placed in decision-making situations, there is no guarantee they will be effective.

“Oh, let me check the operating manual first. There must be a chapter on this somewhere.” You can’t say that when a riot erupts or when people wait for four trains to come by and still can’t get onboard.

Look at those high-flying top officials at the BOI. Just listen to the asinine crap they uttered. Those sitting on that board weren’t too bright either. Gosh, was this the best our nation could come up with?

And last Friday, news reports said the police have arrested a man suspected of stealing two copies of newspapers from a shopping mall in Commonwealth Avenue West with the help of three members of the public on Friday.

Wow, instead of stopping the big crimes, these clowns are now chasing after old men stealing newspapers and even for such an idiotic act, they needed members of the public to help?! No wonder they need another thousand more of those Keystone Cops. If found guilty of theft in dwelling, the poor bastard faces up to seven years’ imprisonment and a fine, while crooks behind huge corporations who rob people blind are allowed to go free. Our casinos rake in US$6 billion in revenue yearly and those devils behind them are allowed to bask in their greed and luxuriate in their gains. What’s our leadership doing? “Something’s wrong,” as that other bumbling retard Dr Henry Lee (of the OJ Simpson trial) would have said. This little country of ours is now the second largest gambling hub in Asia. At what social costs? Are our scholar-rulers doing anything about it?

Look at the officials at MAS’ shambolic press conferences.  They have made a series of contradictory statements that added to the confusion of the moment, including conflicting information on the number and ethnicities of passengers who boarded the flight with stolen passports.

There have also been about-turns regarding the crucial sequence of events in the plane’s cockpit before it veered off course.

China has been rather unfair and unreasonable in their criticism of Malaysia but their anger is not completely unjustified.

Scholar-leaders may have attended some of the best schools in the world, but the old adage that you can take a boy out of the village but can’t take the village out of the boy holds true still. Yup, you can put lipstick on a pig and it’s still a pig.

Is there a solution?

Paper qualifications count for shit and are not worth the papers they are printed on if those who possess them lack maturity and the requisite experience from the school of hard knocks.

Leaders, especially, young, freshly-graduated, newly-minted, recently-appointed, and still wet-behind-the-ears should adopt an attitude of teachability, be humble and seek the counsel of those who have gone before them.

And the public should have a say on their appointments and their tenures. We must trample out the vintage from which imperfect grapes were planted!

Let not the authorities forget that we pay tax plus didn’t they just say that the voices of the silent majority (beyond the loud and noisy minority) should be heard as well?

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