12/22/2010

Taiwan Angler

My friend Chris has started a blog called Taiwan Angler. Chris is rediscovering his passion for this sport. He's already put in a lot of effort to come up with an interesting site. I think it might be the first in English on this topic too. In the future, look for lots of information on angling around the beautiful country of Taiwan. You'll find his Web site at this address: http://www.taiwanangler.com/

Chris is a smart guy, so expect insight on how concepts of marine biology can and have affected our economy, what tackle to get to attract the big ones or even what beer to chug whilst chasing a lazy Sunday away on one of Taiwan's streams, lakes or ponds.

12/20/2010

Do Consumers Need to Accept Mei Ban Fa (沒辦法)?

Pretty much nothing gets my back up like being told "mei ban fa (沒辦法)." If you translate mei ban fa, you'll come up with something like "this problem cannot be solved." Spend some time in Taiwan and see how mei ban fa (沒辦法) is used. Eventually, you'll discover mei ban fa  (沒辦法) is something closer to:

a. I don't feel like helping you
b. I won't help you because if I take initiative, I could get in trouble
c. Get lost, because you can't win this pissing contest

I've been mei ban fa-ed three times in the last 20 hours, two times when I went to pick up pizza at Pizza Hut last night and a third at Costco this morning. In all three cases, the individuals doing the mei ban fa-ing worked in customer service. Before I give a rundown, I'll offer a few suggestions for those out there facing a mei ban fa (沒辦法) of their own. First, explain to the customer non-service rep. there is no such thing as a problem too impossible to solve. Then offer to help them come up with a solution. If that doesn't do the trick, ask to speak to a manager. Remember that you could be getting screwed when being mei ban fa-ed.

My mei ban fa (沒辦法) grief began when I ordered Mexican and American double salami pizzas last night. The bill came to NT$720 (US$23), so I pulled out my wallet to pay. While doing so, I asked about my points (I have a VIP card, which I paid for, so I can get free side dishes from time to time). "The card is under my wife's name," I told the guy at the cash register, just like I have every time for the past couple of years. "Here's her phone number." 

"Ah. Ms. Cheng," the guy at the till smiled, after keying in the information. "Do you have your card on you?" 

"I don't think I have it anymore," I answered. "No worries. You can see her name on the screen. I normally just give the phone number," I said, starting to feel a bit weird. I hadn't paid yet for the pizza. My wallet was out though; the order had been placed. Who in their right mind would jeopardize a sale with this kind of pettiness?

"I'm sorry sir," said the clerk. "If you don't give me your VIP card, mei ban fa (沒辦法)!" he declared, like he had just uttered something decisive. 

"There's no such thing as mei ban fa [沒辦法]," I explained. "By the way, I can't accept this kind of service, so get it sorted. This street has lots of pizza places."

"Uh, okay. No, I mean mei ban fa."

A couple minutes later, the assistant manager, Mr. Hsieh, appeared. After filling him in, I said: "I want to complain about this clerk. He's providing poor customer service and wasting my time. I don't agree with this kind of attitude." 

"I'm so sorry about that," said the assistant manager, reviewing the computer screen and not listening at all to me. Then, still not listening, he picked up the phone and called my wife. 

"Give me that," I said, taking the phone. Then to my wife, "The pizza place is being silly. I'll be home in a while." All of this was over a few points on a VIP card. I mean I was ready to pay. What on earth was their problem? 

"Sir, sorry. You can place your order, but you can't accrue any points on your VIP card," said the assistant manager.

"Okay. Okay. Let me speak to your manager," I said. I knew it had crossed the line of "it's not worth it," but the pissing contest was now on. I pulled out my iPhone and hit the film button on the camera function.

I don't know if the manager was more reasonable or it was the camera. Or, it could have very well been that she's the only one with license to authorize anything, even when it's just a few crummy points on a VIP pizza card. "Do you know what these guys are putting me through?" I asked her. "My VIP card is recorded in your system. I have cash in my hand."

Here's the answer she gave me, before giving me some points and side order of bacon bread: "There has been a lot of pizza card fraud recently."

I'm not going to get too much into the Costco mei ban fa (沒辦法) tale because this is giving me a headache. I will say the nonsense was about the same. My time was wasted. I was offered silly excuses. Then I received the external drive that I had purchased earlier -- the external drive that already belonged to me.

I have worked in lots of customer service jobs. I tended bar in university. I have also worked the front desk at The Holiday Inn. When customers had a problem, I simply asked them what it was. Then I tried to make them feel less unhappy. I didn't bother to bother the manager. As a bartender, I usually refixed the drink if they didn't like it, adding more soda, an extra olive or lime, or what have. Sometimes I gave the customer a second drink for free. It never occurred to me to be stubborn or give them flak. At the hotel, I just upgraded their room. When that didn't work, I gave a discount. I didn't say things couldn't be done and problems couldn't get solved because that would have been disingenuous. 

12/11/2010

Monga Traffic


I took this picture today in front of the 85 Degree Cafe on Wanda (萬大) Road in Monga (艋舺), Taiwan. It looks like a right-turning bus or truck gave it a good scrape. I hope the district has some cameras in place so we'll know who to bill. 

The proposed Wanda MRT Line might help to alleviate some of the traffic in Monga; it'll also cut back on the buses we need.