Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Rethink possible."

I was on a call with AT&T in the US tonight regarding my iPad data plan, which I had forgotten to cancel when I left the US earlier this week. The were very kind and reversed the auto renewal charge without any hassles. As I was holding, though, their phone service announced all kinds of services and then said their slogan: "Rethink possible."

Earlier today, I had such diverse experiences of people rethinking possible. Or not. I had taken a trip just 5 miles or so south from where I live to a village called Baan Tawai. This village has a lot of carpentry shops. I walked from one small stall to another, looking for a bookshelf and some bedside tables. Everyone was very helpful, and I finally found what I wanted at one place where, when I asked if they had bedside tables in the same stain as the bookshelf (my office will double as my guest room), they promptly offered to stain/paint the bedside tables in the same style as the shelf. Great! They'll deliver everything to my home by Tuesday. That's customer service.

After that, I drove to "Index," an IKEA wannabe store. I've not been to Index yet as I had been told their furniture breaks within months of purchase. But I've not been able to find a comfortable office chair so far, and I thought Index might be my last option. I found a chair that would suffice, and was promptly told they can deliver it next month. "When next month?" I enquired, realizing that July starts this weekend. "At the end of next month. There is a waiting line." "Is it on back order?" I enquired. "No, we have stock," the manager told me, "but there is a line for delivery." I must've looked really perplexed, so the clerk and the manager conferred in Thai, then said, "If you have a car, you can take it yourself today." The problem is that I have a really small rental car, and the chair wouldn't fit along with other things I had in the car, so I said I might come back. It was clear that customer service was not very important to Index if they made customers wait for up to a month for deliveries!

I went downstairs to have the other things rung up. Having just paid for my bookshelf, I didn't have enough cash on me and handed the clerk my VISA card. She shook her head and said, "No credit card." This is a HUGE store, so the fact that they don't take credit cards was a bit puzzling. I was about to just cancel my entire purchase when I asked, "Do you have an ATM?" "Yes. There!" and she pointed me to an ATM. Like her colleagues in the office chair department, this clerk didn't think twice to say, "Sorry, we don't take VISA, but there's an ATM right there." What's more bizarre, after I returned and paid cash, I saw a little American Express sign. I enquired and found they do take AmEx... I left perplexed by the culture at Index not lending itself to staff thinking of solutions to problems. At Baan Tawai, the vendors, most likely either the owners of the stores, or dependent on commission, were willing to figure out ways to meet the need.

The experience at Index left me a bit frustrated--just a good dose of culture shock, really. So when I got home and unpacked 3 new boxes that arrived this afternoon with little things like my 3 favorite fridge magnets, my favorite table cloth that I got with my first paycheck in college, a small pillow my friend Nan had made me, and pillow cases my friend Mary had quilted for me, the boxes felt like a hug from God, as if to say, "I've got you covered, OK?"

Most things about moving to yet another culture, another language, another worldview is old hat to me. But there are moments when something silly like the poor service at Index just drives me up the wall, and I, myself, have to find a way to rethink possible.