Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The roti prata man versus the chwee kuey seller

The quality of 'customer service' in Singapore, in general, is not very good, I must say....

Let me give an example. There's this little Chwee Kuey (soft rice cakes with lettuce toppings) stall near my place. On one (initially) fine morning I walked to the stall to buy Chwee Kueys and I got the rudest shock of my life. The 'minced pickled lettuce' (or 'chai por') that comes with the Chwee Kueys is what makes the Chwee Kueys nice and tasty, but this auntie gave me just one tiny teaspoon of it for five Chwee Kueys! She didn't even bother to spread the toppings around and just put one teaspoon in the centre piece - that was outrageous! I felt so insulted; I asked for more and she grudgingly gave me another half a teaspoon of the toppings. I was too disillusioned to say anything more, so I just took the plate and sat down, eating the tasteless chwee kueys quietly.....Can you imagine the shock that I felt?

Gosh, are those toppings really so expensive? Are they made of gold? This may strike one as a trivial issue, but I argue that this case is really an indication of 'customer service' in Singapore generally. I have a number of other anecdotes as well, such as a Western food stall owner who blatantly refused to give me the third packet of chilli sauce when I bought chicken chop from him, saying that two packets should be enough for me. ('Why do you have to eat so much chilli??' The joker asked me.) Also, have you ever noticed how you as the customer often ends up as the one saying "thank you" to the cashiers, wherever you shop in Singapore (e.g. NTUC)?

But I also do not wish to make sweeping statements without taking note of some exceptions. Indian roti prata sellers in Singapore, for example, exhibit very good customer service (and bookstores in Singapore too - they are the exceptions.) I'll focus on Indian food sellers here. They smile, they say thank you and are generally very courteous. If you ask for more curry, they give you more curry, with a smile. This should be the way - service with a smile, and generosity! In fact, on one occasion, I asked for more tomato ketchup for my mee goreng, and the man gave me so much extra ketchup that I'll not miss it for another fifty years....! And they're not aloof! Chinese food sellers, on the other hand, tend to be super-aloof - especially those who have been mentioned in some newspapers as being 'one of the best in Singapore' or those with long queues of customers waiting for them to slowly prepare their food (e.g. taking half a day to fry a simple plate of char kway teow). They seem to have been overwhelmed by the good business and national publicity, to the point that they now treat customers with a certain arrogance that needs to be criticized - at least by Me in my little blog!

I told myself - I'll never want to be served a plate of Chwee Kueys with just one teaspoon of minced lettuce again in my life. I'll never want to be treated rudely by Chinese food sellers (esp. those with their laminated newspaper cuttings) again in my life. I'll also never want to have to be the one to say "thank you" to a cashier first, only to get an "okay" rather than "welcome" or "thanks" as a response, ever again. But then again, I'm in Singapore - what can I do? Everywhere I go, it's like that!

Maybe I should order roti pratas for every meal....!

~ from a hungry swordsman


Anonymous Deqiang said...

I agree.. sometimes ask for mee pok dun want too much chilli, they purposely put even more for you...haiz.."too generous"

Wed May 25, 08:25:00 PM 2005  
Blogger jllt said...

I think roti prata men really give excellent services! Some of them even bother learning your language or dialects so they can communicate better with you.


Thu May 26, 05:22:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Three cheers to roti prata men!!

Fri May 27, 09:11:00 PM 2005  
Blogger I.V.Y. said...

I think some customers do not assert their rights and therefore in a way, they have to settle for less. You ought to give the Chwee Kuey seller your most incredulous, I-am-gonna-whack-the-shit-out-of-you MURDEROUS look and say, "Auntie, please hor. Unacceptable! Give me more chai por or you take this plate back." Seriously, there are times when we should never compromise for bad service (regardless whether it's a $2 plate of chwee kuey or $20 fried rice).

Sun Jun 12, 11:36:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

hi i.v.y: in retrospect, i should have done that. But at that point in time, i was just too shocked to react...

Sun Jun 12, 03:21:00 PM 2005  
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Thu Nov 03, 02:37:00 PM 2005  
Blogger John Riemann Soong said...

pardon me to reply to an old post:

i.v.y: sometimes I think my mother makes a scene, and I think she overreacts but lately I think she was in the right. I have the same timidity. :o

Yes, I notice the Indian sellers are very nice. When I lived in ACS boarding I bought roti prata regularly after supper (because supper was too little and I yearned for some variety in cuisine other than mess hall food that was either Western or Chinese, but not Malay or Indian)... so yes, you should eat roti prata regularly.

And yes, the sellers are always tres courteous.

Sat Jul 08, 11:26:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous AJ @ Roti Prata said...

Yay! Thank you for sharing your food experience. I suggest that you try the best roti prata in Singapore and write a food review about it. Please keep us updated.

Thu Jan 26, 11:17:00 AM 2012  

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