"Ok.ok.sedap sedap"


Written on 1/20/2005 01:30:00 am by sikapitan

I picked up an “uncle” (whose identity shall remain a secret) at KLIA the other day (he was from K.Terengganu). While the trip itself was decidedly uneventful (in fact, I have decided that we HAVE to drive above the speed limit on THAT particular highway to avoid going to sleep – and don’t forget to pump up the stereo), he said something which resonated inside my head (some might add the word hollow).

It came about, like all good things, unexpectedly. I passed through the SmartTag lane, and like we’ve seen quite often, the bar refused to budge. There on the display the words “KAD TIDAK SAH” was boldly highlighted together with that piercing alarm sound. I’ve been through this a couple of times so I knew it was nothing more than the machine acting up, and true enough the PLUS attendant quickly corrected the situation. We quickly continued with our journey, but the “Uncle” said that he was uncomfortable with PLUS saying that my SmartTag is not valid, as if I am using an imitation, and that it amounted to some form of defamation. I said that it’s normal for these things to happen in KL. He answered, “Tuh la orang KL. Semuanya biar saja.” And while I was at first inclined to correct him on that point, I took a moment and realized that he might be on to something. While I would have considered the PLUS incident to not be worth shouting about, I admit that there are plenty of incidences or situations that we (not only KLites but Malaysians in general) feel truly uncomfortable or have taken offence to but have done nothing to rectify.

Rude service at restaurants is one prime example. While I do admit that the service has generally improved, especially at renowned establishments, it isn’t perfect. In fact we Malaysians put up with a lot of things that our counterpart in the developed nations would never tolerate. Perhaps we should re-introduce the whole tipping thing and remove the service tax. Maybe then our waiters and waitresses would be more willing to be friendly and efficient. As it stands, I am one of those who are generally uncomfortable with returning food, or asking it to be reheated etc2, for I have learned that it doesn’t pay to piss off the servers. Let me assure you ladies and gentleman, from what I hear from my chef-trained and part-time expert friends, it goes way beyond merely spitting in your soup.

The services at government institutions are even worse. Far from saying it’s the norm, but we have all been through some form of bureaucratic hell. Those studying in public universities would probably understand that sinking feeling when something goes wrong in your exam slip or registration because it would mean dealing with drones who, and I do understand this, are as motivated as me wanting to pick up a Kavadi. Why should they bust their ass to settle our problem when their tenure is virtually guaranteed and promotions settled through seniority rather than meritocracy? But hey, I remember it being much worse when I was younger and queuing up to renew my passport so I guess there has been improvements.

I do believe that all these inefficiencies and general lack of care when it comes to service is due to our own inability to take a stand and speak up. We Asians are non-confrontational, and this has been mistaken for politeness. But I don’t think you should equate being a pussy with being mannered. In fact, it’s even rude not to correct a wrong if it could help someone else. How many times have you feel that you have been ill-treated but you just take it lying down? Another reason could be our non-litigious nature when it comes to dispute settlement. For example, a spilt coffee which burned somebody fingers would probably be settled here with a free meal and a “sincere apology” card while in the United States (the land of tort actions) that guy would probably bankrupt the restaurant. Perhaps the time has come for our citizens to be educated of their rights and legal avenues available. The Consumer Tribunal is a good start, but unless a lesson is made (and by that I do mean serious amount of cash) corporations, government institutions and individuals would not be afraid of the legal consequences of their action. Furthermore, our dispute settling bodies (judiciary, non-judicial) are stretched to their limits trying to deal with cases and disputes. This is before Malaysians start suing for slipping on wet floors or power failures!!! In fact, it is said that to proceed with a typical civil suit it would take more than 2 years minimum. Who would want to go through that?

Like I said before, I prefer to just keep quiet, eat up and never come back. But I think this year I’ll stand up for myself a lot more. Just not in a restaurant. Trust me on that.

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