Cambodia Customer Care DisastersJuly 9, 2011
I’ve had these all over the world, where due to some sort of misunderstanding, things don’t work out just as you thought. I was at one of those huge home-care stores back in Europe a few years ago and asked one of the store assistants where I might find the tile adhesive. She informed me that there were no toilets for customers. I groaned, and went and found it myself.
I went to a furniture supplier near Olympic Market looking for a TV cabinet type of thing, bringing along my Khmer missus, just to avoid confusion, but it seemed they had run out of those particular products, fair enough. So we thought we would just wander down towards the back of the store, and check out what other stuff they had, maybe we’d decide to buy something else, I don’t actually do much shopping, so there’s a good chance that if I do have to goddamn shop, I’ll make sure I don’t come home empty-handed. So, about two steps down the aisle, before we even got to wondering about which veneer cupboard or rattan stoner-cot we had any need for, we heard a shriek from behind. “NO-HAVE! – NOOOHH-HAAAVE!” came this strange, insanely loud cacophony from this grizzled-up psychotic, old China-woman. Maybe she thought we were about to rob her, or rumble her back-room card game, but I doubt it, she just thought we wanted one particular thing, she didn’t have it, so she wanted us to clear off, which we promptly did, I couldn’t wait to get out of there, and I won’t ever be back. We got what we needed from a very polite establishment a few doors down so no big deal.
As for coffee shops, I guess you can’t expect much from what has to be the cheapest business in town to set up. All you need is an undecorated shop front, some plastic or garden-style tables and chairs, and some coffee. Probably more important than all those things are the two TVs, one showing local or Thai garbage and the other showing Chinese action movies dubbed into Khmer. But, the most important part of setting up one of these licenses-to-print-money is usually this. You must go out and find the ugliest/most brain damaged or ignorant moronic women in your neighborhood, and get them to be waitresses.
I generally get the same reaction from these chicks, no matter where in town I sit down. If I try to order something in Khmer, I get an incredulous “HUH?” type of thing. This could be put down to my pronunciation if I were in a restaurant with an extensive menu. However, this sort of place generally serves about two things, coffee and coke. They often do simple rice / meat breakfasts, steamed buns and other snacks, but they mainly survive on drinks. Coffee is normally ordered in two types, iced-milk, or just iced. Coca-Cola is known as Cocaaaaaah here, probably due to some previous French mispronunciation. Ask for a “Coca” at one of these places and you will be met by at the best complete confusion, or at the other scale, shrieking laughter between the waitresses, eventually joined in with by all the customers as this hilarious joke is passed from ear to ear. Anyway, don’t get me wrong, I like these cafes, what the hell do you expect anyway, they are anything but pretentious. I’m not proud, but then I didn’t come here to hide under a rock either.
Recently I dropped into one of these places, one that I’ve been going to a few times a week for the last year or so. I was feeling happy enough, or at least I thought so for a moment. Then, as I sat down, I saw this intense stare coming at me. Not the “I’ve just come from the back of beyond and never seen anything like you” stare”, but a stare that made me wonder if the local asylum had just had a breakout. There, facing me, was a bug-eyed, pudgy freak, I could hardly bear to make even fleeting eye-contact with, lest I get slashed from ear to ear, or just start puking. In her hand was a piece-of-crap cell-phone, playing crappy local rap in a tinny monotone, changing spastically from one track to another.
Anyway, I decided to ignore this hideous abomination of life. I shouted in for a coffee to the myriad of curled up grannies and sundry folk inside. I wondered where the waitress had gotten to. That was when it dawned on me, the hideous abomination was the new waitress and how stupid of me not to have noticed! These are the sort of occurrences you just have to deal with daily here and none of them are worth getting upset about.
I needed some speakers for my desk-top the other day, so I went to a shop that seems to sell a lot of computer equipment, both new and second-hand. I went in and had a look around. There was a particular set I liked, so I waited around. There were quite a few people in the shop, but it was difficult to tell who actually worked there, so I just stood around for a bit. It became apparent that the crowd of people watching a video behind one counter were actually the staff.
Eventually one of their assistants approached. I said I wanted to check out a particular set of speakers, she got into some pointless conversation about whether I spoke Khmer or not, and set up the speakers. It was soon pretty obvious that only one speaker of the pair actually worked, and I tried pointing this out. She then decided that she didn’t understand what the problem was.
I pointed out that they weren’t working, but she wasn’t interested. I asked her to try another pair as there were loads of identical boxed speakers nearby. Her reaction was to move away to another part of the shop. I approached her and mentioned that I still wanted to buy some speakers, just not broken ones, and she insisted that they didn’t have any. To sum up, I bought the speakers somewhere else.