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Customer Disservice: Expat Living

A man yelling into a telephone.


Living in the Philippines isn’t all sunshine and beach time. Sometimes things go haywire and you have to be prepared for customer disservice.

No Warranty, Sir

We bought a rechargeable fan/lantern combo over a year ago. We used it three or four times during electrical storms when the power went out. During one storm, we turned it on and…nothing.

We thought maybe it had discharged between uses. When the power came back, we plugged it in and let it charge. 

Nothing. It would run while plugged in but it would do nothing on battery.

We took it back to the national hardware chain store where we bought it. We hoped we could exchange it for a new one. It was still under the 1-year warranty.

Here in the Philippines, everything electrical is tested before you buy it. If you choose a fan, it will be unboxed and plugged in to ensure it works. If you pick out a lightbulb, an employee will screw it into a test board to ensure it lights. This is to reduce returns for defects. In many stores, you may ONLY return things that are defective.

So we took the fan/lantern back and they plugged it in at the test board. It still worked fine on AC. They let it charge for a bit and tried it and…nothing.

The electrical department workers had a conference. The one who tested it for us said that the problem was the battery and that the battery wasn’t covered under the warranty.

I asked, “What if it isn’t the battery? What if it’s the system that charges the battery?”

“Oh, sir, we have no way to test that.”

In short, they couldn’t test it to see if it was something covered under warranty and they couldn’t take it back because it might be something NOT covered under warranty.


Fear Of Flying

I’m not afraid to fly, I’m afraid of waiting to fly. Why? Cancellations and delays.

Typhoons will mess with your plans, of course. But there are also thunderstorms that can crop up and cause your flight to be delayed or canceled.

Also, a problem is the mechanical wear and tear on planes operated in the blistering heat.

We were once delayed for over an hour because one of the tires on our plane’s nose gear went flat at the gate. We sat at the gate and watched through the window as a six-member crew changed one wheel with a flat tire for a wheel with a fully inflated one.

Then there is are the scheduling cancellations.

We booked a flight from Davao to Manila for my wife’s sister over a week ago.

This morning, my wife received a message from the airline that the flight had been canceled. She could see her choices for rebooking online at an enclosed web address, it said.

We went to the website and entered the flight information. A screen told us that the flight had changed and asked us to enter the same information we had just entered to see the change. Grrr!

The next page showed us the flight had been…not changed?! The flight listing on the website was exactly the same as the listing in the printed itinerary we were holding in our hands!

The website asked if I wanted to click to accept the changes. No way! I let my wife call the airline.

Of course, she was put on hold. Of course, she was on hold so long that when she finally got a customer service representative, she ran out of load in the middle of the call! ARGGG!

Customer Disservice

It’s true that the sometimes non-existent level of customer service in the Philippines takes getting used to for expats. It’s also true that sometimes you are pleasantly surprised at customer service that exceeds your expectations.

It’s al part of the expat experience!

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