Thursday, May 23, 2013

Where Everything that is English is Not

Online Shopping
Well done Tesco Lotus. Finally we can enjoy the convenience of the digital age. Online shopping from home with deliveries. Best of all, there is a tab on the web that is foreigner friendly, shopping in English. That's until you really shop.

As with the so many other established Thai web sites out there featuring " English" support, beyond that betraying home page, everything else is not. And you would expect maybe its new and a few months later they would improve and English will really be English. Don't expect too much. They just leave it as it is. We are a minority. There is no need to serve us well.

Beyond that English Homepage

Let's see. Electric bills are never in English, so it's a challenge locating that Reference 1 and Reference 2 number when you are doing your online payments. Asked for True Move bills in English, "sorry no have" they said. Bank's credit card rewards program are totally Thai and only Thai, so we have no idea what privileges we enjoy. Policies, oh that's a killer and a whole book can be written about it. Insurance policies from companies of American origins are only Thai and when English ones are requested - same same , "sorry no have". We have no idea how to make a claim if we die, but anyways that's suppose to be the way since we are dead. Cars, liemtabian.. . liam neeson. .. what's in that mysterious blue book? Home owner's policy, no idea, I have no idea what I bought. Ok one more... marriage forms are totally Thai, so we have no idea how many and who we are marrying.

I can live with that, this is just part and parcel of living in Thailand.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A few words on B-Quick

Lifetime Tyre Warranty

Only for a Simple Fix
You know those promises of Lifetime Warranty? Well they make it a pain for you if you did try to claim them. My front tyre showed a budge just after less than half a year on the road. And so I visited B-Quick where I had bought it in the first place. After inspection, they said I have to leave it with them so that they could investigate if it is valid for claim. I asked, so what do I drive with? My Volvo ain't no Tuk-Tuk, it can't balance on three wheels. Use the spare one they said. So, we all know that spare tyres are normally used for temporary emergency situations and not meant for long term driving, by my spare wheel became my permanent wheel for the next two months. Yeah, that's how long I had waited, with the constant calls to B-Quick asking them for an update on the progress of their investigation routine. I got a feeling the tyre I sent in for claim was undergoing a molecular level post mortem with DNA analysis in the process. And at the end of the long wait, they said "no claim free, damage because of my driving fault". WTF? They could have just told me two months ago upfront and spare me the ordeal of driving with my spare. Lifetime Warranty? Buyers beware.

So What's B-Quick Good For?

Most of us expats would not know where to go, so we ended up sending in our old cars to the nearest shops that displayed signboards with English, or at least some icons representing what looks like a car workshop. And B-Quick will be just one of them. I have learnt my lesson. Theses shops, are good for only the general services such as a simple tyre change, a quick oil change, the replacement of battery and that's about it. Look, cars are like species of animals and you need to visit the correct vet to get the correct animals fixed. B-Quick, the mechanics are not specialized to particular makes of cars. They are like the Jack of all trades but masters of none. So when they start telling you that they had performed a complimentary thousand point inspection and found that this and that needed to be fix if not your car will careen off the roads at high speeds, that is when you need to get your car to a specialists and have it double checked. Specialized workshops are all over the place, you just need to speak Thai and find out where they are. Normally, they will have the logos of brands displayed, the least the better. They are run by ex-mechanics from dealers, they will tell you their life story if you ask. From my experience, something loose with my steering turned out to be an extensive change of parts at B-Quick which at the end of the day, a Peugoet I used to have was going left all the time. I kept sending it back and it only got worst and worst. My second car here I got smart, an old Volvo. B-Qucik will give a quotation amounting to more than 20k, a visit to my trusted mechanic fixed my issues at only 8k. Why I would bother visiting B-Quick when I already have a trusted mechanic? That's because these special workshops are located in obscure parts of Bangkok. You will still need B-Quick sometimes to fix simple issues near your office or home, you will need to know your car and get wise on when to visit what.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Thai Workmanship - You gotta Watch

Assholes at Work
The whole reason this blog was not update over the past months was because I was literally driven up the wall by the renovations going on in my new home. Being in Thailand for a while, through the many sweaty walks downs the alleys of Chatuchuk and the Suan Lum Night Bazaar so long gone, I had the perception that Thai workmanship was one of the best around the region. The craftsmanship of wooden furniture, the arty lamps, the clay works of dining and all showcasing the creativity of the Thai talent - impressive. Yes, until you encounter them first hand and for real.

As would most new home owners, lets invest and spruce it up, spend. For this shall be our cozy nest for decades to come. My home where my life will be. So we engaged a designer, and he, his workforce of contractors summoned from his network. Of a crew made up of Thai managers, and the down line of labors which consisted of Thais, Cambodians, Laotians and Burmese, legal or not no one cares. The first revelation of frustration began with a realization that some auspicious Chinese date you pick to move in could not be fulfilled, because what should have been a two months completion period turned out to be five. So we had to move in unfavorably on some other dates, when the alignment of some distant planets, galaxies and whatever numbers the Lunar calendar that added up was not what we had wanted to be.

The five months that passed, I had learned the micro level of the home business. Designers, mine was a freelancer, found on Facebook, his protfolio impressive. He learned the ropes, his creativity outgrew the company, he came out on his own and made money. He won awards, his ideas superb. His unbounded creativity however has been limited by the network of work force within reach. The owner of contracting company, his leadership, his communication skills, the making of a good businessman. And that's about where it all ends for the respect I have for them. Down the line of workforce, was a circus of clowns. Electricians, they come and go, every time a different person. Crew of woodworkers, I seen a crew change of three. The painters, what language they were speaking in I no understanding really. And that's where hell began. My picture of craftsmanship in this land, totally tarnished. The control the designer has over his workforce, was there any control at all.

From far it looked good, at close you see the defects. Cupboard doors not aligned, they could have corrected it without me pointing.

They broke It!
What the heck was this? They used a screw too long. My wardrobe was broken. Was there common sense in this all?

And at the edges of almost every corner, the merger was a mess of spots and splatter up close. And I had to pinpoint everyone of them for corrections to be made. This I had not expected.

Just patch it Up
They broke my dressing table when fitting the electrical sockets, and they do only patch it up with cosmetic paint, no change to the panel and they compliment with a "mai-roo" look, not even an explanation, not even looking sorry.

This in my Bedroom leads to Narnia?
I ordered a glass covered wardrobe like those seen on magazines, they made a shop front in my bedroom. I asked of them to remove the doors and threw them away in anger, leave the design to me alone. SB furniture solved my problem and I had a real wardrobe finally, extra expense incurred.

Perpendicular Where??
I wanted to fence in my garden, part of the designs I had required a perpendicular fence placed against the main, oh my god the workers do not have any depth perception or what? The installation was totally off angle. Maybe their brains only able to process in 2D. I had to draw the guide line by rope for them. I attempted to explain to them the basics of geometry with a set square from my tool box, they gave me the lousy excuse that the fence was installed following nature.. . .. What the heck has nature got to do with this???? I guess redoing that fence will take too much work and so they just gave a lousy excuse in order not to redo it.

Oh come-on!!!!!???!!
And for simple straight sections, incredibly they didn't get it right too. A rope I had use to check, just look at how imperfect the straightness. I pinpointed and again, the lousy excuse of following nature. Bloody assholes must have very crooked dicks in their pants and so they thought that's natural. Screws heads damaged by excessive force when driven in by power tools (I can't unscrew them no more), shelves horizontally unbalanced, holes for fixtures misaligned, the worker that installed the ventilation shaft of my kitchen hood has an obsession with the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the list goes on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on. The designer we engage hinted to us subtlety all through the months - "Thailand, what do you expect??". Yes he did try to ease our disappointment but to which I guess he didn't want to force his contractor too much and end up as breakfast for the workforce in action. He was thin, petite, easily overpowered and skinned alive with all the intimidating equipments on site.

I mean look, most of the issues I mentioned takes only common sense and could have been avoided to begin with. But it looked like these senses were missing from every person in the workforce. I don't want to judge that uneducated people lacks intelligence, but with all these, I can't help. Yeah, I could have just went Home Pro, Ikea or SB to get my furniture, but be warned there is another dark side to them merchandise. They are "disposable" not made to last, different from the real wood used when you do what the Thais called "built-in". For anyone with any upcoming home projects thus, I tell you, you gotta watch them close, inspect every day if you have the time. Scrutinize deeply their work, hold back the payments you must. Once they are out of the door, you may never be able to get them back to correct whatever the defects you uncover. It will only be too late, and by the way, even if it not, they will not want to correct it. And oh yeah.... Thailand, what do you expect? There are just some things you gotta live without with when making your living here, and that's QC and perfection.