Smart Communications Bad Service

I was thinking of how I should phrase this post about my dealings with Smart, a brand of a telecommunications company in the Philippines. Should I go with “Smart Communications, Bad Service”? The title seemed witty, but then I realized that the communication from Smart’s end has not been the most clever. Sorry, no dice.

It all began with me having some trouble with my mobile phone’s current sim card. I had issues with the speed of my phone’s data in some places I frequent, so I couldn’t update social media. (Social media figures heavily into my job, so internet connection is essential.) I saw this ad for an exclusive Smart online store discount for Smart 4G Pocket Wifi, and thought it would be a good idea to go get myself a prepaid pocket wifi in case of emergencies with my current carrier:

Smart Bro 4G Prepaid Pocket Wifi 995

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Voucher Site Misadventure

In an earlier post, I talked about this annoying voucher site’s customer service hotline that was practically impossible to contact in the last two weeks leading up to Christmas. I’ve been able to speak with a representative since, but I’d also like to elaborate on my experience. Wonder if any of you went through the same thing….

What the…?!

Back in October, said voucher site—let’s call them “X Co.“—started selling a specific brand of multimedia players for a discounted price. It was decided that a few would be purchased to give out as Christmas gifts, but not before calling X Co. to ask if the delivery/shipping date of our potential order—stated in the voucher that would start on the second week of December 2014 and go on until second week of January 2015—could be moved up to second week of December in time for Christmas gift-giving. The agreeable rep on the other end said it could be arranged, so we proceeded with the order.

On the second week of December, a few days before the start of the delivery date, we were already trying to contact customer service to get the status of the order. The hotline was no good as the hold list could only process up to seven customers at a time. Beyond that, the automated service would automatically hang up on callers. I then resorted to the online chat support that got me slightly better results.

I was able to chat with an agent, but it did not amount to much. Twice (with a space of a few days in between), she told me that she’d check on my order, then disconnect the chat service after a few minutes. I thought, “Okay, maybe she’d update me via e-mail.” But no e-mail update was ever received. On the third try, I had to confront her, saying, “I need a definite answer now, because you disconnected chat on me twice already. If you cannot guarantee a delivery date, then I’ll have to cancel the order.” She was more accommodating then and actually gave me a solid answer about how the product still hasn’t been delivered to their office. She also told me that the products would definitely be at the shipping address by Monday, the 22nd of December.

Well, Monday came and went. I called the next day and, miracle of miracles, was able to get through the hotline. I was promptly told that the orders were already at the courier’s and was given their contact number. Out of the three mobile numbers and two landline numbers listed on the courier’s website, one landline was working. I was able to speak with a representative that promised to deliver my order on the same day, Tuesday. You probably know how this ends, right?

Tuesday came and went with no purchased items arriving. Tried to phone the courier again on Wednesday and, this time, ALL their numbers weren’t working. Not even a busy line, just disconnection. I already had a feeling this would happen, so I didn’t freak out anymore. It was a resigned feeling.

The multimedia players eventually arrived on the 29th.

After having spent weeks on this case, I’m sufficiently traumatized. Moral lesson: There’s no such thing as shipping in time for the holiday season. It is better to order ahead of time and receive the goods during the early -ber months. Stock them at home rather than suffer all the suspense of this customer service nightmare. And if the sale is too tempting to resist, keep your expectations low and you had better be willing to deliver late Christmas presents.

X Co. did such a poor job of preparing for the CS rush of calls in time for Christmas. They neither extended service hours, nor assigned more agents to handle chat support and hotline calls. With this company, I’ll be sticking to restaurant vouchers.

Faking Apple

As a present for myself–for the next two years, because this is way over the budget–I got an iPod Nano from Power Mac Center. At the till, I asked the lady if a generic wall socket adapter/plug would do for charging and, of course, she said no. That’s how I ended up buying an original Apple wall socket (PHP 1,090, according to the Apple online store).

Before I get to the main point, a little background story:

My generic adapter came with an MP3 player/speaker cube I got for Christmas last year. By the way, the speaker cube is the best. Before I got the iPod, I used it as an MP3 player by inserting a micro-SD card loaded with music into its built-in slot. It functioned the same way as an iPod Shuffle (well, but without the shuffle). No screen. The sound blasted loud and clear, while the battery power was very good.

When I got my Nano, I decided to use the wire that came with the speaker cube to connect it with my iPod. Though the resulting sound wasn’t as loud as if I had directly inserted an SD card into the device (if the speaker was on full-blast), it could be adjusted by having the speaker on full blast while setting the iPod volume to 3/4s of the way full.

In summary, get the MP3 cube if you want a value-for-money speaker/audio player  that does the job good.

Okay, back to the plugs. I now have 2 plugs that I have to distinguish every time I want to charge, since they have similarities. It’s not so hard to tell the difference when you look closer though. Here’s a side-by-side comparison:

(Left) Apple original plug and (Right) generic/fake plug

Exhibit A: Front View

The very first way to distinguish the real one from the fake one has got to be text printed on the surface of the plug. Apple’s has a more natural look to it, whereas the generic one has a “stamped-on” appearance to it. Second, the actual text differs. Apple’s says “Designed by Apple in California,” while generic’s says “Designed HT WHP in California.” Third, the shade of gray and texture on each plug’s face is different. Apple’s is a lighter color with a smooth, frosted/matte texture, while the generic one is darker with a patterned/rough surface.

(Left) Apple original plug and (Right) generic plug

Exhibit B: Back View

The most glaringly obvious differences can be found in the backs of the plugs. Apple’s USB slot is found at the top, while the generic one’s slot is found near the bottom. Upon further inspection, I noticed how the USB slot in the generic one is looking a bit crooked. Also, the colors of the faces are different again, with the generic one having a yellowish tinge to it.

The Verdict:

Well, it’s not so confusing when you put the two side-by-side. Will I still use the generic plug? Not if I can help it. When it comes to electronics, I try not to risk it. I’ve had an awful experience with second-rate goods before, so I don’t like to take my chances.

The Perils of Blogging

I’ve probably been in a funk lately. After reading a post written by a friend about her musings on the meaning of life, I took a little step back. I’ve been blogging since high school, when it wasn’t as much of a mainstream thing. I was blogging before all the food and beauty bloggers did nothing but review products and places and re-post press releases. In short, I was blogging before it became the next big business decision to professionally blog.

It only took me a few minutes to think back to how I started. My first home on the internet was in Blogspot.com. It was during this time that I got interested in writing. I eventually moved to Livejournal where it was a bit more social with other LJ users, hence a lot more fun. At this point, I did a couple of reviews but mostly stuck to writing about the goings-on in my life. When the ownership changed (and so did the system), that’s when I got into Multiply. For a while, Multiply was great because all my friends had their own pages. I was able to do a bit more reviewing, but there were also the photo albums to fill. Then it was purchased by another company and the site became jeje. *shudder* I stopped blogging for a while after that, but eventually found WordPress. Here I am.

The lesson? When the website starts to go south, it’s time to migrate. Aside from that, I was able to realize how my blog has matured over the years. Right now, I’m not particularly happy that I’ve mostly limited my writing to reviews. Whatever happened to just sharing my thoughts without them needing to go behind a product? No wonder I’ve been experiencing the burnout. Thoughts don’t always have to be categorized into grading systems. I was just caught up in the excitement of it all, seeing some bloggers prosper and turn their writing into a business opportunity.

Honestly speaking, I don’t think I can compete with that. I’d rather do this for the enjoyment and as a way to channel my stress and frustrations into a positive effort than to be obligated to mete out a satisfying review. Reviews are fun—as are increasing followers—but having my sanity intact is definitely more useful to me. I’m glad to have written this entry and to share my thoughts in earnest this time.

Case of The Missing Wheelchair

Traveling with a small kid or a senior citizen is never easy, not that I’m complaining. It goes without saying that you must make sure your vulnerable companion doesn’t have a hard time. That’s why there are strollers and wheelchairs to make the whole experience more convenient.

Now here’s my grandmother who has arthritis, as with plenty of elderly people. After multiple shots to the knees of lubricating sodium hyaluronte to ease the pain, her doctor forbade her from walking or standing for long periods of time. It was agreed upon that any long trip, from now on, would require the use of a wheelchair. That same arrangement was decided for a family vacation to Hong Kong, and the chair would simply be checked with the luggage at the airport.

It was all well and good on the way to Clark International Airport. We were told by Seair staff that the chair need not go into cargo immediately and that granny could still use it all the way to the tarmac. As promised, a member of ground crew collected the chair as we boarded the aircraft.

Trouble started upon our arrival in Hong Kong. Fresh off the plane from the early morning flight, we stood at the aerobridge exit looking to see if they already had it waiting for us. No sign of the wheelchair, so we went to immigration and then proceeded to the luggage carousel. Still nothing. Eventually, most of the other passengers from our flight had already left with their respective bags, so it was time to ask airport personnel for assistance.

A young man armed with a walkie-talkie directed us to one end of the carousel, where all irregular-shaped luggage from the same flight were gathered. Only baby strollers were found, so we had to explain to him repeatedly that we were lacking a wheelchair. After several exchanges with his walkie-talkie contact, he asked us to sit and wait while they double-checked. We spent the time walking up and down the other luggage conveyors checking to see if, by some coincidence, the chair wound up there. No dice.

Eventually, he came back and told us that they didn’t find it in the plane. We countered that we had the chair right up until we had to board and were told that Clark staff would make sure the chair was with our flight’s cargo. We had to insist for him to triple-check the plane, so more waiting time elapsed.

Some 15 minutes later, the young man came back and told us that the Seair plane was already en route back to Clark. He urged us to file a lost item report with their office. By then, another airline (this one coming from mainland China) had already taken over the luggage claim from our Clark flight, so there was nothing left to do but to follow. Of course, we didn’t go without at least demanding they either lend us one of their own chairs or replace it on the spot, but the staff insisted that they couldn’t lend or replace without first conducting an investigation. We ended up filing the report and leaving our contact number. Having little choice but to let their investigation take place, we finally got out of the airport early afternoon.

For the meantime, we convinced granny to spend the rest of the day relaxing at the hotel. Come nightfall, we placed a call to the airport office and inquired about the chair. The investigation was still ongoing and they were awaiting the response of the airline, they said. That’s when our end started to get seriously upset. How long does it take to locate a wheelchair? We were the only party on that flight with a chair, while the others all brought strollers. It wasn’t even a connecting flight! The only thing we got out of them was the promise to contact us immediately once they locate it.

The next morning was roughly the same conversation when we called them up again. We were upset, whereas they were polite but non-committal. After sending out a few e-mails to the airport management and airline customer care, we were on our way to Disneyland with no choice but to try the wheelchair rentals.

While we were buying tickets at the train station, we finally got a call from the airport informing us that the chair had been found. They would deliver it to the hotel within the day, but could not guarantee what time it would arrive. After heaving the initial sigh of relief, we asked them to leave it with the hotel. There was really no sense in going back and waiting for it.

Despite being incredibly thankful that a perfectly good wheelchair didn’t go to waste, I have to comment on the way the situation was handled. It’s funny because we’re in the age where contacting  each other and getting answers is already expected to happen in real time, yet a day had to pass before there was word on the wheelchair. We’re not talking about a bunch of missing clothes. A wheelchair is fundamental for mobility. If the passenger was totally disabled without it, how then, do they plan to fix things?