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Institutional Incompetence or Delightfully Informal?

SM Sales Associate

Here’s a story submitted to me by Scott H who’s currently in the Philippines on a well-deserved vacation. I can assure you that I’ve experienced what Scott goes through in his narrative numerous times since retiring to the Philippines in July 2009. A BIG THANKS to Scott H. Here’s his shopping adventure in the Philippines:SM Sales Associate

Just a few days ago I had an experience that made me go Hmmmmmm! Yet again one of the attractions was brought to the fore as to why I love the Philippines.

When my faithful Asawa packed for our latest trip to these enchanted isles, she forgot to pack my baseball cap. So off I trekked to our local Shoe Mart to buy a replacement.

After a short and invigorating walk, dodging jeepneys, pedicabs, motorcycles, and street urchins I entered the blessed AirCon of SM Sucat.  Being an American with close to 30 years of military service I naturally approached the information desk and asked the cute attendant manning the station. “Where can I buy a baseball cap?” Dimples showing she stated “In building 2 Sir, at Westo’s sporting goods.” With a grin of thanks off I went up the escalator, across the breezeway, down the escalator and found the sporting goods store.

“I would like to buy a baseball cap” Says I. “We do not carry those here, Sir” said the helpful young man. I made a good-natured joke as to what kind of sporting goods store did not carry baseball caps. He just grinned and told me that ball caps are sold upstairs in the “Departo” part of Shoe Mart. Up the escalator and into the thriving throngs of housewives I go.

Once there I again asked for a ball cap. Another young man, this one wearing a cardboard crown reminiscent of the burger king commercials said, “Sir, hats can be found in the Shoe Mart clothing department in the OTHER building.”

“SIGH!” Back through the breezeway, I go, into the men’s department, I was directed to men’s accessories, where I was then directed to men’s outdoor wear. Sensing I was nearing the kill, I asked the young lady there, “where are your hats please?” with one of those brilliant Filipina Smiles and pointed to a table with Fedora-type hats. ARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGG!!!!!

Not wanting to wander around town looking like Humphrey Bogart, I was about to give up in despair, When over her shoulder I spotted a small stand of ball caps. I am now the proud owner of a neon blue X-flyers cap! (Whoever they might be.)

The moral of the story is that after coming from a culture that prides itself on efficiency, product knowledge, personal responsibility, multi-tasking, time management and the pursuit of perfection, the seemingly lackadaisical and nonchalant approach to most things could drive most westerners crazy with frustration.

That is why I always keep in mind that these folks have done fine for many many years without my help and that I am the one who has chosen to live here in the future. Besides! I am on vacation now and time costs me nothing.

So I am choosing to enjoy the DELIGHTFULLY INFORMAL aspects of the Filipino culture.

(Editor’s note: Amen, to that, Scott H. Just sit back and relax with a cold bottle of San Miguel Pale Pilsen and enjoy. You’ve made some smart decisions in marrying a Filipina and in planning to retire to the Philippines.  Thanks again for the story. I really enjoyed it.

Have you got a shopping experience in the Philippines you would like to share? Just leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)

9 thoughts on “Institutional Incompetence or Delightfully Informal?

  1. Sort of the same for trying to get something when it is “Out of stock”. I have been trying for two weeks to buy a Canon printer cartridge from the only store that sells them. “Sorry Sir, out of stock”. When will you have them in? “Next week sir!” Next week is the same answer, and it will be the same answer until the cartridges show up, sometime! Grin and bear it! Enjoy the sunshine!

  2. LOLOLOL, Randy. I wear a wrist watch just so I know how “late” I can be with out getting in trouble 😉

  3. Scott,
    I got a chuckle out of that. All you can do is smile and go with the flow. Thanks so much for the laugh. Have a nice day.

  4. Hi Dave, my experience was about looking for a porcelain cup at SM kitchen department since my brother’s maid broke one of the pairs I brought from Australia. Tea and coffee just don’t taste good with anything but porcelain cup :).
    So off I went looking but can’t seem to find any. So I approached the Salesgirl.
    me: Do you have any porcelain cup?
    SM girl: yes ma’am we have.

    So off she went and came back with a …..ceramic cup!

    me: no, no, no! These are ceramic cups. Do you have anything that is real porcelain? As in fine China?
    SM girl: oh, yes Ma’am, we have exactly what you’re looking for.

    So off she went and came back with a very pretty cup. BUT still ceramic. She proudly showed me:
    “here you are Ma’am, these are made in China”.

    What can I say? I bought the cups simply because she was very patient 🙂

    1. Hi Dave, it does bring a smile to my lips whenever I remember that incident. And yes the SM girl was so polite and tried her best to help. She deserved a medal for good service 🙂
      And what would be wrong with a SM girl offering you an underwear? You should tease her and ask for the skimpiest men’s thongs and see how red she’d blush 🙂
      Oh, just make sure the patient wife is somewhere else 🙂

  5. Hmmm, interesting story. I have one theory though, since baseball is not really a popular sport in the PH, they must’ve wandered what in the world is a “baseball cap” (lol). Maybe next time, you can ask for a “basketball cap”, I’m sure the sales people would understand since basketball is very popular there (lol again). Or just ask them, do you have sombrero? (tagalog word for cap/hat)

  6. Okay here is my latest shopping story…………..
    About a month ago I was involved in a two day ordeal of locating the repair parts for our 10 x 10 military surplus truck that we contract to haul pineapples with. There is no way that I was handing anybody a wad of cash and hoped that they would get a fair price for expensive truck parts. I am just not a blank check kind of guy. I checked the prices of some of the parts at surplus parts suppliers. Always the same result; top dollar for worn out rusted crap! I even tried to coach them by suggesting that they close their eyes and pretend they see no white devils before quoting a price. I pretty much decided to only get new top quality parts imported from China. [but sir these are imported] Whoo hoo please tell me they are coming from someplace known for quality like Somalia. At one point I needed to purchase some wheel seals. Four to be exact. The price quoted was 690 pesos each. I asked for a discount. I suggested 600 each. The sales lady who happened to be a manager also said sorry sir these are fixed price items. I was feeling a bit cheeky that day so I persisted. She kept shooting me down. Finally I brought out the big guns. I used the same line that I tease my wife with when she doesn’t seem to appreciate how adorable I am (when I piss her off}. I asked for 600 and before she could respond I quickly said Looooove Yooooou! For some reason she appeared taken aback and then said OKAY! you can have them for 600 since you love me! She sounded like she was eating her words when she shouted this at me and the whole store was laughing and giving me high fives. I was victorious! I can now say that I have earned money in the Philippines legally and with my clothes on.

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