Monday, December 17, 2007

Me, the Xbox360 and Thailand's BIGGEST LIAR

About two months ago, I decided to treat myself to a new Xbox360 games system. After checking a few stores, I decided to purchase my system from a shop inside The Mall Bang Khae that for now shall remain nameless.

I emphasise this was an indoor shop near the IT section and not some dodgy, outdoor market outfit. Still, I should have sensed something was wrong when after taking my credit card, swiping and presenting me with the receipt, the man handed me another bill for 600 bhat and said "This is the extra charge we add on to credit cards".

I explained I had only paid by card to avoid the two minute walk to the ATM, I insisted he reverse the transaction and allow me to pay by cash but alas, nobody in the shop knew how to reverse a basic transaction. My wife had to talk them through it.

But it was all forgotten when I got home and - like the overgrown kid I am - started to enjoy my new games. All was well for about a month, until my Xbox 360 started to freeze more and more often, until eventually it died completely. I was disappointed but I had read that it was a well known batch problem and had cost Microsoft one billion dollars in repairs already. There is no Microsoft office in Thailand so I had to rely on the seller for support.

I took my system back to the shop and was surprised to discover they expected me to pay for the repair myself. "It's only a one month guarantee so it has expired" the man told me "We'll call you when we know the repair cost".

Two days later I got a call telling me the cost would be 1,500 bhat. I couldn't be bothered to argue so I agreed to pay. "We'll send it to Chinatown for repair and call you when it's done" I was told.

So I waited......and waited.....and waited. I visited the shop three times, and each time I was told "Yang mai set". Finally, after six weeks of waiting, I got my wife to call and get to the bottom of it, and that's when the lies really started to flow.

We were told that the repair was serious. It was not covered under any guarantee and a new part had been ordered. They had tried to call me several times to let me know (no missed calls showed on my phone). The new part would definitely arrive but it might take some time so I could come and pick up my system in the meantime.

We would eventually find out that not a single one of the things we had been told were true.

Sensing something amiss, I went to the store to pick up my system. The man in the shop (it was the same man we spoke to every time) actually told my wife "Your husband tried to use the system on the internet and that's what caused the problem. The chip has melted". Anyone who knows anything about Xbox systems or computer systems will know how laughable that line was. We were also told that if we didn't want to wait for the new part to arrive, we could take the system to Sapham Lek and get it repaired ourselves. (So why didn't they take it themselves then?)

By now, I knew that we had been cheated and lied to. But as unsatisified as I was, I also knew that if I could get it repaired myself it would save a lot of hassle. So, on my next day off, I took a little trip to Chinatown to hunt down a repair man in the Hong Kong style Sapham Lek Market, and sure enough I found one.

It took about thirty seconds for the repairman to open the system, look at the mainboard, laugh and tell me that someone had already tried to repair it and had burnt the ram insert to a crisp. A repair now would be impossible, my system was ruined. You can probably guess how I felt.

My wife asked around and found out the name of the shopman at the sales store in Bang Kahe and, usefully, the name of the owner. That same night we marched to the shop (my wife is so cool when she gets ticked off!) and demanded to speak the manager. After getting his number my wife made the call.

I already had my list of promises ready. If I didn't get a refund or replacement, I was going to write to every newspaper I knew, make leflets and hand them out to people walking into the shop, and tell all my new friends in the Thai Police and the manager of The Mall shopping complex. I still had the receipts from both the sale and repair of the system and they knew it.

To my relief though, the manager was a lot more helpful. He told us systems had a guarantee of six months from the shop and repairs were done through a contact at an electronics company in Chit Lom. When told that the storeman had mentioned a repair at Sapham Lek, there was concern. "Mr. Manager" promised to investigate and call us back.

Thirty minutes later the call came. Mr. Manager sounded worried. He confirmed that indeed my Xbox had been sent to Chinatown when it should not have been. The damage had been confirmed as serious but a replacement had not been ordered. Mr. Manager also apologised for the storeman suggesting I pick up the system and take it to be repaired myself. This should not have happened.

Obviously, the storeman had let me wait six weeks while my system sat in his cupboard in the vain hope I would forget about my computer. When that failed, he told me a bare faced lie about a replacement part on its way and when that lie failed too, he simply tried to get me to go away and deal with it myself.

Mr. Manager seemed apologetic and promised to meet my wife today. But the storeman was still not finished. Today my wife got at call saying "Sorry, the manager wanted to meet you today but he can't make it, can you cancel and come another day?". My wife agreed but - based on past experience - called Mr Manager to check. Surprise, surprise, Mr Manager knew nothing about the cancellation and was looking forward to meeting my wife as arranged!

And that's where we are now. But my question is this: just how stupid are some people?

Just how moronic is the storeman to think that telling us a whole string of shameless, bare faced lies was going to get him out of trouble? Did he really think that if he didn't call me I was eventually going to forget that he had my computer? Did he honestly conceive that we are going to believe that I melted my Xbox's chip by "using it on the internet"? Did he really think that we wouldn't check about the "extra part order"? Did he think atall?

I have become accustomed to Thai businesses having "laid back" ways of doing things and I am familiar with the concept of a "kind lie" in Thailand, but this is the only the second time I have been told an entire string of shamless lies to my face. It has never worked on me and it never will. All it does is make me lose any shred of respect and grows my contempt for the person telling them. What makes things harder is that as I'm in a foreign country it is a lot more difficult for me to use the usual methods of recourse I would use back home (contacting media, watchdog groups, etc.).

I'd be interested to hear from Thais and farangs alike about any similar experiences in Thailand and how they were dealt with (if at all!)


Jason Smith said...

This is perhaps a good opportunity to address the myth that Thailand is a "cheap place to live." Thailand is inexpensive only if your time is worth nothing. Or, put another way: you get what you pay for. Airlines are cheap, but they crash every now and then and maybe you'll die. Food is cheap, but sometimes you get food poisoning. Taxis are cheap, but the "chauffeurs" are farmers. Restaurants are cheap, but to get service you must suffer the indignity of raising your hand and flagging down an under-trained and unprofessional waiter. Seedy DVDs are cheap, but they never work. These are only a few examples.

And don't even get me started on electronics.

Poor goods are bad enough. But the Thai service industry magnifies the problem because getting good service requires a substantial time investment on your part. Back home, you live in a service-based economy--time is the most scarce resource to most people. But Thailand is a place where people commute two hours every morning and two hours every evening just to work at a dead-end job.

I myself work in the software industry here, and I do good business doing things right the first time, on schedule, no hassle. In fact, here is the open secret of I.T. in Thailand: the money is better here than back in the U.S. because what few organizations there are that know the value of quality must pay through the nose to get it.

After being burned several times myself, I give the following advice to foreigners considering electronics: do not even waste your time with the Thai service industry. Go directly to your home country and order products from there. The price is higher, but not the cost. In the case of electronics, if your home country is incompatible with Thailand (e.g. PAL vs. NTSC, 110 volt vs. 220, region codes, etc.), then you have a choice: do not bother; or, be prepared for a total loss.

Please note, I am not judgmental or critical of anyone here. It is just prudence.

Jason Smith said...

This is a small nitpick, but why are you interested in only the Thais and farangs? Why not be "interested in hearing from people about similar experiences"?

If I am African-American, Japanese, or Mexican, is my viewpoint not welcome? I am sure it was an honest mistake, but you unintentionally invoked race where it is not relevant.

Red and White said...

Thanks for your comments. Thais themselves use the term “farang” meaning any Caucasian foreigner for which they would probably include Hispanic people. When I said “Thais or farangs” I really meant locals or non locals, I didn’t mean to split hairs. Thanks for the feedback.

Anonymous said...

so what is the outcome of the story ? did u get a full refund ?

Red and White said...

No refund yet, but they have promised to have it fully fixed (for free)within twenty days. That was ten days ago :-) Thanks for asking.

Anonymous said...

I live in Thailand but seriously liars are every where!! I got banned from Xbox Live cause they sold me the leaked version of Halo 3:ODST!

Bill said...

Like Red and White says, Thais often use farang for nearly everyone not Thai. It used to be more strictly used for white foreigners but more and more I hear people use farang more like the word "foreigner"

Malky said...

I've been in Thailand for almost 6 years now and I can totally relate to what you're saying. I read your comment because I'm thinking about buying an Xbox 360 in Thailand and I know too well what some people here are like. Did you buy a genuine xbox or was it a modified one that can play copied games? I don't know which one I should buy, the modified one does seem pretty tempting because of the cheap games but it would suck if I couldn't play games on xbox live. Do you know if it's possible to play pirated games on xbox live? And by the way, did you manage to get that problem sorted out?