Joanne Peh’s Nando’s ovation

From ‘Ovation-goodbye for Joanne Peh’, 1 June 2011, article in translated from LHWB

Joanne Peh posted on Twitter her “experience” two days ago at a restaurant in Tanglin Mall. Peh had gone to the restaurant “Nando’s” with her Caucasian boyfriend Bobby Tonelli after filming a programme, “Ladies Nite” nearby.

However, before the couple could enjoy alone time with a quiet evening repast, they encountered poor service from the restaurant. Peh had asked for a glass of hot water from a waiter, but was told that the restaurant does not serve hot water.

Accordingly to Peh, the manager of the restaurant informed her that a glass of hot water costs $3.90. This is despite a bottle of mineral water costing only $1.80 on the menu. In comparison, a cup of tea is $3.90 on the menu.

Angered by this, the couple decided not to dine at the restaurant and stood to leave. What happened next was completely unexpected.

All the staff members of the restaurant began clapping to the couple’s departure! The furious Peh immediately tweeted about the incident and even specified the name of the manager on duty as “Shah”.

As ridiculous as $3.90 sounds for hot water (was it heated up over a charcoal grill?), compared to 50 cents for the same beverage at Ya Kun, what I don’t get is how someone is willing to forsake a perfectly good chicken meal just because Nando’s charges expensive hot water on the side, which you can jolly well refuse to order and get on with dinner, the main attraction of Nando’s by the way, not their hot water. Unless of course, you have a baby on tow, or having hot water is an obsessive compulsive trait of paranoid celebrities who fear that anything less than tongue-scalding comes direct from the tap and is an attempt by crazy stalker fans behind the kitchen to poison them.

Such a sarcastic, synchronised reaction from the staff could only be triggered by a staff member with a personal vendetta against Joanne and her date, or Miss Peh was making an impetuous request worthy of humiliation. An explanation by Nando’s is in order perhaps, though any patron unaware of the ruckus over hot water would take the applause as just a playful announcement of Joanne and her beau’s presence and departure. Maybe they were experimenting with a new way of saying ‘Thank you, come again’, or it was special guest ‘Joanne has left the building’ treatment that Nando’s provides all their celebrity customers, since applause is to an actor’s ears like a mother’s voice to a helpless child . At least they didn’t taunt her with lines like  ‘Your character should have died in Little Nyonya!’ or ‘SPG!’.

Still, such fury over Nando’s price of hot water and attitude before being served anything comes across as a little petty even by Joanne’s standards. It’s not like someone vomited in her Peri Peri sauce, nor did Nando’s intend to deceive her by withholding the price of hot water and subsequent refills till she receives the bill. Perhaps if she had remained calm and sated her hunger without the trivial accompaniment of hot water,  this unnecessary fracas could have been avoided altogether.  Someone could have just offered a free coleslaw (maybe mashed potato since coleslaw is, well, cold) just to appease her, instead of orchestrating the bizarre gesture of mock applause behind the scenes.  Just remember to ask dear Bobby to bring a thermos along next time, then. Meanwhile, will an economist please stand up and clarify once and for all, how much should a cup of hot water cost, if not free of charge?

Postscript: Turns out that the Nandos’ staff were really taunting Joanne, and have duly ap0logised by sending  free bottles of Peri Peri sauce. Surprised that no free water was given with it, though. Nando’s were reluctant to explain why they clapped though. Anybody asked to define sarcasm or irony would be at a loss for words too.

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M1 rejects husband who forgot wife’s D.O.B

From ‘Can’t recall wife’s birthday, so no help from telco’, 11 March 2011, Voices, Today

(Jimmy Ng Kim Kok): Two days ago, I received a frantic call from my wife who is on holiday overseas, saying that her handbag containing her mobile phone had been stolen.

Immediately, I called M1 to ask for her phone line to be suspended. I was asked to provide my wife’s name, phone number, address, postal code, IC number – to all of which I gave the correct reply. Then, I was asked her date of birth. When I said I could not really remember, I was told my desperate request could not be acceded to. Weren’t the correct replies I gave earlier sufficient for them to act?

As the last straw, I was told to call my wife to ask for her birth date. How could I, when her phone had been stolen!

I hung up the phone and am now waiting for the phone bill to come.

Strange cliffhanger at the end, with the complainant resigning to being charged an extravagant phone bill from the culprit rather than finding means of retrieving such information without crawling in shame to his wife’s friends or worse, his in laws for help.  Which is why everyone should have a Facebook account, in case people forget their significant others’ birthdays, full name or their favorite colour, so that they can obtain such details discreetly without making a fool of themselves. It’s really not that uncommon for husbands to forget birthdays in brief moments of panic, especially when you have a spouse who expects you to recall multiple anniversaries, all her dental appointments and even your pets’ birthdays. But it takes some astonishing nerve to broadcast your failings for the whole world to see, which includes not just his wife, but his children, his wife’s friends, and the in laws as well. You could almost hear the collective awkward whispers of ‘Oops’ from everyone in the country and beyond reading this incriminating complaint.

To top it all off,  he then proceds to divert the blame from himself to the telco for abiding by protocol, when the sensible thing to do here would be to find out which hotel his wife was staying in (where she would most likely be after losing her hangbag, not shopping) and just call her directly, if she weren’t calling from someone else’s mobile phone already.  Which was what the staff at M1 probably meant anyway, before Jimmy hung up the phone and started sulking instead of doing something with a little more common sense than telling everyone you can’t remember your wife’s date of birth. Top pick for the  ‘Unintentional self-shaming’ award.

Female cleaners in male toilets

From ‘ Mind the gender in toilet cleaning’, 3 Feb 2011, ST Forum online

(Seow Joo Heng): OFTEN, we see female cleaners being employed to clean all toilets, including men’s toilets; and male inspectors inspecting all, including women’s toilets.

Obviously, this arrangement causes inconvenience and embarrassment to both users and cleaners.

Let us give some respect to all, especially the female cleaners, with just a bit of common sense: all cleaning processes involving men’s toilets can be handled by men, and women’s toilets by women.

A counter argument that this will then increase manpower costs should not hold water.

Perhaps instead on complaining about getting caught shaking off the last drops of pee at the urinal by female cleaners  one should consider that these workers are picking up our shit after us and it’s unreasonable to expect that, in this line of work with a possibly askew gender distribution, males can only clean male toilets and vice versa for female cleaners. What if there were only one cleaner on shift that day because her male colleague fell sick from clearing up someone’s liquid poo-margeddon the previous night? Would you rather the toilet be left in a state of  after-party faecal desecration, shit splattered and compacted that you would need tongs to fish out formidably rock-hard stools or unflushable condoms, swirling with noxious fart vapour so repellent and persistent your 15 minute lunch will taste exactly like the undigested discards of all toilet users combined? You spend no more than 5 minutes doing your business, these folks make sure you don’t slip on urine for more than 8 toxic hours a day. Show some understanding for god’s sake.

It’s a dirty, hazardous job really, and it’s understandable if toilet cleaners are an angry, disgruntled bunch who, being exposed to all manners of excrement, spit and pubic hairs in the course of a day, wouldn’t care less about your modesty even if you’re so well endowed that you have to stand an arm’s length away from the urinal just to relieve yourself. Best pee with caution, you know, adopting the usual stance of head and hands down, not hands behind your head whistling and cooing with pleasure. After all, it’s not just female cleaners one has to watch out for barging into our toilets, it’s also fathers who bring in their girls as well, as seen in this letter ‘Modesty issues at the urinals’, 26 June 2007, Today.




SIA does not have a nut-free environment

From ‘Airline should take peanut allergy seriously’, 1 Feb 2011, ST Forum online

(Ai-Leng Hong): ON A Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight from Auckland to Singapore on Dec 13, my seven-year-old son experienced an anaphylactic reaction by inhaling peanut dust released when peanut snack packs were opened during the flight.

Despite earlier requests to not serve peanuts on board, SIA would not accommodate our request as it had stopped its “nut-free environment on board” policy.

Fortunately, my son did not die from that anaphylactic reaction as we had an adrenalin injection pen which we administered to him.

Following advice given by a senior crew member, we lodged another request to SIA to not serve peanut snacks on our scheduled return trip on Jan 11. Unfortunately, the airline refused to not serve peanuts on board.

…The commercial imperative is clear: Serve peanuts and neglect the duty of care that the airline has to provide a safe environment for all its passengers – including those suffering from allergies.

It would take a philosopher to distill the moral ambiguity in this situation, whether it is ethical for airlines to deprive hundreds of passengers of peanuts in order to prevent one child of unnecessary suffering or even death.  This peanut problem is confounded by locality and circumstance, namely passengers bounded by a common recycled breathing space, with barely elbow room between each other and complicit in the knowledge that slightest disturbance could affect every single person on board. Now, hypothetically, if I had a rare disease, not unlike the prevalence of anaphylactic peanut allergy, which  predisposes me to shock and epileptic fits whenever I smell life jackets,  wouldn’t it then be utterly unreasonable of me to request the airlines to remove all life jackets on board? All kinds of fatal hazards may occur on a plane which may not necessarily involve peanut allergens. Stagnant legspace may have a blood clot shuttling to my lungs while watching inflight Lord of the Rings trilogy. I may choke on a fish bone, or a baby could get smothered purple by a pillow while sleeping, does that give people the right to demand for wider aisles, ban all food with bones, or pillows?

The question then, is how preventable we deem peanut allergy to be such that appropriate precautions can be taken without inconveniencing others, and if it happens that someone on board is hypersensitive short of putting him in an aseptic bubble, I’m sure some understanding and sacrifice on the part of passengers, out of a simple concern for a fellow traveller, to open their peanut packs carefully in vacuum sealed bags or just keep them for later, would probably make the flight pleasant and hazard free for everyone without calling for a total nutty ban altogether. Still, it’s probably unfair of the complainant to blame SIA for not fostering a safe environment just because they expose passengers to peanuts, when they are so many other safety checks in place to ensure the damn plane doesn’t go up in flames and kill everyone, not just allergy sufferers. So, in the grand scheme of things, for hiring competent pilots, for having a decent ventilation system, for making sure the wings don’t fall apart, I would say that SIA is already taking good care of the majority of passengers, in terms of preventing what kills MOST people, whether or not they ban peanuts on board. They may have to do something about serving business class hysteria-causing drunken chicken though.

Postcript: In a SIA response on 3 Feb 2011, ST Forum online ‘SIA does offer nut-free meals’ (The first day of Chinese New Year mind you), Senior Vice President of Products and Services Tan Pee Teck stated that ‘…from 2002 to mid-2009, we offered to remove nuts and meals containing nuts and nut-derivatives from the class of travel the requesting passenger was on. However, we received numerous feedback from customers questioning this policy.’ i.e we tried to but got complaints by passengers who insist on peanuts. You just can’t please everyone really, and all this fuss over some nuts on a plane.


Appetiser for destruction

From ‘ 新航提供‘醉鸡’ 乘客担心坠机’, 12 Dec 2010, article in (LHWB)




They served this on 9/11

Translation: A business class passenger with SIA got the shock of his life upon being served a drunken chicken appetiser on board, which in Chinese is the phonetic equivalent of ‘dropping out of an airplane’. The very inauspiciousness of the dish turned the writer into a nervous wreck for the remaining 5 hours of the flight, suggesting that, with a clientele of mostly Chinese passengers, SIA should take this har-winger of ultimate disaster off the menu.

And all this while I thought SIA’s business class caters to intelligent men of exquisite taste and discerning pleasures, not country bumpkin soothsayers who subscribe to pagan superstitions, numerology and the belief that a poorly named poultry dish will wrench the stars out of their alignment and lay an infernal curse on the engines of an airplane. Imagine the sheer pants-wetting anxiety of such complainants whenever they encounter something on a menu that foreshadows imminent death wherever they go, be it a Swensen’s ‘Earthquake’ ice cream on the top floor of a shopping mall or ‘Shark’s Fin’ on a sailboat. Even if you serve them rice and soggy cabbage instead to ward off any evil lurking in those inflight food trolleys, such people will see patterns emerging from the remnants of their meal that resemble nothing less than skull and crossbones, or a apocalyptic picture of biblical devastation, hellish fire, brimstone and all. We already have passengers complaining that inflight food is too boring, yet when you style it up a bit and give it fancy gourmet names, they blame you for portending doom for all on board. Superstitious passengers should just spend the entirety of their flight time with their eye-masks on, headsets tuned to the spa channel and starve themselves, preferably to death before suffering a far worse fate of a crash orchestrated by an evil drunken chicken. Top contender of the Most Kiasi complaint award.

Rowdy children make parents happy

From ‘Only way to signal civil consideration’, 8 Jan 2010, St Forum

(Pat  Gan): Before alleging intolerance and discrimination against children, parents must realise that the ban (on children from casual eateries)  is largely a consequence of rowdy behaviour by some children and their inconsiderate parents.

… I have seen inconsiderate parents who blithely stay put in the restaurant, content with letting their babies cry and disrupt the mood of other diners. Increasingly too, I have noticed more acts of misbehaviour and rowdiness by children that are unchecked by parents.

Are children spoilt or are more parents becoming overindulgent, and assume that because their world revolves around their children, other diners should accept the misbehaviour.

I agree with the ban because it sends a clear message to such parents to ensure their children behave in public.

What is unfortunate is that considerate parents with properly mannered children are the innocent victims.

But the logic is irrefutably sound: One rowdy child makes a pair of parents happy while the absence of a noisy brat makes a roomful of diners happy.

I’m not sure about the ‘irrefutable’ logic of rowdy children making parents happy, but there’s really nothing much we can do about misbehaving children, kids being kids and some parents, well, being completely hapless in instilling discipline and would rather neutralise their hyperactive children with mummy’s iPhone instead of imparting actual social skills. We have to deal with such social conveniences all the time, whether it’s kids stepping all over our MRT seats, giving running commentaries at Harry Potter films or doing nothing but just blocking our paths in prams, but the real question here is whether the business decision of banning kids from eateries is really necessary. What exactly went into the calculations of the probability of encountering little hooligans correlating with loss of clientele? If I were a regular patron of a diner, service and food excellent otherwise, having the misfortune of being in the vicinity of a noisy family resembling more like trailer-park menagerie who just can’t be bothered won’t deter me from coming back, unless by sheer arse luck I’m there with the offensive family at the same time and day EVERY single time.

One possible danger of wielding this short-term blunt instrument of blanket banning is the overspill of nuisance kids to other eateries, which would then encourage owners to follow suit in fear of patrons being terrorised, and eventually the only places where we’ll see kids eating in public is at McDonalds, stuffing their faces with Happy Meals and contributing to the obesity epidemic just because some hoity-toity people like their fine ambience child-proofed. All it takes really, is a little patience, some stern glancing, a silent prayer that rowdy children are an anomaly and if you’re a couple trying for a kid, the benefit of free life lessons in the importance of not ‘sparing the rod’. That’s if you don’t change your mind about even having any kids at all.



Louis Vuitton doesn’t accept Taka vouchers

From ‘Poor customer service at Takashimaya’, 3 Jan 2011, ST Forum online

(Sih Yen Cheng):ON DEC 27, my husband went to Takashimaya to purchase gift vouchers worth $2,000 as a surprise gift for me.

He asked the staff if the vouchers could be used at the Louis Vuitton shop in Ngee Ann City and was told yes. So he went ahead with the purchase.

However, when I presented the vouchers at the Louis Vuitton shop, they were not accepted. So last Wednesday, I called Takashimaya’s customer service hotline to explain the situation and request for a refund as it was their staff who had given my husband the wrong information.

Customer service manager Melina said she could try to appeal to the top management for a refund, but they usually did not give refunds on vouchers. Instead of calming an upset customer like me, she came across as firm and rude. She did not even bother to check with her staff or investigate the matter.

It was a very poor attitude coming from a Japanese company which is supposed to be well known for excellent customer service.

Not only are Taka vouchers the most unromantic surprise gifts a man could possibly get for his wife, but it’s also a lazy gesture considering that a loving husband ought to make the extra effort to figure out what his wife specifically wants from LV instead of buying $2000 worth of  perishable cash. Even if he makes the less idiotic move of purchasing the present directly from LV and it turns out to be something she doesn’t like, there’s always room to negotiate an exchange or other. Better still, get gift vouchers direct from LV instead. The Taka staff may have given the wrong information, but surely common sense and anyone who has the faintest idea of the allure of LV would be skeptical of a world-renown luxury brand willing to engage in a transaction that comes across more like dinosaur-sticker trading than anything involving actual money. I mean, shopping mall vouchers are practically NTUC auntie currency, and you have the audacity of flashing them in a, gasp, LV store? That’s as insulting as bringing a six-pack cup noodles to the host of a bow-tie party.

And my sympathies to poor ‘Melina’ for being a target of vicious name-calling in a national paper from some fussy, irate woman venting her frustration on the entire mall just because she can’t use $2000 vouchers at LV when they’re so many other ways of spending that kind of money, especially during the Christmas season. The problem here isn’t bad customer service, it’s terms and conditions, and no amount of groveling and smiling will deter someone the likes of Ms Sih here from making Christmas less merry for everyone involved.  Tip to husband from this experience: Just give her $2000 cash already, saves all the trouble. And watch out especially for free vouchers, as seen in the letter dated 23 July 1986 ‘Gift that came with a catch, or how string of pearls came without clasp’. I don’t know if it’s kiasuism or thriftiness that makes Singaporeans insist on using any voucher presented to them, whether it’s for a free string of beads or woolly mufflers, even if it means queuing up and  ironically paying for the catch in the process. You can actually reject ‘free’ stuff you know.



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