I am Not that Smart Bro

Henry with is asawa

Henry with is asawa

This post is from Henry Lamkin.

(This is told for those who are unfamiliar as to how business is conducted here on occasion and that a certain amount of patience and understanding is required or the frustration with the culture of the system will overcome their love of the country.)

Connecting to the Internet and a cell phone in the Philippines seems like a simple straightforward proposition. There are different carriers that you can choose from. Some have better coverage and speed than others depending on where you are located.

I choose Smart Bro as I have dealt with them before and the choices in our specific area of Luzon are somewhat limited. They have several plans you can choose from limited by your location and willingness to commit for various lengths of time.

Smart Bro Adventure

I entered the Smart Bro store in downtown Vigan and noticed at least 30 customers were seated in the middle of a professionally decorated typical looking phone business center. I was impressed by the clean look and reminded of a Wireless Verizon Bussiness Center Store you would find stateside.

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Philippine Security Guard

Philippine Security Guard

I was warmly greeted at the door by the guard. I asked how long he though the wait might be before I would be served. He said it was up to me how long I wanted to wait. I assured him I understood I was free to wait or leave as I pleased. I tried to clarify my question by explaining that what I was really asking was how long he estimated the wait to be given the current volume of customers and the length of time it took to serve one.

I was hoping based on his many years of observation on the job he might have a feel for the speed of movement in the establishment. He pondered the rephrased question by blinking his eyes and repeating it was up to me how long I liked to wait. I hesitated momentary and consider telling him that since I didn’t like to wait at all, could I just be served now. However I took a number a proceeded to take a seat in the crowd.

I looked at my number, fifty-four. The clerk called out number “thirty-one please”. Simple math told me that I had to wait for twenty-three more customers. I waited until the next number was called and attempted to do what the guard seemed incapable of doing, estimating my wait time until service.

It was about ten minutes until the next number was called out by the clerk, “thirty-two”. Falling back on the math again I came up with an estimated wait time of approximately a little over an hour.

I used a very sophisticated algorithm that involved the total number of minutes required to serve all the customers ahead of me divided by the number of representatives. I also factored the variable speed of individual customer representatives.

Two hours and ten minutes later my number was called. I reflected on what the guard had said as I entered. It was up to me how long I wanted to wait.

I wanted a sim for my phone, sim for my Ipad, and a USB connector for my laptop. The representative was professional and knowledgably and helped me through the process with relative ease. She took twenty minutes filling out forms and recording information on her computer and we were done. I had completed the forms and then she handed me a number. I looked at it and said what is this for? She said that it was for the line to pay the cashier. I didn’t ask for an estimate of wait time for the opportunity to pay for the service I just received.

Smart Store

Smart Store

Twenty-five minutes later I was at the cashiers window paying my bill. Yes! She then said I needed to return to the representative to install the sims and start the service.

I looked at her and said “You mean I have to get in line for the lady who I waited for and put me in line to see you”? She smiled and thanked me for my payment and then said “yes”. The wait to see the representatives flew by because I wasted no time doing math. The representative smiled and then installed the paid for product after inspecting my receipt from the smiling cashier lady.

I was almost out the door and then I realized I had no load. I had purchase-prepaid time to allow me to use my newly purchased sims. I asked her if I could by some prepaid time. She smiled and explained that they don’t sell time there at the Smart Bro store. I said “But your Smart Bro you sell the service, and the sim. “Yes sir” she smiled and said I could purchase the time at numerous vendors. I asked could she point out a specific one close by. She did and I left.

I crossed the street to the afore mentioned vendor and asked to purchase some load. They took my numbers, called a phone number, and smiled and told me that I was loaded. I asked how can I tell if I received my prepaid time. She could have been calling her grandmother for all I knew. When we tried to fire up my IPAD to verify that I had in fact been given access to the internet we hit a technology bump. She had never sold a load for an IPAD before and didn’t know how to check it. I said wait right here as long as you like I will be right back.

I kicked open the door to the Smart Bro Store and knocked out the guard numbers flew everywhere. I went up to the service representative and grabbed her by the throat. The customer sitting at her station fled in terror. I smiled and said please be kind enough to verify that I have a load on my IPAD and connect me to the internet NOW! (Not!)

She did and I went home after only four hours of liking to wait.

Part 2 coming soon!

Post Author: HenryL (5 Posts)


    • Henry says

      Hey it is great here and the people are wonderful. It will take some adjusting and we are the ones who must adjust they are as we find them processing according to their culture. I laugh at myself often remembering that some times the cause of current frustration are born out of the very traits that we love and attracted us to the Philippines.

      Example: You will sometimes be overwhelmed by the needs of your in-laws and the hope that you will contribute often to the many needs that arise. I just remember that I love my wit asawa because she has a high heart and that family is so important to her, She can not help but feel their pain and want to help. I benefit from the same dedicated love and sacrifice. So I help when I can and say Sorry Po when the balance of my ability and resources to assist are out matched by the needs of the many.

  1. Brenton Butler says

    Hi Henry – Getting served can be tough in the Philippines. Things can be slow even if there are few people waiting. Naturally in a competitive business environment, businesses with such bad service die. But if all businesses offer equally poor service then there is no disadvantage to them. Lol. Where I live many get paid 100 to 150 PHP a day. No point working to hard for a few dollars a day. I do find by going shopping at the right time when customer levels are low helps.

    • Puerto Beach says

      Wise advise John, I usually let my mother-in-law lead that charge. The internet was a bit out of here league. She forces her way to the head of the Electrict company pay station while others wait up up to two hours in line. Why can’t you pay online…never mind lol.

  2. Bill S. says

    I think I am starting to understand why so many there, just cut-in the front of the line, that must be the Filipino way of dealing with the type of mentality that expects people to wait from on line to another,,,kinda like some banks in the US do.

  3. corey says

    I buy SMART MEGA 250. For 250P a month you get unlimited texting to any network, 3 hours of calling and 150mb of Internet usage. text MEGA250 to 2477. Personally I in almost 9 years here I have never gone to a Smart or Globe office. I use pre-paid and therefore Never found the need. I buy pre-paid load through plenitude of vendors located in any town or city. In time you will learn never to ask a guard anything or for that matter ask anybody anything. You will have less stress if you don’t.

      • corey says

        Maybe your right Bob. I could have sworn I saw 150 when I loaded the other day. Honestly, I don’t even know what 100 or 150 mb of data steaming means LOL

          • corey says

            Yes that part I get just don’t know how it applies in real world terms of use. How much surfing time would it translate into, but no doubt that is probably an impossible question to answer with all the surfing scenarios: video, email, etc….

            • says

              Every time you do anything on the internet it involved the use of data. If you read your e-mail, there is data involved. For example, I just got an e-mail notifying me of your comment, that was like 5k worth of data. Then, I came to LiP to reply to you, that was like 500k worth of data. So between the e-mail and opening this site, I used 505k out of my 100Mb for the month. I don’t surf on my phone much, so I don’t ever use my entire 100Mb allotment.

  4. David says

    Between Smart, Globe and Sun, Globe technically is the best one of the three.

    Smart has the biggest network, has more subscribers but we all know, bigger doesn’t make you better.

    Globe has more postpaid then smart, smart has more prepaid then Globe.

    I have the Mega 250 also, works out ok here, what i don’t like with smart is when you make a call you have to do the *xxxx then the phone number, with Globe no need.

    • A says

      I guess with services, Globe is a step ahead but Globe tends to blow up your bill with their hidden charges. I have 1499 plan and my monthly bill ends up around 5000. I even have a friend who ended up paying 70,000 for his plan. Smart still is the best way to go, their service just isn’t ideal.. But the same goes with every other service related businesses here.

  5. chasrand says

    Hi Henry,
    Funny article, lol.
    I feel that without patience and a great sense of humour it would be difficult to survive in the PH.

    If you want more fun, try asking for directions, lol.

    • says

      Ha ha…Yeah, ask for direction, if you want fun – i like that. A new way to explore areas you never knew existed :-D Or ask about distance to a certain place, no one never knows that. But they can say how long time it will take – depending on traffic and traffic is never easy to predict.
      Anyway..patience…positive attitude and good sense of humour is assets you can’t live without here.
      On the other hand, most of us Expats are retired, so why all this rush.

  6. says

    It doesn’t matter what problems you are having. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to be aggressive and physically threatening with the people in the Philippines, – least of all a woman!!.
    What you did was very wrong and reflects badly on all the foreigners who make a home here.

    • Puerto Beach says

      Goodness I was never aggressive. I just Smiled and showed respect at all times. I was joking sorry i it wasn’t evident. I am easy going and took no offense. I said take the article tongue in cheek. You know a wink and nod sort of light fancy. I am but a humble Kano who loves the Philippines and yet fears not to make fun of myself and my western filter fogged by the filipino culture. No animals or sales persons were harmed in the writing of that article.

  7. Aklan Heat says

    hello there,

    did the guard get up when you knocked him out and could have had made some karate moves on you, or worse? what if that woman you tried to strangle was the guard’s girlfriend or wife or sister? just thinking! you’re in the philippines after all! be smart! :-)

  8. AJ UK says


    You are lucky you got it done in a day!

    We gave up on replacing our Globe Tatoo with a landline service. They came round 4 times to “Survey” and ended up with asking for my brother-in-laws birth certificate, WTF for? Needless to say, we told them to politely forget it.

    We have now requested a service with PLDT so we shal see how that progresses.

    I love having my home in the Philippines for many reasons but find the bureaucracy stifling and archaic. We are trying to get our daughter Christened and having to bend over backwards for that at the moment. I can’t wait until we apply for her passport!

  9. James says

    Well I didn’t grab anyone by the throat but I remember trying to get internet at globe and standing in line to order my service then standing in line to pay for my set up and installation. About 2 hours in all then to be called back to the first very nice but miss informed representative who told me the service that I ordered was not offered in my area? I asked OK where is this office at? She said Cebu, where do I live? Cebu….(I lived just down the street) …so you don’t offer this service in any of Cebu… the place you have your office??..she said yes.. that is right.

    I started raising my voice then the security guard looked at me then stepped behind the open door, to avoid me. I just stopped and said OK give me back my money. And I went to smart bro. Sometimes being a load mouth American can help sometimes it can’t. But that is just me, I hold my cool more times then not. LOL.

  10. Jay McDowall says

    Well i bet by now you might be saying the first Ilocano word I learned he in Hawaii. We ran into the same problem trying to set up my sister-in-law’s laptop in Laoag. I think we just switched vendors, since I forgot which one she had first.

  11. says

    Axel, the fact we are retired means we have less time to wait, hence the front of the line. About the directions, I remember an Amish farmer when I asked how to get to a nearby town, looked one way, started to point, paused, look the other, slowly shook his head and declared, ” YOU JUST CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE” best directions ever, made me want to go to town and get my girl and return.

  12. Puerto Beach says

    . Folks The guard recovered the choked lady lives can we not forgive and forget. I may have taken a few liberties with the truth. Some of the retelling has been Dramatized to make it more entertaining for the readers. The frustration with the system is factual.

  13. says

    Could somebody please tell me if I will have to get a throw away airline ticket from my town of destination or can I get one from Manila to wherever?
    I live in Dumaguete and have to leave the Philippines in a months time to go to Australia, as my 16 months tourist visa will expire by then, but when I return can I get a throw away ticket from Manila to Hong Kong or wherever, or do I have to get it from Dumaguete to Hong Kong or wherever?
    If I can get one from Manila to Hong Kong it should be cheaper than from Dumaguete to Hong Kong….I think.
    Thank you.

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