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.
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.
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!