Stupid is the new sexy

is the subject of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

“There’s something of the mudslide about you. You bring everything down.” It’s one of my favorite movie lines, delivered icily by John Malkovitch (as Tom Ripley) in Ripley’s Game. For some reason, it reminds me of my long unanswered query: is there something in our water that makes people here dumber by the minute?

A marble monument? Cover it with paint. A beautiful road? Put billboards and dig big holes. A nice lake view? Put a huge Batangas sign. A welcoming park? Trash it and allow tacky little stores to squat. A historical site? Put McDonald’s. And ensure that everywhere there’s noise and the ugly mug of some politician and his family.

This freakish mentality is creeping into our services. Which is disconcerting as our economy runs on the service industry. Readers of this column may remember my friend who was shooed away by a Makati building security guard because “bawal tumingin sa directory.” Well, I once wanted to eat at Conti’s. After parking my car a guard comes up and menacingly asks: “Saan kayo?” As I was parked directly in front of Conti’s, I said: “Sa tingin mo saan??”

This idiotic behaviour happens every day. And I strongly disagree that poverty or education accounts for the stupidity: A friend went to KFC. The waitress was spaced out and was more intent in flirting with her co-workers than attending to customers. She was actually pissed off that she had to attend to customers. KFC is one of the worst: never getting delivery orders right, lines at the cashier are always long, and the waiters get angry or confused if you can’t give them the coins they want. Same with Chow King. Idiots.

In Red Ribbon, a friend of mine politely asked for an official receipt. The waiter grumpily replied that the machine dispensing receipts was broken. When my friend insisted, the waiter retaliated by asking for my friend’s name and TIN number and took 30 long slow minutes just to copy the details. The waitresses in Cyma can never remember the orders taken. The S&R meat section people are spaced out and clueless. Shell attendants just mindlessly talk and talk. Example -- Me: “P1,000 unleaded please (as I hand over the money).” Shell guy: “Sir, would you like Citibank card blah blah blah.” Me: “No, thank you.” Shell guy (without pausing to listen to my reply): “Sir, V-Power blah blah blah; sir, cash or card?” Me: “Huh?? High ka ba?? Hawak hawak mo na nga pera ko eh!!” Idiots.

In French Baker, another friend asked for carbonara. The waitress asked what type of pasta she wanted. My friend said she preferred spaghetti. The waitress cheerily replied (and notice that a lot of service providers here are very cheerful when they’re telling you that you can’t have what you want) there’s no spaghetti, only fettucine. My friend said that’s ok. The waitress then proceeded to confirm the entire order, saying “carbonara with spaghetti pasta.” When my friend pointed out that she previously said they’re out of spaghetti, the waitress just shrugged. When the order came, it was carbonara with spinach fettucine. Idiot.

A friend wanted to have Globe Internet. Globe responded by saying they don’t have available connection. Incredibly in the middle of Metro Manila. When it got finally connected, the Internet service kept fizzling out. Another friend went to PLDT, where he was pestered for immediate deposit before they install anything. He promptly paid, got lousy service, asked for his money back. The reimbursement took three weeks to be released. It has to be noted that prompt payments don’t matter much. Inadvertently miss a payment, disconnections are made and demand letters issued. But ask for service and they’re quite talented in making excuses. The same with Meralco, whose repairmen are always nowhere to be found but their disconnection people are incredibly determined workaholics. Idiots.

Cebu Pacific? Never on time. And they think that everything can be smoothed over with that stupid on-air games of theirs. Every flight delay, every re-seating, every chaotic check-in, every malfunctioning online reservation, every rough landing is accompanied by “sir, ok lang?” Siempre hindi! “We hope to make it up to you.” What the %•@# gave you the idea you’re capable of doing that!? Idiots.

Which is perhaps why it’s very hard to find a good martini here. A martini is like our adobo, simple ingredients but easy to louse up. M Cafe’s are disappointing. Mandarin’s Martinis is stingy. Stock Market’s and the rest of Serendra’s are abominations. And that I guess sums it all up. The secret to a good martini, like anything else in life, is simply the care put in making it. Apparently, a lot here just don’t care.

Filipino consumers should be more demanding. And uncompromising. Money is hard to come by in the Philippines for honest folks. There’s no reason why we should part with it for lousy crappy service.