The “Tidak Apa” Syndrome


To those who are not familiar with this expression, “tidak apa” may mean many things but for me it is loosely translated as “don’t care attitude”. Instead of saying that it is something unique to this country, I would rather say that it is the sick curse in this country. Some people are simply don’t care on their services, the work they do, the quality of products that they produce and on the impact of their shoddy work and attitude on others.

Let’s focus on the quality of goods – the reason for this post this week.

Quality of goods that we have in this country, generally is acceptable provided we are willing to pay the high price for it. There are several occasions when I had bought certain things, it had turned to be poorly made item. Quality control still lacking – either the manufacturer does not have the right quality control processes in place (are they that ignorant?) or they don’t take the trouble to pay that extra money or effort to produce high quality products. You go to any car workshop and when asked for the quality parts, they will usually quote parts from Japan (and sometimes from the US or Germany) but rarely from Malaysia. Parts from Malaysia is usually for those who want to buy things cheap and willing to compromise on quality, so they say and often there is some truth to it. This is the general state of the impression on Malaysian made goods and its quality although in recent years, quite number of manufacturers (such as Proton with their Preve’ model) and distributors have buck up on the level of quality considerably.

Here’s my case at hand:-

1

(Exhibit No 1 – Nano water filter that is made in or with Korean technology and conforms to international standards and member of a number of water quality associations as displayed on the box. Look at the condition of the sealant at the bottom and it is well made)

2

(Exhibit No 2 – the same nano water filter but distributed by a local company with no information as to where it is made and whether it conforms to any standards and it is not hard to see why. Look at the condition of the filter and you may wonder why this has not been rectified before it is sold to the public – lack of quality is too obvious)

I buy water filters for my portable water filters and I usually buy in a bigger numbers as I usually change the filters on a regular basis. Stocking up water filters is also part of my prepping strategy. The first image at the top is what I expect a good water filter should look like and the second image is a water filter distributed by a local distributor. You can see difference in quality immediately and since lately the hypermarket that I usually go to had stocked up only the locally distributed water filters and stop selling the one I usually buy (I seriously do not know why), for that instance I had no choice but use the local distributor’s filter despite the obvious lack of quality and being sold for the same price as the better quality made ones. At the end, it does not really do the job (and is a health hazard) no thanks to the shoddy quality of the sealant and I replaced it within the same day (and dispose off the water filtered). Money and time wasted – so I made my case with the place where I bought the filters and I was assured that the matter would be brought to the attention of the manufacturer. Whether things will change or not, I am not sure but I would not be buying any items from the same distributor until I see a real improvement of quality. But if this “tidak apa” attitude continues, rest assured that locally made products will be looked with grave suspicion.

And that is not the end of “tidak apa” attitude that I recently encountered.  One good place to see the “tidak apa” attitude at work on a regular basis is on Malaysian roads. It does not take long to see idiots changing lanes without indicating and jumping queues without any care of the rest of the motorists patiently waiting in line for their turn. And there is the mother of “tidak apa” attitude when you see a motorcyclist – not the one riding 250cc and above bikes but rather those 100cc – 150 cc puny bikes. A sudden change of lane, riding without any helmets (or license) and against the traffic by these bikers is nothing new and I have written a number of posts on this.

Just a couple days ago, I saw a black Audi driver (plate number WJJ ****) on the fast lane of the highway just after Seremban and was blocking an ambulance on its path. The weather was bad and despite the ambulance blaring siren and strobe lights (a clear cut sign of emergency), the idiot behind the wheels of the black Audi simply drove on the same lane as if he owed the road. Breaking the law and endangering the patient in the ambulance seemed to be last thing in the Audi driver’s mind. I just hope that one day when his loved ones (or himself) is in the ambulance, he will know how precious time is and the need for the ambulance to have its way without an idiot with a “tidak apa” attitude blocking its way.

Then the next day when we went to one of the fast food restaurant (which should have a better customer service than this), we were rudely reminded that despite that the restaurant is part of a global franchise and carries a well known brand, it is at the end of the day is manned by Malaysians with the usual “tidak apa” attitude. We went on a “working day” and before the normal lunch time so naturally the restaurant was not full but we had to wait for our tables to be cleared (it was only cleared when we came over). We ordered our food and we managed to get most of it but not the forks and spoons. We had to call one of the staff twice to remind on this and only then we got the utensils (whilst our food was getting cold). We did not get all of the food that we ordered so once again we need to remind the staff. Then I guessed that the staff do not understand English – which explains the blur look when I asked for the forks and spoons. And we were not the only one faced this problem. When I went to counter to pay, one of the customer was complaining very loudly and remarked that she had not seen service this bad in such restaurant. Instead of apologizing or assuring the customer that they will look into the quality of service, the lady behind the counter (the manager seems to be missing despite the loud voice of the customer) kept quiet and maintain her “tidak apa” look, making customer (and me) irritated even more.

The same “tidak apa” attitude is probably what causes the blatant waste of public funds as reported in the AG’s report on almost yearly basis. No one seemed to care that the money that they waste does not even belongs to them and the fact that they are expected to be responsible for the expenditures does not move them for the better. To make things even worse, the Government maintains the same “tidak apa” gesture towards the wrongdoers – remember the Home Minister supporting the lost at sea comment? By not whacking the wrongdoers, they actually condones the waste of public funds and corrupt way of doing business.

And speaking about the ‘tidak apa” attitude at Government level, it’s high time we relook into the “dump the dumb politicians” call. The next general election may be years away but it does not mean that we can close one eye (and ears) whenever an idiot takes the center stage and makes a fool of this nation & its people (never mind if he makes a fool of himself outside his official stature). After all, if a politician can come out and say that the recent increase of the price of sugar due to *cough* motherly concern on the people’s health and sex drive and not because failure to control expenses or because some one had screwed up the sugar import deal, something is not right (even for a die hard pejuang bangsa dan agama). But that is fine in a way – we don’t expect politicians to change their skin overnight (maybe except when elections are around the corner when they turn Santa Claus left right and center) and in Malaysia in particular, expecting them to be charged & punished for wrongdoings but we cannot continue with our own “tidak apa” attitude too. For start, for those who have not register yourself to vote (and probably don’t care which clown runs the country), try do something about it – go and register yourself to vote and then exercise the right to vote someone more credible. The country belongs to all and each one of us have a great responsibility one way or another in making sure it does not goes down the drain.

Think about it for a second…

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Best Car Service Center?


Read the previous posts on car and car maintenance:-

(The last thing you expect to see in a car service center. Image source: http://hooniverse.com)

It is heartening to hear that Proton have come up with a 60 minutes express service but in my opinion, they should have done this a long time ago.

Sending your car for car service can be a sticky thing. When you buy a new car and if you think the car as something that gets you from A to B, you probably will not be so worried of sending your car for the periodic service (some of you may even get your dad or brother to send the car for service on your behalf). You will send it to the nearest authorized service center, drop off the car and go home after telling them to call once the service done.

But on the other hand, if you think of the car as something more than a tool to get you from A to B, you are going to have a headache. After all, since the car is brand new and you have paid so much for it, the last thing you wish to see is for it to be “man-handled” and getting back the car with scratches and dirty patches here and there. And for those who have done their “homework”, you will know that not authorized car service centers belongs to the car manufacturer. Quite a number belongs to private car service centers.

When I got my very first car, I sent it to a car service center belongs to Proton Edar. It looked like it was the right thing to do. Back in 2004 – 2005, Proton was still struggling in getting out newer models and quality of their cars sucked big time. Their service centers had the same problem. I practically was spending the whole day just to do a simple service and I was rather annoyed and angry at the frequency of the mechanics taking their short breaks. But my complaints to the service center manager fell on deaf ears and the so-called customer service did not improve. All that changed when the warranty expired and I was free to service my car in any car service centers.

A lot of changed since then. Proton’s cars are better built these days although their QA side can use a good overhaul and service centers have now become more customer service focused. I have been to two authorized but private service centers that handle Proton cars in recent times and the experience was quite different than those times in 2004 – 2005.

But then again, how you will define the criteria that make a good car service center? What are the things you look for when deciding that you want to go to Service Center A instead of Service Center B? I don’t know about others but here are some of mine (in NO specific order):-

1. Bring Own Lube

If you head over to some websites like Lowyat, this seems to be the key criteria for most of them. Proton Edar service center which I went to for my first car often uses engine oils from a large container instead of using the usual smaller packages but they do allow their customers to bring in their own lube if they wanted to. Bringing in your lube is nothing to shout about – most service centers allows it, as long as it meets the car’s specifications. The good thing about bringing your lube is simple – there will be leftover after they have used for your car. A couple of services later, you will enough leftovers to fill one whole bottle.

2. Cleanliness

I am not talking about the cleanliness of the workshop or customer waiting area. I am talking about how clean your car will be once the mechanics have done with it. Perodua for example, places disposal papers on the floor and wraps the seat with plastic bag so that the car remains clean. I am not sure about Proton though – my recent service (which was done in a private authorized service center), the mechanic placed a disposal paper on the floor but did nothing to wrap the seats. But the good thing is, they provided quick wash for that and I did not find my car dirtier than before.

3. Waiting Period

How it takes for the car service center to service one car? Proton in their latest announcement says 60 minutes. Pretty good accomplishment if you ask me – I have spent hours in the past. But the trick, I guess it is knowing which service centers have less cars for the day and which day and more importantly making appointment before

4. QC Area

How many of you have seen how your car being serviced? The usual happens – you meet some customer service representatives, explain your problems with the car, the worksheet then get passed to the mechanic who is available (not necessary the best or skilled), the mechanic gets to work and once he done with your car, he parks it and pass back the worksheet back to the customer service representatives who then inform you and collects the payment. Who to check whether the mechanic did a good job?

My first service of my new car, I was outstation and decided to go to the nearest service center and was surprised to see a QC area. My car got serviced and the mechanic instead of parking it in customer’s parking parked it at QC area where a more senior mechanic double checks the worksheet against the work done by the mechanic. He noticed some shortcomings and calls the mechanic over – they go through something and the car then got sent back for the mechanic to complete the job. The car then sent back to the QC area for another round of checking before it is considered work done properly.

5. Technical Explanation

Your car has been serviced and the customer service representative explains what has serviced and what has been replaced and he/she is speaking in Greek. Sounds familiar? They use unknown jargon and technical and if you are not a mechanic yourself or have done your homework, it does not mean anything to you. The best car service centers will actually explain in lay terms of what have been changed – what was the cause of the fault and the impact if the part was not replaced.

6. Customer Waiting Area

Even a simple car service will take at least 30 – 45 minutes to complete. If you have more complaints on the car and they may need to change parts, the waiting time is going to be even longer. So, how you plan to spend the time whilst the mechanics are working on the car? Most authorized service centers have dedicated customer waiting area, fully equipped with a TV, newspapers, magazine, coffee/tea making facilities and well maintained toilets. Most do indeed but some have small waiting area – a couple of sofas (which is not enough for the crowd and most had to contend with standing up or walking around until they get back their car) and that is about it.

One of the best waiting area I have seen is a Perodua service center – the waiting area is not big but it is just next to the service area so we can see through a glass wall what the mechanic is doing without coming out from the air conditioned waiting area.

7. Access to Food & Drinks

I am not talking about the complimentary tea and coffee but a real restaurant or food stall for breakfast or lunch, depending on what time your car service is expected to be completed. Image stuck somewhere at some industrial area without any food stall in the morning, having nothing but complimentary coffee, sitting rather boringly at the small customer waiting area. Damn, I rather sit down at some Mamak Shop, having a hot teh tarik and a smooth roti canai.

8. Complimentary Car Wash

Frankly, this is nothing to shout about but you know what, it is like that cherry on top of the ice cream. The car been serviced, it sounds good, it drives good and with a good car wash, it looks good too.

9. Ability to Identify Problems

You driving your car and you heard a funny sound coming from the left side of the car. You decide to tell about it on your next car service. You explain it to the customer service representative and hope that they will make clear to the mechanic and the mechanic will be able to identify the problem but when you get the car back, the problem is still there. What had happened? Did customer service representative heard your problems wrongly or misunderstood you? Did the mechanic misunderstood the worksheet or was not skillful enough to know what need to be done to fix the problem?

Hmm, that’s about it for now until the next car service. I am pretty sure that others will have different criteria in determining which service center is better (like an uncle I know – he wants to stand next to the mechanic when the mechanic is working on the car)