Pulling strings in Malaysia

This weekend was an example of pulling strings while in Malaysia, something that I completely do not like to do, and think should be unnecessary in a service-based economy.

The Samsung Galaxy SIII (S3) just launched in Malaysia. The ads have gone up and people have been queuing since 4am to buy phones. Generally stores sell up to 300 per day, and these are just at the telcos that have them. Samsung themselves do not sell it at their flagship stores. Mostly telcos are encouraged to sell it with a contract, but you can generally buy them outright.

On Saturday, we had to go to MidValley. I was told the best store to get it at would be the Celcom Blue Cube. Maxis had run out of stock for the day. I figured that while Sara sorted out the groceries, I would pay the store a visit. I got a queue number and waited. And waited. And waited. Thankfully I had my BlackBerry with me and was clearing a tonne of email. 45 minutes passed and the queue number did not move! It was not because people were buying the S3 alone, it was because the Celcom store just seemed very inefficient.

Groceries done and no phone in hand, I go home feeling a little dejected. I text my contact at Maxis, who says there will be no problem reserving a unit for me tomorrow (Sunday). Things are starting to look up. I tried it the regular way and failed; now it’s time to be a typical Malaysian and pull strings, right?

My friends and I go to the store at about 7pm on Sunday. We meet one sales guy who says they only have one unit available. At this stage, we want three. Apparently the daily quota had been met, and my friends would have to come back tomorrow. One more call to my contact and lo and behold, there can be three units available. Sales guy says that we have to queue to make such a purchase and it would set us back up to two hours. Two hours to get service?!?

Another call to my contact and we’re out of the store within minutes with three units of Samsung Galaxy S3 phones. In pebble blue as well, which is apparently the color that is a lot harder to get.

Why doesn’t everyone get similar service? Why must strings be pulled to get service? In an economy where one has to win customers, why is it that the focus is on frustrating the customer at every possible instance? Where is the customer centric nature that fuels a service based economy?