An angry parrot

Dear Editor, I am sending you a copy of a letter which I wrote to Marina Bay Sands today. This is an effort to improve the services offered by Singapore to foreign tourists like myself. Because of this incident, I may never be able to return to Singapore.

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Jimmy Yap and I am from Kuala Lumpur. 2 days ago I visited your newly opened casino, hotel and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. Together with me during that trip was my wife, my brother and two other friends. I am writing this letter to lodge a complaint on one of your customer service ‘duty manager’ at the concierge/information counter from The Shoppes. His name is MR. SUGU, as printed on his nametag. He was on duty at 6pm to 9pm on the 17th July 2010.

On the 17th July 2010 at 3.30pm, I parked my car in the parking lot of the shopping centre using my Autopass Card which was reloaded with SGD15. At 6pm, we decided to leave and head back to Kuala Lumpur, a 4-hour drive from Singapore. Upon arriving at the exit, we found out that the parking fee was SGD16, therefore I couldn’t get out and had to reload my Autopass Card. So we parked our car again, got out and found out that there was no parking office or security office. We were directed to the concierge/information centre duty manager, Mr. Sugu who told us bluntly to reload the Autopass card. Fair enough. Firstly, we tried using the ATM machines, but because we were foreigners there we didn’t have ATM cards, we sought some kind stranger’s help. Two strangers tried to help us reload at the ATM, but the “System Error” message appeared. When we asked Mr. Sugu if he could help us, he bluntly said: “I cannot do anything for you”.

There was no 7-11 shop or any convenience store to reload our Autopass. My friends and I walked more than 1 kilometer towards Raffles Quay where we finally found a convenience store who also tried to reload our Autopass card in vain. There was a “System Error”. We then walked all the way back to Mr. Sugu’s information counter at MBS The Shoppes to seek further advice. To our dismay, all he said was: “I cannot help you”. When asked if there was anyone he could refer us to who could actually help us, he just ignored us. Among other things he said were: “Buy an ATM card to reload your Autopass”, “buy another Cashcard to exit the parking”, “Go make a police report”, “You should have known how expensive the parking is here”. Most of his answers did not make sense and were poorly concocted in an attempt to ignore our desperate plight. When asked who his superior is and if we could speak to him/her, Mr. Sugu refused to cooperate.

The problem is, if we could just buy another Cashcard to exit, we would have, but the fact is it does not work that way. In order to exit with a card, that same card needs to be registered as entered the car park. The thing is, we already tried reloading the card, but apparently there was a “system error”. We asked if he could issue us a ticket and let us pay with cash, he said: “I cannot do anything”. He just kept repeating that several times. And when asked if he could point us to someone who could help us, he refused to. All the while playing with his cell phone and walking away from us, as if he was trying to shrug us off. All the time we tried calling the toll free number on the Autopass card, but they were already closed on that Saturday. We were getting desperate and frantic.

All during this time, Mr Sugu mentioned several times that he has already received 18 such cases like mine which involved the Autopass/Cashcard issue. So my question to him was about the solution. He could not or refused to give me an answer. So what is he there for? If there were 18 such cases in that one day, what was he doing to resolve the problems? When I asked him what the other customers did about it, he said: “I don’t know”. With simple flexibility, the solution was right in front of our eyes. Mr. Sugu could have issued me a receipt and I pay him with cash, whatever the amount. Or he could have taken down my particulars and identification as collateral, so that I could come back and pay later or anything else that the management could be kind enough to give in a little. But he just refused to entertain us at all.

By then, it was already close to 9pm. All of us were tired, thirsty and starving. We all wanted to just go home, in between a 4-hour drive, to Kuala Lumpur. By then, a Singaporean friend had arrived, but also could not reload my Autopass Card for me using her ATM card, there was still the “system error”. In the end, a young lady and a few men who work for the casino came to our assistance. Unlike Mr. Sugu, they offered some possible solutions i.e. getting another ticket from the entrance, offering us their Cashcard to get out (which of course, didn’t work as mentioned above). The lady even escorted us to the car park to ask around. Finally, after seeing how desperate we were, a car park attendant allowed us out after taking down my car registration number. He just opened the barricade for us, and saying that the next time we come back, we will have to pay the fee owing. By the time we finally got out, it was 9.30pm.

Now here are my thoughts and my feedback: How is it Mr. Sugu is employed and appointed the “Duty Manager” representing the customer service of Marina Bay Sands? Instead of offering solutions and advice, he turned a blind eye and deaf ear to us, refusing to even budge. Couldn’t he be flexible even a little bit? A new establishment facing teething problems with their systems is understandable, but shouldn’t it mean that the employees should be empowered with more flexibility in resolving customer’s woes!?

Even though, it MAY have been my fault that there was not enough credits in my Autopass Card, but we could not reload the card. Meaning it could have possibly been the Autopass system’s fault, and they were unreachable. The next course of action was then to seek assistance from the facility that I am a customer of, Marina Bay Sands (whether it is the casino, hotel or Shoppes), and Mr. Sugu. How could he just refuse to help us at all? Mr. Sugu, at best, seemed heartless, cold and extremely rude. He seems like a person who has no PR skills nor a very high EQ. Displaying his ignorance and incompetence on duty, makes us all wonder how come such a badly trained ‘Duty Manager’ is placed there. Being employed in the service industry for my entire career, how he was employed as a ‘Duty Manager’ will always be beyond my comprehension. And for this I IMPLORE the management of Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, to look into this incident thoroughly. An appraisal or review on Mr. Sugu and his qualifications, and the entire customer service standard operating procedure would be a good place to start.

I find injustice that other visitors and tourist will find themselves in desperate and dire situations like I did, and then having their pleas for help fall on deaf ears. It is an absolute disgrace that Marina Bay Sands, being Singapore’s newest destination, allowed such an unpleasant incident to take place. The saying “Customer is King” is probably beyond your company’s grasp right now, but what about basic ethics towards customers? A majority of your clients and guests are and will be foreigners, foreigners who will be unfamiliar with local rules and procedures. Where does Marina Bay Sands come in to fill the gap? I am sure putting up disclaimers everywhere will reduce your operating costs right? I will be sure to check on Genting Resorts World the next time I visit.

I have been made to understand that there is serious societal deterioration and moral decay among the residents of Singapore, but never in my wildest dreams have I expected this kind of selfish treatment in such a major private establishment in “world-class” Singapore. I will see to it that this disgrace and embarrassment is heard and acknowledged across every media outlet both in Singapore and Malaysia reachable and also spread this to the furthest reaches of my social network.

For the record, there was absolutely no issue with my Autopass Card when I used it to pay and exit at the Woodlands immigration.

Jimmy Yap
Kuala Lumpur
This letter was also CCied to Las Vegas Sands Corp, Marina Bay Sands Singapore, Singapore Tourism Board, Singapore Land Transport Authority, The News Straits Times, The Malay Mail, The Star Publications.

Editor’s Note: Information updated at the request of the author @ 2330 hours. Message appended below:

Dear Editor,

Apparently I have offended certain groups of people with my last paragraph namely this sentence: “I have been made to understand that there is serious societal deterioration and moral decay among the residents of Singapore”. It seems many readers keep picking on this particular line and thus my primary message has been diluted. I would like to clarify that I did not mean to offend the entire Singaporean population with that remark. In my context I merely meant to say that there are certain groups of people in Singapore who are more selfish, inconsiderate and lacking moral values in general.

If your readers would like to misinterpret that I was referring to the entire population in that remark, then I humbly offer my apologies.

Thank you for your time.

Warmest Regards,
Jimmy Yap

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