Month: June 2010

My Beautiful Sunday Served with Great Food and Friendship

              My meet up with Anna was something I have been looking forward this week. The last time I met Anna was October of last year. I really miss my dear friend. A number of occasions have already passed. She may not know it but I miss our malling, eating and movie escapades.  But more importantly, I miss her, the entire her…

            Anna and Anne have been mentioning to me the delicious burgers sold near Anna’s place. I am one burger addict. I’d like to try out burgers of different fastfood chains and restaurants. This likewise reminds me of another friend Clara, who now explores life in Singapore. I hope you will be able to read this friend. This could equate to your Bongo Burgers! 

            I initially thought that the burgers, which Anna and Anne were referring, were sold in the typical burger stands. Perhaps, a homemade or a typical burger offered with a new twist. Their descriptions still did not excite me. It made me simply curious. 

              I finally got a taste of my friends’ most talked about burgers and to describe it in three words, I love it!!!!            

              I’ve already composed four paragraphs and I’ve noticed that I still failed to mention the name of the restaurant that sells this “I love it” burgers. It’s neither a burger stand nor a fastfood chain; it’s a coffee shop that goes by the name, Mama Chit’s Coffee House. 

            Mama Chit’s Coffee House joins the bandwagon of the Philippines’ booming coffee industry. However, my honest opinion is that Mama Chit’s is more than a coffee shop. In fact, I cannot anymore see it as a coffee house. It offers the typical coffee and fraps. However, it also extends its product offering to pasta, pizza, salads, finger foods (such as potato wedges, onion rings), and of course, burgers! If I would equate it to the existing coffee shops, Mama Chit’s is like Mocha Blends and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. I have however noticed that Mama Chit’s is more known for its burgers than its coffee and fraps. More customers are ordering burgers than their coffee drinks. 

            Mama Chit’s Coffee House offers cheeseburger and hamburger in two sizes. The baby cheeseburger costs Php 55 ($ 1) while the bigger burger costs around Php 100 ($ 2). In my opinion, the prices are reasonable and affordable enough. For a start, I ordered the baby burger, which picture is shown below. 

 

            The burger fares well with Wham! and Brother’s Burgers. It has veggies and sauce mixture that blend and taste perfectly. Apart from the burgers, we also ordered a plate of Nachos. Their nachos are a bit different from Nacho King, Taco Bell and Wendy’s. Apart from the beef and veggies, it has carrot strips, pineapple chunks and apple slices. Does it seem to taste weird? Not really, the bits of pineapple and apples were able to balance beef and veggie overload.  A plate of nachos costs Php 120 ($2), which for me is affordable enough. 

            As  I browsed through their menu, I think their prices are reasonable and affordable enough. The servings are likewise sufficient enough to fare the prices. A budget of Php 500 ($ 10) for two individuals would already go a long way. 

            Apart from the great and affordable food at Mama Chit’s Coffee House, its interiors and set-up is another attraction. The coffee house was dressed somewhere in time. It’s elegantly and fascinatingly retro! Mama Chit’s Coffee House showcases different memorabilia that reminds me of circa 60s to 80s. It has framed black and white pictures of perhaps the family of the owner, frames of old cigarette advertisements, old paper labels of wines, old soda and beer cans, music plaques, an old telephone, and other antique pieces too. 

  

            

  

            When you dine  at Mama Chit’s Coffee House, you will be serenaded by no other than the lively music of  The Beatles and other foreign retro artists. When we were eating, Daniel Boone’s  Beautiful Sunday was playing which perfectly complemented the atmosphere. 

            We stayed at Mama Chit’s for less than an hour. However, I felt that I could manage to stay there longer. The place was built with a concept of somewhere in time theme.  However, it doesn’t give me an odd out of place feeling. Honestly, when I was there, I felt that I was in a Hollywood movie showcasing a county restaurant that temporarily sheltered a tired traveler. 

            Apart from reuniting with a dear friend, Mama Chit’s Coffee House made me sang (only in my mind:-p), my my my beautiful sunday.. this is my my my beautiful day! It was indeed a beautiful sunday, served with great food, and topped with a rekindled friendship.

Mama Chit’s Coffee House is located at J.P. Rizal St. Brgy. San Roque, Marikina City, Philippines. It’s a few steps from Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish and the  Marikina Shoe Museum. If you are taking a public transportation, a jeepney that routes to Calumpang Marikina City from Cubao or Katipunan LRT station would directly pass Mama Chit’s Coffee House.

My Life, My Solitude and My Books

 

I love reading and I really love books. I can equally splurge on books the same way I do with clothes, shoes and bags.

My interest over books started with the series of The Baby Sitters Club pocketbooks. When I was still in my Elementary years, our school library abundantly provided us with the series of different US pocketbooks. While most of my classmates were interested with Sweet Valley Kids and High, my interest was diverted to The Baby Sitters Club, Best Friends and Choose Your Own Adventure series. My interest in books did not just provide me a worth past time but also helped me develop my reading comprehension skills. During those times, I was ashamed to admit that I’m having a hard time reading and comprehending articles in English. Thanks to these books because they offered me an alternative and enjoyable approach in reading and learning.

When I reached High School, the Chicken Soup for the Soul became my new addiction. I remember, there were only limited copies of these books available in our school library. Even though I was a member of the Library Club, I wasn’t able to get immediate access to these Chicken Soup series. However, I realized that in this time, I was 13 to 16 years old, my interest over books somehow diminished. My attention, as part of growing up, was diverted to somewhere else. Music was one addiction I developed in High School. I got more hooked to Backstreet Boys, Boyzone, Spice Girls, Hanson, Moffats, The Corrs, Natalie Imbruglia and N Sync.  

My college life further made me forget reading as a worthwhile activity. I was so preoccupied with my studies, the Internet and the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). I was contented in reading entertaining forwarded mails, started my social networking life in Friendster, watching PBA games and cheering for Dennis Espino and the Sta. Lucia Realtors (back then!).

Life after college enabled me to regain my interest over books. While I am already earning my own money, I started to purchase my own books. I consider them  my most treasured books because I was able to purchase them out of my own hard work.

The first books that I purchased on my first year of working were the two Youngblood series and The Da Vinci Code. I spent Php 700 (around $14) for three books. After some months, I was able to buy my first Chocolate for Women, just in time for my Holy Week vacation.

After I got tenure from work, I enrolled for my MBA and it was back to school for me! My love for books was still there. But my book purchases were devoted to other expenses. I have to purchase MBA books, a printer and my first ever laptop.

Today, I’m done with my MBA and teaching is the new chapter in my life. Though I have been teaching for three years, I consider each semester with my college students as a new point of learning and exploration. Teaching is both a challenging and fulfilling task for me. I am given the opportunity to share to these young minds what I learn and grew up with. More importantly, teaching gave me more motivation and reasons to love and enjoy my solitary life with books.

I now read and purchase more books. This is something I have never done before. I have more books and I could purchase more books. Thanks to my plastic electronic device, my credit card!  I can purchase books anytime and anywhere.

Today, I am proud and happy to say that I have regained and even increased  my love for books. Some of the favorite books I love include works of Cecelia Ahern, Sophie Kinsella, Nicholas Sparks, Mitch Alboom, Bob Ong of course, Bo Sanchez, Dan Brown, Levitt and Dubner’s Freakonomics and a lot more.

Apart from books, my every trip to every bookstore is something that I also look forward. Before, National Bookstore was my sole destination. But today, I could already manage to visit Fully Booked and Powerbooks. I’m also starting to love Booksale and I continuously search for branches with more books and less customers.  But among the bookstores in the Philippines, the four-storey National Bookstore in Araneta Center Cubao is my most loved. Believe it or not, I could spend an entire day in this building. I particularly appreciate their fourth floor, the Bargain Books Section. This is heaven for all booklovers out there. A pocketbook for as low as Php 30 (less than a dollar), an old Guinness Book of World Records for Php 100 ($ 2), hardbound books for as low as Php 80 ($ 2) are just some of the best finds in this section.

I don’t know what is in store for me and the next years of my solitude. But I am looking forward for new ventures, more friends and acquaintances and of course more books in my life. Hopefully, in the future it would not just be me, my solitude and my books. A new addition to my life, my solitude and my books  is very much welcomed!

Freaked by the Freakonomics

          I got my paperback copy of the Freakonomics last January 5, 2010. This was the first book I purchased for 2010. I was in the mood of finding a good read early this year. I was initially torn between Cecelia Ahern and Sophie Kinsella’s new books. However, for some reasons I opted to buy a non-fiction book. How and why? I was in the process of finding a good book on one work day morning. I browsed National Bookstore’s website and look through their best sellers and Freakonomics was in their top list. Its title caught my attention. Sounds like my course, Economics! I searched for reviews and I was stunned by the positive feedbacks it received. Hence, I ended up purchasing it.

            I read my Freakonomics everywhere. As soon as I started reading it, only sleep parted us. I got hooked with it! I read it during work breaks, inside the train on the way to work, and even while waiting for my late students. So don’t anymore ask me why my copy became a total worn out. It looks worse than the second-hand books you could buy along Recto Avenue. It has water spills, oil stains and obvious folded edges.

Freakonomics has six chapters, which include the following,

Chapter 1 – What do School Teachers and Sumo Wrestlers have in common?

Chapter 2 – How is the Ku Klux Klan like a group of Real Estate Agents?

Chapter 3 – Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?

Chapter 4 – Where have all the criminals gone?

Chapter 5 – What makes a perfect parent?

Chapter 6 – Perfect Parenting Part II or would a Roshanda by any other name smell as sweet?

Apart from the six chapters it has an Introductory part, Epilogue and Bonus Articles from selected columns in the New York Times Magazine.

            It’s been months since I finished reading the book but here are some points raised in the book that I agree with.

  1. People respond to incentives – People will respond to incentives especially if the incentives are worth of a significant effort, regardless of whatever is at stake. This is clearly explained and illustrated in the case of the school teachers and sumo wrestlers. Whether issues on morality and equality are at stake, incentives will definitely change the way normal things are running.
  2. Morality tells us how the world should be run but economics tells us how the world is actually run – Morality on one hand defines what is right and ideal. Economics on the other hand relates how the world we live actually behaves and operates. While Morality is the epitome, economics is the reality.
  3. Information: Finding it right and working it right – I always tell this to my students in research. Regardless of whatever idea or information you have, if you cannot utilize and translate it in action then everything else becomes useless. The fall of the Ku Klux Klan and its similarities over the Real Estate Agents could further explain this thought. 
  4. The Work Place Hierarchy – Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? – Believe it or not, illegal jobs such as being a drug dealer, also share similarities with a typical company employee. There are leaders and hierarchies and in any workplace, the rank and file or the workers would always outnumber the bosses or the leaders. Never has it happened that there are more leaders than followers. Hence, drug leaders like typical company employees are also faced with the struggle of moving with the hierarchy ladder. Other issues and serious implications in the society are likewise discussed in the book.
  5. Declining Crimes Rates in the US: What could really explain? – A number of factors that could contribute to lower crimes rates in the US were enumerated and explained in the book. However, the most striking was Abortion as a deterrent for crime. Abortion and birth control were found to correlate with diminishing crime rates in selected areas in the US. Quoting the Levitt and Dubner, “legalized abortion led to less unwantedness: unwantedness leads to high crime: legalized abortion therefore led to less crime.” Levitt and Dubner only pointed out and traced the logic between unwanted babies and crime rates. Children who were products of unwanted pregnancies are more likely to suffer the unwantedness in their entire life. These unwanted children have high chances of becoming neglected and deprived as a result of having unprepared parents. Growing up neglected and deprived from the different aspects of life would most likely contribute children who have lesser guidance and education. The long-term effect of this is that these children unfortunately later on could become criminals and problems of the society. If presented in the Philippines, this claim of Levitt and Dubner would definitely cause a lot of violent reactions especially from the Catholic Church. Abortion will never be accepted as a deterrent of crime in the Roman Catholic Church of the Philippines. No matter how many reliable data will be presented, the idea of legalizing Abortion will never be accepted in the case of the Philippines. 
  6. The Right Parenting – Although data seem to point out that abortion prevents crime rate, Levitt and Dubner shifted the idea to responsible parenting or defining the image of a perfect parent. If a mother experiences unwanted pregnancy and decides to keep her baby, the more critical issue is how to properly raise a kid, given these problems and hindrances.
  7. Names as a determinant of a child’s future – Surprisingly, Levitt and Dubner were able to show that the names could also predict the fate of a child in US. Names even provide a trending. The names equated to Black Americans most likely created unsuccessful children. On the contrary, names equated or attributed to White Americans most likely created a fate of success. I initially can’t believe that the most inconsiderable variable in research could cause serious implications in the case of the US. However, this finding presented by Levitt and Dubner was backed up by massive and careful research. Data on the names and fate of each sample considered were kept intact, monitored and analyzed over time. The research is one serious time series study.

Levitt and Dubner also identified the following factors that correlate with the performance or test scores of the students.

a. Having highly educated parents

b. Having parents with high socioeconomic status

c. Children whose mothers were 30 or older at the time of the first child’s birth

d. Parents who speak English at home

e. Children who were adopted

f. Children’s parents involved in PTA

g. The child has many books at home

What explains or accounts for the correlation of these factors to the students’ test scores? Read and find for yourself. 😉

              Overall, I found Levitt and Dubner’s Freakonomics very informative, awakening and entertaining too. Its generalizations were not merely based from logic and explanations, but were backed up by critical data and information from research. Actual data were even presented to the readers. Some historical documentation and reasons accounted were also related and explained in the course of the book.

              The book’s concentration was inclined in the field of Economics. However, social, political, legal and technological causes and implications of different points in the book were presented and established. 

             As a Filipino reader, how I wish that such similar book would be crafted in the case of the Philippines. The data and information used in the book were obtained from a US setting. I think some points in the book are worth a curious examination in the Philippine setting. I am very much interested of the “names” as a predictor of a child’s success, birth control and crime rate in the Philippines and the concept of right parenting.

Poor Customer Service 101 – My CD-R King Experiences

Being able to foresee the future demands of the market and courageously respond to its emerging needs of the market  are  two of the basic qualities of a successful entrepreneur. In the Philippines, I think CD-R King is one of the many local business ventures that adhered to this idea.  If I am not mistaken, CD-R king started as a wholesaler and retailer of blank CDs. However, the relatively lower prices and varied choices made the company a household name from CDs to computer accessories.

However, CD-R King’s efforts of increasing their line of products and branches created a trade off with one important aspect of entrepreneurship, customer service.

I am not a direct victim, but I have personally witnessed and heard a lot of incidents of poor customer service encounters among the sales personnel of different CD-R King branches. Allow me to enumerate ONLY SOME unforgettable incidents I have witnessed.

  1. CD-R King Gateway Branch (2nd floor of Gateway Mall near Cubao LRT 2 Station) – I bought two blank CDs and gave a Php 50 bill. The total amount of my purchase was around Php 20. The saleslady requested for a smaller bill. I courteously told here that my Php 50 is the least I have. I stood for more than 10 mins. The saleslady did not bother  to apologise for the long wait. She made me wait until another customer paid Php 20 bills. I could understand that shortage of coins and bills becomes an everyday problem of any shop. However, passing this burden to your customers is not so right. I hope shop owners or even other sellers would realize more than the provision of quality goods and services, handling of payments is also your responsibility.
  2. A Backstabber Saleslady (same branch) – I arrived at the same branch to purchase a laser presentor. A dissatisfied lady went out of the shop.  I never heard the lady utter anything but by looking at her face, I’m sure that she experienced and said negative things. While I was waiting for my turn, one saleslady said, “yang mga customers na yan akala nila sila ang nagpapasweldo sa atin.” (Those customers act as if they are the ones paying for our salary)  I wanted to reply, “Miss, bakit hindi nga ba?
  3. Deadma Personnel – While I was waiting for my turn to purchase CDs, one lady went to the electronic gadgets area and inquired for a tripod. There were two  store personnel who were just chatting and laughing. They never managed to render a single reply to the lady’s query. The lady repeated what she said in a sarcastic voice. The female store personnel said, “anu pong klaseng tripod?” (What kind of tripod?) The customer replied,  “yung para lang sa digicam.” (the one intended for a digital camera). The female store personnel went out and never showed up. The customer then talked to the remaining store personnel. He replied, “ma’am wala na po.” (ma’am, it’s no longer available). The lady customer was fuming mad and left the shop saying, “sana kase kanina pa sinabe.” (You could have said it earlier.)  I thought the incident was over but the female store personnel emerged from nowhere  and imitated the voice of the irritated customer. All the store personnel later went on a full blast laugh trip.  Laughing over a dissatisfied customer? This is definitely a perfect approach to gradually destroy the company that provides your employment and salary.
  4. Unending long lines (good for all branches) – The long and sluggish movement of lines is a common attribute of most CD-R King branches. In their SM Manila branch, they once implemented a number queue system, which gave them more troubles. Why? The queue machine is not accurately working. Where can you see a queue machine that skips numbers?  On a positive note, long lines is indicative that people really prefer to patronize and trust CD-R King’s products. However, if this problem is not resolved, CD-R King might soon miss the benefits of having long lines in their shops. They should remember that the Philippines is a free enterprise economy. In the near future, better competitors will soon emerge.
  5. Slow Manual System of Preparing Receipts – This is I think one reason why CD-R King became notorious for the long lines in almost all of  their branches. I don’t have problems with handwritten receipts. However, the “manual” way of generating their receipts is what I dislike. Each time you purchase an item, the saleslady has to enumerate in handwriting all the items you have to purchase. Apart from the items, the VAT amount of your entire purchase has to be computed. If only each branch of CD-R King could implement computer-generated receipts or  bar coding technology, the long  lines could be diminished. Paying and generating receipts would be easier if CD-R King branches could adopt automated or computerized payment and receipt system.  I also realized something ironic about CD-R King. They are selling technology related products but their issuance of receipts remain manual.

CD-R King could perhaps consider the case of Mercury Drug Store. In the medicine section of the drug store, pharmacists can take orders of multiple customers. Through the help of computers, the pile of purchases reaches only one cashier. Even though Mercury has a single cashier in the medicine section, it can accommodate multiple clients in the shortest possible time.

I wrote this entry not to merely throw destructive criticisms against CD-R King. My entries are narrations of my personal experiences. In the end, I still wish that the management of CD-R King would be able to resolve their customer service issues.

I am not an expert in Customer Service but as a typical customer, I would like to propose some measures.

1. Establish an accessible and responsive Customer Feedback Mechanism – If the management of CD-R King is really observant, a lot of customers are voicing out their complaints in social media.  Customers are already creating their own feedback mechanism for the company.  In Facebook, I encountered a number of “hate pages”  for them. I’m not sure if its an official page, but CD-R King’s fan page has a section where customers can post their complaints. I  don’t know if their management is acting on these complaints.  A link to one of their hate pages is posted below

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=27308432081

 

What I suggest for the company is to establish their own ACCESSIBLE and RESPONSIVE CUSTOMER FEEDBACK MECHANISM. Accessible in such a way that all customers could voice out their complaints in different and convenient means. They can offer a text hotline, email, or social media accounts dedicated to answer queries.   Since the company is already notorious of their poor customer service, the management might consider posting a visible signage in all of their branches stating of how they could report complaints.

Customer Service complaints and suggestions forms available in each branch could also be made . Customers could write their complaints and place them in a locked drop box. Although I feel that this would not really work out because placing of complaints will be too obvious. Customers might not be that comfortable.

Responsive customer feedback mechanism means that the concerned department or management is acting on the reported incidents. Complaints sent through email and text deserve a reply. CD-R king should send response letters thanking the customer for reporting complaints, asking for further details to clear out the incident and informing customers of what actions were undertaken by the company.

2. Provide incentives to “customer friendly” branches – In fairness to CD-R King, I found one customer friendly branch. Their branch in Robinson’s Metroeast accommodated me well, when I purchased a speaker for my iPod. The saleslady was smiling and courteously attended to my queries. The company could implement a reward system for branches that exemplified excellent customer service as perceived or rated by the customers. Branches who receive positive feedbacks from customers deserve some pat on the back in the form of certificate of recognitions, monetary or other non-monetary awards. The company could even implement a contest for this one. The most customer service branch could receive attractive prizes.

3. Name plates please! – Since customer service complaints usually arise from unfriendly store personnel, the management should ensure that all store personnel wear a visible and readable name plate.  In cases of complaints or positive criticisms, the customer know who will be the right person to report.

4. Retrain your store personnel – At some point, the management of CD-R King should consider giving seminars to trainings on customer service to their sales personnel. Make them learn and realize the importance of aiming to provide excellent customer service.

Answer: Searching for the Right Binding Machine

I got an answer to my previous post “Searching the Right Binding Machine.” By making this article, I hope I will be able to help other people, who are also interested in acquiring a binding machine.

Just this lunch break, I went to Binondo with my ever-reliable friend, Wella. We visited Accupoint Systems. We failed to visit this shop the last time we went to Binondo because it was already closed.

The week before, I visited National Bookstore (Araneta Center Branch) to check out their binding machines. As it turns out, they have more models and choices. However, the specific model I wanted was not available. The sales personnel asked to leave my number which I really appreciate. I was hoping however that they would contact me as soon as my preferred unit would be available. I ended up examining the remaining models sold at National Bookstore. I later realized that they are similar to what is being posted at Accupoint Systems’ website. I then concluded that Accupoint Systems could be supplier of binding machines for National Bookstore.  If that is the case, then there is really a need for me to visit Accupoint Systems.

Prior to visiting Accupoint Systems in Binondo, I tried sending them an email. I posted all my queries through email.  Their contact details are posted on this link, http://www.acsystrade.com/contact-us

Days passed and I never received any response.  I would like to emphasize this point among suppliers and other business owners. Having a website and email for your business is a must today. It’s no longer an advantage, but a requirement. However, if business owners would not utilize their online resources, then what’s the point of having them?  If customer emails are answered, companies could be saved from receiving inquiry thru phone, their staff could devote their time to other urgent tasks, and this is also a way for them to obtain clients from other countries. For the part of the customers, they could save time and they will already  be directed to the right shop.  

Getting back to the real topic, we managed to reach Accupoint’s shop. Accupoint is located in Quintin Paredes Street fronting Jollibee (Binondo). I finally had a glimpse of the binding machine that I need. I was hoping to acquire Comix B2980. This model is the cheapest for the double wire binding system. It could feed a maximum of 15 sheets, 80 gsm paper, at a time.  The price? Its Php 7,200!!!! But as compared to the Php 13,850 from Office Man, this seems to be a good choice.  The store personnel further informed me that true enough, they supply to SM Department Stores and National Bookstore. The cost of this machine at National Bookstore is Php 8,228. There’s a Php 1,200 difference, which for me is already a significant amount of money.

I received another surprise from the shop, the binding machine would not work without the double loop wires of course. When I asked the store personnel of the cost of their double loop wires, I was shocked!  They are selling double loop wires in wholesale and it costs Php 7,000!!! So for a start, I have to incurr Php 14,000!!!! But I remember, Office Man is selling double loop wires in retail. I was given a price list on my last visit. This then reminds me, where did I place that price list?

Some lessons I learned in my search of the right binding machine

1. Shop hopping, canvassing is really important for any business. Don’t just settle for stores that are near or convenient to you. Exhaust all means to compare prices and product features. It would cost you much anyway.

2. Having a website and email address for your company is not sufficient. Websites and email provide a two-way communication system. Business owners should really realize this.