Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Malaysian Disease

(Adam: "Ya what?")

I hosted an event at the Kuala Lumpur Hilton hotel in Sentral. As part of the deal I was accorded the use of a day-use room at this spanking new, 5 (or some claim 6) star rated luxury hotel. It's a HILTON! Those of you who have been there before will know that just to get up to the driveway requires your submission to a security check. Okay la so the check is done by a couple of tired-looking, bored boys in police uniform and equipped with a mirror on a stick. Oh yes, there is the mandatory flashlight as well. Of course, everything about the hotel is top quality. The uniforms are crisp. The finish on everything is expensive. The rooms are luxuriously furnished.

From big screen plasma TV...
to silky smooth sheets and fluffy pillows. Okay la, so I'd messed up the bed a bit before I took the photo.
The bathroom is excellent. Separate bath and shower stall and toilet. Top of the range toiletries. Thick, soft towels. Bathrobes in batik cotton.
Personal office space...
Personal mini bar and refreshment centre...

But..........obviously, someone forgot about the minor details of maintenance. This was the condition of the electric iron plug. For a Hilton hotel this is surely unforgiveable...

Also as part of the deal my manager and I were each entitled to a RM50++ meal voucher. As I mentioned earlier, most of everything in this Hilton hotel was top quality. Visuals of Mat Salleh Hilton managers drilling and grilling the staff about quality crossed my mind. Then we were handed our meal vouchers...

They were slightly larger than postage stamps. They looked like they were hurriedly printed from the sales secretary's computer and cut with a pair of blunt scissors from...TA DA!!!...the infamous A4 sized paper!

So what's the point of this rant?

Is doing business in Malaysia or just being a Malaysian similiar to being infected by a deadly disease? Does our infamous apathetic attitudes infect everything and every person who comes in contact with us?

To add to this theory of infectious Malaysian-isms, I recently visited a sales office in the ultra efficient Singapore. But because the business was Malaysian...

Me: "Good morning may I..."
Them: "Ya what?"
Me: "I wish to find out if I may change (details deliberatedly left out)"
Them: "Cannot..."

...and so it went on. It made me feel right at home.

Think about it.


mob1900 said...

Then I suggest using our 'malaysiaism' to get what you need,

"You know who i yam arr, i yam Latuk something-something you know, don't play-play arr, I could get you @#$% if you don't get off your lazy @#$% and start doing what i tell you!"

it should suffice or you have to 'floor' them with genuine acting. =P

naeboo~ said...

tidak apa attitude is prevalent only in msia.

methinks sg is so efficient mostly bcoz sgporeans complain so damn much abt everythg.

like the english.

no one shld be getting shoddy service for monies paid.esply in hilton

patrickteoh said...

mob 1900, it isn't about getting things cos of who you are or pretend to be. It's about how things are because they are Malaysian:-)

naeboo, they complain a lot do they? If that's the way to battle the Malaysian disease then I say let's do it too:-)

Mohd Noor said...

But PT in Spore not so good in some ways. Limited freedom of speech. You attack the PM, you get sued. I think its harder to practice opposition politics there.

Sarah said...

You know somthing Patrick? I am beginning to miss not hearing..'tidak tahu o'.. every time I asked anyone for any it at the mall, at the post office or even at petrol kiosk.. That was one sentence that would make me feel at home.. And after that would be our infectious Malaysianisms of hype and quality

JT said...

what a horrid looking voucher. I do hope the CEO of that so-called 5/6 star Hilton is reading your blog.
Since it was only half of the iron shown, it looks a bit low quality leh...not those high tech looking ones smoke Dunhill is it! Smoking floor?

Anonymous said...

Malaysia and Malaysians do not adhere to Health and Safety law. Its sad that such little emphasis is placed on this area. The factories at Balakong just throw industrial waste behind their factories. Guess we do think that our lives are cheep. Just look at the way we drive! The plug is just a shame esp in a 5.5 Star hotel.

Vaseau said...

All the stuff you write about, Patrick, is symptomatic of a deeper malaise; an attitude that has gradually emerged out of the bowels of that flawed national policy known as the NEP.

Those of us who are irked / annoyed / disturbed by the goings on in every day Malaysia are the minority - who once knew a better country holding out a promising future. Then came our own 9/11... sanity and good sense got sidelined... and the reactive forces took over.

In the hands of the nincompoops who wanted everything to be hurried and instantaneous, shortcuts were taken, systems and standards dismantled while the incompetent were deliberately promoted.

We are now reaping the 'rewards' - and blogs like yours (apart from the wry humour they serve up to those who knew better days) help to catalogue the evidence of incompetence and corruption planted and nurtured for over 30 years. In that sense at least you are doing a sort of 'national service' for the adams to come - documenting the results of a short-sighted policy from which we may never really recover.

bongkersz said...

Me: "Good morning may I..."
Them: "Ya what?"
Me: "I wish to find out if I may change (details deliberatedly left out)"
Them: "Cannot..."

Simple and easy to understand mar hehe, no need fancy fancy language, as long as the message is well received then it's good enough

The Unladen Swallow said...

When I was a little younger, (okay, a lot younger) my family visited a certain restaurant with a difference of food and decor. It was cleaner than the local coffeeshop, too. Anyway, we got round to ordering our meals and after a short chat with the manager (local chap, but well-versed in the ways of the world), my Dad ordered a cup of coffee and saw the tag underneath Free Refills for coffee and tea.

Fast forward to middle of the meal, when my Dad asked the waitress for his free refill, he got a buck-toothed, dumbfounded, flat-out NO. It wasn't the word 'no' that got him frustrated, but the way she said it, and that it was a non-compliant refusal that had "Up yours, customer!" written all over her face. The manager came up a little later and offered my Dad his free refill.

There are some things Malaysian that I can't say I'm exactly proud of. Our 'tidak-apa' attitude may be one of them.

Maxforce said...

Now that, reminds me all over again of the "I am not God" answer from some idiot restaurant operator in Damansara Heights

obefiend said...

i call this desease "half ass-alitis"

we do things half ass. observe the following. we build an expensive elevated highway but forget to put expensive silicone water proof thingamgic on them. as a result the MRR had to be closed so that the giant bridge condom can be installed. then we build expensive new building but forget to maintain then just 2 weeks after opening. we expect the thing to fix themselves up.. in fact we even dont care about our car. we buy them. pay the monthly installment and all. them when the lampu mati on one side we dont care. i saw a BMW X3 barreling down LDP the other day with one headlight. wah.. light cannot fix ka taukeh?

servicing is a major problem with malaysian regardless of creed of color. whats the root of the problem? i dont actually know. maybe they should include a new mata pelajaran in school called "KEMAHIRAN MEMBAIKI". "kemahiran hidup" in school is a stupid subject.maube we can fix this little niggles by doing so....

naeboo~ said...

i dont know why talking abt half-assed service in msia wld take a turn at jibing the opp party and whatnots,but whatever.

however, i do agree that we shld complain more to get better service. no one shld put up with crap service. the service industry here is juz serving us their half-asses coz they knw we wldnt do shit abt it. this tidak apa attitude has got to go.

maybe we wld be the whiny customers, but whiny ppl do sometimes get what they want. hahahah

obefiend>> maybe they expected us to do well in KHB so that we wld fix all the half-arsedness ourselves??? oh, the horror! to pay money and be frustrated. thats a pain in my full ass!

Anonymous said...

I think the main problem with service is that most folks tend not to listen. They'd rather fake interest for half a minute, and then interrupt you with what they think is the answer you're looking for.

But as a blogger pointed out above, things tend to move a little if you have a Dato or Tan Sri prefix, or if you're a gwailo. Have you ever seen a mat salleh being given the 'tidak-apa' service? I think therein lies the problem in our mentality - we have yet to reach the maturity needed to treat all human beings as equals.

Maxforce said...

Yeah, we demand too little.
And actually we lack competitors.
Take Astro for example, I think they have the worst customer service - There are currently 5 ppl on hold. To continue being on hold, please press 1. PRESS ONE. 5 seconds later, There are currently 5 ppl on hold. PRESS ONE. 5 seconds later, There are currently 5 ppl on hold.PRESS ONE. 5 seconds later, There are currently 5 ppl on hold.
DAMMIT! tu... tu... tu...

Cuddly Family said...

hahaha yeah if we complain more, (and notjust YELL at folks, I really can't tahan those who will just shout and call names at service folks straight away ya know?).. as for the mat salleh difference in service.. sad to say, even I (who looks foreign or something anyway ahha) do get better service if I speak "posh" english or something.. but then they also try and charge u more HAHAHAHAHA.. to me, you can be firm, polite but insist on ur rights.

Speaking of which, holding lift doors open for those who are trying to get in the lift, might help, esp with two kids and a stroller lagi, and then whylah must everyone stand right in front of the lift w.o making room for those to come in.. and of course those who dont even wait for u to come out!

I use the very loud "EXCUSE ME PLEASE" to get my way in ehehhee. .the other day in Sunway, these folks stood in front of lift, I could hardly get me and my kids in, so I said very loudly (after my kids said EXCUSE ME PLEASE- hmm learn from me I think lol), COULD YOU PLEASE MOVE TO THE BACK SO I CAN GET IN THANK U!

I always wondered why folks w.o strollers/kids/trolleys all must take lifts when escalators are just there..

ok Maybe I should blog that rant LOL

I shuddup now..

su-ann said...

personally i feel that most people tend to live by example. if public figureheads can't even set good examples - eg. policemen changing lanes without indicating (i noticed 3 in 1 day) .. how are citizens supposed to abide by the law?

just like in the service industry, it's been naturalised that customer service in general is deemed as inefficient and down-right rude. but nothing is done to better the industry because they dont feel a need to. sales are still up, and customers still tolerate inefficiency. why? because of limited supplies and monopoly.

it's true though that malaysian-ism is contagious. when i used to come back from australia during holidays, i'd find it appauling to litter out from the car. now it's become a norm to see it, and sometimes i feel a little compelled (lazy) to do it too, but i keep reminding myself not to.

nothing is done, because nothing is done.

Mohd Noor said...

PT, you saw the Bus Uncle video or not?

Heres the link here:

enjoy PT!

Calvin's Girl said...

PT, your son is so adorable. Eh when i have my own daughter later, i kamching my daughter with your son, can ah.. LOL!

Malaysia has been surveyed by the ang mohs and is voted as the worst country of all around the world, for not being polite, courteous and well-mannered. Well Malaysia, there goes for your 'tidak apa' attitude. Such a shame!

Cynthia said...

Well said cuddly family!
We tolerate such things, that's why they get away with it and lord it over us. I'm good at complaining - not rudely of course but being firm, and politely demanding my rights.
But sometimes we get stuck in a sticky situation when these people are your only choice.
Having said that, there are exceptions. Some do have manners and are helpful. But then again, as I said, these are truly exceptions.

Cuddly Family said...

Speaking of apathy:
(shameless plug next). Four guys armed with parangs robbed a parent in front of my kids kindy. see my blog for further details and the cops apparent reaction to his report. (

Makes u wonder...

Mei said...

I would disagree with all the comments here. I travel a bit, and huge helpings of the same dumbass attitude is readily available in all countries. Even the mat salleh ones.
The difference is whether we as consumers tolerate it or not. The more we complain to the right person (i.e. the bosses of these little irritating things that are sometimes...i hate using this word but have to...very very stupid), the better the service will get.
So its actually up to us as malaysians to make malaysia a better place. Instead of just bitching about it and making it seem malaysian, complain, make a fuss, talk to managers, write them nasty letters, e-mails, faxes....copy the prime ministers department...whatever.

do this for me...the next time someone cuts infront of you in a line...scream your lungs out at them and tell em to get their sorry ass to the back of the line. Thats a great start!

Trashed said...


What if (what-if only, ah) the baarger I screamed my lungs out at approaches me with 3 other baargers with parangs outside the building ?

But I agree with you to write and write letters of complaint. I have done so myself to my bank and now, I suspect they know me as the one who complains a lot ... but I get the recognition, lah. Like advertising - no such thing as bad advertising. I think when the bank staff see my name, they already know that this is the baarger who complained and made the manager taroh the staff properly.

Anyway, with the "recognition", you get the service. Unfortunately, the way to get there is not the best way.

PenangKia said...

Patrick... When I started reading this post, I thought to myself... 'Barger.. what happened to PT lah? How come he can be so nice one??? Doing a commercial for Hilton ah???' I should have known better... Ha ha ha... While what you have shown is is extremely appaling for a hotel of Hilton's standards, typically, I do find the service and standards of these 5 star hotels in Malaysia much better than hotels in other countries.

patrickteoh said...

Hi penangkia. Hahahaha...fooled ya didn't I? The last time I complained about something like this with a company, Caltex sent someone to apologise who also tried to give me a voucher for free petrol! Principles prevented me from accepting the gift. Of course:-)
Trashed, I can only remember one run-in with a bank. I stood in the centre of the banking hall and said in a very loud voice that the bank gave shitty service and I didn't know why people would place their hard earned money with them. The manager rushed out, invited me into his office and I got my transaction done in super quick time. But I was much younger and more headstrong then la:-)
Yup, Mei you're absolutely right. Don't stand for bad service. Make your voice heard. Not necessariyly literally la.
Yeah cuddly, our I have heard many scary stories about our cops attitude towards cases like that. BTW, a rookie cop's starting salary is apparently RM600 before deductions. Go figure.
Calvin's gal, actually the things they surveyed are not things that Malaysians do as a rule, right? We never say thank you after making a sale. Well, unless you've just paid for a Mercedes or a BMW. I think. We don't hold open doors for people. We don't like queues. Pick up stuff dropped by other people? You gotta be kidding. So what's our fuss and reaction to the survey about? They ain't said nothing about our hospitality, right? We're good at that. We'll even breathe bad air just so our visitors won't be scared. Thanks for the compliment says Adam:-)
Thanks Mohd. Noor. I did watch the bus video. If the young guy did that in KL I think the old man be worm food.
YOu're right, cuddly a loud EXCUSE ME usually does the trick. BEcause most Malaysians won't do it the people think you're a little 'tak centre' and move away like you're a contagious disease. Which is great.
Maxforce, add to the list Maxis, Streamyx, Jaring, TGV, Golden Screen...
anonymous, I used to believe that Mat Sallehs get better service from Malaysians but I don't think it is true anymore. We are so comfortable and confident in our mediocrity that we serve it to everybody now.
Great name obefriend. Halfassitis. And it's reaching epidemic proportions in our developed state.
maxforce, I don't remember the details of the I am God fler. Tell the story here la.
Yes JT, the iron wasn't what I'd call a name brand one la. You'd get a hernia using it:-)
mohd noor, sure things ain't all rosy in the little southern island but I am beginning to get used to their inadequacies while enjoying the stuff they do well. And I am sad.

Manny said...

The last time I complained about something like this with a company, Caltex sent someone to apologise who also tried to give me a voucher for free petrol!

Pat's comment kinda reminded me of something. Maybe it's just me but, it seems that everytime some foul up happens somewhere we, the consumers are being offered a 'free' stuff as compensation. Is that a show of remorse or just to shut us up? or both?

geovanni said...

Yeah, I like that glass work desk... ;)

Kelvin said...

There's also that 5" TV screen by the bathroom; don't miss a second of the news whilst brushing teeth.

Zach said...

Sometimes u tend to be a rude monster as well when you face so many rude ppl out there ! Just for the sake of protecting urself being bullied by all the rude bastard ! Opsss i sound rude liao ...:0

Cytusm said...

Here is my posting about
KL Hilton

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