Communication Breakdown

I’m pissed. No, I’m effing pissed…..

  1. 11/21: Morning, we emailed drawings to a machine shop Boss that has done work for me in the past.
  2. 11/21: Afternoon, we call to make sure the shop got the drawings.
    1. They don’t know because they haven’t checked their email for the day.
    2. We call an hour later and confirm that they did receive the email.
  3. 11/22: Call to confirm that the machinist can read the drawings.
    1. He can “no problem.”
    2. We ask how long for the quotation. The answer is “about a week.”
  4. 11/28: We called the Boss to find out if he finished the quotation.
    1. The Boss is not in his office.
    2. The Boss is not answering his mobile phone.
  5. 11/29: We called the Boss to find out if he finished the quotation.
    1. The Boss is not in his office.
    1. The Boss is not answering his mobile phone.
  6. 11/30: We called the Boss to find out if he finished the quotation.
    1. The Boss is not in his office.
    1. Finally, the Boss answered his mobile phone:

Us: “Do you have the quotation for us?”

Boss: “No.”

Us: “What is the problem?”

Boss: “The quantity is not high enough for us to bother with. Besides, we can’t read the drawings.”

Us: “Why didn’t you call us sooner and let us know?”

Boss: “Sorry.”

I have written volumes about how people here refuse to communicate. I’m not the only one either. Much has been written about the Westerner’s need for explanations. The above situation is our fault because we weren’t able to successfully deduce the machine shop Boss’ intent on our own. He isn’t required to tell us anything. Why should he? He’s a rich, successful business owner and we can kiss his ass.

I’ve said over and over: “Taiwanese communicate about everything, except important things.” The sheer volume of innocuous communication is staggering. But when it comes to important pieces of information, people are reluctant to give that information out? It doesn’t make sense, but that machine shop boss thought it was “impolite” to tell us that he wasn’t going to produce those parts for us. He knew from the very beginning too, because the quantity of parts we needed him to machine was clearly stated in the email, in Chinese.

I have even had Taiwanese businessmen tell me “I don’t like to talk about money” when trying to get an estimate for their services! You’re laughing. I’m not.

Of course I’m never going to give him another job to quote. Of course he won’t even notice.

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  1. MJ. I remember long ago when i first moved into our house. The first thing I wanted done was have mosquito screens placed on all the windows in the house.

    I made some enquiries and a person rang a guy and then I waited. A few days later a man turned up and measured everything and then off he went again.

    He returned a couple of days later and everything was great.

    I asked for two sliding screen mosquito doors for the front of the house. He measured them up and again off he went.

    One week went to two weeks, then three and after that I gave up. About 10 weeks down the track he rolled up on a Saturday morning with the doors and went to work of putting them in.

    Thailand is so like this. My computer monitor blew up and was still under warranty. I took it back to teh shop where I bought it and was informed that they had to send it 350 odd kilometres away.

    How long? 4-8 weeks. I said you have to be bloody joking me but just got blank stares.

    When I asked how can I use my computer without a monitor again more blank stares.

    Now a month down the track I haven’t heard a thing and the email I sent to LG hasn’t been replied to, again this isn’t a surprise either.

    Brunty’s last blog post..Thailand. Dining on the river.

  2. Brunty » the reason that stuff goes on there is because people don’t generally walk into a place and shoot it up out of frustration. once that happens a few times they’ll all get with the program (prolly not).

  3. I remember trying to find an obstetrician when my wife was pregnant. We went to two clinics in the neighborhood, and were greatly dissatisfied because the doctors didn’t want to communicate with us clearly. We’d ask questions and they’d respond with an impatient wave of the hand: “Don’t worry about it.”

    We finally settled on my one-on-one student’s husband, who did not work anywhere close to our neighborhood, because he was a good communicator. When I explained this to my student, she said: “My husband worked in Baltimore for a decade, so he knows to answer ‘foreigners’ questions. I think he has a lot of ‘foreigners’ as clients for this reason.” When I, as a worried dad-to-be picked her brain, she answered: “Actually, he never talks about his patients to me. In fact, one of my friends was his patients. I only knew about this because she told me.”

    Dr. Lee is extremely rich. But he was a wise and kind individual. He just didn’t put on airs.

    Patrick Cowsill’s last blog post..Taiwan’s Transport More Civil

  4. Patrick » i hear that kind of thing and i can’t believe it. in Thailand i hear people say stuff like “i hate when farang do that.” so i ask “so you don’t hate if Thais do that?” the way Taiwanese react sometimes is similar. i often find myself asking questions like “don’t you want to know the answer too? don’t you care? don’t you want to avoid making that mistake?” – stuff like that. “no” is invariably the answer. seems like a full stomach is all the concern that’s necessary.

  5. In India you gotta beat around the bush and play games trying to withdraw money out your bank account..

    See once you deposit your money, it becomes their money.

    I remember one time, I was trying to withdraw cash through the teller since the amount was more than was I allowed to withdraw from per day though the ATM. So I sign myself a check, provide my driver’s license as ID, and also show my bank ATM card. NOPE, can’t withdraw. Well…. Why not? Use the ATM..

    Me: No, you don’t undersand.. I need to withdraw a large sum..
    Teller: Let me get my manager
    Me: (After waiting A LONG TIME) What’s the problem? I want to withdraw MY money.
    Manager: You’re not allowed to. Your signature on your check doesn’t match the one on your driver’s license.
    Me: But it matches the one in your file?
    Manager: Yes
    Me: This driver’s license is more than 10 years old so of course the signature is going to be a little off. This is me.. See my ATM card? I can go withdraw right now..
    Manager: Then go use the ATM.
    Me: SIGH.. Ok look.. I’m going to close the account.. I demand to close my account.
    Manager: Go see him..

    Me: I want to close my account.
    Assisant Mgr: Sign the form and take another ticket line #..
    Me: (after 10 minutes) Ok done..
    Manager from across the room: Ok, you can withdraw partial. The rest you can withdraw from ATM.

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