Saturday, November 18, 2006

UBC, Thai culture, and honesty -- a fundamental problem with telling the truth

Being told absurd bald-faced lies by Thai customer service agents is routine in Thailand, especially where state sanctioned monopolies like UBC (the local cable company) and TOT (the predominant landline provider) are concerned. Often, the stupidity of this policy is underscored by the fact that it would be easier and more effective to simply state the truth than concoct fabulous lies.

In this case, UBC has cancelled the MTV and VH1 (two channels that form the basis of most customers' decision to sign an overpriced 'premium' contract) because the licensing fees would cut into UBC's existing profit more than offering third rate and basically free local programming.

UBC's inability to face up to this business decision and accept some acocuntability for it by maintaining some modicum of honesty and consistency in its message to customers is just a reflection of the inherent corruptness of Thai social practice and 'culture'. Until monopolies like tihs are disbanded, there will be no change in Thai society, as there will no opportunity for competitors to adopt a strategy of accountability and directness, which they might easily do as a means to distinguish themselves and gain a competitive edge. This has already happened to some extent with the deregulation of the mobile phone market as upstarts DTAC and TRUE introduced a simplified and above-board fee structure that eventually prompted industry dinosaur AIS to do the same.

from The Nation:

UBC keeps changing story on departure of music channels

Is it actually possible to get an honest answer from UBC? On the first of this month I called to enquire the wherabouts of MTV and VH1. I was told the channels were dropped because UBC had replaced them with "alternative channels"; namely Mahjung TV and TRUE Music, neither of which carry international music.

I called again on Friday to ask whether they had reconsidered and was told that actually they had wanted to keep MTV and VH1 but that those companies refused to sign a new contract with UBC. To quote: "Why would we cancel those channels when so many of our subscribers like them?"

Exactly! Why would they? And why would I be told two different stories? In the past I have enquired regarding English subtitles for movies such as Suriyothai and was told that subtitles weren't available. A curious excuse as I had already watched it at the cinema with subtitles! UBC seem to think that a polite voice and a "sir" or "khun" represents customer service rather than actually telling their customers the truth.

The sooner this monopoly is broken the better