Some things are so common here in the Philippines that you quickly forget that it was different where you came from. As I was told today that the brewed coffee I was ordering at one of my favorite coffee shops was “not available, sir”, I realized that I wasn’t surprised. No, quite the opposite. I no longer expected a coffee shop to have brewed coffee, and quickly ordered something else.

There was once a time I would have questioned how a coffee shop that prominently displayed “brewed coffee” on their menu, and which I’d ordered many times before, could not have it available. No more. You see, I am adapting.

Wala stock

Those of us in the Philippines are all too familiar with the words, “wala stock”. I’m not sure if it is more frustrating trying to figure out why they are always legitimately out of stock, or why the salesperson sometimes says that about an item that you can plainly see on the self. Two different issues, with the same result.

Legitimately being constantly out of stock must have to do with distribution. At least so it seems to me. Why that is such an issue here, I don’t know. Lack of warehousing, transportation, ordering skills? Whatever it is, it’s prevalent. It’s certainly not a unique occurrence. It’s commonplace, unfortunately.

The issue with the stock actually being there usually has more to do with the salesperson either not wanting to deal with you because they are ashamed of their English, or they honestly don’t have any idea of what they do and don’t have. Sometimes it’s a combination of the two.

Customer Service

Occasionally they will deliver the bad news, with “sorry” but most of the time they do not. They say it so often, and it is so common, that they don’t realize it’s an inconvenience. At least they don’t appear they do. I believe, like many things here, that they’ve had it happen to themselves so often that they take it for granted. Just order something else, buy something else, or go elsewhere. That’s what they have to do, too.

That’s so different from what I was used to. At least at some of the better stores and restaurants in the US. If we ran out of an item at the restaurant I worked at, we went to the store to get more (even if it cost us more), or possibly called one of our other restaurants and borrowed that item until our supply came in. Sure there were times when you might run out of something late at night after a very busy day, but typically you kept days to weeks supplies of items on hand. It was your JOB to have the inventory on hand, because that’s why you were in business – to sell your product.

Culture Change

There is a reason that places like Starbucks are doing so well here. It’s not just the American brand name, but it’s the way they are going about their business. Their customer service is very good. Their product is very consistent, and contrary to what most business owners here think, treating their employees fairly has not hurt their success. They have very knowledgeable, friendly staff members. Well trained and, at least for the Philippines, adequately compensated.

No, Starbucks was not the coffee shop that had run out of brewed coffee. I suppose it’s possible it could happen there, but highly unlikely. I can tell you this, if it did they would say “sorry” and mean it. They would also offer an alternative that was reasonable and not leave you on your own to figure out what to do next. They would have been coached as to what to say.

I don’t want places like Starbucks to push out the local establishments. I like going to the smaller coffee shops, too. I do hope that they can learn from these successful places, adapt and offer more of what they customer wants, rather than serving their own needs.

Having the product available that they sell would be a step in the right direction.

Anki Bisaya Phrasebook Flashcards