Thursday, October 25, 2007

Maybank and customer service

I've never had a good experience since banking with Maybank two years ago. Some were OK perhaps, but definitely nothing good. Not the ever-under-maintenance ATM. Not the teller. Not even account opening.

Last year's credit card renewal was horrible. From a phone number that was never picked up, to repeated visits to pick up my card.

They required a number of ridiculous documents. And they put the most unfriendly and incompetent people to talk to customers.

But I received a surprise today. Maybank sent a credit card renewal notification - that my new credit card is ready for collection. Just like that. That's way beyond expectation! (Though I still yet need to prove it)

Maybe because this time is my second renewal. Or perhaps they don't want to let those unfriendly and incompetent people to deal with customers.

Whatever, one thing for sure they've set my expectation so low, that even this makes me happy.

Maybe they've hired a consultant who taught them a (marketing?) theory that suggests that a customer's satisfaction with a service is a function of his expectation. If you can't improve the service, just lower the expectation, huh?

Anyway, good for Maybank. I hope they will do more improvements.

Another thought about customer service: Jakarta public transportation.

In a way, this is a candidate for the best customer service level. These buses, metro mini, and angkot are willing to stop every 20 meters to pickup the passengers. They will fight with other cars for the convenient of their customers.

But only before you get in.

Once you're in, it's a different story - no more customer service. They keep taking passengers in thinking human are compressible.
They will do their best to take you to your destination as soon as possible, how unsafe it could be. They want you to get off while the vehicle is still moving.

It's been a while since I took a Jakarta public transportation. And I look forward to hop in to Busway the next time I'm going back - this weekend :D

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

A visit to Satria Mandala

I finally was able to keep my word to Aroengbinang to visit the Satria Mandala museum, during my mudik last week. It's been at least 20 years since the last time I visited, and nothing looks to have changed. Okay, my memory isn't so great, but the Rp. 2500 entrance fee is probably a good indication.

Aroengbinang's post tells all about the museum, so I only put a picture of Anya and Ben excited to see a real tank (though not as cool as the ones in the Transformers).

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

On the definition of Malay, politically

M. Veera Pandiyan wrote in the Star last week about the rift between Indonesia and Malaysia on Rasa Sayang. I do think both sides are a bit overreacting and agree with most of what he said.

That aside, though, his explanation of Malay, under Malaysia's constitution, is the one that caught my attention.

clipped from

But most Indonesians don’t realise that Malays, who make up the majority of Malaysians in the peninsula, are not “Malay” as in the context of people from the Riau province on the eastern side of Sumatra, which include Batam, Bintan and some 3,200 other islands.

Not many also know that under our Constitution, a Malay is a political rather than ethnic definition – a person who practises the customs and culture of the Malays, speaks the language and is a Muslim.

blog it

I've been puzzled with the way people here stereotype Malay-like people, really, and these two short paragraphs answer it all. That if someone who looks like a local and is neither a Chinese nor an Indian, he or she must be thought as a Muslim. That's merely my observation.

What would a non-Muslim Malaysian who was born from, say, Javanese parents, be called?

PS. Jennie - in this case, American accent helps too!

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

First posting from Jakarta

Just a quick two postings from other blogs --> on the middle column, Interesting Read section.

The first one is an old post by Marina Mahatir - the daughter of Malaysia's former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. She posted it in January this year, but since the similarity (or difference) between Indonesians and Malaysians is currently a hot topic, it's worth it to revisit her view.

Another one is written by David Lavoie, a Canadian teacher living in Malaysia, on the New Straits Times. Some light and humorous observations about some Malaysians' quirkiness, of which a few is shared by some Indonesians.

In case the link is not working anymore, here's what David wrote.

DAVID LAVOIE: The puzzling quirkiness of some Malaysians
The New Straits Times, Thursday, October 11, 2007

I have to admit that I love it. I enjoy Malaysia very much and I think that Malaysians are fine, fine people. They are warm, friendly, interesting and hospitable. But some of the things they do puzzle me enormously.

What follows are, and probably always will be to me, some of the mysteries of Malaysia. Alang-alang mandi, biar sampai basah; alang-alang berdakwat, biar sampai hitam.

Mystery number one, why do many Malaysians swim in such a bizarre way? Don’t get me wrong, a number of the Malaysians I see every day in my condominium pool are superb swimmers, but the majority employ a strong scooping motion of the arms along with a vigorous frog-like kick which takes them completely underwater for a metre or two. Then they shoot to the surface, desperately suck in a strangled gasp of air and disappear under the surface again, despair in their goggled eyes.

It’s a slow, slow method of swimming and it seems to require an enormous expenditure of energy as well as the risk of serious oxygen deprivation. I may be wrong, but I always thought, silly me, the whole purpose of swimming was to stay on the surface where the oxygen is.

How about roads? It amazes me that Malaysians can build fine-looking roads so quickly, but why, within a month, are they plagued with potholes the size of the Grand Canyon? Wouldn’t it be cheaper, and easier on cars, to put down a proper road base first before laying on the black-top?

Actually I’ve got a theory. I’ve decided that this is all some sort of gigantic Malaysian lottery. Those guys on the side of the road pretending to walk along? They’re really bookies taking bets on which car will hit the hole hardest. When you smack into one, they chortle and money surreptitiously changes hands.

What about double-parking? I realise that Kuala Lumpur, in particular, is plagued with too many cars and not nearly enough parking spaces. The problem seems the same in kind, if not in degree of intensity, elsewhere. I understand why people double-park.

What I don’t get is, where are all the people whose cars are parked on the inside? Why aren’t they outraged?

As a matter of fact, where are all the people who have boxed in other drivers gone as well? Why isn’t there mayhem? Stationary road rage? Wild screaming matches? Where have all the drivers been spirited off to? Extraterrestrials perhaps? This is one of the mysteries of the age.

Why, in so many public toilets, are washbasins, cabinets and urinals numbered? This, I really don’t get. I mean, it’s not like when I pay my 20 or 30 sen, the attendant says: “You are assigned to urinal No 3. Wash your hands in washbasin No 5.”

Is there a mysterious purpose for these numbers or is it just a peculiar Malaysian fetish for order?

Why do all those guys on motorcycles wear their jackets backwards? What’s the point?

Is it to cut down the wind in your progress? To keep you dry in case of rain, to keep your clothes clean? Does it keep you warmer?

I suspect a combination of many factors here, but, if so, that, too, is a mystery.

If it’s to keep your clothes clean, for instance, that means that you are perfectly clean as you approach people, but a mess when you turn around to leave.

I’ve decided that since I will probably never figure this one out, it must be a uniquely Malaysian fashion statement.

Why do Malaysians consider public streets and sidewalks an extension of their front yard or business? Restaurants block sidewalks with extra chairs and tables during peak hours. Businesses expand onto the same sidewalk with a maze of tables and shelves of merchandise.

Best of all are the home parties that block entire streets to vehicular traffic. I have to admit that I sort of like and admire this one.

You need room for your party? Why not put up a tent in the street? Cars can always back up and take an alternate route. It’s so liberated.

Why do Malaysians use plates?

I had to come here before I ate my first meal off a banana leaf and the beauty of it brought tears to my eyes.

If we all ate every meal off banana leaves, no one would ever have to wash a dish again (a chore I hate). It’s too beautiful.

Why, Malaysia could become the world’s largest exporter of banana leaves! Of course, I haven’t quite figured out what to do about laksa.

So there they are, just a few of the mysteries that keep me fascinated with this wonderful country.

Maybe I’ll stick around for a while. After all, I’ve obviously got a lot to learn, lah.

David Lavoie is a retired Canadian teacher who now makes Malaysia his home.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Nasty brother neighbor

A quick update/addendum to my last post.

Yes, it's the latest two incidents in Malaysia - the arrest/detention of an Indonesian diplomat's wife and the forceful breaking into an Indonesian student's apartment.

Can you imagine - a bunch of people breaking into your home, to check whether you have valid documents?

It is said that RELA volunteers are allowed to make arrests and enter or search premises without a search or arrest warrant. It's a bit of a violation to human rights, isn't it? Perhaps they think human rights don't apply to (suspected) illegal immigrants...

I do agree with Unspun that it is the government, and not necessarily the people, who is doing this. In fact, a (Malaysian) friend was bitching about RELA, and we really had fun talking about it. I think RELA would be more of a use if their members take care of the Mat Rempit and illegal double-parking.

Yes, someone needs to educate people that double-parking is rude, lah!

Anyway, happy Eid / Ied / Lebaran / Hari Raya. I'm off to Jakarta tomorrow.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Brothers syndrome and unexpected treatment

Aroengbinang shares his thought on the "Brothers Syndrome" post: "Many people believe that relationship between Indonesian and Malaysian is or should be like relationship between brothers or sisters. They are wrong. Indonesian and Malaysian were never been brothers nor sisters. They were born from different mothers. They have different fathers as well."

Thus, there are some expectations of being brothers - like respects or special treatment. Expectations that often are not met.

(people here like to use OK as filler) :)

This morning I had to come to the Immigration Office (Jabatan Imigresen) in Putrajaya. A new policy calls for foreign expatriates to be present in person for thumbprint scan. (people in the U.S. might call this an abuse of human rights?)

Aside from driving quite far to Putrajaya (and the highway roadsigns that are placed after the exits), things were nice. I admire Putrajaya for its buildings' architecture. The immigration office is clean and the officers are quite professional - totally different experience than my afternoon at Deplu on Jalan Medan Merdeka two years ago (when I finally gave up and called a connection).

All right.

A while after dropping off my passport, I was called up and asked to go to a (nice) room and do the business there. "The queue is too long here," said the man who looked like a pretty high supervisor.

"Oh shit, I don't even know how much the standard is," I thought.

But it turned out to be something else.

It was a sincere help or nice gesture, because, I believe, I'm an Indonesian.

So we talked about Hari Raya. I found out that his Datuk (grandfather) was from Minang. And other things.

We simply "connected".

So based on this experience, it is there - the brotherly feeling. And it's nicest when you don't expect it.

Just like what Aroengbinang says: "... a healthier relationship may be built as no more false expectations..."

This is true, especially because while it's nice to get the special treatment, being an Indonesian in Malaysia can also lead to relatively-poor treatment (or just that nasty look). This is where a little bit arrogance and American accent help. (why American accent? Because fewer people have it here - many Malaysians go to U.K. or Australia for their study). :)

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Sunday, October 07, 2007


Certain things click just like that to some (memorable) events in the past. Whether nice or ugly.

Heard on the radio yesterday - Kokomo by the Beach Boys from the soundtrack of Cocktail is one of them, back to some years in high school, with significant involvement from Sheque. No details to be shared :)

"We'll get there fast and then we'll take it slow..."

PS. Elisabeth Shue was hot, by the way.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Sleep more to lose weight

Now I wonder if there's something between me and articles about sleeping. I just happen to bump into one quite often.

My subconscious mind? (sleeep... sleeep...)

Anyway - all of them seem to be too hard to do, especially if we want to do so consistently during workdays. Getting seven-hour sleep is definitely the least difficult. Not getting up early is probably next. But taking a nap is a clear no-no. Not during the workdays, that is.

Weekend? Possible - though managing late football matches on TV and early morning tennis games is a challenge already.

And now a research suggests that we need seven to nine hours of sleep a night to lose weight and keep it off. One of the catches is that sleep less takes away the energy to exercise and adds to the craving for carbs. The danger is if these - exercise and eating less carbs - don't happen even after we sleep more...

Moreover, a Q-A from the article:
So how can I catch more z's? Calbom and Garcia agree: Reduce or eliminate caffeine, sugar, and alcohol. No late-night meals. No TV just before bed. Warm baths can help, as can meditation and deep-breathing exercises. Garcia often prescribes 5-HTP, calcium, and magnesium.

Hmm. At the same time some people use caffeine and sugar to boost up energy at work. Which help them work longer. Working longer drives getting home later, which means later meals in the evening. And TV? Of course after that - just before bed. Just the opposite, eh?

So try sleeping more. More energy. Less needs for caffeine and sugar. More effective and go home earlier. Earlier dinner, TV, and bedtime.

Gotta try harder!

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B-school Confidential: MBAs May Be Obsolete

Below is a recent article with the same title from Penelope Trunk on Yahoo!Finance.

While I agree that a lot of people go to b-school to get a new job (i.e. business school is like buying a high-priced recruiter), the change that Harvard made to accommodate female student proportion - accepting younger, less experienced, female applicants - is interesting.

Having younger female b-school students will arguably drive the number of male applicants, won't it? That surely doesn't help fixing the wrong reasons to go to b-school, but hopefully will attract the hotshots to start to apply again... :)

B-school Confidential: MBAs May Be Obsolete
by Penelope Trunk

The Master of Business Administration degree has been a holy grail for decades. If you wanted a career that mattered and didn't have the aptitude for medical school, an MBA was a good ticket to prestige and riches.

But things aren't so clear anymore. If the MBA used to be the entrance fee to climb the corporate ladder, there are few corporate ladders to climb anymore -- and people are increasingly experimenting with ways to speed up that climb anyway. One way is to skip the MBA altogether.

So if you're thinking of getting an MBA, you should probably think twice. Here are five signs that the MBA is becoming devalued:

1. Only the top business schools have high value.

The difference between the value of a top-tier MBA and all the others is very big. In fact, if you don't get into a top-tier program, the value of your MBA is so compromised that it's not worth it to stop working in order to get the degree. Go to night school instead.

A lot of people already know this, which has made the competition to get into a top-tier b-school fierce. So much so that you probably need a consultant to help you get in. Wondering how effective those consultants are at gaming the system? So effective that schools are publicly saying they're trying to change the application process in order to undermine the effectiveness of application coaches.

2. Business schools are compromised by a lack of female applicants.

Harvard Business School is so concerned that it's not receiving enough female applicants that it's changed the admission process to accommodate the biological clock. This means that students will have less work experience coming into the program.

In the past, business schools have said that prior work experience is important to the MBA education. But apparently, the lack of women is so detrimental to the education that Harvard is willing to take less work experience.

While the changes are beneficial for women in some respects, one has to wonder if this doesn't compromise the value of an MBA for everyone.

3. Business school is like buying a high-priced recruiter.

The best thing you get out of business school is a good job afterward. But how do you know you wouldn't be able to get that job without business school?

In an article in The Atlantic, management consultant Matthew Stewert says you probably could. He also says you should consider paying a recruiter to get you a good job, and spend your time taking philosophy classes instead. That's because philosophers, as Stewert writes, "are much better at knowing what they don't know. ... In a sense, management theory is what happens to philosophers when you pay them too much."

And if you are thinking of becoming a CEO, Sallie Krawcheck, herself the CEO of Citigroup's Global Wealth Management, says you should be an investment banking analyst first. That's because being a CEO is really about making decisions with limited information, and that's what analysts do best.

4. Hotshots don't go to business school anymore.

For a while now, it's been clear that the true entrepreneurial geniuses don't need degrees. The most effective way to learn about entrepreneurship is to practice in real life. You don't need an MBA for that.

Now that trend is filtering into the finance industry. Pausing one's career to get an MBA used to be non-negotiable for investment bankers. But today, the top candidates in finance are choosing to forgo business school. They're already making tons of money, and they're well-positioned to keep making tons of money, so the MBA seems unnecessary.

The upshot of this is that business school might start looking like something for people who are feeling a little bit stuck in their careers and need a jumpstart, rather than just a starting gate for superstars.

5. People go to business school for the wrong reasons.

An MBA is very expensive in terms of time and money, and it solves few problems. If you're not a star performer before b-school, you probably won't be one after you graduate. And if you just want to make a lot of money, the odds of you of doing that are only as good as the odds of you getting into a top school -- currently about 1 in 10.

If you're still wondering if an MBA is necessary for you, here are five more situations that might put the nail in the coffin of the MBA.

The bottom line is that very few careers today really require an MBA. If you're getting one for a career that doesn't require it, you might look more like a procrastinator than a go-getter.

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