By: Rai Uttsant, Sean
As my time here in Jagna is coming to an end, I’ve realized that I spent most of my days here lounging in different resorts to have lunch, chat with other students and work on my deadlines. All the resorts I’ve been to so far have had something unique about their setting. Whether it be their gradient blue sea-views, narrow stairways that lead to the shore, pavilions stationed in shallow waters, cats and dogs running around and finding shelter on our laps or open green farmlands in the backyard with goats freely feeding on the grass. But there was something most of them had in common – the lacklustre service provided.
Most employees in these local resorts have stoic expressions on their face when they serve. Simple requests like asking for a compensated larger serving are met with “No, you need to buy two meals”. Over in Hong Kong, some restaurants will give a larger serving when requested or at worst they would charge you a bit more. But flexibility seems to be unheard in the resorts here. I know there’s something very wrong when I find myself asking why the staff at Jagna’s McDonald’s treats its customers better than the staff hired for resorts, an industry that revolves around hospitality.I wanted to get a better picture of the situation, so I went around these resorts asking its staff questions to learn more about their work life. I had a hunch that their lack of enthusiasm maybe because we as students would stay at the resort the whole day, so the staff might feel that we are a nuisance to the visitors that were staying over. But from what I’ve noticed, they were rarely any other customers around in the restaurant area where we would eat and work. I still wanted to verify, so I asked about the peak season for the resorts. Most of them said that it was during the summer here, so from January to April. Since the weather is the best during this period and it attracts both locals and foreigners to come visit the resorts for vacation.My mind then wondered towards the cost of running the resorts. Could it be the case that students staying over for hours on end caused a massive increase in the running costs of the resort? Very unlikely. The WiFi for these resorts are provided on a fixed monthly rate. No lighting is usually needed, since the natural lighting sufficed for all the resorts. I imagine the water utilities seeing an increase, and the electricity bill for charging our devices. But that should be adequately covered by the high mark-up of the food served at these resorts.It could be the case that they just don’t have the incentive to work wholeheartedly. When I asked about how they get paid, they revealed that they work on a fixed wage basis with no commission. This could be why they just want to stay idle at work instead of running around serving a dozen of students. But you would think that the supervisors would reprimand this kind of attitude. Most of the time, the supervisors are giving their subordinates a hand with their jobs by sharing their workload. It turns out that the supervisors work with the same attitude as their subordinates. It was a supervisor that turned down my request for a compensated large serving. It was a supervisor that greeted visitors with his back while he was busy playing an online game on the reception desktop, which I found very amusing.When I asked the supervisors of the resorts where the owners were. All of them said that the owner was out of town and would only visit occasionally throughout the month or year. One of the resorts was originally a vacation home for the owner but was turned into a public resort, as the owner would seldom stay over. Another resort’s owner who is settled in the US left her retired sister in charge as the supervisor. The supervisors did say that they would frequently communicate regarding business matters through the phone. But most of the time, it would only be regarding recent sales performance and the maintenance of amenities. All of this leads me to believe that the management is lax about improving their service, because the owners themselves have no interest in helping flourish the business and just treat it as some petty side hustle on the other side of the world.However, Paseo Del Mar was a shining exception of competent management among the resorts here. When taking to Daisy, the supervisor there, she told me that although the owner would only visit a couple of times a month, he would regularly ask through the phone if the employees were facing any hardships at work or out of work. He would offer assistance whenever he could, if his staff was going through tough times. Also, he would always emphasise to Daisy and the others that no matter what the customers’ attitude is – keep smiling. It was evident that Daisy put those words into practice. Despite having so many responsibilities consisting of entertaining visitors at the front desk, taking orders, managing food supplies, dealing with amenity issues, basic bookkeeping and even helping the cook sometimes, she still manages to put on a radiant smile when talking to customers. When I asked her how she does it, she shared that she worked in Hong Kong and Manila and came across many types of people there which helped her develop a thick skin against difficult people.One day, out of curiosity, I asked Daisy if I could have more rice for my chicken adobo meal which I’ll pay for. She replied, “So 1 and a half cup of rice?”. I was in disbelief. When I told her about my past experiences in other resorts, she laughed with a “Why not?”