Here is one good example of the way Cambodians think. I have a 4-MB Internet connection serving about 10 users on average. Recently, when I went to pay my monthly subscription of $85 the customer service rep showed me a special offer pitched at the time providing a 6-MB connection at $65 a month. The deposit for that deal was only $30. When I signed the initial subscription agreement I paid a $85 deposit. So switching seemed like a no-brainer, right?
The otherwise friendly and helpful lady came up with the following tally:
Usage for the past month $85
I got a credit for downtime $12
Fee for the new month $65
Total $138 payable right now.
Normally, I can pay my bill until the 22nd of the following month. So I figured out the number a little differently.
I pay $19 on the 22nd of following month ($85 less $12, less $55 credit for difference in deposit) and the regular $65 for the changed subscription the month after that.
Now this is what any normal thinking person would expect, now is it? But not at Metfone in Sihanoukville. First, I can’t get back part of my deposit, second I have to pay for the usage of the past month immediately (without the usual grace period) when I change my agreement, and I also have to pay the new fee right away. Before, I did not need to do that. When I pointed that out she said this is company policy and the only way she would handle that. After kicking this around with her a couple of times, it was obvious she wouldn’t budge from her position. Although she had already decided on her own to give me that credit for downtime without authorization from her boss. So she obviously did have some leeway.
When I asked what I needed to do to get my $55 overpaid deposit back she offered me the most ridiculous solution I have seen in a long time. I should cancel my subscription. I would then get my full deposit of $85 back after about 2 weeks. We draw up a new agreement, I pay a new installation fee of $30, plus the new deposit of $30. When I pointed out that I already did have a working connection in place, she just said that’s the only way we could do it. Any amount of reasoning could not make her change her position. Of course, in the meantime she had maneuvered herself in a corner from which she couldn’t come out without losing considerable face, in front of a foreigner at that.
I just left her sitting there, promising when next in Phnom Penh I would just go to the head office. That made her even less friendly. Now guess what? Next weekend I needed to go to PP anyway and, lo and behold, all it took for them was to change my subscription in the computer from the old to the new rate with the increased bandwidth; and that was it. No payment, no hassle. Who would have thought that?
But nothing is without a catch in Cambodia. I expected the new speed to be available after a couple of days or so. Not so. After 10 days we still didn’t have our faster speed available. So I called to complain. Well, I had to go to the office in Sihanoukville to sign a work order so they would change it in their server. The service at this company is really rotten; but they are by far the cheapest.