Les Petits Contes

About life's little observations, which matter. About hilarious situations, which illuminate. About stories which offer immense possibilities, open endings, different interpretations and perspectives.

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A nature lover; sun-worshipper, manic book-collector, dessert-devourer and a magnet for hazards

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Lethal Combo

A smashing combo of Singaporean lack of initiative, and Italian mess, is lethal. Enough to cause my friend Kit, while still on vacations in the U.S, to send a nasty email to the Italian Cultural Institute in Singapore.

It all began when Kit and I got impatient with the slow progress of our group class on Saturday afternoons at the Institute and we decided to have private lessons with a tutor instead (two to one basis).

Ever since we made this request, there has been umpteenth email ping pong matches with the Institute regarding time slots, days, tutor and payment. Kit and I are not perfect, but suffice to say the administrator there is, to be polite, stupid and disorganised (she is local).

So we finally agreed on the day, time and tutor. She insisted that we have to pay up before lessons commence. Fair enough. So I made a trip to the Institute yesterday morning to pay up.

I wanted to pay for my portion and let Kit pay for hers when she returns. But no, you have to make one single payment and then sort out in private with Kit, she advised me.

Me: OK. I can pay for her first. But wait, if for some unforeseen circumstances Kit decides not to join the class, can I get a refund? Or can the amount paid be used for the next series of classes, with the appropriate top-up amount, for example?

Institute: Don’t know. If you are not sure, then come back another day to pay. I don’t want to accept payment now only to find out I can’t do anything about the amount.

Me: Yesterday I sent you an email to say I was coming down just to pay up. Today I took time off from work to do so. Now it looks like I have to leave with an empty cheque and a wasted trip.

Institute: I just want to avoid misunderstandings, as you said, she might decide not to join you…and I do not know what our policy here is regards refunds. You can come again just before class to pay, but not on Saturdays as we are closed.

I decided not to push her to go find out, since it did not occur for her to even offer to find out. Instead, I said, ‘’our class is on this coming Saturday and it’s more convenient to pay on the same day rather than to make another trip during my office hours. It is 100% confirmed Kit will join and I really don’t mind paying for her first. But the point is, you need to know what the refund policies are in the first place.

Anyway, I left the place holding my breathe as she stared at me blankly and ‘’blurly’’.

When I got back to the office, we played more ping pong. I saw Kit’s reply to the Institute’s earlier email (about payment before class) saying she would make payment on Thursday when she returns; I replied to tell her about my wasted trip and the Institute replied to reiterate it was to avoid ‘’misunderstandings’’ and also for us to confirm ‘’the number of people attending the class’’.

She obviously totally missed my point. I breathed deeply, and moved on with work and more important things.

But Kit was furious – coming from a big American MNC she was not going to take any crap. Call me vocal and aggressive – but you have yet to meet Kit !

Her final email was enough to silence the administrator.

But I doubt it will correct the lethal combo.

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