Loot Report

So ... what'd you get for Christmas?

I didn't get very much this year. To be fair, though, I didn't want anything. Plenty of people asked what I wanted for Christmas, and I simply replied,


Honest. I mean, sure, I'd like a new laptop, some more dress shirts for work, more cufflinks, etc. But those are not suitable to receive as gifts, and I don't really need them right now: I'll get them as I really need them.

So really, there's nothing I want or need at this point in my life. It's a nice feeling, and as I told my fiancee, I'm materially content. She quickly informed me,
"I'm not."

Huh. So anyway, what'd you get for Christmas?

Santa, Baby

Well, just got back from upstairs, where our office hosted a little Christmas party for the employees with a gift exchange and snacks/refreshments. Here's a rundown of how things went for me:

15:00 - Leave my Dilbert cubicle, head upstairs to Ground Zero.
15:05 - Lady at the table with all the gifts says we should start raffling for which gift we get, so I reach my hand in and pull out a number (14).
15:06 - Director (of another group) tells us to hold off until he can give a speech.
15:10 - Speech, and announcement of Christmas Decoration winners.
15:15 - Gift exchange and refreshments: gift exchangers (participating people) go to get their gifts and open them, everyone else head towards the food table.
15:20 - Gift is opened, and it's not disappointing because I've already lowered my expectations appropriately. Head outside to the food table.
15:25 - It's empty. Cleaned out like Costco samples on Sunday morning.
15:26 - Have a milk tea instead.

So if you participated in the gift exchange, you were basically punished by being distracted getting a gift that usually was not what you wanted in a million years (and likely deemed worthless by the whole of humanity). I say distracted, because while you were spending your time pretending to be all pleasantly surprised with your gift, everyone else was spending theirs pretending to be a pack of hyenas attacking the prey food table. So by the time I got out of the gift exchange, the displayed trays of cakes and snacks were mysteriously replaced with stacked trays of crumbs. It's no wonder gift exchange participation has reportedly been rather sparse in recent years. (At least there was enough milk tea left for me to fill a Dixie cup and retreat back to my cubicle again. For that, I'm thankful.)

This is by far the least Christmasy of all Christmases I've ever spent. But here's hoping that yours is going better than mine: Merry Christmas!

A Friendly Tip

Okay, I realize that the timing of this post is going to make it sound a little bah-humbug-ish, but it still needs to be said. I have a personal rule about tipping: if you don't provide the service, you don't get the tips.

No, no, I mean, I'll leave a tip regardless (of service), but the question is how much. And I definitely don't tip 15% as a "just because" standard: I tip 10%, and it can go either way from there based on the experience of the event.

I can hear a lot of you (certainly if you've had a job before in a service industry) who are screaming bloody murder, going,

"Waiters/waitresses/service people rely on tips to survive, since their wages are low."

Well, guess what? I don't give a sh!t if the wages suck -- they took the job and they knew how much they were going to be paid, and they knew very well that part of they livelihood relied on that tip income. So, logically, instead of just expecting a fat tip at the end, isn't really just all the more reason for them to do a good job at whatever it is they're doing??
Consider it a performance bonus: you perform (or exceed expectations*) and you get a nice bonus; if you don't, you'll know that you deserved it.

I've been in a position like that before, and no tipping was allowed, but we still did a good job.

Look, I don't mind tipping handsomely if I'm pleased with the experience, but they need something to show for it. I once spotted a cab driver an extra $20 for racing me to the airport because I was late for a flight. I've paid extra when I found service staff extremely attentive, elevating the experience of our stay at a hotel or all those kinds of things. I think that's fair.

In Taiwan, there's no tip. And taxes are included in the price: it's WYSIWYG. One might expect service in Taiwan to be fairly crappy, but the culture has been educated to a point where the service is courteous and polite (albeit it sometimes difficult to get a point across). That said, some restaurants are getting into the (horrible) habit of tacking on a 10% "service charge" for basically no reason -- the service staff don't see any of it, and the restaurant pretty much uses it to cover their basic wages instead.

Alright, let the flaming begin.
* Don't forget that the quality of service is directly measured against the customer/client expectations.

Apathy, then Acceptance

In my business, clients are far less educated on our services (and how things work in general) than they should be. I know, you're saying that's true of just about any industry, but I've noticed it far more in this one than anywhere else. And yet, that doesn't seem to be stop them from making specific demands and requests that are directly sabotaging to their project outcomes, even though I've warned them countless times.

But alas, as they say, "The customer is always right."

Except that the customer is actually wrong most of the time, but my current company's culture -- I even dare say that it's a mandate directly from the CEO -- is one of:

"Do whatever the customer wants, even if it's detrimental to their position. And even if it means somewhat giving up our integrity."

Part of the motivation is the way our pricing structure works: much like a law firm, we charge for every paperwork/documentation action that we undergo on behalf of the client. So if the present submission is imperfect, prompting a kickback from the authorities, then that requires additional work on our part ... and that requires additional funds from the customer for us to do this work.

In essence, submitting something that is almost guaranteed to come back again actually adds to our bottom lines (and, indirectly, to our individual paycheques). In all truth, 95% of the projects we handle would come back anyway, whether we did it to our most exacting standards or to the customers' ignoramus ones. But following client wishes is what turns a two-action project into a five-action ordeal. Funny thing is, even the customers are happy to pay us for every document action we process.

From the above, one would expect that most employees just keep their mouths shut and trudge along with the company culture, because everybody wins, right?

But, see, I operate differently here. I question ideas and processes, scoff at things that don't make sense, and for all this boat-rocking, I'm not so loved. In fact, I'll bet that my division in the company (where we all kind of rebel against this status quo) is somewhat frowned upon by others.

[shrug] Sooner or later, the fight in me will subside, the sparkle fade from my eyes, and I will become a drone in the machine that is this firm. But hopefully, I'll be able to save myself from this drowning before that happens.

Just For Me

A quick four-day trip to Hong Kong, and now I'm back in Taipei again. We had a wedding to attend there, and decided to extend it by a few days (using up some vacation days leftover from 2007) for some shopping and meals with friends!

Within hours of landing in HKG, we dropped our stuff off in the hotel and visited a recommended tailor in Admiralty. I walked into the little shop, was greeted by the storekeeper, and glanced across some of the fabrics on display. When he was done with the other customer, I inquired.

"Hi, how long does it take to tailor a suit?"
"Usually about four working days."
"Oh. Hmm, okay, that's too bad: I'm leaving on Sunday morning."
"Okay, we can do that!"

Wow, talk about an easy discussion. I was quite taken aback.
"Oh, uh ... really??"
"Sure, you order now, we measure you. Tomorrow, we do the first fitting. You can pick it up on Saturday."

M and I exchanged glances, she gave me her nod of approval, and I decided to go for it. At $4000HKD ($512CAD/USD), it's easily the most expensive suit I've ever purchased, but still $100CAD/USD lower than a famed tailor in Taipei.

He asked me all sorts of questions, made recommendations, gave me tons of options (most of which I had no idea how to answer and never given much thought to).

Two days later, I picked up my first tailored article of clothing ever (plus a tailored dress shirt). I'm told this is a slippery slope -- I'm told I'll never be able to go back to buying off-the-rack again -- but I don't know if my wallet can take many more of these dents.

But this suit: this suit was made just for me, and nobody else. I do like the thought of that.

A Long Time

Goodness, I haven't blogged in a while, huh.
Well, then, there we go. All fixed.

Their Own Medicine

I've always wondered, do smokers (when they're not smoking) also not like the smokey smell? Like, does it bother them as much as it does non-smokers? Or does it trigger instead the thoughts of smoking?