OpinYon #19-20 Jan 3, 2011.




                                 CONSUMER CHRISTMAS WOES

Last Christmas, I stayed home most of the time. Or at least I kept to my neighborhood in Quezon City.

 Already separated from the old office, there were none of the usual parties to go to. And except for catching up with former colleagues over our favorite brew, cappuccino for me and Lite beer for Joey, there was no excuse to cut and hack my way through horrendous holiday traffic.

Meralco’s very public brag about doubling their income for the ending year did not go unnoticed. A 70% spike in earnings is grand news for investors but bad news for captive customers who must cough up hard-earned money to support unearned profits. But I had promised to leave my favorite utility some space this Christmas, thus the item was simply filed for future reference – the very near future.

An item on the backdoor listing of the privatized national transmission grid concession, and the operation of the electricity spot market in the Visayas-Mindanao area, both portents of more price distortions in electricity, were similarly filed. Power industry reform, while long overdue, would have to be put on hold, in the meantime.

Almost robbed by Robinson’s. Keeping such a low or no profile, however, is no guarantee of a hassle-free Christmas. My neighbor on this page, Mentong Laurel, talked about “F_ _ _ing parking fees” in his last column (OpinYon, Dec. 20-26, 2010). I fully agree with Mentong, especially after I had a near run-in with a Robinson’s Galeria parking guard.

It is bad enough that the mall owners have jacked up the parking fees without their making any new investments, as Ka Mentong complained, but there is hardly any equivalent service for the fees they charge, except for the space itself.

Already late for a meeting at the Crowne hotel beside Robinson’s Galeria at Ortigas Center, I was on the prowl for an open parking slot; rare on a normal day, impossible during holidays. The EDSA entrance to Robinson’s multi-level parking basement was open, and I picked the grocery side to hunt for a slot. Going through the warren of narrow lanes, I met several guards in bicycles whom I accosted for assistance or guidance to where I could park. No one had any idea where an open slot could be.

After about 15 minutes, I finally gave the hunt up and struggled my way to the exit. I told the parking maid that there was no more space and I was going out to look for a spot somewhere else. She was going to charge me P40.00 for parking, actually an insult after what I just went through.

I protested vehemently as I was unable to park, and in fact wasted my time looking for space that was not available. So I told her that what they should do is close the entry gate at the other end, until new space becomes available. Otherwise, they are in effect selling parking space that they do not have, and they should in fact compensate customers like us who were led into thinking we could park when in fact we could not.

Implicit in that service, however, is the monitoring and matching of car entries to the available parking slots. If Robinson’s does not even undertake this, what kind of service are customers paying for? Shouldn’t the government make this mandatory on the part of parking lot operators, to allow entry only to those that they can accommodate?

Actually, a week later I parked at the open lot beside Gloria Maris in Greenhills, and I had to wait in line as they would not allow vehicles in excess of their capacity. I waited but when I was let in I had the space to park.

In other words, Greenhills ‘sells’ only what it can provide, unlike Robinson’s.

There really ought to be a law on this one.

Unanswered Calls to CebPac. A feast in Manila is not complete without the lechon from Cebu. Friends from there sent a lechon via Cebu Pacific on Christmas eve. While I had the shipping details, I needed to verify the location of the airline’s cargo office and the specific flight. We had to plan the pick-up, considering holiday traffic.

Letting my fingers do the walking, I called a listed number -  8515956. A recording greeted me with the message that I should call 8027000 instead.

First time I dialed that number, I took the cue literally and stayed on line, waiting for someone to come to my assistance. None came.

I dialed the number again, and this time dialed ‘0’ as suggested by the recorded prompt. No one came on the line, either.

I alternated between waiting and dialing ‘0’, using 8027000, and got neither sigh nor whisper, as the phone went dead after the mandatory number of unanswered rings. At some point, I gave up the ghost on Cebu Pacific.

Ironically, every time I called, this recorded message would come on: “Its time everyone flies Cebu Pacific.”

Isn’t it time Cebu Pacific answers the phone, first?!!!!!

By the time this column hits the stands, Christmas presents would have been opened and the New Year already rang in. I hope you got the present you asked for. And I pray your New Year revelry was safe and harmless.

Together with the over 70% of Filipinos who have high hopes for 2011, I hope for independent regulators, enlightened investors and a caring Congress, so that consumers will have at least a chance at a better and fairer deal next year.

Here’s wishing one and all the best of a better year!


Email crsng_47@hotmail.com for comments, suggestions and concerns.



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