About eight years ago, I briefly got to know a guy who came to Thailand to start a web-based import-export business. Within twelve months he called me to say that he'd given up the business and was returning to The States. When I asked him why his venture had failed, he muttered the words I've never ever forgotten and still chuckle at to this day.
"I can't get ahead in a country where the lines of communication are held together with chicken-wire and gecko spit"
Let's call the guy Dave shall we? Well Dave if you're reading this, it may come as some comfort to know that things haven't improved a great deal.
I've been lucky enough to get hold of the step-by-step guide that my ISP call center staff use when a foreigner phones them regarding a poor internet connection. These are the actual steps written on the piece of paper that the staff keep by the phone. It reads something like this,
Dear valued call center staff member,
During your daily shift, you are sure to recieve a number of calls from foreigners concerning poor or slow internet connections. These calls needn't cause you undue stress if you follow the basic steps below.
1) Introduce yourself but make sure to say your name quickly so it's impossible to catch. This prevents the customer calling back later in the day and asking to speak to you again.
2) Always ask the customer's name. It's far more difficult for the client to throw a wobbly when you put 'Khun Micheal' at the end of every sentence. "Sorry to keep you waiting on the phone for half an hour Khun Michael" I mean who could possibly blow a gasket over that?
3) Ask the caller to go through several connectivity speedtests on-line. Have them do a speedtest for Thailand and then chuck in one from Singapore for good measure. These speed-tests have absolutely no bearing on the problem, but always look impressive.
4) Ask the caller which version of web browser they are using and also which router. Oh, and ask how many ports the router has. Again, it has nothing to do with the problem but not only does it sound impressive, it makes you sound like you really know what you're doing.
5) The next step is crucial. Ask the caller if they've installed the latest updates for their firewall and anti-virus software. This immediately gets rid of the technophobes, who will probably apologize for bothering you and collapse in a blubbering heap on the other end of the phone.
6) Buy yourself a bit of time by telling the caller you are going to update their signal. The caller will have no idea what that means. Hell, we don't even know what it means either but put the customer on hold, return to your Soduko puzzle and imagine yourself in a large room full of wires, lights and high-pitched bleeps.
7) If the caller isn't a technophobe, then by now you're probably holding the receiver six inches from your ear and listening to a torrent of abuse. Fear not - it's time to play your trump card. Yes - it's the 'broken cable at the bottom of the sea just off the coast of Taiwan' gambit. Tell the caller that tropical storms and typhoons have lashed (and 'lashed' is a good word) the coast of Taiwan and the undersea internet cable has been damaged. Ignore such comments as "what a load of bollocks" and tell the caller that right now - right at that very minute - teams of underwater divers are down deep in Davy Jones' locker with a large tube of superglue. And of course - normal service will be resumed as soon as possible and we apologize for any inconvenience caused. Wow! what about that? two bullshit throwaway corporate lines for the price of one.
Beware - If the caller has a decent memory, he or she may remember the broken cable story from before. In which case, tell the caller that the expert team of underwater divers managed to fix the problem but the cable was later knocked out of whack by a myopic blue whale. Go on - use your imagination!
8) If it's beginning to look like you're not going to shake off this customer easily, it's time for the 'package upgrade' line.
"Khun Michael sir, I notice that you have the cheapo internet package. We only really recommend this package for surfing Thailand-based sites".
Wait until the caller calms down and then recommend to Khun Michael sir that he upgrades to something more expensive. Call it 'the professional expat package'. Tell the caller that with this upgraded package, the caller can download torrent files until there's smoke coming out of the CPU. And he'll even be able to get the odd international website from time to time.