Customer Service standard in Singapore Part 1

Lately there’s been much talk about the service standard, or more precisely, the poor level of service standard in Singapore.

A friend related this incident which pretty sums up what ails the service industry.

Having finished his meal at Delifrance, he was asked if he’d like to eat some more.

In jest my friend asked, “Is it on the house?”

The waiter replied enthusiastically, “Yes.”

When my friend checked the bill later, he was surprised to see the extra charge for “on the house” items.

He queried the waiter, “I thought you said these items were on the house? Do you understand the meaning of ‘on the house’?”

The waiter replied, “”Yes, it means they’re available.”


Clearly much of what is wrong with the service industry is the lack of proficiency in English.

That’s why customers are often greeted with blank stares, uncommunicative service staff and use of sign language in Singapore.

Everywhere, in fact.


8 Responses to “Customer Service standard in Singapore Part 1”

  1. Pardon me for saying this, but your friend was just being greedy. As it’s not a buffet, it can’t have been on the house. Even if your friend had thought so, he should have asked again, to clarify, be4 eating..

    • He said it in jest, and the next moment the waiter brought him the food!It’s downright funny but it goes to prove that service staff needs to be competent in English. Anyway, my friend paid for it even though it was a “Yes, it’s on the house’. LOL

  2. What really happened:

    After deciding on a meal and before paying, I was asked if I wanted a soup and drink. when I asked if it was on the house, the reply was positive. So I agreed. To my horror I was charged an extra $3.50 for it. I refused the extras.

    When I asked the gentleman in charge if he knew what “on the house” meant, he again replied in the positive.


    1) He didn’t understand the phrase and
    2) pretended he did.
    3) He could have asked what the expression meant.
    4) Not only poor English, a liar too!

  3. Haha, sir. HE should have understood that there is no such thing as a FREE lunch.” Haha, poor command of English or not, it’s secondary. If it’s indeed a free lunch, there’ll be a queue long enough to queue from RWS, Sentosa to Causeway, JB. =D

  4. From the customer mentality, what was offered is not a “free lunch” but rather a “promotion”. Perhaps unknowingly, Andy ordered something on promotion (with free soup and drink) or which comes in a set.

    Maybe Andy should have replied in typical Singaporean slang – “free issit?” LOL

  5. Part I:
    We should all do it next time, “Free izzit?” From Icemoon. And like Ezzy remarked that if it’s free everyone would’ve known it.

    Learnt a lesson. Speak Singlish and never ask if any part of a meal is free. Thanks Icemoon and Ezzy.

    Part II:
    After nearly 30 minutes my request for baked fish and rice never came. And the little receipt I had in my hand had an order for “curry and rice”. So, back to the counter and when I asked about my food, the same gentleman replied that it will be ready soon!

    1) English comprehension, questionable.
    2) Service, questionable.
    3) And like Mr Poh says, “blank stares… sign language”
    4) And an old song from Ray Charles, “WHAT’D YOU SAY?”

  6. I think even Chinese comprehension is questionable nowadays. I asked for Kway Chap just now. The lady delivered a plate of duck rice. No prize for guessing where the lady hails from.

    Must I say Guo Zhi next time? Please do not deliver fruit juice to me!

    • Haha. You’re right. Having been to China several times I realise they speak Mandarin differently. Hence the inability to understand us. I’ve since learned to repeat my requests or orders

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