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My Complaint about Taichung Youth Hostel

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My Complaint about Taichung Youth Hostel

Postby Winston » Wed Apr 15, 2009 9:59 am

From a letter I sent to several Hostel directory websites and posted in their review section.

Dear Hostels.com,

I'm writing to voice a legitimate warning and complaint about one of your hostels, specifically the Taichung Youth Hostel in Taichung, Taiwan.

This place is a trap for getting people lost and frustrated for hours, in several ways, which I will elaborate on below. So I ask that you contact the owner to make corrections to his inaccuracies to prevent others from wasting hours of time getting lost and frustrated.

First, the hostel is much farther than a 3 minute walk from the bus stop. It's more like 7 to 10 minutes along an unpleasant fast lane road along a high brick wall below the university. At night, the hostel is not even lit up and you can't see the sign. His listing also does not tell you which direction to walk from the bus stop!

But worst of all, the guy at the reception cannot speak any English at all, and even worse than that, believe it or not, cannot even give directions IN HIS OWN LANGUAGE! (I know that sounds incredible, but I swear to God it's true)

When a friend of mine was driving me to this hostel, we couldn't find it, so we called them (from their number on their own website) about 6 times to get directions from the nearest bus stop. My friend spoke fluent Chinese and Taiwanese, yet the reception guy was unable to give any specific directions other than "I'm below the bus stop", which he repeated each time we called and could not give more specifics. It was a very frustrating experience, and I was dumbfounded by the lack of cooperation on his part. He would not specify which direction was "below" nor if we were supposed to stay on the main road or take one of the two forks in the road along the way. He did not even offer to stand outside so we could see him, or come meet us where we were at, like most hostel staff do!

When we finally found it after driving around in circles and asking many people, the lights were off and the outside metal cover was pulled down. We met another guy outside who had also spent a long time trying to find it too, so we asked him to follow us.

When I rang the bell and entered, it turned out that the reception guy had been sitting on the couch watching TV in a dirty T shirt during the whole time we were lost, as if he couldn't care less! Had he turned on the light in the lobby and gone outside to wait for us, we would have found the place much faster. But he didn't even have the common sense or courtesy to do that!

Immediately I asked him about his total inability to give simple directions, but he just avoided them. I also asked why he lied when he said he could speak English on the phone, which he denied and said he could speak English. But when I asked him why he couldn't answer any questions in English, he just gave a blank stare. In fact, he could not answer many simple questions in Taiwanese or Chinese either (I speak them both because I'm Chinese American). Honestly I have never met such an incompetent hostel staff in my life, and I've stayed in many of them. Usually they are very good with directions and offer to pick you up nearby, but not this guy. He lacked basic communication skills, common sense, and courtesy, and was very apathetic.

In the morning, he even gives you the wrong directions for taking the bus. He tells you to go across the street, where the bus goes left. You can do that but it will take a lot longer for the bus to arrive. The driver of the bus 15 route explained to me that you should be on the other side where the university and hostel are. The bus route there is a bit tricky though, cause it makes a loop, so it's not a simple case of going back the way you came.

Besides the inconvenient location and incompetent staff, the bus there is very infrequent and takes a long time to get there. From the train station area, it only comes once an hour and arrives at a street near the station, not at the station itself, which is not easy to find and not even well known. (I had to ask the bus staff to find it). Then the ride takes around 30-40 minutes to get there. And of course, takes that long to get back. So you're looking at a wasted 3 hours just for getting there and back alone! Add to that the time wasted in trying to find it, and you've got a very bad experience.

If you look on the other hostel websites about this place, you will find similar complaints, though not as detailed as mine.

Anyhow, I wish to post this as a review on your site to warn others and save them the trouble, or at least let them know what they're getting into, but it seems I am unable to because I didn't book through your site. Will you let me post it somehow anyway?

Otherwise, other travelers will end up wasting hours getting lost while trying to find this place (as in the case with the other guy on the street who was lost as well). Wouldn't you want to prevent that?

The owner of this place should be warned about this and fix the inaccuracies in his listing, but he doesn't even answer his emails, nor does he care. Thus I recommend he should be given a warning or else have his listing removed.

What do you think? If you have any questions, let me know at wwu777us@yahoo.com.

Thanks,
Winston
Owner of http://www.HappierAbroad.com

PS - I am a highly credible source with a 100 percent positive feedback rating on Ebay (user name WWu777) and many good comments from others on couchsurfing.com and hospitalityclub.org (user name WWu777 for both). And I am honest, accurate, and do not say such things unless they are true.
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Postby Winston » Wed Apr 15, 2009 11:29 am

Momopi,
I have a question for you. When people screw up in Taiwan or get horrible service or incompetent staff, do Taiwanese people complain about it? It seems they are too modest, polite and passive to complain. But if they do, how do they do it? Do they ask to speak to the manager?

If not, then how does anything get improved in Taiwan? Does bad service just get allowed to continue if no one says anything?

You said they don't like direct confrontation. But how can one complain without being direct and assertive?

I seem to be the only one doing such things in Taiwan. Sometimes, I've noticed that they will sharply deny any mistakes or wrongdoing.

One time, in an astronomy center I went to see an IMAX show. The door guy said I'd get headphones to watch the show in English. When the show started, he told me to "go upstairs" to get it then looked away as if that was all there was to it. I thought he was referring to the stairs leading up to the IMAX theater behind him. I went up it and sat down, but no one brought me any headphones. The show started and I was a bit annoyed. Looking up though, I wondered if he meant the stairs inside the theater. I looked at the top inside but only saw a big projector and some equipment next to it. I didn't see any person up there.

After the show, I came out and complained to the door guy. It turned out that I was supposed to go up the stairs within the theater to the very top where the projector was. Behind it was a guy who would have given me the headphones. I told him he should have been more specific rather than "just go upstairs", but he kept saying "Of course you have to go to the top inside where the projector guy is to get the headphones. No one is going to give it to you if you just sit down!" (in Taiwanese of course). I kept clarifying to him in Taiwanese "Yeah you're saying that NOW! But BEFORE you told me to just go up and sit down! Plus I looked up and didn't see any guy up there."

We went around this in circles for a while. Then the guy running the projector came out and listened to both of us and was more tact about it. He apologized to me that the doorman wasn't more clear. And urged me to come back again. I told him that I just wanted to let him know of the mistake so he doesn't repeat it again in the future. (but of course I wanted to shame and embarrass him too for this misunderstanding since obviously his communication skills sucked)

I don't think the astronomy center is very popular in Taiwan and only a few people like me are into it, so they probably hire a lot of staff who are not very bright to just sit there and do easy jobs like collecting tickets.

It also seems that they do not like admitting to any mistake, at least not directly. But hey, someone ought to point out errors as a quality control check, shouldn't they?

Momopi, how have you handled situations like that?

I also notice that when people give directions in Taiwan, they can be similar to the PI in that they just point to a direction and say "there" rather than describe specific turns and steps. That's odd, cause TW is an efficient country, but I guess many people are not very articulate or skilled in communication, perhaps because their nature is more reserved and indirect, rather than assertive? That would be my guess.
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near fight with a security guard in Taiwan

Postby Winston » Wed Apr 15, 2009 4:08 pm

Momopi,
By the way, one more interesting incident to tell you about.

Back in 2004 when I was in Taiwan, I walked into the building of the Fo Guang Sang Buddhist organization in Chiayi, to drop off something to one of the managing nuns there that I promised to bring it to.

This security guard there said I couldn't go up there. I explained to him that the nun was waiting for me and that I had called her earlier. I could have just left it at the front desk but I wanted to deliver it to her in person. I told him to call her so she could confirm that I was allowed up there.

During all this, somehow the security guard became condescending toward me and spoke in a rude voice. I wasn't in a good mood at the time, and therefore not in the mood to take that kind of shit, as I can have a short fuse too. So I told him he was acting out of line, and used the same tone back at him, since I am usually a "mirror" and give back what I get.

That made it worse. He got even angrier. So I scolded him back in a melodramatic voice using English, to sort of slight him by showing how much more educated and sophisticated I was.

We both lost our tempers and it escalated to the point where he raised his hand to strike me and yelled in Taiwanese "YOU WANT ME TO HIT YOU?!"

Feeling a fight or flight panic, I immediately got into a Tae Kwon Do fighting stance with my guard raised, legs in a horse stance position, and body turned to the side. I was ready to fight or defend myself if necessary.

As we both stood there, neither of us wanting to strike first, one of the nuns was nearby and stood watching with an embarassed smile. She didn't even try to intercede for some reason. This was supposed to be a Buddhist organization too!

Anyway, eventually the situation was diffused and I just left the package at the counter for the nun.

I should have informed one of the managers of that building about how that security guard threatened to hit me. But I never did. Should I have?

Is it common for Taiwanese guys to threaten to hit someone they are in a shouting match with?
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Postby momopi » Sun Apr 19, 2009 4:43 pm

As I've stated before, Taiwanese people have low tolerance to being annoyed.

Think of it as a bee's nest. When you annoy the bees, a few will come out and tell you to buzz off. If you insist on shaking the nest, you'd get a nest full coming after you.

You might think that you're in the right, but others will only see you shake a bee's nest. Facts, logic, and reason doesn't really matter to bees. You annoy them and they sting you, it's that simple.

====================

This is a generalization/stereotype: Southern Taiwanese are more emotionally charged vs. Northern WSR/Mainlander types are more logical, but both have short fuses with being annoyed. To cite a comparison, when Frank Hsish was Mayor of Kaohsiung, he spent a lot of money to beautify certain areas with ponds, wood boardwalks, bicycle paths, park side cafe's, beautiful lights, etc. with little regard of its long-term sustainability. It was more important to create "good feeling" for the city's residents to enjoy nice colorful lights and bike paths at night along Love River. There are many good outdoor places to take a date to at night in Kaohsiung.

In the opposite extreme, you have Ma Yin-Jou who spent lots of money when he was Mayor of Taipei on improving basic infrastructure like the sewer system. People don't really "see" or "feel" sewer system improvements, but he doesn't care since he felt that it's his job to improve city's basic infrastructure, and things like pretty lights is not where the government should blow tax payer's money on. But as the consequence, there are far fewer open space parks and night time live band / cafe park/water front areas in TPE. Except Danshui, the only thing to do at night in TPE is night market.
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Postby Winston » Mon Apr 20, 2009 12:15 pm

I got a few responses from hostel associations, including the Chinese Youth Hostel Association, saying that they would look into the matter and discuss it with the owner. So I guess they do care.

Momopi, what do people usually do about incompetence or bad service in Taiwan? Don't they usually complain to the authorities? Or are they too shy?

Well fair is fair, if they annoy me first, I should be able to annoy them too, right? lol

Some of them have a big ego though.

What's your take on the three situations above?
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Postby momopi » Tue Apr 21, 2009 2:50 am

WWu777 wrote:Momopi, what do people usually do about incompetence or bad service in Taiwan? Don't they usually complain to the authorities? Or are they too shy?


Like everywhere else, few people complain and most simply take their business elsewhere.

It's not an issue of being shy, but complaints about customer service had rarely been effective in the past. In my mother's generation, when the boss asks the female staff to "smile more" to customers, the female staff would refuse and state that they're not working as prostitutes. Very different mentality from customer service expectations today.
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