Thursday, July 31, 2008

When lady boomers go out

Learning & Innovation

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM


When lady boomers go out


Yes, there is now a big baby boomer market out there.  Let me give our budding entrepreneurs a glimpse into the products and services that appeal to lady boomers and that turn us off.


It was day out with the girls on different days.  The previous week, it was with BFF Gigie Peñalosa and Edith Cabalu straight to Shangri-la Plaza cinema to watch Mama Mia.  After suffering through seemingly interminable TV ad on practically all channels—to the point that I turn off the TV when the commercial went on—I've lost the appetite to watch the movie.  But my two friends prevailed and I wasn't disappointed.  In fact, you should watch it for sheer entertainment.  Meryl Streep might just get the nod of Oscar members for Best Actress plum.  It was a bit awkward, though, to watch James Bond cooing and crooning.  Uncharacteristically demure.  Over-all, it was well acted, well-sang and well-danced by all the actors in it.  I am raring to see the stage version—next year.


Then, it was some pampering time at Shangri-la Mall's Chi Spa as a birthday treat from Gigie.  I was sore all over for a week after so I better not discuss this.


And that made us so hungry, we drove to Podium for some dinner and just deserts.  The Hainanese Chicken at Banana Leaf left much to be desired and just made me long for the original recipe of Boontong Kee in Singapore and also the yummy version of Dusit Coffee Shop and the recipe of Nora Daza which I have clipped from her column a long  time ago and which I continue to cook to this day to the delight of whoever shares my dining table.


The fiorgelato of Pagliacci on the fifth floor more than compensated for an uneventful dinner.


It was Gateway Mall last Saturdayi for a bonding session with my Rotary classmate Susan Valencia.  We missed Berna Ronduen and Elvie Obaña.  We first enjoyed Greek Salad, sandwich and beverages at Figaro.  I like their Greek Salad—the ingredients are complete like the Greeks would make it and the portion is just right plus their dressing is super.  Then we tried the Globe Platinum Cinema on the fifth floor.  At Php350, you get to watch the movie very comfortably in a La-Z-Boy recliner; it was like watching a movie at home.  They have a well-furnished and cozy waiting room at the foyer and you get all you can eat popcorn and all you can drink soda.  Wow!


The theater could only accommodate 50 with a coffee table between the seats.  If all movie houses are built this way and offer such amenities, I am sure more people will watch movies on the big screen rather than buy those DVD copies in Greenhills, Metrowalk and BF Ruins.


If you need movie that will stimulate your mental abilities, watch The Dark Knight.  Focus on the Joker, not on Batman.  I will not be surprised if the late Heath Ledger gets the nod of the Oscars judges for his superb acting here.


While waiting for our appointed viewing time, we walked around Gateway and there was this spa that has the sign "foot spa starting at Php49" written in big bold letters on its wall.  We inquired about it and to our disappointment, their actual price list starts at Php250.  The receptionist did not answer my question about the Php49.  Untruth in advertising?


Today, we will bring our balikbayan sorority sis Raquel Jacobo and hubby Jake to the Urban Spa, 5/F Shangrila Plaza Mall. Will tell you about our experience next column.


As a reaction to our column last Saturday, I received this email from the PRO of Araneta Center, Ma. Robelle Baldoza:  I have called the attention of the local store (Fairmart) supervisor, Circe Undras, to clarify the matter. According to her, they have reinforced security measures due to increased reports of shoplifting within the premises and due to the outlet's lack of a package counter, hence they have implemented a policy to check the belongings of everyone, including their employees, who exits the outlet's premises. She has assured me that they are going to take appropriate actions regarding this matter. Our Farmers Plaza property manager as well as our Operations team will also coordinate with the outlet's management to ensure that no such incident will ever happen again. and

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Everybody is a suspect at Fairmart?

Learning & Innovation – July 26, 2008

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM


Everybody is a suspect at Fairmart?


Some things need to change.  I got off the MRT in Cubao and walked towards LRT2 to get to Sta. Mesa.  I had to traverse Farmers Market, the side of Araneta Coliseum and Gateway Mall.  As a curiosity, I entered Fairmart and walked through one straight lane from one entrance to the exit.  When I exited, the guard rudely stopped me, grabbed my handbag, asked me to open it and checked its contents very meticulously.  I asked, "Why are you doing that?"  I yanked my bag out of his dirty (really dirty, you should have seen his fingernails) hands.  He simply shrugged and said, "Company policy."


I felt humiliated, insulted and violated.  The past eight months, I've gone in and out of shops, big and small, around Macau, Singapore, Taipei, South Africa, the USA, Canada, Boracay, Cebu, Divisoria, Greenhills, Glorietta, Shangri-la Plaza, Tiendesitas, SM and Trinoma.  None of them ever harassed me by searching my purse on my way out.  I understand and willingly subject my bag to a search when I am entering a building or a shop.  But at exit point?


One time at Ross in California, the alarm sounded as my friend and I were leaving the store.  Immediately, a guard was there beside us, asked us to step aside and give him our shopping bags.  He passed them three times through the door anti-theft contraption that continued to sound the alarm.  He very politely asked us to follow him to a nearby table and asked us to open our bags.  He went through the contents with a stick, didn't see anything anomalous and apologized profusely for the inconvenience.  As we were going out, the alarm again sounded, we looked at him and he was just smiling.  And we just shrugged our shoulders.  Take note, that he never asked to look into our personal purses.


What's with Fairmart?   I didn't know if they also checked the very few shoppers who entered their store.  I never looked back and I will never go there again. 


In his book, BLINK, this is what Malcolm Gladwell call "thin-slicing or the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience."  Gladwell asks, "How is it possible to gather the necessary information for a sophisticated judgment in such a short time?


But that guard at Fairmart was not even thinking.  I saw him as I entered the store which was not far from where he was.  He was talking animatedly with a woman who didn't look like an employee.  He never once took his eyes off her even when he accosted me.  He never looked at me even for a second.


Even Gladwell could not, maybe, explain that.  Some company policy and a subservient security guard—a fatal combination for business.


Gladwell wrote about Amadou Diallo who lived in the Soundview neighborhood of the South Bronx, New York City.  Diallo, 22, was from Guinea and sold videotapes, socks and gloves from the sidewalk.  He was short, unassuming and had a stutter.


On the night of February 3, 1999, Diallo was downstairs standing at the top of the steps of his apartment building and taking in the night.  A group of plainclothes police officers (Ken Boss, Sean Carroll, Edward McMellom and Richard Murphy) in an unmarked car saw him and asked, "Can we have a word?"


Diallo paused and ran into the vestibule.  The policemen gave chase and told him to, "Get your hands out of your pockets."    Diallo started to remove a black object from his right side.  And Carool yelled out, "Gun!  He's got a gun!"


All four policemen fired a total of 25 shots at Diallo.  Then there was silence.  Guns drawn, the policemen climbed the stairs and approached Diallo.  Boss said, "Where was the fucking gun?"  Where there should have been a gun, there was a wallet.  Carroll sat down on the steps, next to Diallo's bullet-ridden body, and started to cry.  Boss was so distraught, he could not speak.


That Fairmart guard fired his gun at me, so to speak, without thinking and killed the prospect of me becoming a customer of Fairmart.,

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I miss My Cebu

Learning & Innovation – July 19, 2008

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM


I miss my Cebu


I have mixed emotions about the revolutionary changes that Cebu has been continuously undergoing in the past ten years.  I miss the Cebu of ten years ago.


The Cebu I know is green, with lots of open spaces.  The houses were mostly vintage and regal.  There are not that many people and cars.  Cebuanos and guests move like they are "walking under the moon" even in busy streets like Mango, Gorordo and Carbon.  I remember that I would be chatting with my friends while we stroll around Fuente Osmena.  Soon, I continue walking and talking only to realize that my friends are now one block behind me.  They complain that I walk too fast for them.  They laugh that I seem to be always racing or running after something.  I remember the jokes and stories that surround Hongkera Street.  I remember going to Carbon Market to buy those pasalubongs at prices much lower that those in the grocery stores.  There were no malls then, definitely no SM.


I remember commuting to Talisay to buy danggit and other dry seafoods.  I have fond memories of having lunch in Tangke—those restaurants that stand on the stony shores of Talisay.  The children are waiting in the waters for the few coins that you throw and they dive for.  I remember driving to Minlanilia for whatever reason.  Of course, the ihaw-ihaw stalls around Fuente Osmena, the seafood restaurants in Maragondon, the Cebu lechon in Lapu-lapu City, the guitar stores in Mactan, the corn fields and cooked corn and fruit stands near Montebello Hotel.  There were also Carlo's Bachoy, the blue-and-white porcelain factory and 7D mango products factory in Mandaue.   The meaty chicharon and R&M dried mangoes in Guadalupe.


Most of all, I miss Magellan Hotel where room 326 was permanently reserved for me.  I used to be in Cebu two weeks in a month facilitating organization development interventions and training workshops for the employees of Philippine Airlines.  My team (Marivic Vergel-Roldan and Cecile Macatangay-Munoz) and I designed this program we dubbed Pal Professional Program, part 1, for all employees of PAL at all levels and functions consisting of six short courses on  professionalism and work attitude, personality development, teamwork and productivity, written business communication, presentation skills and interpersonal communication.  Plus the part 2 and other programs One of our internal clients was the Cebu Station, particularly Maintenance & Engineering and Communications Departments.  So the three of us alternately came to Cebu to handle the workshops.


When Magellan knew that I was coming, they would put lots of plants inside my room and one of the waiters in the coffee shop would prepare his own herbal tea for me.  The owners and the whole Magellan staff really took care of me.  The only thing I could not do is to bring fresh durian inside the hotel.  My participants from Davao used to bring me real sweet durians and I could only eat them in the guardhouse of the hotel.     


The Cebu now is fast modernizing with new high rise buildings sprouting here, there and everywhere.  There are many new hotels all around.  Restaurants offering different international cuisines—Korean, Japanese, Italian, German—you name it, they have it.  Where Magellan and the golf club used to be are now the Ayala Mall and other office buildings.   Cebu has definitely progressed in leaps and bounds.  With it comes monstrous traffic even in side streets and, I was warned, lots of street crimes.  I think, nobody anticipated this revolutionary changes and so are not prepared for it.  Except for a few flyovers, there is not much changes in the old road structures.


Savoring callos, steak and red wine with my friend Lito Pascual at the Casino Español is a wonderful treat.  Also, where I am staying now, there is internet connectivity.  But I hate the air freshener they so lavishly spray inside the rooms and all over the hotel.  On my first night here, my room really reeked and I couldn't sleep.  I had to open the windows and ordered an electric fan and charcoals to remove some of the offensive odor.  Now I understand how those who work in that luscious soap store must be enduring everyday they work there.  And the prices of their food in their not-so-impressive coffee shop are not proportionate to the taste.  Their hot choco is the consistency of tea where you have used the teabag for the 5th time.  I will not come back to this hotel.   But I will definitely come back again and again to Cebu., 




Thursday, July 10, 2008

Eat and run

Learning & Innovation – July 11, 2008

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM


Eat and run


"We have only about 50 seats in the ground floor dining area and 120 upstairs, but we  gross an average of Php70,000 per day.  We used to do a minimum of Php110,000 before the Quezon City government started digging the street fronting our restaurant.   Our customers come here to eat and enjoy our authentic Chinese food."  Clem Jalijali beams with pride as he oversees the operations of Shaolin Tea House at #21 Timog Avenue, South Triangle, QC.  They are open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 3-4a.m.


After all those American foods in northern Americas, the beef tenderloin, steamed fish, siomai, chicken feet  and yang chow tasted so yummy.  Clem said they cook all their foods from scratch daily.  They don't serve "pangat" (pangatlong init or reheated food).  At about one in the morning, they put all unsold food on sale, buy 1, take 1.   They do not mass produce, so they continuously gather statistics as to what foods are their customers' favorites and they focus on those.  Every morning, they do their marketing at Aranque, Divisoria, Balintawak and Farmers markets and also at Puregold.  They also have regular suppliers of seafood and meat from Subic.


Every two months, they come up with a new set of dishes based on their customer statistics and demographics. They cater to the BCD market of all orientations.  On weekends, they have families and on a daily basis, individuals and groups who come for quick lunch, dinner or merienda.  They also have customers celebrating weddings, baptism and other special family milestones.  They now provide catering services for company parties and other activities.  They deliver within the South Triangle area.


They have not even done any marketing and promotion activities yet.  Their customers are mostly walk-ins, friends, and those who come because of word-of-mouth endorsements of satisfied customers.


"I am still learning a lot," Clem declares.  This is his first foray in the food business having been in the container business all his life because of his family-owned Megapack Container Corporation.  "My friends and I decided to go into this business initially to have a tambayan place and to serve the food needs of our employees in Valenzuela."


"One of the challenges, therefore, is managing an unfamiliar territory.  What we do is we, together with other friends and family, eat here every so often.  Then, once a week, we meet and critique everything about the restaurant.  Then we refine our plans and operations.  I am the only one involved in actual management.  No relatives are allowed to work here.  All our employees are professionals from Chef Ricky Bagat to our cashiers Mely Garcia and Ruby Tiamzon to our kitchen and dining crew.   They work in 2 shifts. During summer, though, the children of the owners work here in various capacities just to keep them busy.


"Another big challenge is pricing.  We have not increased our prices since we started in April 2007.  We are always finding ways to streamline and improve our operations without sacrificing the quality of our food and service.  The food business is price sensitive; we can't simply jack up our prices.


"The other challenges involve control—at the kitchen, marketing and cashiering.  I want to be in command without depriving our people their opportunity for innovation and decision-making.  So I consider them as partners.  Our lines of communication are always open since I am not also here every day."


I thumbed through their menu and they have all my favorite Chinese comfort food—dimsum and short orders—and more.  Their best sellers are beancurd roll, siolongpao, kuchay dumpling, tausi spare ribs, steamed fish, crab with sotanghon, crab with Thai sauce and steamed shrimp with garlic.  ahmmmmmm  I also walked around their dining and kitchen area and they're okay.  Clem said that they have pest control at least once a week since those creepy crawly creatures are easily attracted to any kind of foods.  Interestingly, their entire kitchen is visible from the outside through glass walls. 


Their mango pudding is fantastic.;

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A world of difference

Learning & Innovation

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM


A world of difference


There are several highlights in my recent trip to the USA and Canada.  One is a visit to the Banff National Park and Lake Louise to view the spectacularly beautiful Canadian Rockies with my KGO Sorority Sis Florence Zablan-Josue and her hubby Oyie.  Calgary, Alberta, itself is beautiful, neat and clean.   That is why the family of my other sorority sisters Helen and Carolina have never budged from since they arrived there some 30 years ago.


Not to mention that Canadians are lovable.  In Toronto, Montreal and Calgary, I have experienced their respectful, friendly and helpful nature.  They greet you and smile at you and offer help to carry your package.  They are gregarious, but not in a noisy way.  At the airports in the USA and Canada there are marked difference between American, Canadians and Filipinos.


Of course, the Filipino (whether tourists or residents) passengers are the ones using boxes, instead of the usual traveling bags, and with three or more handcarried baggage, including big stuffed toys (from Circus Circus or Excalibur maybe).  They carry on with their noisy chatter in Filipino.  They have long, dramatic welcomes or goodbyes with their well wishers.  They carry their young ones in their arms or hold them tightly by the hand.  The young Filipino travelers are generally well-behaved (or maybe just anxious).  Inside the airplane they make a mess of the lavatory and carry on with their loud conversations.


The Americans would sit anywhere in the airport even on the floor whereever they feel comfortable, use their computer or celphone or read a book.  They talk in loud voices.  They have their children in strollers or in leash.  Their youngsters are generally physically active and the parents are all the time calling for them.  They have one handcarry.   They continue their conversations in the airplane, but in more quiet fashion.  Their children seem to enjoy the flight and are quiet.  They keep the lavatory clean.


The Canadians, young and old, are well-behaved and quiet.  They sit as if they are in some principal's office.  When you make eye contact, they greet you with a big smile.  They carry just purse or a laptop bag or a duty-free bag.  They seem not to talk or maybe they are asleep while in flight.  They keep the lavatory clean.


Another highlight of my trip was watching The Price is Right at the CBS Studios in Los Angeles.  My BFF Gina Camacho was able to secure tickets (from the Internet) for the  June 25 (showing on July 9).  We were asked to be at the studio by 12 noon for the 4 o'clock taping.  There were so many security and administrative procedures.  They require your government-issued ID to enter the studio.  Then, you present your ticket and they mark it with a number.  You are asked to keep yourself comfortable in a waiting area where you can buy food and drinks.  It was covered and clean with snug benches.  There were clean restrooms all over the studio, complete with tissue paper and toilet bowl liner.


After what seemed to be a long while, we were seated according to our arrival number.  Then we were given a number and a simple form to fill up (name and SSS number or country).   Some drop-in guests were not accommodated because of limited seats inside the studio.  Another person collected the form and gave us our name tags after checking our ID again.  Another person came to take our individual picture.  We were asked to attach the nametag on the left breast of our clothes.   Then we were led to another seating area where we were interviewed by groups of twelve to determine our capability to be a contestant (Where are you from? What do you do?).  It was some kind of psychological assessment.  Then we were led to the entrance to the studio, again we were seated according to our number after a more rigorous security check where we passed through a security door, our bags were very thoroughly checked, asked to leave our celphone and camera. 


At about four in the afternoon, we were guided to the studio where ushers led us to our seat.  No jostling, no hustling, you wait your turn.  Then the "Come on down" guy enthusiastically prepped us by giving some rules of conduct for contestants and audience and by practicing our clapping, cheering, standing and shrieking at appropriate times.


Then the taping began (one hour for a 30-minute actual show).  Drew Carey is a very engaging, lovable host.  When he is not taping, he talked to the audience and regaled us with his witticism.  The production management, staff ,crew and security officers were all very nice, cheerful and respectful of the audience and of each other from the time we arrived to the time we left.  It was a truly unique and enjoyable experience.


I have watched some local shows in the studio (and I had VIP pass) and I won't comment.  I wish they watch The Price is Right and learn valuable lessons on guest relations, respect for the dignity of the individual and humility.;