Fdw Dear


Culture Gap

Customer is Always Right

Managing Stress

A Tale of Two Maids

Skills Equal Power

The Customer is Always Right

Dear FDW

A manager of a fine-dining restaurant who tells his staff that "The customer is always right" would not argue with a fussy diner who complains that the dish he is served is not well-done or not up to his expectation, etc., etc. Instead he would probably offer him a replacement of the same price or even higher. He would do his best to retain the diner's patronage.

But what if the diner should make it a habit to complain about anything and everything? The restaurant manager has to choose between having a satisfied customer or making a profit. If he is interested in profits in the long run, as he should be, he will probably make the "fussy" diner feel a little less than welcome. And if the diner never returns, he might even be tempted to say "Good riddance!"

Where domestic employment is concerned, the employer is the customer and the maid the seller (a seller of her labour). Like the fussy diner some employers could be described as "fussy" or in the words of one FDW, "super kussy". Will you, as a customer, always buy from the same supermarket if you feel the price is too high or the goods are not fresh? Or will you try a different supermarket? Remember that employers are the same, too. If they think their maid's salary is too high or her performance is not up to standard

  • they may not extend the contract or
  • if they do extend the contract, they may not increase her pay, or not by much.
  • or worse, if they also feel their maid's work is not up to standard, they may even change their maid, same as you would change your supermarket.

    This is not to say that employers are always right. And, in fact, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) knows that some employers are like some fussy diners. But MOM does not call them "fussy". It feels that they lack understanding and would say to them, "Sorry Madam (or Sir as the case may be), we cannot accept your application for another work permit for a foreign maid (or FDW) because in the short space of only one year you have hired and fired or have been abandoned by four maids! But we will consider it if you will kindly attend an Orientation Seminar so that you will be better able to manage your domestic worker."

    This Orientation thing takes up so much time, the Employer will not like it. So the next time around, she will probably not be so "fussy" for she will not want to re-do the Seminar and spend another three hours sitting in the classroom, like a schoolgirl, learning how to better manage her relationship with a foreign maid.

    It is important to realise that the situation is not always a question of who is right, the employer or the maid. They may both be partly right and partly wrong. However, as the foreign domestic worker is usually the weaker party, she should ask herself: "Do I want to prove that I am right but lose my job?"

    Initially it feels good to be proven right, but after a couple of unsuccessful interviews (touch wood!) the winner might start to feel like a loser. Yes, the winner loses financially because she has to pay an agency a fee to find a new job. Worse, if she cannot find a new job in the time allowed by her employer, two to four weeks, say, she may end up going home.

    Remember, that if the maid is back her agency and waiting for a new job, her employer is still paying the foreign workers' levy. It is for this reason some employers give their maid very short notice - to minimise foreign workers levy.

    Conclusion: In a dispute, does the maid gain if she is right and her employer is wrong? Which is more important: To be right or to have a steady income?

    Are you currently having some difficulty in your situation and would like to "talk about it"? Write to us; we will reply soonest possible.

    Yours truly,

    Karl Tan,
    MOM Reg: R1105061