Monday, April 13, 2009

The Annoying Pinoy Habit of Using Salutation with Firstname

I went to Cebu Pacific's website to buy a couple of round trip tickets for the folks to Boracay this June.  Their reservation site was quite slow this morning -- probably lots of users trying to make online bookings.  After a couple of unsuccessful searches due to timeouts, I finally got through all the way to the payment page.  But after entering my credit card details and clicking the continue button, it timed out again.  I didn't want to re-do the transaction for fear that it will get doubl-posted.  So I decided to call their call center trunkline.

It took quite some time to get somebody on the phone.  Had to do a bit of navigation through their IVRS first.  Waited on the line for what seemed like 10 mins, then an operator answered the call.  I explained to him what happened and he proceeded to ask me questions regarding my booking.

The operator was obviously gay from his voice.  I heard that call centers have a disproportionately large number of gay operators because they supposedly have more patience and maybe can perform better under stress.  So much for the Odd Man Theory.

But any way, I digress.  For the record, I have nothing against gay operators.  But in this particular case, he was really getting into my nerves due to a mannerism he had (and his very strong probinsiyano accent).  He kept referring to me as "Mr. Robert".  In fact, he would end almost every other sentence with "Mr. Robert".

I really don't understand why Filipinos have this penchant for using the salutation "Mr." with the first name of a person.  Nowhere else outside the Philippines have I heard people use "Mr." with the firstname.  Its just not right.  You can call me "Mr. Chiang" or just "Robert" (or even "Sir Robert" if you want to show a certain level of politeness).  But calling me "Mr. Robert" is just downright wierd.  "Mr." has to go with the lastname of a person.

Everytime I hear somebody does this "Mr. firstname", I would cringe.  I would remember always this entertainment guy (was it Chino Trinidad?) interviewing George Clooney for his latest movie, and he kept calling him "Mr. George" on the tv show.  I wonder if George Clooney found it strange as well.  I think the only acceptable salutation that can be mixed with the firstname is "Dr." -- as in "Dr. Phil".

Aside from this "Mr. firstname" thing, I have to admit that the guy was polite and that he accurately answered my inquiries.  It seems that my transaction went through after all on the payment side, but it did not generate the necessary email itenerary probably because of the timeout.

Interestingly enough, about an hour after this incident, I got a call on my mobile phone from an "(no number)".  At first, I thought maybe Cols or the folks were trying to call me from South Korea.  But a very heavily accented lady was on the line.  She sounded like she was calling from an Indian call center.  I had to ask her to repeat what she was saying a few times before I figured out that she was calling in behalf of Standard Chartered (my card issuer) to confirm that I really made an online transaction using my card!  So I guess with all the airline online fraud happening, they are very wary of these things too.

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