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Rudeness of Bali businesses

Rudeness of Bali businesses

Rudeness of Bali businesses

Anyone else out there in Bali sometimes get offended at the rudeness of Bali businesses? Offended by waiting in queues while a group of staff chat behind the counter, ignoring the growing lines?

Do you have your own story of the rudeness of Bali business or want to say something about this article? Scroll to the bottom of this page and leave your comment.

One of the things that people like about Bali is the timelessness, of not having to be concerned about time in the way Westerners do (and hate also). The other part of this though, is what this does to the psyche of the locals, of having their time totally devalued.

While Bali is famous for its politeness, and the attentiveness of staff and their willingness to really go out of their way to help, there are some businesses where the opposite is true.

I find it amazing in Bali how badly businesses treat their customer and how rude and, yes, insulting, their attitudes are.

This is not simply talking about myself as a bule (foreigner) but from observing the locals too being insulted in this way, and how this can really undermine their lives, keep them defeated and helpless in terms of making a better life for themselves.

Indomaret in Bali

Sometimes in Bali I go to an Indomaret, in my opinion the worst offender out that kind of business, and see a long queue of people lining up, often mothers with kids, while behind the counter there are four or five staff just taking to each other or chatting on their phones.

Hello! They simply do not care that they are wasting so many people’s time, and of course the locals are too polite to complain about endless unnecessary waiting.

The Indomaret near my home wins the award for the slowest service in the Indonesia. To go in there even to buy a bottle of water can take 10 minutes even if you are the only person in the shop.

Lately I have started teasing them about coming back in ten minutes to pay for my drink, but that goes over their heads. Maybe one day I will make up a phoney award for the slowest business in Indonesia to present to them.

Circle K are much better, and Alphamart is usually better though there too is this occasional disdain for customers.


Individuals who sell their services can also be arrogant and disdainful of their customers. Whenever something goes wrong with this website, my web guy has a default position that it is something I did, some plug-in that I added, or some update, when we previously agreed that he alone would handle those things.

Even getting him to the table to discuss how to fix is almost impossible. This, of course is not unique to web people who think they are smarter than everyone else cause they know a few lines of code.

The guy who is handling, supposedly, the IMB certificate for a house I bought the lease of, has now taken over two years to do his job. This is 18 months after he said ‘next week’.

The real corruption in Indonesia

Maybe this is the real corruption that is facing Indonesia, the thing that eats away at this nation’s self belief more than the under-the-table corruption so rife.

Maybe this is what makes things ‘too hard’ in Indonesia. Most people do their job, but some businesses seem to deliberately waste people’s time.

BNI bank in Bali

The other business that gets me going is the bank. In particular the BNI bank where I have an account.

There are three teller counters at the branch I go to on Jalan Sunset, and often they are all closed while there are maybe 20 local people waiting, on their lunchbreak. The tellers are there, possibly doing some admin work, totally ignoring the customers that pay their salaries who are patiently waiting for some action.

One day when everyone had been sitting there for 15 minutes while the tellers did some other stuff, I clapped out loud when one of the tellers finally stood up and summoned a customer. Sure everyone was embarrassed, except, unfortunately, the teller.

Or maybe it is lunch-time when of course customers come to the bank and there is one teller working and who is flat out trying to serve all the customers while the others are having their lunch.

If I want to deposit cash I have to have my passbook with me. Why?

Occasionally I go in there and they want to see my passport. They have a copy of my passport on file from when I opened my account, but no, they cannot use that to verify my ID. Hello??

Clearly this is a management issue where staff are told to clear their desks prior to serving customers, but this is disdainful of those who provide the bank with their ‘bread and butter’, their base income.

Ever been in a bank and the phone rings? And rings. And rings, until finally it stops, only to start ringing again as the caller tries again. With nobody even considering answering it. Hello? In a country where it costs $250 a month to have a staff member, surely they can answer the phone.

Another thing that blows me out is that when you go to a bank at 3.30-345, when the sign on the door says open until 4, to find that the bank is closed. Some staff member, maybe even the manager, has decided that serving customers is too tiring and that they should just close the door. This has happened to me a few times, something I have now learned and will not repeat.

That is OK in a normal business, but not at a bank that is integral to business.

Maybe this is why they do not allow foreign banks into Indonesia as the local banks would have to deliver services rather than just take money. The local banks charge as often and as deviously as any Western bank but deliver far less.

Institutionalised disdain

It sees to be almost institutionalised, this disdain for customers that pervades business in Bali. In small businesses the attitude is the opposite, where staff will drop what they are doing to serve you

Recently in Australia, I was in Melbourne just prior to returning to Bali and wanted to withdraw a large amount of cash, but realised I had left my ATM card at the house I was staying. Damn! I decided to try anyway to get the money, and spoke to the teller.

No problem, he said, what is your account number, date of birth, account address and do you have your driver’s licence? I had all of that, so 5 minutes later I walked out with my cash. No way that would have been possible in Indonesia.

This is a not just about me as a bule criticising Indonesians for my own interests as it really does not bother me so much, but more about what it does to locals who have busy lives and whose energy gets sucked by the lousy and disrespectful attitude of businesses.

What to do?

Complain. Last week when I went into an Alphamart the attendant was stacking shelves when I came in. He saw me as I came in. After waiting a few minutes I said ‘hello’. I then repeated that 4-5 times, increasing the volume level each time over the next minute or two before he stuck his head up again and decided to come and serve me.

Sure he may have been involved in something, but the purpose of that business is to sell, to serve customers, not to stack stuff.

He was a bit surly when he finally came over. I did not have the language to ask why he ignored a customer, but he got the point.

By Mark O’Brien, April 2015

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See also Staff in Bali and Ethics and your staff in Bali

Eddie Gustin July 7, 2016 at 1:23 pm

I couldn't agree more brother, it's obscene but we, you and I should not let it upset us as we have chosen to live here. As we always say that's Bali, or itu Bali.

admin July 7, 2016 at 1:34 pm

Yes, and it is a place where IMO the Balinese need to get 'with the program' providing customer care instead of whining about money. Possibly re staff they realise that regardless of how hard they work they cannot get ahead, earning just enough to keep working. Forget about owning own home etc, or having a vacation somewhere. Business owners are a bit different. A recent example of this was I was given the phone number of a guy who had some washing machines for sale, who had just spoken with a mutual friend and was expecting my call. I called 3 times, no pick up. I also sent a text, in English as well as one in Bahasa, and got no response.

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