Simon’s Watch Story

In May last year I celebrated a milestone birthday. I told Mrs M to celebrate I would like a good watch. This is not as easy as it sounds given the huge variety of watches that abounds. Nevertheless after months of pounding the sidewalks I have narrowed down the shortlist. So far so boring.

One particular watch is only stocked at a few places in Hong Kong. I found one of these places in central and entered. I asked to see the particular watch. They didn’t have it in stock. At first they didn’t even believe it existed. I had the model number direct from the company website, but was told point-blank that it wasn’t in the catalogue so I made a mistake and perhaps I was thinking of a completely different model instead. Having encountered this before I did what any Hong Konger would – I reached over and took the catalogue and found it myself. Of course it was there. Another call to the agent and I was told by a now expectant salesman that ordering it in was not a problem.

Now I had a problem. As I pointed out to the man, I wasn’t going to commit to an expensive watch without seeing it first. He pulled out a “similar” model to try. It looked OK but I told him again I would not commit to buying the watch without seeing it first. Thus we were in a classic Mexican stand-off. He would not order it in because if I didn’t buy it he would have to keep in stock with the 2000 other watches he has. Naively I thought that’s what watch shops did. But no. The man could see he was losing a sale. He had to come up with something fast. So he did.

He wrote down on a piece of paper the name and address of the agent of these watches. He told me to go there now and look, then come back and buy it from him. Despite the facts that (a) it was my rapidly diminishing lunch hour (b) the agent was a good 45 minutes travel time from where I was (c) I wasn’t schlepping to an agent only to come back to buy it from him.

This is what passes for service in an “up-market” watch shop in Hong Kong. It is not an isolated incident. For some reason the idea that going the extra mile for a customer seems beyond the imagination of the shopkeepers, waitresses, salespeople, telephone operators or anyone else in such a position. Hong Kong follows the simple rule of follow the rules and nothing but the rules.

And I still don’t have my watch.

[Simon World]