Don't Ask OCBC for Cakes!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010



Many thanks to those who wish me a happy birthday. Thanks as well to those who support the previous post. As for those who say kudos to the staff at OCBC, I agree with you. The staff reacted well enough, I think. Two of the ladies seemed quite amused. The third one just seemed disinterested after performing her banking duties. I think the gentleman also saw the funny side of the incident. Our conversation basically revolved around whether there was a sufficient basis for the ad to be reenacted. As I said, if he had insisted I had a super cute daughter with me to get a cake, he would have won.

I don't know if the OCBC gentleman paid for the cake out of his own pocket but I've asked David Conner and Andrew Lee, respectively OCBC's group CEO and Senior EVP of Global Consumer Financial Services, to make sure he's reimbursed.



I'd like to point out that I didn't insist on getting a cake from OCBC, technically, at any point in time. I asked if I could get a cake. I was told no, I couldn't. Which was fine. I then asked why I couldn't get a cake. I was told it was because the commercial was just a commercial. Which was also fine. I then asked why OCBC had a commercial about giving away birthday cakes when it didn't have any birthday cakes to give away. If the staff had given me an acceptable explanation, I'd have walked away. Or if they hadn't given me an acceptable explanation (nor a cake), I would then ask OCBC's senior management for one. But I couldn't complain to the CEO without giving the frontline staff a chance to show whether OCBC really gave their customers birthday cakes, right?

Some people say I got a cake from OCBC's employees, not OCBC, and that I shouldn't have tormented the staff when my target was the corporation. I'm sorry, this argument cuts no ice with me. The incident was during OCBC's business hours, the staff were wearing OCBC's uniforms, serving OCBC's customers on OCBC's banking premises. They were representing OCBC whether they like it or not. It's a tough job working in a banking hall but hey, whose job is easy, eh? Other than the President of Singapore? Sure, the frontline staff aren't responsible for the ad. They don't make as much as David Conner. But they know they're getting paid for being the conduit between customers and the bank, which they're a part of. Should they perform only mechanical tasks because they make only $x per month? Any unexpected incidents not listed in the training manual is none of their business? Come on! If they do that, they're no better than machines. And if they're no better than machines, they should be replaced by machines. And bank tellers have been, to some extent. The next wave of workers to be replaced will be those cashiers who mechanically scan, pack and collect the money. Cold Storage Great World City has a lane for those who prefer to scan, pack and swipe a bank card themselves. Such facilities are already quite common in the US.

I think it's a bit over dramatic to say I 'tormented' or 'maimed' (emotionally, I presume) the staff at OCBC, or spoilt their day or weekend. As for those who use the word 'misery', oh please! Misery is when you have a terminal illness. Misery is when your country's at war. Misery is when there's no rice in the house. Misery is when your dog's run over by a car. Misery is when you're homeless in a -10°C winter. A crazy customer making a crazy request? That's a nice distraction from the tedium of being a bank teller. Or a slight irritant at worst. Nevertheless, if I really caused anyone at OCBC any distress, in any minor or major way, I apologise, unreservedly and sincerely. And I suggest they get out of the service industry. If they can't handle crazy customers, they shouldn't handle customers for a living. Or they would have to face many more crazy ones, and cause themselves much 'misery'.

I've enjoyed reading the comments, even those that are are downright rude. I'm perverse, I know. (Hey! No one's used that word on me yet!) There's a diversity of views, which is not a bad thing. But there's one thing we all agree on: the cake's bloody awful!

Ok, over to you, guys. Fire away.

Related links:
Click here for media reports.
http://kitchentigress.blogspot.com/2010/01/ocbcs-birthday-cake.html
http://kitchentigress.blogspot.com/2010/01/ocbc-delight-me.html

Check these out:
Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket
Ginger
Milk Custard
(薑汁撞奶)
Gingerbread Men Cream Scones Pear and Snow
Fungus Sweet Soup
(银耳雪梨糖水)
.

Prying a Cake from OCBC's Cold, Hard Fingers

Monday, 4 January 2010

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Yesterday, I went to OCBC Bank, the one at Marine Parade, and asked for a birthday cake. According to the bank's advertisement, their customers get a cake on their birthday, complete with burning candles and a birthday song. And yes, it was my birthday yesterday. If you haven't already seen the TV ad, here it is:


(17 January 2010 – Commercial is now in Chinese because the English version has been deleted from Youtube. English subtitles added on 21 January 2010.)

There were five ladies wo-manning the counter at OCBC. The one who got the short straw was xx Ming. Young, quite cute and quite sweet. Unfortunately, she was wearing a red and white polo shirt with four different coloured buttons, in thick polyester. Hmm, OCBC probably paid a lot of money for some consultant to come up with the hideous design. I gave xx Ming my IC – that's identity card to those not familiar with the Big Brother state – which has my DOB on the front. She went about quietly processing my cash deposit. Was she alerting her colleagues it was my birthday with a secret 'birthday button' underneath the counter? The one beside the panic button for bank robbers? Please don't press the wrong button! I was sure someone was lighting the candles on my cake as I waited, and all the staff were getting ready to shout, 'SURPRISE!' Something like this:
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xx Ming looked up and asked me if I wanted to update my address. 'No, thank you.' I had deliberately given OCBC a non-existent address because it's the only way to stop the bank from sending me bits of paper every month. I can't opt out of hard copy statements but if they're returned to the bank three months in a row, they're suspended. A roundabout way to outwit the system and the tree murderers who run it.

After making sure I didn't want my address updated, xx Ming handed me my receipt and IC. I glanced to the left . . . . No one jumped out with a cake topped with burning candles. I glanced to the right . . . . No one started singing 'Happy Birthday to yooou . . . !' xx Ming gave me a weak smile and a is-there-anything-else look. 'Er, it's my birthday today. Do I get a birthday cake?' Since the subtle way wasn't working, I had to be explicit about my real purpose for visiting the bank. xx Ming blinked, then blinked again. She turned to her colleague on her right and said, 'It's her birthday. She wants a birthday cake.' Then, she turned to her colleague on her left and said, 'It's her birthday. She wants a birthday cake.' The three ladies smiled and looked at one another, probably thinking I was joking. And probably hoping their smiles would make me go away. Wrong! 'OCBC has an ad that says customers get birthday cakes. You know the ad?' 'But it's just an advertisement,' xx Ming said. 'Yes, it's an ad, which I take very seriously.' 'But it's just an advertisement . . . .'

PhotobucketWhen it was clear I was dead serious about getting a cake, one of the teller ladies got up to consult her supervisor. Of course, such an important person wasn't sitting at the counter. He was hidden from customers' view by a door with a high-tech digital lock. Tick, tock, tick, tock . . . . ' Have other customers asked for birthday cakes before?' 'No, you're the first one!' Tick, tock, tick, tock . . . . 'A "Happy Birthday" would be nice, you know?' All I got was a blank look, and 'But it's just an advertisement.' xx Ming was starting to sound like a broken record ipod. Tick, tock, tick, tock . . . . 'Er, I have a birthday dinner to go to. I hope I can get the cake quickly?' 'I can't guarantee that.' 'You can't guarantee I would get a cake, or you can't guarantee I would get a cake quickly?' 'Both.' 'Then why do you advertise that you give customers birthday cakes?' 'But it's just an advertisement.' Tick, tock, tick, tock . . . . I was thinking no one was ever going to say 'Happy Birthday' but the lady on the right finally did. She got off her butt, walked over and wished me 'Happy Birthday'. It took her, like, 10 minutes but hey, it was better than nothing. Did Miss Cutey xx Ming who was sitting right in front of me join in and wish me 'Happy Birthday'. Hell, no! Maybe she wasn't in a good mood 'cause she was working on a Sunday? Well, I wasn't feeling jubilant either, unlike Mrs Tan, the one in the TV ad, who got a birthday cake without asking:
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After an eternity, the bank teller lady who went off to consult her supervisor emerged from the internal bowels of the bank. 'We don't have any cake . . . . It's just an advertisement . . . .' 'If you don't give customers birthday cakes, why do you advertise that you do?' She went back to her supervisor. Tick, tock, tick, tock . . . . After another eternity, she came back, this time with a bright yellow shopping bag. Would I like the shopping bag instead? 'That's not a cake,' I said. NO CAKE! NO CANDLE! NO GOOD! She disappeared behind the door again.

After yet another eternity, the supervisor, xx Keong, joined me on my side of the counter. Would I like to discuss the matter with him in a separate room? 'Why? Is there a birthday cake with a candle in the room? No? Then we can discuss here. Your advertisement says customers get birthday cakes, so I'm here to collect my birthday cake.' 'Yes, but in the advertisement, the bank surprises the customer, not the other way round! You're not supposed to surprise us!' Heheh, he had a point there. 'If there's any sincerity in the advertisement, you wouldn't be surprised,' I retorted. 'The point in the ad is that the bank gives the customer a surprise. If I give you a cake now, you wouldn't be surprised,' he returned. I almost burst out laughing. 'If you give me a cake now, I promise I'll be very surprised.' For the next few minutes, he tried to wriggle his way out of giving me a cake. 'It's just an advertisement blah blah blah. . . .' I can't remember everything he said but there wasn't anything that convinced me I should leave without a cake. After all, the ad didn't have conditions like 'while stocks last' or 'offer expires whenever'. I thought I had to lie down on the floor and kick my legs in the air. Boy, that would be fun, wouldn't it? But before I could do that, he caved in and said, 'Ok, I don't have a cake now but I can go and buy you a cake.' Of course, when he said 'I', he meant one of his female underlings. It took another eternity for a bank teller to get the cake from a bakery round the corner.

PhotobucketIn total, it took me five eternities to get the miserable three-inch cake from OCBC. It was topped with a heap of artificial cream, the kind that doesn't melt in Singapore's tropical heat and I never eat. Frankly, my homemade cakes are way better. (Click here for recipes.) The plastic tree and plastic Hello Kitty? Tacky tacky tacky! Not to mention the danger of a child choking on them, especially when the 'leaves' can be detached from the 'trunk'!

Getting OCBC to cough up the cake was like prying something from a dead man's cold, hard fingers. Or squeezing blood from a stone. But advertisements are so often deliberately misleading, I couldn't resist the temptation to show an advertiser that misleading ads can sometimes backfire. A taste of its own medicine, perhaps? I allowed myself to be misled into thinking that OCBC was giving customers birthday cakes. And you can do the same, too. I asked xx Keong if I could tell all my friends that they can get birthday cakes from OCBC. He said it might not be a cake but it would be 'something' if it's their customer's birthday. Well, if you're not happy with that 'something', just insist that it was a cake in the TV ad. And you can do your part for consumer rights any day of the week, except public holidays. OCBC branches are everywhere and 18 of them (click here for a list) are opened 11am-7pm, including Saturdays and Sundays.

Related links:
Click here for links to media reports.
http://kitchentigress.blogspot.com/2010/01/ocbc-part-2.html
http://kitchentigress.blogspot.com/2010/01/ocbc-delight-me.html

Check these out:
Not LKY's
Babi Pongteh
Pandan Chiffon Cake
As Good As
Bengawan Solo's
Mrs Wee Kim Wee's
Very Famous
Mee Siam
My Mother's
XO Cognac
Chicken Wings

Sesame Duck

Friday, 1 January 2010

2009's gone. Just like that, phffft!

Time for some new year resolutions?

Heheh, resolutions are not for me. I never keep them, so there's no point in making any. Actually, I don't even remember what they are by February!

I prefer new year wishes, which are much better than resolutions. Just wish, no resolve needed.

What do I wish for?

Oh, you know, the usual stuff. Lots of money, the more the better, so that I can buy everything that can be bought.

And, because money can't buy everything, I also wish for love and good health.

PhotobucketCan I have all the money, love and health I want and still be unhappy?

OK, just in case that's possible, I wish for happiness as well – an unlimited amount. (Obviously, I've read all the stories about people making wrong wishes after they find a lamp, bottle, or monkey's paw.)

And since it's no fun being rich, loved, healthy and happy alone, I wish you all the money, love, health and happiness that you would ever want.

Happy New Year, everyone!

The first recipe I'm sharing in 2010 is sesame duck. It's like chicken stir-fried with sesame oil (recipe here) but tastes very different. Nicer and more sophisticated, I would say, because duck has a richer, more complex flavour, and we don't eat it very often.

Duck can be quite dry in a stew but this recipe gets round that by chopping up the duck into small pieces. This allows the stewing sauce to get right into the meat, keeping it moist and tender.

There's plenty of galangal added, which makes a fantastic complement to the duck's gamey flavour. sesame duck is one of my favourite duck recipes and, you know, we Teochews know a thing or two about cooking and eating ducks.

SESAME DUCK (麻油鴨)
(Recipe for 4 persons)

½ duck (about 1 kg)
80 g ginger, washed and julienned (I never peel ginger but you can if you want to)
80 g galangal, washed and sliced 2-3 mm thick
4 big cloves peeled garlic, washed and thinly sliced
1½ tbsp sesame oil (plus a few more drops when serving)
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
2 tbsp dark soya sauce
3 tbsp light soya sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp sugar
200 ml water

Rinse duck and remove skin and fat around the bottom. Chop into small pieces about 2 x 1 inches (5 x 2½ cm). (If you go to the market, you can get the duck chopped up when you buy it.) Heat a wok till very hot. Add 1 tbsp sesame oil and ginger. Stir-fry over medium heat till ginger is lightly golden. Add garlic and the remaining ½ tbsp sesame oil. Continue stir-frying till mixture is golden brown. Increase heat to high. Add duck and stir-fry till it changes colour and wok is very hot again. Add wine, dark soya sauce, light soya sauce and oyster sauce. Stir till well mixed and sauces are absorbed. Add 100 ml water and stir to deglaze the side of the wok. Tuck galagal slices around the duck. Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low.

Put sugar in a small pot (don't use non-stick) and cook over medium heat. Swirl melted sugar around the pot and continue heating till it bubbles and looks like dark honey, when it's no longer sweet and before it turns bitter. Next, stand back from the pot and add 100 ml water. If some of the caramel solidifies, continue heating till it melts again. Add caramel liquid to the duck stew. There should be enough liquid to almost cover the duck.

Check that the stew doesn't get too dry and stir once every 20 minutes or so. Add a bit more water if any duck pieces are not in contact with the stewing sauce. Taste after 1 hour and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Duck's ready after 1¼ hours of gentle simmering, a big longer if you like it really soft. The sauce should be reduced but still watery, covering 60-70% of the duck. To serve, remove duck pieces to a serving bowl, skim off oil from the sauce, then add the sauce and a few drops of sesame oil to the duck. Or you could keep the stew in the fridge, covered, and remove the hardened fat the next day. Reheat thoroughly with a little bit of water added, and you have a better tasting stew than the previous day.

Tang Yuan (湯圓)

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

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Christmas has become the second biggest festival in Singapore, next to Chinese New Year. It's very commercialized but the loss of spirituality doesn't bother me. I just join in the festive fun and food orgy. Party spirit in place of religious spirit, sort of. It's end of the year, work slows down, kids are on school holidays, and everyone's in a partying mood. Any excuse to take a break and relax is good!

Bombay Duck Soup

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

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These Bombay ducks look pretty ferocious, eh? Good thing they aren't moving anymore, or they might snap off my fingers! I think they could be the star of some B grade horror movie. Can you see them wriggling around, snake-like, wreaking havoc on unsuspecting teenagers skinny dipping in a lake? Would have to make them much bigger though, since these cute little critters are only about eight inches long. But boy, they sure don't need extra teeth!

Carrot Cake

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

PhotobucketCan a cake be moist yet light at the same time? Isn't that like asking a woman to be skinny and curvy? Yes, ideal women do exist, and so do ideal cakes.

I'm not that into cakes and neither is the rest of my extended clan. We find most cakes too rich and filling, especially after a heavy meal. And our meals are always heavy when we get together!

But there's one cake that has everyone's approval: Angela Nilsen's Carrot Cake, from The Ultimate Recipe Book. We love it 'cause it's really moist yet really light. No one needs any strong Chinese tea to wash down this yummy babe!

Saba Shioyaki (Grilled Mackerel)

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

PhotobucketI had a little birthday party today. It was a small, cosy affair with just the birthday girl, two of her buddies and me.

Everyone at the party loves fish, so I made a fish dish, saba shioyaki. The fillets, grilled and seasoned sparingly with sea salt, turned out beautifully although it was only my second time DIYing saba shioyaki.

When I made my first attempt last night, I didn't feel too confident. Mum always said fresh is best but the mackerel I had were frozen and shipped all the way from Norway. I was also afraid my little toaster oven might not be hot enough for a charred and crisp outside whilst keeping the inside juicy and moist.