Love/Hate Relationships

We Can't Live Without Them

June, 2004

Like moths to an open flame, we are drawn to them. They are businesses that offer such great products, are so convenient or are so essential to our 21st-century lives that we don’t mind being abused once in a while. Here’s a short list of businesses we hate to love.

Sushi Sasabune

Go ahead, we dare you. Order a California roll at Sushi Sasabune and see what happens. Chances are you’ll find your butt at a Genki Sushi somewhere, counting colored plates and figuring out your bill.

Sasabune, Honolulu’s high church of the raw and the wonderful, is famous for its religious devotion to quality and tradition and its “Trust Me” menu which gives you whatever master chef Seiji Kumagawa chooses to prepare. If you don’t wish to enter such a binding contract with the master chef, you can sit at a table and order a la carte. But that doesn’t mean you get to have it your way. The solemn wait staff advise/warn customers on not just what to order, but how to eat the artistic delicacies.

So how can a business get away with treating its customers not like kings, but village idiots? The answer is simple-the food is absolutely unforgettable. One bite of Sasabune’s impossibly buttery hamachi will bring tears to your eyes. After that, it isn’t hard to sit down, shut up and give thanks.

Costco

First off, here are things that we love about Costco: 1. It’s absolutely the best place to go during hurricane preparedness month. 2. The customer is always king at the big-box retailer’s return counter. They take back almost anything, with no questions asked. 3. Two words: free samples.

With that being said, your shopping success at Costco largely depends on your skills as a hunter/gatherer. If you’re one of the feeble members of the shopping herd, well, evolve or die.

OK. We know it’s a warehouse store and the whole concept is no-frills retailing. But does no frills mean no staff? Just try and find Costco personnel walking the floor (driving a forklift doesn’t count) who can answer customer questions.

Happy hunting.

COMPUSA

An overheard conversation at COMPUSA: Customer: “Will this network card work with Linux?” Salesperson: “Well, it works with Windows NT, and Windows NT is a lot like Linux, so yeah, it will work!”

We understand that selling computer equipment and supplies is one of the more challenging areas in the retail world. Technology is changing on an almost monthly basis. Also, in what other business does the customer pool have such a broad range, from what’s-a-hard-disk neophytes to unsung geniuses on the brink of the next Internet breakthrough? With inconsistent service, COMPUSA’s sales staff seems to reflect this diverse consumer group. When they’re not upselling you a printer, digital camera, PDA and flat-screen television to go with your new computer, they’re trying to figure out where the power switch is.

However, if you know what you want and you need it now, there is no better place than COMPUSA. The parking lot at its Ala Moana Blvd. location is as vast as its selection, so you can quickly run in and be back to your server in no time.

One tip to get service quickly at COMPUSA: Pick up the box of the most expensive computer or peripheral that you can find and start walking over to the cash register. The salespeople, hoping to cash in on a quick commission, will be all over you faster than you can say “megahertz.”

Oceanic Time Warner Cable

Aug. 31, 2002. It’s the first night of Oceanic Time Warner Cable’s pay-per-view University of Hawaii football broadcast. For a mere $12.95 per game or $75 for the entire season, cable subscribers can have Warrior home games beamed live to their houses.

However, a surge in orders on game day overwhelms Oceanic circuits and hundreds of customers are blacked out.

After an hour of busy signals, this viewer got through to an Oceanic customer service rep, who offered no apology, and blamed the backup on subscribers who were trying to reboot their digital control boxes. The attitude was no different with the higher-ups, apparently.

“The game itself didn’t fail to deliver, so we’re real pleased with that,” said Norman Santos, Oceanic Time Warner Cable vice president of operations, in a Honolulu Star-Bulletin article the next day.

We wouldn’t know, Norman. We didn’t see the game.

However, all succeeding games were broadcast without a hitch. Further evidence that we can’t live without the company: its easy-to-operate, relatively problem-free digital video recorder has to be the most significant development in the couch-potato universe since, well, cable television.f

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