Monday, April 13, 2009

Worse Than I Thought It Would Be

Last week I went to the Qatar office to get our tickets to Greece and our return from Istanbul, and dealt with Agent M for the second time. I probably neglected to mention when I blogged about it, that when I went downtown I didn't actually get the physical tickets - I only got "the authority" to get tickets using our miles. Once you get "the authority" you have ten days to get your actual tickets. I told Agent M that I would come on Saturday to get the tickets. Well, Saturday didn't work out, because DH had to work and I couldn't get a driver [everyone goes downtown on Saturday - drivers are in high demand and you need to reserve one, no later than Thursday, or you don't get one].

So, yesterday DH and I went downtown to pick the tickets up. We pull up in front of the Qatar office and DH says, "You just run in and get the tickets and I'll wait here." Okay. Fine. So I went into the office - I was the ONLY customer. Agent M is sitting at a desk tap-tap-tapping away on a computer and he says, "Have a sit." So I did. After a few minutes - ten? - I said, "Would it be better if I came back?" "No. I weel bee with you after thees customer." Hello? There is NO customer in the chair in front of the desk you are working at. I don't know what you are doing, but I've been here for ten minutes waiting and it seems to me when there is an actual "body" in the office that whatever it is that is consuming your time could be put, momentarily, on hold. Fifteen minutes... He finally comes and sits at the desk that I am, patiently, waiting at. "Yez. What kin I halp for you?" "I need to pick our tickets up. They were supposed to be ready on Saturday." "Yez. Your good name, Madam?" I tell him. "Yez. Two travelers." "Yes." "Gist one minute, Madam." And Agent M again starts tap-tap-tapping into his computer. One minute, he said. One hour would have been much more accurate.

I am watching the minute hand on the clock on the wall move. It was at the "one" [five past nine] when I arrived. It is now at the "seven." I've been in the office for half an hour. So much for having the tickets ready. Nope. They weren't. Agent M is frantically typing on his computer to get our tickets "physically" issued and heavily emphasizing the "enter" key. Tap tap tap WHAM. Tap tap tap WHAM. During this time, Agent M is also answering the phone every time it rang.

Several other men came from the "back room," into the front office at nine forty-five. Three Saudi's. All three of them congregated at one desk and were having their morning "So, Abdullah, what did you do last night?" conversation. The phone in the Qatar office continues to ring and NOT ONE OF THEM would answer it. Apparently only Agent M is allowed to answer the phone. Although I'm not sure "allowed" is the word I am looking for. Designated. He is the designated phone answerer. It might require work and the three Saudi men weren't having anything to do with that! [Agent M is either Indian or Pakistani.]

I was in the office for almost an hour when DH finally decided that I must have gotten lost in there or something and he came in and said, "What the hell is going on? I thought you said that you only had to pick the tickets up? What are you doing?" "Dear, what does it look like I'm doing? The tickets weren't ready and 'he' is issuing them, now." Agent M continues, tap tap tap WHAM... Reams of paper are printing out. I am not kidding. And it is one of the old "tractor" feed printers that feeds one continuous long sheet of paper - and for our two tickets several trees died. It took an hour in that office to get two tickets. Amazing the amount of tap tap tap WHAM that was required and the paper that was generated.

It would have been impossible for me to not make it clear that this is the most inefficient poorly run office of any office that I have visited in all my time here in The Sandbox. Qatar needs to know they are employing a bunch of men who do nothing. No work at all. When I was there last week, dealing with Agent M, he sent me into the back room to get an authorization from someone - will call him Agent X, who by the way, is Filipino - and Agent X was the ONLY one working the back office. One Saudi who was not in the standard issue gray pants, white shirt and burgundy tie uniform, but dressed in a thobe [the manager?] was doing the sudoku in the newspaper, one Saudi had the green Solitare screen up on his computer but was talking on his mobile and I'm not sure what the other one was doing. Three of them. At least two of them were NOT doing what they supposedly are being paid to do. The only two who do any work at the Qatar office in Khobar are Agent M and Agent X.

Fire them. All three of them. They won't be missed - no one will ever know they are gone - since they don't do anything, anyway. Give Agent M a raise. Double his pay. If you fire the three men who don't do anything and double Agent M's pay, Qatar would still be saving money. I made it clear during my rant to Agent M that the fact that the office is so poorly run, basically inept and most inefficient is probably not his fault and something which I highly doubt he has any control over, and that it is more than apparent that he has his plate full with too much work as he is one of the only men in the office who appears to perform any function but taking up space. The two Saudi's who were there for my rant - one in his uniform sitting at his computer but playing with his mobile, and the other who was standing there in his thobe [Mr. Sudoku, from last week] heard every word of my rant and stared at me with dagger eyes. If looks could kill, I'd have been on that floor. DH, for the first time in our married life, did not even try to stop me from my rant. He wasn't happy about the wait, either. Yesterday was his day off and our trip to the Qatar office cut into his golf time. Am I going to let Qatar Airways know how I feel about dealing with the office in Khobar? You bet I am!

Really, I don't know why I continue to be so loyal to this airlines. The service is either superior or sorely lacking - there does not seem to be a happy medium. The flights they offer to the States are the reason I want to continue to fly with them. Non-stop from Doha to either New York or Washington. Cuts off about six hours on what is a very long trip. If we fly KLM/Northwest, there is a three or four hour layover in Amsterdam, and a couple more hours in Detroit before getting on a plane to Raleigh. There are some other choices, but again, they require several stops and layovers and I am just getting to old and irritable to deal with not being able to just get on the plane and go. So, I continue to fly Qatar... Thankfully I either deal with Regina [our travel agent in the States], or I get my tickets on-line, so I don't have to deal with Qatar's Khobar office very often.

This country has been screaming about Saudization since we arrived. A couple of years ago a directive was issued that said all travel agents would be Saudi's and no one else would be allowed to have those jobs. Oh, really? Then why are Agent M and Agent X at the Qatar office? Because they are the only two who do ANY work and if you fired them, there'd be absolutely no point in having a Qatar office in Khobar. We all know how that worked out - firing anyone who wasn't Saudi and working as a travel agent. It didn't. Same thing for taxi drivers. They were all going to be Saudis; no other nationality was going to be allowed to drive cabs. That didn't work out either. Speaking for only one company that I am familiar with - a lot of cars were wrecked in accidents, the Saudi drivers failed to show up for their scheduled shifts, and one of them tried to rape a woman when she got in the cab for a ride to the airport and when she rebuffed his advances he beat the crap out of her with a tire iron [a rape which was flat out denied by authorities until they were confronted by nurses who treated the woman while she was in the hospital].

I am not saying that there are no hard-working Saudi men. I'm sure there are. DH works with many of them that are. He also works with some who will do just about anything to avoid having to actually work. What I am saying is that if you are going to achieve the Saudization that you want and get rid of all of us expats who are working in jobs that you believe Saudi's should rightfully have, then you are going to have to do something to make sure that the work is actually done. Just because you have an office full of Saudi travel agents does not mean that they are actually performing a service. I've seen it with my own eyes. And, they are not.


  1. i wonder where the widespread "too good to actually work" mindset comes from?

    is this a new thing (historically speaking)??


  2. I absolutely love these "day-in-the-life" posts, Sabra.

    Though, I'm sorry you had to endure this. But it did make for a great post.

  3. Insert Bahraini instead of Saudi and its basically the exact same thing here...most of them just plain dont like to work and will happily sit by and do nothing while a few other workers do everything...unfortunately those other workers cant complain generally because they are the the big one.

  4. No idea where the "too good to actually work" mindset comes from, SA. Is this a new thing? Not as far as I can tell.

    It was a great waste of a morning, Janice!

    Lot of workers being paid for something they aren't doing, CR. It is a waste. Companies would be so much better off by firing all of them.

  5. What do you expect to get from a society that has absolutely no work ethic in their culture?

  6. Oh yeah, and Northwest airlines just loves to make you have a layover even in the US. Although that might be because I'm in a small town compared to where I used to live. h

  7. Be grateful it only took an hour, and not 1/2 the day.


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