Do business in Vietnam…. Ouch!

The company slogan
The company slogan

Why is it so difficult to do business in Vietnam? For the life of me I cannot understand. Sure, I realize this is still an emerging economy and trade with other nations can involve unfair taxes or red tape. Part of what attracts my readers to my blogs is my understanding of Vietnam. There are not a lot of foreigners that are integrated into this society like I am but I am sure there have to be others……. Maybe one day they will read this blog and answer my question…. I am at a loss and cannot figure it out. I love living here and enjoy the people and community. But why the problems when It comes to business? This seems not to be government related, but simply a mindset I cannot understand. Let me start with a few simple examples….. I arrive at 11:20 am at a building supply store to purchase a 1000 usd solar water heater. The store worker was drawing closed the overhead door as I arrived and I was told that I would have to come back at 2pm. Whaa??? “No!!” I said I will buy that (pointing at the solar unit) now. Unbelievingly, I was denied and told I would have to come back at 2pm….. Enraged I left the business and went out of my way to find one that was open during nap time and

A clearer shot
A clearer shot

purchased my heater there…..It was difficult and it cost a bit more but I do not care. The fact they were open for business was all that required to ensure my purchase. After 2 months my laser printer stopped working. As an IT tech I was able to determine the problem and returned it to the company for warranty work. It was an easy repair but required a bit of a pricey part….. It was under warranty so it should be no problem. I arrived at the store and was presented with a bill for half the printer price. Again… Whaa??? I examined the machine and had determined that the drum heater had failed… What they told me was that I allowed insects into the machine and therefore it was my fault. Huh? Fault? It is a simple warranty. I agreed to a 3 year lease with an option to extend it to 7 after 1 year and built a very successful Hotel business. The landlord simply ignored the contract and tried to profiteer on what they thought was a profitable move…. We had no decision except to shut the place down and open another. The building now sits empty of customers. What is it? I cannot understand and I am probably better informed than most….. Here is what I am dealing with today. I have accidently damaged my cell and after a little research on the internet, have decided on a Sky 850 telephone. It is advertised here but every time I drop by to purchase it, I always get “oh sorry… out of stock” I told them fine!! I will buy in Saigon but they assured me that they would have it in stock on my return…. OK…. On the way home I saw the exact phone I wanted in a shop in another city but did not purchase it because of the assurance of the store back home. I went to purchase the phone (not a cheap model) but I was told out of stock….. Grrrrrr!!! They had my name on a list and gave me assurances, but in the

Singing our brains out
Singing our brains out

end it was the dame shi**y customer service. I WAS MAD! Knowing the phone I wanted was in a city 50 km south, I told them to shove it, and I did drive the 50 km to purchase the phone. Everything was smiles and not only did I buy the phone I wanted, but many accessories to go with it. My sim did not work but that was not unexpected as it was a mini sim. I needed to change it at a store that supported my device…. No Problem. I returned home and after some difficulty, activated the phone. OK!! Great, now everything is ok….. NOT!! It turns out that the phone was not new and brought in from Korea. The person who tried to make it workable for Vietnam has damaged the operating system so in effect, I have a totally useless and expensive phone……. What the ****. All I wanted to do is purchase a darn phone!! 3 times I was forced to make the 50 km journey

Beware!! ducks crossing!!
Beware!! ducks crossing!!

to finally have my issues resolved. It took 3 days but finally I have a working phone. Lastly…. I want a screen door for some of my rooms. Aluminum doors are everywhere and I tried to explain that you simply take a track from a window, and install it in the door instead of a solid pane of glass and put a screen in front of one of the sliding panes… Impossible!! I am told. They look at the pictures that I have downloaded

Waiting to happen?
Waiting to happen?

from the internet and my design drawings and shake their heads as if I am a crazy person. Egad!!!! I could probably write a book on doing non business in Vietnam. A few funny photos

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Owee

Tour designer and Guide specializing in off the beaten track tours of Vietnam

8 thoughts on “Do business in Vietnam…. Ouch!

  1. As an Merican Viet-Kieu expat who has worked/lived in hlf a dozen countroes, I faced many of the sme problems nd frustratipns described. VN is not unlike many poor developing countries around the world with a myriad of socioeconomic challenges: poverty, corruption and all sorts of stresses uncommon in the developed world. The crux of these problems all lies in the backward mindset of local people, frankly! Vietnamese conduct business like the way they ride their motorbikes, impatient, haphazardly__as law enforcement is nil and all favors locals over foreigners. Case in point, it takes ten people to do a job that takes three in the West. Foreign entrepreneurs may save on low labor costs, they more than make up for the savings in other costs such as delays, low productivity and quality. Going with the flow is easy said than done and takes time, a long time. You cannot use Western logics here or else you go crazy????!

  2. As an Merican Viet-Kieu expat who has worked/lived in hlf a dozen countroes, I faced many of the sme problems nd frustratipns described. VN is not unlike many poor developing countries around the world with a myriad of socioeconomic challenges: poverty, corruption and all sorts of stresses uncommon in the developed world. The crux of these problems all lies in the backward mindset of local people, frankly! Vietnamese conduct business like the way they ride their motorbikes, impatient, haphazardly__as law enforcement is nil and all favors locals over foreigners. Case in point, it takes ten people to do a job that takes three in the West. Foreign entrepreneurs may save on low labor costs, they more than make up for the savings in other costs such as delays, low productivity and quality. Going with the flow is easy said than done and takes time, a long time. You cannot use Western logics here or else you go crazy????!

  3. Owen,

    I had a great time reading your blog about the life in Vietnam. As a native Vietnamese from Hai Phong, I moved to the States when I was 18, this reminds me of the reason why I would not want to come back (for travel, absolutely, but not doing business or career there).

    The government plays a great part in why the culture is the way it is. We say “tu tu roi khoai se nhu” in Vietnamese, meaning the yam will get soften if you wait long enough for it to cook, or like how Richard said “thing will work itself out”. Corruption goes on and on in Vietnam, that from a little child to adulthood, people grow up understand that you have no voice until you sneak some in “under the table.” People get paid very minimum wage and without bribery, they can’t get by with just clean money. It happens in the school system, where majority of teachers make students go to after-hour classes in their home so they can pass exams, etc. No wonder it is in business too. There are many honest business owners there but hard to come by. If you want something done quickly and easily, sneak in $1 or 5 here and there when someone says no to you. Therefore, I’ve seen Westerners have a hard time adapting with that bribing culture because you were taught to be honest and stand by what you honor in a contract. However, if you want to live there long term, it is what it is and you have to deal with it the way the culture says you should. And, that is why I am not trying to make a life there.

    Best of luck and enjoy (because the country has a lot to offer, just not honest business).

  4. Sales people dond care unless they personally own the shop (same all over) That is why the Brick pays salery plus commission i guess. Maybe try e-bay or internet purchaces if you can wait a couple of weeks for delivery. I have never had a problem.

  5. Owen,

    I lived in Thailand for almost three years between 1968-1971. The saying in Thai was; “mai pen rai”. It’s all good and things will work themselves out. We westerners can figure out how they will work themselves out.

    I wonder how you say this in Vietnamese? Regards,

    Richard

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