Among expats in Thailand the saying was “the locals can ignore the law, but multinationals can’t.”
Thailand has some pretty strict laws on employee wages, workplace safety and council permits. Pretty well every business ignores them except the multinationals.
Generally Thais don’t complain about businesses not complying with the rules and the authorities are reluctant to take action.
Unless you’re a multinational, in which case the slightest irregularity in pay risks a visit from the police.
A few days in the Bangkok Immigration Gaol while the misunderstanding is sorted out is a good lesson for any sloppy farang country manager who hasn’t been ticking all the boxes.
What’s fascinating though is how the complaints against Microsoft and Apple are part of the rising Chinese consumer movement.
It’s a tough life being a consumer advocate in China, leading protests against well connected local companies or their government cronies could be a career limiting move, or much worse.
On the other hand it’s safe to criticise an American corporation and its much more likely to get results.
So managers of foreign companies in China have to be far more responsive to complaints than their local counterparts as Apple and Microsoft have learned.
For multinationals there is an upside to this, foreign companies tend to get better staff as they don’t mess people around with pay and their products are seen as being better because they do honor warranties.
It ends up being swings and roundabouts, but it does emphasise the traps for inexperienced expat managers who can unwittingly get themselves in trouble.
Apple and Microsoft have learned their lesson about customer service in China, you wonder how many others are still to do so.