The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Brown Rice Paradise - or is it?

Brown Rice Paradise is an organic food shop in Singapore. Until recently, it was also a shop which my wife frequented in her search for suitable gluten-free foods. However, after recent experiences she is no longer a customer.

Brown Rice Paradise was, for about six or seven years, my wife's first choice for gluten free goods, in Singapore. Brown Rice Paradise is to be found in Tanglin Mall, though it is a new shop from its original location. In all that time, Syahidah would make a couple of trips a month to Brown Rice Paradise. She was one of its more loyal and reliable customers. She was a "member" and was accorded discount privileges in thanks for her regularity of custom. Yet, something happened to change all that.

Brown Rice Paradise was taken over by new management. The new team spoke of wanting to engage the customer...but in reality nothing could be further from the truth. Syahidah found out that something was wrong when she came to the counter to make her purchases one day. She gave her membership details, as usual, but was refused a discount. The fellow behind the counter was rather impolite and said that Brown Rice Paradise was not going to accept any of the previous memberships until they "proved themselves". Every former member would now have to "show their seriousness", by buying 500 dollars worth of goods in one month - and keeping the receipts to prove it. Then they would be allowed to reactivate their memberships. Syahidah was flabbergasted. She had been a loyal customer for over half a dozen years...and was now being asked to prove her loyalty! This was bonkers.

It is pretty difficult for a family of ordinary size to spend 500 dollars in one month on gluten free flour and related goods. It was, in fact, a mad request.

"You are going to lose a lot of customers with this new policy." Syahidah observed to him.

"It doesn't matter. We will get other customers.", he replied, with a dismissive shrug. His attitude was rather arrogant and not a little rude.

Syahidah had had enough - she left the shop.

Syahidah decided to use reason. She emailed the store explaining the situation. The reply refused to acknowledge the silliness of the situation and reiterated the conditions of continued membership. She then called the shop, and the man on the phone explained that all former members had to prove their loyalty before being reactivated. Syahidah repeated the tale of the 500 dollar per month requirement and the man made but one concession: that it could be, instead spread out over three months.

Syahidah wasn't having any of it: why should she strive to meet a particular spending target, now, after being a consistent, reliable customer for six or seven years? On top of that was the attitude of the staff: they seemed to have contracted a strange snobbery in which, if the customer was not a high-spender, they were not regarded as a customer at all. This strange superciliousness was combined with a rudeness towards all who would not meet their odd demands.

Syahidah was not alone in encountering this problem. Many of the friends she had introduced to Brown Rice Paradise over the years, were also snubbed at the counter, when they sought to use their memberships. As a consequence, all of them...every single one of them...have changed stores: they now travel further afield to shop in other organic stores across Singapore. What Brown Rice Paradise's new management haven't realized is that people will go out of their way to avoid ill-treatment when they receive it. Many people would rather travel twice as far and be treated twice as well - than travel half as far, and be treated half as well.

Having tried her best to reason with the unreasonable new management team at Brown Rice Paradise, Syahidah did what her friends had done before her: began to shop elsewhere.

It will be interesting to see just how long, or short, a tenure the new management at Brown Rice Paradise have. Surely, any team that manages to offend, wholesale their long term customer base, is a team that cannot be doing the best by their business.

Customer service disasters, such as this one, at Brown Rice Paradise, are not uncommon. They differ in the details, but the underlying theme is the same: utter contempt for the customer. They seem to believe that the customer is so sheep-like that they will accept any ill-treatment and still return begging for more. It never occurs to them that Singaporeans have voices of their own and are prepared to use them, in defense of themselves, when they feel wronged. It never occurs to them that every act of poor customer service, breeds word of mouth, telling and retelling the tale again and again until its reputational effect is amplified beyond calculation. It never occurs to them that the first role of any shopkeeper is to keep the customer happy, to keep the shop at all, if you know what I mean. The shopkeeper who looks down on his customers, as Brown Rice Paradise clearly looked down on my wife and her friends, is a shopkeeper who soon won't have any customers to look upon at all - down or otherwise.

Brown Rice Paradise was a great shop for the first six or seven years that my wife treated it as her local store for her favourite goodies. Now, Brown Rice Paradise is not a good store. It cannot be a good store when its management are so customer unfriendly. Brown Rice Paradise is where my wife USED to shop - but no longer. I wonder how much longer they will be under this particular management team? It seems to me that it might not be long.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:54 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fully agree. Vote with one's wallet

1:04 AM  
Blogger Indiana said...

but the underlying theme is the same: utter contempt for the customer. They seem to believe that the customer is so sheep-like that they will accept any ill-treatment and still return begging for more. It never occurs to them that Singaporeans have voices of their own and are prepared to use them, in defense of themselves, when they feel wronged.I agree with the first part of this, and if one steps back its easy to draw conclusions from where this attitude has sprung. The second part I am not so sure about...but I truly hope you are right.

7:34 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Perhaps you are right, Indiana. Perhaps it is only a minority of Singaporeans who will use their own voice...and so the contempt continues. Thanks for prompting me to reflect on it again.

12:40 PM  
Anonymous Ashley Tay said...

This doesnt quite sound like the experience i've had so far - staff are always very friendly...

11:02 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Ashley, please note two things: firstly my post is over a year old - and secondly, if you have had a good experience so far it is very likely to be a direct result of this post. I am sure that they have read it by now since it appears high on searches for them. Any change in behaviour is likely to be a reaction to this very public review of what was, at the time, a most crappy shop (from the staff behaviour point of view).

Then again, you may simply have not met the staff member who served us...or they have been fired...

So, too, they might have established different rules of behaviour for their staff.

I am still not shopping there after what they did, however.

8:13 AM  

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