Well, before things start getting too busy, I decided to clean up a few things around the house. Once the training for Giraffe National Story Telling competition begins, I’ll have little free time until after the finals in August.
One issue I have outstanding, is a letter I wanted to send to KFC. I had started to write this letter in February, believe it or not, and I got busier with the renovating, and a few other things came up, and the next thing I know, here it is almost June!
So, if you like, here is the letter that I sent to them:
May 25, 2012
P.O. Box 725489
ATLANTA, Georgia 31139
For most of my life, I lived, worked, and grew up in Canada. In particular, the province of Ontario. For as long as my memory serves me, KFC (as your company is now known), was always a great place to get chicken, fries, and salads for dinner. I can remember many times, my parents surprising us by pulling into the parking lot at THE WHITE HORSE (then, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and later, KFC). We get a barrel of chicken, fries, cole slaw, three-bean salad, potato salad, and baked beans. I must admit, I really enjoyed the cole slaw and baked beans the best!
As the years went on, and I moved into my first apartment, KFC was beginning to change over from the place where you could drive into, to a store front operation. The KFC’s of the past, were slowly changing with the times. That’s to be expected. However, still in Canada, getting that bucket or barrel of chicken and all the fixings, was a treat.
For the past 10 years, I have been living and working as an English teacher in Tainan, Taiwan. One of the things I was so glad to see upon my arrival, was a KFC. I knew, that being a North American company, when I longed for the taste of ‘home’, I could go to a KFC and pick up a bucket or barrel of chicken, fries, cole slaw, baked beans – and it would make being half-way around the world, a little less daunting.
However, I was surprised.
I very quickly discovered, that not only was the culture and language very different, but so was the food. Including my ‘comfort foods’ being sold at what I thought were North American companies.
Upon my first visit to a KFC, I discovered there was no such thing as a barrel or bucket of chicken. There was no such thing as a family meal. There was no such thing as a thrift pack. There was no such thing as a thrifty meal. There was no such thing as cole slaw. There was no such thing as baked beans. Yes, they had chicken, but I could only purchase a little 5-piece ‘mini-bucket’. Then they have something called spicy chicken. They had rolls, which I was eager to try, since I knew rolls were sold in the United States. However, these rolls have a sugary topping of sorts. Hmm…
Like most other things in Taiwan, I had to either get used to it, or starve! My first adventure into a KFC, I purchased a 5-piece ‘mini-barrel’, large fries (like those sold at that hamburger chain), and two rolls.
When I got home, I realized that the ‘original’ recipe chicken tasted the same, but the pieces were significantly smaller than back home in Canada. I’m not saying that we North Americans are big eaters, but even after a trip back to Canada confirmed, chicken pieces in Canada are, well, huge compared to those in Taiwan.
I’ve come to realize that Taiwan people are a bit different in their meal and eating habits than the average person in Canada. In Canada, generally, people eat three meals a day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. During the day, we may have a chocolate bar here or there, a bag of chips, but generally the three basic meals of the day are, the three meals of the day. Obviously, and it goes without saying, dinner time is the main meal. This is where we tend to eat a bit more than we would, say, at breakfast. The dinner meal is the final meal of the day, and it will be anywhere from 8 to 12 or more hours before we eat again. Therefore, it is understandable that dinner would be a larger meal.
Taiwan people on the other hand, tend to eat five or six times a day. Each meal is about the same size. I always relate a story (true) of my first experience at a school I worked for a few years ago. The children arrived at the school around 8am. Immediately, while waiting for other students, they were given a breakfast. It would be anything from a sandwich, a bowl of fruit, or a bowl of congee. Definitely, it was a lot more than I was used to eating for breakfast. For me, a cup or two of coffee, and I’m fine for the morning.
At about 10am, they were given a break. During this break time, something else to eat. Again, the same type of ‘meal’ as breakfast, but not the same thing. At 12pm, it was lunchtime. Okay, this was a little bit bigger. A mix of rice or noodles, meat, vegetables… a somewhat light lunch, but considering they had only eaten a couple of hours ago… After lunch, was nap time. Around 2pm, they were woken up, and at this point, it was always the time for some kind of fruit. At 4pm, before parents would come to pick up the kids, they were again, given something to eat. I’m sure, that not too long after leaving school, the family would have dinner. I’ve also been told that many families will make sure the child has something to eat before bedtime, which is anywhere from 9pm to 12am… depending on the family.
In short, these people, and in particular the children, eat more in one day, than I eat in 2 or 3 days. I work with a teacher now, where every time I go into her classroom to teach the students, she is eating. We’ve joked about it many times. She has no problem in sharing that she eats about 5 or 6 times a day!
The thing with the way Taiwan people eat, is that each meal is not large. It satisfies the hunger, but doesn’t fill them up (if that makes any sense). Therefore, it makes sense that portions served in a KFC or ‘that hamburger place’ would not be large portions as we have in North America. However, convert the pricing, and in reality, it is more expensive to eat at a North American establishment in Taiwan, than in North America.
That being said, and I realize that I have relayed a lot of unnecessary information, I do want to discuss a more apparent problem with KFC here in Taiwan. This is not the first time this has occurred, as I will provide a link later.
Every so often, in the mail, or tucked into our scooters, apparently available online (if one understands Chinese), KFC produces coupon sheets. Thankfully, the coupons include little pictures so that those of us who are visiting, or those of us who quite frankly, don’t speak or read the Chinese language, can understand what the coupons are for. No problem.
There is always a promotion of sorts, on these coupon pages. There is something that is being ‘pushed’ at the time. I want to relate my experience with one of these promotions.
Between January 2, 2012 and April 1, 2012, KFC had a promotion regarding barbequed chicken. Looking at the little pictures, the chicken looked similar to those other barbequed chicken restaurants in Canada. At this point, pricing in brackets is based on an average exchange rate of $30nt = $1 US. I realize the exchange rate varies day-to-day, so this is strictly an approximate calculation.
One of the coupons, looking at the picture, was for a whole chicken, regularly priced at $404nt ($13 US), using the coupon, $350nt ($11 US). Compared to those barbequed chicken restaurants in Canada, personally, the price is insanely out of sync. However, since this is a new item at KFC, people seeing the price will either accept it, or reject it.
Another coupon was for a whole barbeque chicken, what appears to look like a bucket of chicken with over 9 pieces visible, four small French fries, and a box of six egg custard cupcakes or whatever they are. All this, regularly priced at $879nt ($29 US), with using the coupon, $799nt ($26 US).
I visited KFC a total of 10 times during the promotion period. I always had the coupon with me, however, there were many problems with this promotion.
Of the 10 visits, only 5 times did I actually purchase something. Therefore, I am only concentrating on these 5 individual trips, for which I do have receipts.
January 22, 2012, 20:14 (Sunday)
February 4, 2012, 21:23 (Saturday)
February 7, 2012, 21:14 (Tuesday)
February 10, 2012, 23:23 (Friday)
February 13, 2012, 19:19 (Monday)
On January 22, I had three friends over to my home to help with renovations. I decided to treat us all to KFC for dinner. Off I go, with my coupon, to KFC to pick up the special barbeque chicken. I was quickly informed that they had no more. No more? KFC with no chicken?? Since I had hungry guests at home, I needed to get something. I opted for original recipe chicken. No original recipe chicken. Hmm. Okay, the extra crispy chicken. Quite honestly, I couldn’t believe that KFC would ‘run out of’ chicken. Is that not what your company is built upon – the chicken??
A couple of weekends later, again I had a friend over helping with painting. I decided I would try once again to get the barbeque chicken. Again, even though this was a Saturday night, they had run out of barbeque chicken. Are you kidding me?? However, they were willing to sell me a half-chicken instead. I wanted two, because as I mentioned previously, chicken is very small in Taiwan. They only had one left. Okay, I bought the chicken, and went across the street to that hamburger place to get fries and a burger. I must say, it was the toughest, stringiest piece of chicken I have ever had anywhere. The best thing I could have done, was to have stripped the meat off the bones, and use it in a soup instead.
February 7, after work, I decided to try again! This time, I wanted my dinner. I was hoping that the problem with the Saturday and Sunday incidents, were because of weekend days, and that they were overwhelmed with the amount of requests. At least that what I wanted to believe.
In I go for a third trip. This time, I’m told that the whole chicken was already gone. I started to complain because, this was nuts. Three trips into KFC, and each time, they are basically sold out of a promotional item. The manager informed me that they run out of the chicken around 6pm. How can KFC run out of chicken?? There was never, ever a time in Canada, in Ontario, New Brunswick, Quebec, or British Columbia, where I could not get what I wanted, any time I went in. There was never a time when I would be asked to wait for 30 minutes while they fry some more chicken. Never was I told that KFC ran out of or sold out of any product at any time. Hearing this in Taiwan, is so strange. It seems that KFC caters to the ‘feeding time’ as I call it – 4pm to 6pm. After that, it’s like, whatever they have left, you take it or leave it.
Here we go, Friday. Okay, granted the time was after 11pm. They were still open, and showed no signs of closing. I’m not sure what time they do close, but again, they basically had nothing available except crispy chicken. I figured as much.
Let me say something here, about this crispy chicken. I mentioned earlier that the chicken pieces are small compared to North American chicken pieces. Well, once you get rid of the ‘Corn Flake’ coating on this crispy chicken, the actual pieces are even smaller than the regular chicken. I have wondered many times, whether these miniature pieces of ‘crispy chicken’, are really chicken… I won’t get into that one!
Final trip to KFC. This time, it’s a Monday evening, it is only after 7pm, and again, I try to get a whole barbeque chicken. Guess what? They ran out – again. Incredible.
I felt that from early January until mid-February, I gave KFC 10 opportunities to fulfill an obligation to provide a promotional item. Five times, I just walked out after realizing there was no chicken available. Five times, I did purchase something, because the thought of eating a hamburger again, was unappetizing.
One of those times, I was able to purchase a half-chicken for their regular price of $549nt ($18). Three times I was able to purchase a 5-piece mini-bucket, and one time, a burger or something. It matters not what I did end up purchasing, the problem was not being able to purchase what I wanted in the first place! The last three trips to KFC, I was given a little red envelope. The only thing I understood written inside the envelope, were two dates: 2012/2/13 and 2012/3/31. No staff at the store could translate for me what they were about. However, each time I tried to use it, because I did find out it was a few dollars off of purchase, they refused to accept it.
On the last visit, I was fortunate enough to finally talk to (I assume) a manager. This woman (who refused to give me her name) spoke a little English. She indicated that I could not use these ‘red envelope’ coupons for the items I was trying to purchase. As well, they could not be used together. I could only use one per purchase.
At that point, I had decided that KFC in Taiwan was a farce. Being from North America, having known many people to work at a KFC from when I was a young boy (friends, family), always having good service in Canada and the United States, Taiwan has really disappointed me towards the name KFC.
I feel that KFC is not the same organization in Asia, nor is it operated in the same way, as one would expect to see in North America. Yes, this is Asia. Yes, this is Taiwan. However, KFC is NOT an Asian company. It is NOT a Taiwan company. It is a NORTH AMERICAN company. When people travel, and they want that little bit of ‘comfort food’, and decide to go into a KFC, they expect to get the same service as they would in North America. Simple.
I also decided at that last visit and confrontation with the ‘manager’, that that was my last visit to a KFC in Taiwan. I got home and started doing Internet searches regarding KFC in Asia, and in particular, Taiwan. I came across the following link:
Apparently, this is not the first time either. During this particular case, Jardine Restaurant Group was imposed a fine of $100,000nt ($3,300 US). For a company the size of KFC, the fact there are hundreds of locations across Taiwan, selling 185 barbequed half-chickens, would have paid this miniscule fine. I wonder if the same ruling for such a low amount would have been levied against KFC in the United States or Canada given the same circumstances. I think not. Misleading in advertising is something taken very seriously by the governments in both Canada and the US.
I do realize that I am but one person. I am one foreign person in Taiwan. I do not speak nor read nor understand the Chinese language. However, as a North American, going into a North American restaurant, I expect to be served in a North American manner. Being only one person in over-populated country like Taiwan (approx 23,000,000 people), my voice will scarcely be heard. I don’t have the contacts in the foreign community to be able to make a difference. Besides, local people will not likely listen to the rants and ravings of foreigners.
Even my friends and colleagues here in Taiwan, after my relating to them my problems, they still visit KFC anyway. And why not? They want a bit of North American food, and they are able to speak to the kids behind the counter, and are willing to deal with the fact that if something is not available, so be it. They are not used to North American standards being used at North American restaurants in Taiwan. I feel that, perhaps, some of these people have an idea, that the service they receive at a place like KFC here in Tainan, Taiwan, is the same as they would receive if they were in North America. I think they would be pleasantly surprised to see that service in North America is like night and day compared to Taiwan.
Unfortunately, KFC in Taiwan has lost a customer. I suppose it really doesn’t matter to the Taiwan management company, Jardine Restaurant Group. One restaurant in one city in one country, is not important. Even when the court imposes such a small punishment for the companies non-obligation to its product, shows that it is not a big concern.
I do hope that KFC Corporate in the United States, the home of KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN, will take it a little more seriously.
William J. Jacklin
KFC Corporate Office and Headquarters
1441 Gardiner Lane
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky 40213
c/o Jardine, Matheson & Co., Ltd.
14th Floor, World Trade Building
50 Hsin Sheng South Road, Section 1
TAIPEI, Taiwan 10059
Jardine Fast Food Restaurants (Taiwan) Ltd.
No. 145 Jhonghua Road
Yongkang City, Tainan County, Taiwan 710
Jardine Matheson Ltd.
48th Floor, Jardine House
Jardine Pacific Ltd.
25th Floor, Devon House, Taikoo Place
979 King’s Road, Quarry Bay
Let’s see what kind of response I get!
That’s it, that’s all… for now!