What’s with SM Mall?

I’ve just return from my extended vacation in the Phils. The one thing I could not get over is SM Mall in particular the parts operated by SM, SM hypermarket and SM store. I have a background in retail but most of the stuff, I seen there I just couldn’t believe. They are so unbelievably badly run, I’m starting to think they are secretly state owned, only a government could run a store this bad. I understand they are a publicly owned company, but this is what happens when protected from competition, inefficient practices, bad management and over charging reign supreme. It’s a company, I would love to take charge of cause it’s so badly run, sales could be improve 50% and profits could easily be tripled with minimum effort. If foreign competition was allowed SM would go bust as they don’t have a culture that would allow them adopt. As customers desert they would just shrug their shoulders and carry on as before.

  1. In SM store there’s way too many staff and they all seem to be employed to stand around in groups of three, with absolutely no work to do. The only positive thing is that they are all turned out well, in very smart uniforms. However they don’t seem to have any function in the store. They provide zero assistance to customers, apart from making customer uneasy about browsing or interrupting customers while making a purchasing decision. Is this some type of employment scheme for recent graduates?
  2. In SM store there are two cashiers to every till one operating the reg and the other bagging. Yet there are still queues in stores that are not noticeably busy. Paying seems to take forever. Is it so that one operator doesn’t steal the takings?
  3. What with the .75 peso charge on all goods. It just seems petty, the margins are already high on all these goods 50 – 75% by my reckoning. The prices in SM are actually higher than my home country which has a sales tax of 23% and higher prices than most as a high wage economy. The end result is that they always gives you some coin that cannot be used.
  4. The SM hypermarket typically has more customers waiting at the tills than there are shopping in the store. Staff on tills work like Zombies, Many times I’ve walked as far as the entrance taken a look at the queue and walked away, doesn’t seem to matter what day of the week or time of the days, long queues, but plenty of unmanned desks. Customer walk away if they see long checkout lines. In a well run store once a queue exceeds 2 or 3 customers, it’s time to open another register. The most important thing in running a store is to take the cash, that’s what counts restocking can be done, when there no cash to take. It makes no sense that in a low wage economy there should be long queues and unmanned desks. As an area controller, I used forgive stores with devastated shelves once they could show the takings were higher than normal for the time of day\week.
  5. Where are all the managers and supervisors? managers should always be highly visible, it promotes customer relations, prevents theft and encourages positive staff behavior. Does SM employ any managers.? A common tactic in my country is to provide a very small managers office, which all managers use. This helps keeps managers out of the office and on the floor.
  6. What’s with the heavily promoted loyalty card? It’s so stingy, I’m always asked if I have one but when asked what’s the benefit got a blank stare and a for points sir. I looked up online and they give one peso for every 400 peso spend, so no way I want one, cluttering my wallet, It would make more sense to save all the 1/4 peso coins received in change. Gotta be the stingiest loyalty program in the world. My local store does 2 cents per 100, because I use their credit card and then if can get up to 8 cents reward by using those points against their boost partners. This actually pays my mobile phone bill and I still have enough rewards to take the kids bowling one a quarter.
  7. Where are the promotions? Modern stores live and die by buy one get on half price, 3 for two and similar deals. SM seem to do no promotion, too much work I suppose. Promotion increase sales and help manufacturers shift excess product, increase brand awareness and promote customer loyalty a heck of a lot more than a crappy loyalty scheme.
Published in Filipino Customer Service


  1. Profile gravatar of Mike

    First of all your article has several valid points but I do have to ask, “How can anyone consider a trip to the philippines as a vacation?
    But mind if I add a few thing to your list? This applies to SM as well as most other stores in the philippines.

    1.) They stock the shelves during business hours there by blocking the aisles. Then you have to try to get through aisles clogged with boxes, staff stocking, shoppers and shoppers with carts going in two different directions. Filipinos can push a shopping cart or walk no better than they drive.
    2.) Big cart checkout open but no customers and you have a hand basket? Good luck getting them to check you out unless you put your 3 items in a big push cart.
    3.) You had the cashier your money. They NEVER hand you your change, merely toss it on the counter after counting it out.
    4.) Out of stock po. Enough said about that.
    5.) Blank stares when asked a question.
    6.) Poor customer service by the staff.
    7.) Items on shelf sitting in slot for different item with different price.
    8.) Not marking the price on a lot of items.
    9.) Anything to get out of a warranty.

    I’m sure there are more and other members of PFB will chime in. But do us a favor please. If you do wind up in charge and running SM then how about a checkout lane for foreigners only? Kind of like the PWD lane?

    1. Profile gravatar of Mike

      Crap, I forgot #10!
      10.) Female staff required to wear so much makeup that looks like they went to an auto body shop to get it applied. A pretty girl needs no makeup, right Sarah? But if the girl is that ugly then put her in the back stock room out of sight.

      1. Profile gravatar of omgwtf

        @oldnavyfart Maybe thats the real problem, that the ugly qualified ones dont get hired.

        I collect job offer posters here because i love how superficial they are on how dedicated to not hire qualified people.

        One from SM Hypermarket i have here in front of me says:


        Open to all female applicants who are: (Man cant lead?)
        1. At least 5’4″, single (How can your hight and relationship status be the most important thing for any kind of job?)
        2. 20-26 years old (Please dont apply if you have allready any experience and know what you are doing)
        3. Graduate of any 4 year course (Shit, man im out. I finished my vocational training as Wholesale/Export Merchand in 2,5 Years and my university degree was also just 3,5 year. )
        … More boring requisits for the job, but who reads that far anyway.

        What do you expect to get for people when you hire this way.

        All i can think about when i see this girs is:
        No honey, you are not stupid, you are beautiful.

        1. Profile gravatar of Mike

          I don’t know about not hiring the ugly ones. I went to a Metro mall where I lived and they had one butt ass ugly cashier. This woman was in her late teens maybe mid 20’s and had a wart on the very tip of her nose that extended her nose at least half an inch and had hair sticking out all over it. Yes first the wart walks in the room then 5 minutes later the rest of her walks in.

        2. Profile gravatar of Mike Gutierrez
          Mike Gutierrez

          How else will the manager get pussy? He can only get it by fooling these gullible girls that sleeping with him will fast track their careers and get a recommendation for promotion, as if there is anywhere else to go.

    2. Profile gravatar of IrishPat
      IrishPat Post author

      I consider it a vacation when very little work to do and you can leave as soon as shit really starts to getting to me. By that definition I would also consider an open prison to be a vacation too.

      No lanes for foreigners, there would be no need as 2 people in front would cause extra lanes to open. I don’t get the PWD lane, as they don’t seem to care who uses them as long as it’s not a foreigner. Maybe the P stands for Philipino 🙂 . I would think anyone stupid enough to visit SM often would qualify as disabled. It’s certainly a disabling experience.

  2. Profile gravatar of FHPS

    SM mall is one of the biggest source of prostitutes in the country.
    SM pays for nothing –
    To get a job at SM you have to
    1. pay all your search costs
    2. pay your uniform
    3. pay for new uniform if you move departments
    4. wear a bra bought via SM
    5. wear your hair as required – all looking same
    6. get penalised for loss and breakages and deducted off wages
    the list of horrors goes on.

    In a nutshell you have to buy your job in SM
    approx 1,500-3,000 pesos.

    I had a girl i know had to pay money for a gate pass and asked to supply chest xrays.

    What do girls do? they go onto sites like Dateinasia.com
    and sell their souls for a few pesos to buy a job.
    I hope Duterte cracks down on this fucking employer
    who outlays nothing to the staff of SM.

    1. Profile gravatar of Mike Gutierrez
      Mike Gutierrez

      I personally know 3 women who worked for SM and left the job to become ‘happy ending’ masseuse (what’s plural for that?). At least they get paid more and earn tips. What does that say about working retail in the philippines? When it’s better to be a quasi sew worker.

  3. Profile gravatar of omgwtf

    What i love most here is the Pricing of things.

    No noticable Discounts on bigger Quantitys.

    Shampoo in sachets cost you per ml the same then if you buy a bottle. So why bind the capital then into a bottle. Additionaly you deprive yourself from having the fun of throwing away 12 little sachets into the next river insteat of owning one big reusable plastic bottle.

    Same logic goes for milk powder, 3 in 1, hot chocolate and even for the good old tanduay. 375ml costs you exactly half of what 750ml. No incentive for the client to buy more then he needs.

  4. Profile gravatar of Phil Doh
    Phil Doh

    “Where are the promotions?”

    Only ones I’ve ever seen are those pathetic picnic style baskets they sell, usually with tins of processed crap, where it doesn’t work out any cheaper – you’re just paying over the odds for a useless basket.

    Packaging I could never work out. What a fucking waste. All refrigerated goods needed to be re-wrapped. All frozen goods needed to be re-wrapped. All frozen goods needed to be re-wrapped. I once bought a pack of 12 toilet rolls packaged with a handle at the top. This dumbfuck was confused because he couldn’t fit in a plastic bag so he just tied one around the handle.

    Owned by the Philippines richest man, Henry Sy, has he ever even been to one of his supermarkets? Surely if he did he’d see straight away how his empire is throwing money away every day.

    1. Profile gravatar of omgwtf

      I think this companys make so much money with nothing they couldnt be bothered to increase their revenue if this just means to put a bit of effort into it.

    2. Profile gravatar of Mike

      “Where are the promotions?”

      What good would it really do? I mean all you have to do is put “buy one, take one”, “Get ____ for free” and so on and filipinos will flock to it. Case in point. I was at SM in Manila once and was looking at something but cannot remember what it was. Well to the right was the item with a “free” item taped to it and too the left maybe 2 foot down were the same two items sold separate. So me being me I pointed out that the price of the two separate items added together was cheap then the one where you buy one and get the other for free. I proved this with a cellphone which showed buying the package deal cost 50 pesos more than buying them separate. The filipinos refused to believe this saying the item was still free because the promo said it was.

      1. Profile gravatar of Mike

        It reminds me of the one article that a member wrote little while back. This member was a student and had a job where he made something like 200 pesos an hour and worked 8 hours or so per day. His classmates said he was a fool because they worked more than 8 hours and made and made 800 for the whole shift. He could not get them to understand that 8×200 is more than their 800 peso day. I can’t remember who wrote the article nor the exact numbers but that was the basis of the article. Filipinos just hate to admit they are wrong or face the facts staring them in the face.

        1. Profile gravatar of Phil Doh
          Phil Doh

          I remember that. I think it was the young half Swiss guy who wrote some great articles on his fellow students and teachers. I remember he said the whole class was mocking him for that until the calculator came out. Maths really isn’t their strong point. I’ve seen the calculator come out in stores for 50 plus 50 additions.

          1. Profile gravatar of Mike

            Remember he said that the teachers sitting at the next table just listened but never corrected those who were wrong? I always wondered if they were shaking their head at the students who were wrong or the one who was right.

          2. Profile gravatar of Mike

            Operation Market Garden back in the war. When the allies failed were they pushed back out of the Netherlands?

  5. Profile gravatar of Heresiarch

    I’m more inclined to ask why do they need college graduates for jobs that are pretty simple like stocking shelves, organizing carts or manning cashiers. You do that in convenience stores and even undergrads can work at those. Is it because college graduates have common sense? Even then, colleges in PH are as smart as a dead lizard.

  6. Profile gravatar of crosstown

    Well, it’s my turn guys and girls. Went to the hardware section to buy a heavy duty stapler. Yes, they had them, AND the had boxed staples hanging there next to them. So, I check the sizes, and they didn’t match up. The staples they were selling were NOT made for those model machines. I asked the “brilliant” assistant why didn’t they sell the correct size staples for the staple tacker. Yes, i got the classic Philippine “I have no fucking idea, blank Stare”. But, get this.. the assistant kid whispered to me, that I could by those types of staples over in the stationary department!! WTF. And? Sure enough, they had boxes and more boxes of the correct staples.. but they didn’t sell the stapler!! I mean, these Idiots work in the same store, and DO NO KNOW what the fuck they are selling, or even how it works! I year or two ago, I wanted to buy some shrinking speghetti for a soldering project I was working on. I go up to the local “got everything store”, and asked the tech. if they sold such. And this guy, says. What? shrinking speghetti ? I’ve been working here for 25 years, and I NEVER HEARD OF THAT Quality? A joke. I bought a hacksaw blade a month ago, and it snapped in two like a stalk of speghetti! Pop! Done.. a waste. I returned to the store, buy declined to get into an argument with stupidity.

  7. Profile gravatar of Johnny

    The rumor or conspiracy thing is Henry Sy (founder of SM) was very connected to the Marcos regime. It’s been said the SM stands for Sy & Marcos. After the year 1986 I’m sure he didn’t enjoy the benefits of that any longer. However, I’m sure there have always been some cronies or politicians involved in it. The place seems to only compete with Ayala and Robinsons. Other than that, they don’t seem worried of competition and only seem to expand in EVERY city. It seems a city cannot exist unless they have some sort of SM there.

    I have no idea why they have not figured out a 10 items or less concept. I remember back in the 80’s when the USA started this concept.
    Why they have workers simply standing around I’ll never know. This seems to be a very big retail thing. The more= the better. They could easily get rid of 1/3rd the workers, give a slight raise to the ones who do a decent job and train the people better. But what do I know,,, I only grew up in a much further advanced society.

  8. Profile gravatar of JudgeDredd0621

    Avoid SM Cinemas – especially if you’re quite the gorehound.
    SM has a zero-tolerance policy against R-rated movies…so expect any horror/action releases to be watered-down to sub-Disney levels

  9. Profile gravatar of Richard aka Dick Head
    Richard aka Dick Head

    SM rank and file – Overworked and Underpaid. At SM Clark Dept Store some years ago, I asked the cashier (while I was paying for my stuff) if she was happy working for SM. She just looked at me silently and smiled.

  10. Profile gravatar of tambok

    The most ridiculous thing to me is the security guards. At SM Lanang in Davao I counted 33 security guards on the food floor alone all walking around looking like they are important, all talking on their walki talkis, looking in bags, watching the cashiers. It’s like being in a fucking prison. By the way SM stands for shoe mart

        1. Profile gravatar of Mike

          Here’s one thing I did notice about the guards at the stores though. When I leave the house it’s in slacks, button up shirt and shined shoes. So I walk up and there are all these pinoys ahead of me going through security and security pats them down no matter how well dressed. I get up there and they just wave me right on through and never lay a hand on me.