Saturday, December 30, 2006

G.U.S. NITPICKS!! (v. 10)


Christmas get-together with charming J., my long-time confidant/ex-stock broker/fellow foodie/newly-preggy R. and her suave hubby XQ nearly didn't push through, but strangely enough, it did. I guess we felt compelled not to cancel our reservation at Thai At Silk, although R. says they called her twice during the day to re-confirm / make sure we weren't flaking out. . .hmm, for all i know, they were raring to give our table to some puffed-up bigshot.

Anyway, i really liked this resto's interiors. Its white walls literally scream "minimalist", and the only brown wall had this intricate wooden carving mounted on it.

Onwards to the food. We ordered the ff:

Tom Yum Kung (hot & sour prawn soup) at PHP240, which, for me, had just that perfect balance of spicy/sour, with a slightly sweet note at the end. XQ concurred, but J. and R. thought it was a bit too much.

La Tieng (egg net bundles with prawn and pork filling) at PHP260, which was simply delicious! I wonder how they make those egg nets, though.

Phad Thai at PHP360, which i really can't comment on as i don't like this dish in general. Must be the to-gue (bean sprouts??) :D But R. says it was good, so sige na nga. . . .

Kaeng Mutsaman Kai (red chicken curry) at PHP320, which i felt was actually too mild! And c'mon, the portions were too small (2 pieces only)!

Baby back ribs at PHP220, which we all agreed was tender and flavourful. In my opinion, great value for money and the best dish we ate. To think it's not really Thai at all!

Fragrant rice at PHP60@!!! Granted, i think it's eat-all-you-can, but really!

The Pandan juice (PHP105) i ordered was also too bland. Charming J. absolutely loved her hot calamansi juice, though.

Bill came to around PHP600/pax, inclusive of 12% VAT and 10% service charge, which wasn't too bad.

Oh yeah, i loved the restroom . Pale green walls overlaid with glass make for a cool effect. The faucet took some time to figure out though. I thought it had an automatic sensor, so i put my hands underneath. . .and waited and waited. Nothing. Hmm. . .i tried turning the knob, but no go. I tried pressing down. . .still no. Pulled it towards me. . .wala pa rin. Ah, turns out you have to push the knob. . .who the f**k in NASA designed this thing, anyway???

On that cheerful note, Happy New Year!

(Thai At Silk resto is located at Serendra Plaza, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Puzzlingly low prices at THEWI THAI MASSAGE

Thewi Thai Massage is a spa chain with two branches in Cebu, and they opened their first branch in Metro Manila just two months ago. To get the obvious question out of the way, 'Thewi' means "angel" in Thai, according to their receptionist.

Their prices are really cheap: PHP200 for full body massage (60 min.); PHP 150 for foot reflexology / back massage / head massage (60 min), and PHP 75 (30 min).

Upon entering this establishment, the first thing that hits you is the menthol scent. . . great with clearing the nostrils and invigorating the mind, but it does get overpowering after a while.

The foot reflex area is separated by a wooden partition from the reception area. The soft leather chairs are quite comfy, although it can be a little noisy as people chitchat and use their phones in the reception.

Nevertheless, i felt the foot reflex was above average, as my masseuse can really put on the pressure with her fingers. Quite cute is that she even does a wai before and after the massage!

So, i'm thinking, why are Thewi's prices so low? Off-hand, comparable prices for other nearby spas would be PHP350 - 450 for body massage, and PHP 250 - 350 for foot massage. Were Thewi's owner to raise its prices by 50%, they would just be around (or even still under) the same level as their competitors.

Further, i think this would hardly have any effect on the number of people patronizing Thewi, since at these low price levels, the demand curve is probably quite steep (i.e. demand would be mostly price-inelastic, and most customers would not mind the increase) So why don't they go ahead and raise prices and make more money?

Possible reasons i've thought of:

Could it be Thewi skimped on training the masseuses and are implicitly admitting they are not authentically Thai? But my masseuse informed me they were trained for 4 months prior to opening.

Could it be due to Thewi's flat compensation scheme (each masseuse gets a fixed amount per day, regardless of number of customers served; whilst most other spas give no fixed salary, and the masseuses get a fixed amount per customer served) , which gives them a low-cost advantage? Not necessarily. On slow days, this payment scheme would not be optimal for the owner.

Could Thewi be pricing low as an intro offer only, and will increase prices by, say, next year? Possible, but all those foregone revenue is really sayang. Besides, if they think their low prices would make their nearby competitors close down, that's unlikely. And the concept of Thai massage is already well-known, so it's not as if they have to offer low prices just to educate the market.

Since the spot where Thewi is located is considered rather unlucky (due to the establishments who have opened and closed down there over the years), could the owner be hoping (or praying) that low prices would offset the bad karma / feng shui / evil spirits of the place?

So, basically i'm stumped for a really satisfying explanation. Whilst this dismal economist enjoys the pain and pleasure a foot reflex massage gives, it unfortunately does nothing for my little grey cells. :D

(Thewi Thai Massage's first Metro Manila branch is located along D. Tuazon Ave., Quezon City. It is across St. Theresa's College)