The Frustrations of Doing Business with Filipinos

This is a guest post by Dagnasty, a US expat living and working in Manila since 2013, doing business alongside local Filipinos.

Makati Avenue, Manila

The bar is set very low when it comes to doing good business in the Philippines. If you can answer a phone, list your business hours, provide a map to your shop, and listen to your customers, you’ll beat out most of your competitors here.

The other day I walked into a motorcycle shop with 100,000 pesos in hand to buy a motorcycle. I asked the saleswoman to show me a used bike. She took me over to the nearest one. Looked great! I told her I’d take it. Right after that, she told me that I couldn’t buy it!

  • “Why not?”
  • “It’s for installment payment only ser, and foreigners are not eligible for financing.”
  • “No problem, I’ll pay 100% cash.”
  • “You cannot pay cash.”
  • (What the fuck do you mean I can’t pay cash?)
  • “So you’re saying, if I paid one million pesos for this scooter, you couldn’t make this sale?”
  • “Sorry, I can’t ser…”
  • “Two million?”
  • “No, I can’t ser.”

I turned to my wife and said, “I gotta get the fuck out of here or someone is going to have to take me to a doctor. I can’t talk to this woman anymore or I’m going to call her an idiot.” My wife turned and said that if she was in charge of the shop, she’d jump off the roof.

Ayala Triangle Gardens, Makati

I walked to the next shop and asked them the same question. One woman said that they do NOT have any second hand bikes for sale. I lied to the woman next to her and said I had a Filipino wife and that everything was ok. The woman next to her said that they DID HAVE bikes for sale and that her coworker would happily show me. One told the other that since I had a local wife, they could make the sale.

At this point, I’m pretty frustrated and I said to the first woman, “Wait, you just told me to my face that you don’t have any motorcycles, how are you going to be able to show me one?” She said that she only had one available. After that, she took me to a beat up piece of garbage in a row of otherwise acceptable second hand bikes and insisted that it was the only one available to me.

I walked away, called an Uber, and agreed with my wife that we’d buy directly from an individual incentivized with getting a sale – and not a store.

Before we left, she also suggested that we push the motorcycle over and break it. So that maybe the clerk would say that we had to pay for it. (When in all honesty, all that would happen is that the cops would show up, demand that we pay a small amount to avoid getting thrown in jail, and the bike would be sat upright and probably sold for the same price or a few dollars less, but not to a foreigner – fuck off and go home!)

Regarding this issue, my friend RealGuy once said, “Often Filipino employees are given zero leeway on what they can do, and are penalized if they go outside their bounds.” This is very true, and managers of Pinoys must be careful to realize that if one step is impossible, everything stops – no matter how obvious the fix.

A high school math teacher once told me, that you need to know 10 different ways to solve any problem or else one day, you’ll be stuck at the top of a steep hill in a car with a dead battery, no jumper cables, nobody to help you, and no idea how to fix your problem.

This is very true – because if you’re a manager here, every day you’re probably going to want to shove one of your employees down a hill.

Working with Filipinos 

At my day job, if I told a client who wanted to spend two grand that I couldn’t make a “no questions asked” sale, I’d be dismissed in a matter of seconds. But here, most staff doesn’t give a damn whether the business succeeds or fails.

They have zero incentive to work hard because of their low salaries, poor education, poorer management, and a law that makes them fairly difficult to fire if they’re tenured employees. The Philippines isn’t a poor country, but it is poorly managed.

I once had a professor teach in a class that the amount of trust in any interaction is directly related to the amount of future interactions you’ll have with the other party. After my time in South East Asia, I have to disagree. I’ve seen vendors that could have a customer for life – decide to make a quick buck due to lack of foresight. Some people here really believe that a dollar today is better than five dollars tomorrow.

It’s frustrating to watch this kind of incompetence, but that’s where outside business owners can otherwise crush their competition. RealGuy also said, “the problem is, once someone has your money here, they have no incentive to deliver on promises or honor agreements.”

You might ask yourself, what could you possibly sell in the Philippines that they don’t already have? My answer – customer service. In a country filled with customer service call centers for almost anything, there’s surprisingly little customer service actually happening on the ground here. There’s lots of lip service (bullshit), but very few promises are actually kept.

Filipino Fast Food chain

If something gets promised and doesn’t get done right away, that’s definitely a promise that’s not getting kept. I once had a long coffee meet with one of the richest businesswomen in the Philippines and her stock trader. Her trader said to both of us, “If you want to make any money in this city, sell coffee, convenience food, candy, or condoms.”

We all started cracking up when she said condoms (Really? Who uses those here?) – but her point stands, cheap stuff sells at a high volume in Manila.

The problem with selling cheap stuff is that you’ll need to sell a lot of it. Most used to a western salary will find it faster and smarter to fly home to make a quick buck than a quick peso. The good news is, there’s no shortage of buyers with a few pesos in their pockets.

If you’re an outsider and you can treat your customers better than everyone else, you might stand to come out ahead for a short while (until local elites notice and want their cuts).

Realistically, the Philippines is one of the most difficult countries in Asia to do legal business in. “It takes 161 days of starting a business, among the worst in the world, compared to only a day in New Zealand, 2 days in Australia, 3 days in Canada, and 4 days in Singapore.”

Ayala Avenue, Makati

There are plenty of hoops and red tape to jump through, and many “fixers” who would happily take piles of your money to help you navigate the bureaucracy of working in the Philippines.

The Pinoy economy is fairly protectionist mandating that local citizens own the majority share of most any business.

Some expats use the assistance of a Filipino business partner or spouse, but any long-timer here will tell you a dozen sad stories about foreigners having their legally capped 40% stake in a business stolen from them (despite financing 100% of the business).

Trust doesn’t go very far here, and the most successful foreign business owners have local owners (in name only) while the real boss handles his/her business from a distance.

If you ever get frustrated by doing business with Filipinos here, consider doing things yourself. I’ll always go the extra mile and pay the extra dollar to someone who knows how to get things done in the Philippines.

This is my first time writing on this blog, if you’d like to read more, I’ve got more – let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

42 Responses

  1. jspill jspill says:

    Thanks for the guest post Dagnasty! This is why I think it’s best to work online at home if possible, and insulate yourself from a lot of stress.

  2. RealGuy says:

    I think a Filipino’s idea of employer/employee contract is, you have to pay them, but they don’t have to work if they don’t feel like it.

  3. -Cam says:

    I don’t know if I agree with “The Philippines isn’t a poor country, but it is poorly managed,” but otherwise great info. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Philippines economy/business world is that Chinese-Filipinos dominate. They are less than 2% of the population but have the majority of the wealth, same is true in most of SEA

  4. NormalNomad says:

    Not much real info here. Phillipinos provide shit service. Obvious to anyone who’s spent 2 days in the country. Also: in one part, you state you “lie” about “having a wife” yet you mentioned twice that you DO have a Filipina wife. Which is it? Did you lie or tell the truth?

    Would love to hear more actual info about how shit works in business here, rather than the obvious.

    • jspill jspill says:

      His wife is Chinese. When he says he lied about having a Filipino wife it was in the hope they’d then sell him a bike, being a foreigner.

    • RealGuy says:

      Most specific business info you can find from a simple google search. Foreigners can only own 40% of a company unless theyre putting up serious money to strike their own exclusive arrangements.

      One of the biggest hassles for business owners is dealing with the beauracracy. Ive heard a lot of stories about local politicians shaking them down for extra “rent” (bribes) and threatening to close them down if they don’t comply.

      The other thing is a lot of the police and politicians dont really understand the laws or care, and will always try to be their own law or interpret it in a way that allows them to shake you down. The Philippines is a Catholic country, but “thou shalt not steal” is safely ignored when it comes to the people around them.

      I love the Philippines, but I am very hesitant when it comes to putting down serious investment here. Contracts and agreements are rarely honored and often delayed, and once they have your money, their motivation to hold up their part vanishes. Throughout the whole process there are people trying to sabotage your asset or find ways to get more money out of you.

      Philippines is best enjoyed if you always have one foot out the door, imo.

  5. TigerBelly says:

    Maybe I’m in the minority here but I’m generally pretty happy with the service I receive in the Philippines. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I’m in Cebu rather than Manila.

  6. Dagnasty says:

    As much as I bitch and moan, I’m still staying here. I have a love hate relationship with PI. I just need to leave often enough to remind myself to come back.

    • Ash says:

      Hey Dagnasty, great article. Question – what do you mean by a foreigner can stand out over there “until local elites notice and want their cut”? Are legit business giants over there (like SM) mafia influenced or something? I’m curious about this cause many of the wealthiest men in the PI are Chinese born immigrants (think Andrew Tan) who are now multi-Billionaires.

      • Dagnasty says:

        Despite the owner of SM being Chinese-Filipino, they’re considered to be more Filipino than Chinese. There have been many struggles by Chinoys through history to claim and retain their profits and property. Chinoys have assimilated enough to not worry about getting hustled like someone fresh off the boat – many can “fake” being 100% Pinoy (because they are, regarding citizenship and language). Chinoys are not to be confused with first generation mainland Chinese immigrants.

        So in the case of SM specifically, I’d say no, they ARE some of the local elites. As for being a mafia? Not really, the whole culture is highly protectionist in nature, and so are the big corporations – but I wouldn’t say that it’s outright criminal. Most of the time it isn’t. But for sure, they all have “people” they call when the law doesn’t work. How these guys made it to the top is a different discussion. There are very few “honest” fortunes made anywhere.

        When I mentioned the local elites, I meant more of the local government officials who collect local taxes. Since they’re government, they can’t be the mafia by definition. It’s best to treat them with great respect. Mid level Barangay (neighborhood) leaders are the ones who are really in charge, and their blessings are required for anyone to do anything profitable in their part of town.

        If you’re someone who makes a lot of money and they find out by surprise, you should expect to get made an offer to save your business that you can’t refuse.

  7. Frank says:

    Whoah, first honest article I’ve read about how it really is in the shit hole called the Philippines. I’ve been living in the Philippines for a while, in my experience what they don’t break they steal. There must be a god because he had the foresight to make the Philippines an island so their disease can’t spread to other countries.

  8. NormalNomad says:

    Speaking of frustrating business, does anyone have a recommendation on a Laundry service in Cebu that offers delivery? Been using I.G., but their service is simply atrocious. They get the laundry done just fine but I always have to ask for it to be delivered and sometimes they drag their feet about it. Would love a simple company that just brings the laundry to my door when it’s done.

  9. Heinrich cu says:

    When my wife’s away I tend to get Pinay service lady rather than foreigners

  10. puaabroad says:

    Sounds just like Vietnam. No consideration given to future repeat business, just think about the moment and how much you can make there and then.

  11. Nope says:

    Nice post. I am an exec for a large BPO over here. The attitude for work is something that I struggle with day to day. Not sure if others have found it so, but the degrees from the universities here are worthless. People coming out qualified have the equivalent of first year knowledge in first world economies. I would struggle here as a business owner.

  12. Spirit maze says:

    I had an amazing realization today…Sleeping with asian women, if you’re a white guy, is technically bestiality. It’s time we were all honest about this.

  13. Spirit maze says:

    doing a short little smash trip Mikey.

    Why is it bestiality you ask? Because filipinas are closer to our simian cousins than all you sexpats losers would care to admit.

    I have arrived on the Planet of the Apes and I’m here to red pill you all, especially (ab)Normal Nomad, who I see has now left Manila because he couldn’t get laid here. I understand his bitterness. Being rejected by chimps can’t be a nice feeling.

    • Mikey Johnson says:

      Yeah I’ve been in Cebu for a bit and annoys me how these imps are able to pull hot girls. Guys that are short fat and look like Mannie Fresh. The quality I’ve pulled here is abysmal and I just ended a date an hr ago bc the girl was being an utter cunt despite her face riddled with acne and a 5 at best.

      Filipinas are trash and overhyped for sure. This is simply a phase in my life where I bang everything that moves and move on.

    • NormalNomad says:

      Dude I haven’t been in Manila since February, sorry to burst your bubble. And it has nothing to do with the women…..the traffic sucks, the noise pollution is retarded, and everything is more expensive. Honestly I could go to Bangkok, pay the same money, have less noise and traffic issues and bang hotter women, so Manila is 100% pointless.

    • NormalNomad says:

      I don’t think this is actually spirit maze. The real spirit maze claimed to “love Pinays looks” and talked about banging a new hot girl everyday. I think this is some new troll who adpoted his old moniker and hatred of other expats but isn’t the same person.

      • Spirit maze says:

        The real Spirit Maze left Manila 6 months ago, re-entered the West, and returned to Manila for some closure on a very weird chapter of his life.

        The real Spirit Maze is severely embarrassed about indulging and pandering to this bearly-human sludge race of dirty little pan heads.

        As Mikey correctly indicates above, ‘Over-hyped’ is key here.

        Mikey, you know why they are cunts? Because hot white guys like Spirit Maze served them his prime alpha cock and ruined them for life. They have forgotten their place in the food chain, and now they all expect Zac Elfrons. Sorry bro, I’ve seen the folly of my ways now.

        Tell that entitled crater-faced aboriginal midget to get fucked.

        Spirit Maze always pointed out that white male pandering to filipinas would ruin the poosy paradise it once was.

        Is Spirit Maze a prophet? Methinkso.

        Normal Nomad, the reason you left Manila is because the VERY average pussy doesn’t justify, as you correctly indicate, the utter shithole that is Manila. Glad we can finally agree on that.

        Since returning to Manila, I have encountered hilarious levels of princess-syndrome from these oompa loompa niggers. Yes, Spirit Maze still fucks them all with relative ease, but the effort ain’t worth it. And they certainly aren’t grateful either. They seem to think they are ENTITLED to guys at my level. I tell them ‘no’ and they get confused. They expect white love now. It’s a disaster.

        Yes, still much harder in the West to get laid, but ultimately more rewarding. Stop being such pussies, hit the gym, be the best man you can be, and stop hiding out in Asia you cowards.

        • NormalNomad says:


          Like I said, it’s so easy to get laid with much more attractive women in Bangkok that it’s not even worth discussing Manila…..

          The only advantage the Philippines holds is cost of living and English speaking. And honestly, you can get by well enough in Bangkok without learning Thai to justify not living in the Phils.

          Pinays are pretty ugly on average. There are some hot ones, usually they’re mixed with something. But they require much more effort and a decent level of “game” which kind of negates the whole point of being in Asia as a white guy in the first place.

          As for Mikey, no idea where you’re meeting your girls, but dude, I don’t message any girls at all, ever. They come to me. That’s my rule. My other rules is, “They come to me” as in dates, I don’t do them. Period.

          Thirsty guys ruin anyplace if they are around long enough.

          But if you put a girl in her place you’d be surprised at how quickly her tune changes. I straight up tell them I’m not putting up with their bullshit and a good percentage of them stop putting out bullshit. The rest, well, they figure out eventually that there are a limited supply of white guys (under 35) and an unlimited supply of Pinays.

          I’ve always doubted spirit mazes claims of how good looking he is, as a guy who looks that good can get laid in the west with similar levels of effort with much hotter women, so it’s pointless to be here unless you prefer the personality of Pinays (which spirit maze clearly gives no fucks about).

          You either highly overestimate your own looks (spending too long in Asia will do that do you) or you just plain lie.

          • Spirit maze says:

            Well I’ve met Jspill. Have you ever met anyone who can vouch for you, Normal?

            Have you even been to the Philippines?

            Your ‘i don’t put up with bullshit’ advice is terrible. Filipinas run a million miles from bitter gammas like you.

            They can smell your ‘i can’t get laid in the West’ vibe a million miles away. It stinks of poor genetics.

            In fact, you were so successful here that you left because the traffic was too noisy for your sensitive, gay little ears.

            The best advice i can give anyone coming to the Phils is be nice initially (but not too nice), then bait and switch pump and dump and make them cry. It’s lethal.

            Being good looking helps a lot. Sorry Normal, looks matter. Even in Manila.

          • Zebra says:

            “I don’t message any girls at all, ever. They come to me” :
            That’s great advice… except that only the lower monkeys message first. My deduction of that is that, Normal, loves slumdogs. I’d even go as far as wondering if Normal uses the jeepney when he buys his groceries. There, the brown girls will come to him (and grimace at him while eating their bananas)

  14. Spirit maze says:

    I discovered an awesome new Poosy Paradise that you guys would definitely be interested in. It’s call the Pet Store. And the best thing is that dogs and cats can’t speak english, so you can have non-consensual sex with them and they can’t even report you.

    You heard it first from Spirit Maze. So when Roosh brings out his new book Bang Pet Stores, just remember that it was my idea!

  15. Zebra says:

    Let’s examine a case example :
    Those 2 specimens on the left have monkey-like postures. If they were in a tree, there’d be not much difference

  16. Spirit maze says:

    I think that photo is misleading for the readers Zebra. Most filipinas don’t look like that. 95% are shorter, fatter and look decidedly less human. Say nothing of the giant nigger/gorilla nostrils most of them sport.

  17. Zebra says:

    I’d never fuck those 2 ones. Too dark. They are reserved for the nicer guys, like our sexpats here. Plus, I have a feeling that they don’t fit their clothes. Their $3 shoes look awkward, and what’s that grandmother skirt on the left one?

  18. Frank says:

    “I’d never fuck those 2 ones.”

    Your native language is English? Hope not, else you come off as smart as a tree stump.

    • Anonymous says:

      The girls in question, despite being English speakers, probably have the same English proficiency. Stop white knighting.

    • Spirit maze says:

      he’s French Frank. You racist prick. I bet you don’t hold your 40 year old single mom asian-hos to the same level.

      ‘Hellllloo Mr Sirrrrr Frank. Would you like to take me on holiday to Buracai? You pay for everything hehehehehe. Can I bring my 5 kids too??? Can you adopt them?? hehehe’

      • Frank says:

        Spirit Maze, My gf is 18 with no kids. If she acts up I’ll slap her so hard she won’t wake up for a week. I’m not a captain save a ho. How about you shut the fuck up?

  19. Mikey Johnson says:

    You don’t do dates, NN?! How the fuck do you manage that?

    I at least get them out to SM / Ayala before I decide what to do with them. Girls that wanna come directly to me are obvious pros OR low quality nonsense.

    Had some overweight Cebuana say she wanted to come over, but I couldn’t be arsed. I’d rather not bring her through my building. Locals are secretly mocking me already.

    Also, been trying to pull some of these so-called hiso filipinas in Cebu, but they just aint havin it. It’s gonna take me more than 1 date. LOL…yeah no. A lot of them look down on foreigners, but I bet I could pay her salary out of pocket at least 10 times.

    I’m gonna stop here before I start trashing Cebuanos again.

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