Jennifer Gampell
868/75-76 Soi Vanich 2
Songwad Road
Bangkok 10100 Thailand
Tel/Fax: (66) 02-237-3362
Mobilex: (66) 01-925-7187
Web site:




April 24, 2000

Kitsch Report
by Jennifer Gampell

In Vietnam, the telephone company's directory-inquiry service provides a personalized touch above and beyond the call of duty. In Vietnamese, English or French, charming female operators answer questions about new restaurants, where to buy antique jewelry, how to find a veterinarian or practically anything else. Locals use the service to get up-to-the-minute football scores (to see if they won their bets), weather reports, exchange rates and cinema schedules. Children ring up to listen to fairy tales and folk stories (to lighten operators' workloads, the company recently switched to taped renditions).

The service started in 1994 in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and is now available, fully computerized, in most provinces. The dial-up number used to be 108, but due to the high volume of callers who just wanted to chat up the operators or talk about their personal problems, it has been split into two services. Dial 1080 for "ordinary" queries--and yes, operators also do the standard work of giving out phone numbers and addresses--and 1088 for psychological and medical needs. The latter service, staffed by professional counselors and doctors, costs 10 cents a minute, four times as much as 1080. For curious visitors, the only challenge is finding a telephone.


Copyright 2002 Jennifer Gampell