Nobody seems to remember when the city’s 24-hour phone helpline first saw the light of day. It has certainly been available in Thai and English since 2007 and still employs friendly and knowledgeable staff who receive in-house training to sharpen those all-important customer care strategies. Available on a 24/7 basis all the year round, 1337 may be the only such service run by a local authority anywhere in Thailand. No sign of any others on Google.
You can phone for information about Pattaya events. We tested the system recently by asking for details about a dog show in Central Festival and immediately got them. Actually more stuff than we needed. You can enquire about local bureaucracy, such as where and how to pay a bill or how to get rid of a viper in your garden or to whom to report a damaged power line. We enquired about the domestic toilet sucking service (rot dood suam) and were promised the truck would be there the following morning at 9 a.m. It was. We had to barter the price with the driver but he turned up on time.
Then there are the complaints. Common calls seem to be grumbling about continually barking or dangerous dogs in your street or becoming angry about all the uncollected garbage in your neck of the woods. Not always an easy answer. One frantic caller even recorded the canine barking on his phone and invited the 1337 operator to listen. Not sure what happened, but the city’s veterinary team visited the street soon afterwards. Complaints about garbage are referred to the privatized company responsible for collection. It sometimes works.
A common misunderstanding is that most calls are from foreigners. In fact around 70 percent are from Thais according to an independent report by Rajapark Institute, the majority being women. During the current coronavirus crisis with its attendant unemployment crisis in the city, the 1337 help line has been a major source of information for state cash handouts and free meals available locally and at City Hall. 1337 was the principal source of information in Pattaya after the yellow-shirt occupation of Suvarnabhumi airport back in 2008.
As Pattaya is currently denied overseas tourists, the number of calls has declined. Perennial issues such as the sins of jet-ski operators or overpricing at the resort’s transvestite cabarets have disappeared from the radar. They have been replaced in part by queries about when Thailand will reopen again, but the 1337 staff are not fortune tellers. But they can refer enquirers to official sources of information or embassy websites.
Naive, rogue and mischievous calls are all part of the syndrome. Calling 1337 won’t tell you which is the best Italian restaurant in Pattaya or where to get the cheapest drink on Walking Street, or what’s left of it. Abusive callers – and there aren’t many – will be advised calmly that the call may be terminated and that a recording of such outbursts is kept centrally. City Hall itself advises that advice-seekers shouldn’t grumble on Facebook because concerns there are ignored. Phone 1337. Anytime.