The humidity in the office was intense enough to induce light-headedness, even though it was late in the evening, and the central air conditioning was running, rattling.
Thirty-four-year-old Jane Hughes reminded herself that this was, after all, an office in Thailand.
Roughly forty-eight hours ago she had driven to the airport through a typical February morning in Michigan, the tires of her SUV slipping across ice. Snow and ice pellets had threatened to overwhelm her windshield wipers. Climate shock, like culture shock, was an unavoidable aspect of international business travel.
The overhead florescent lights were turned off to save power. Electricity was more expensive in Thailand than in the United States.
At any rate, Jane and the other woman with her, Khajee Wongsuwan, did not need the overhead lights. They had pulled their chairs close to Khajee’s desk, where they huddled over an Excel spreadsheet displayed on Khajee’s laptop computer.
Khajee’s office was cramped. This partly accounted for the tenseness of the fetid tropical air. Jane and Khajee were the only two people in the room, Jane was quite sure. Nevertheless, Jane could not dispel the feeling that they were being watched by unseen eyes.
She was tired, jet-lagged, and in unfamiliar surroundings—that was all. Her job at TRX Automotive frequently took her abroad; but this was her first trip to the company’s manufacturing facilities in Thailand. She had slept about four hours out of the past twenty-four. No wonder her mind was foggy.
Khajee tapped the screen, glowing in the darkness, with a pen. “The defect rates are much lower with the new supplier,” Khajee observed.
This was no surprise to Jane. The supplier change had been Jane’s idea. Jane nodded. The evidence was right there in black-and-white.
The new supplier was located in Vietnam, whereas the previous supplier had been located in Thailand. But the Vietnamese company offered both better pricing and higher quality. The decision was a no-brainer, once you laid out the data.
“That’s good news, isn’t it?” Khajee asked rhetorically. Khajee Wongsuwan was about Jane’s age. She was slender, pretty, and tall for a Thai. She spoke fluent English with only a slight accent, having been educated both in Thailand and abroad. Khajee was an employee of TRX Automotive’s Thai subsidiary, TRX Automotive Thailand. She was Jane’s main contact for supplier-related issues at the Thai plant.
“Ram will have to be convinced by this data,” Khajee said. “There’s no way to argue against it.”
Ram, yes, of course. Ram. He was the last person Jane wanted to think about right now.
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