A CALL TO CONSUMER REVOLUTION (or is it rebellion)

As our beloved country battles to find its footing economically, it finds itself besought by a creepy cancerous culture that is slowly but definitely eroding and corroding whatever gains we have made.

Picture this:

I walk into a famous retail shop that now offers 6 months “interest free payment” terms along Jason Moyo Street in the City of kings. I do not want to buy anything but I just want to pay my dues for the month. I recall that my account is a Mutare one and I go to the Accounts section which is overhung by a banner saying “pay your accounts here”. I happily join a disjointed queue which is randomly served by tellers who keep popping to the rear and appear apparently having forgotten who they were serving last or why they went there at all.

I finally get the attention of one of the tellers and before I finish telling them I want to know my balance so I can pay my account he brusquely tells me that the accounts desk where I am does not take any account payments anymore and the sign above sways as if in consternation. I have to join the queue of people buying clothes; the shortest one is at Kiddies and me snail along. When I reach the front the smiling lady tells me something to the effect that they are offline and I have to GO BACK TO ACCOUNTS! I give her my mini second smile and trudge back to the Accounts desk, queue again, remonstrate with two ladies who think they are in a hurry enough to jump the queue in front of me. After ages another smiling teller gets my card , goes to the famous rear, reemerges to tell the supervisor that she cannot get thru to Mutare, she is told to dial some extension (2045 I think) , she gets thru, asks for my balance due and waits for about 3 minutes online. When whoever is on the other end gets back a conversation starts, she tells him (I assume it’s a he) because she answers something like I do not have children and is smiling coyly into the phone. When I see that this conversation might end on 14 February next year I bring up my infamous stare and glare straight in to her eyes upon which she ‘ REMINDS’ the guy at the end of the line that the customer is waiting !

Finally I know what I must pay, I go back to Kiddies, queue again and 3 minutes later the lady recognizes me and waves me to the front and this time I cast my gentlemanly manners aside  as I cruise to the front, pay my account and walk away after thanking her for her ‘kindness’. As I walk away I hear her at pains to explain to the next customer why I had been made to jump the queue but I am too frustrated to go to her aid. I walk away asking myself:

  • Why do I have to suffer to pay an account?
  • Why should I be shuttled to and fro because of an organization’s failure to organize itself and its employees?
  • Where are the managers and directors when premium brands are being muddied like this?
  • Do I really deserve this?

I mischievously wonder if this is the same attitude I would be subjected to if I walked away with my money and obviously went into arrears NOT because I cannot pay my due but because this organization makes it easier not to pay your account than to pay it. I was tempted to go and stand under the CCTV and flash the money I intended to pay to the camera so that if I defaulted I would ask them to rewind so as to see that for sure I was in their store but they made it difficult for me to pay. Then the horrifying thought that the camera might not work sobered me and I gingerly soldiered on to beg to pay my account.

In all earnest did it have to be like that?

Before I answer you let me give you another one. I subscribe to a monthly internet service via my prepaid line. Every month I have to fork out a hard earned USD 25 for the service. Not that the service is good at all but I find myself stuck in the boondocks where this other landline service provider is basically nonexistent so at least if I have access to my Gmail, Yahoo, my study notes and of course Facebook, I feel a little part of the modern world.

I have to put up with intermittent absences of the service without explanation and the helpline made up of 3 digits rings off the hook with no efforts of returning our calls being made by the service provider. From the number of fed up columns I see on internet forums I am convinced the service provider has seen the complaints but either does not care to explain or is too busy calculating the USD denominated profits obtained from a half-baked service rendered to a long suffering nation with no alternatives.

What really got my cat this time is that normally the service provider sends a generated reminder to tell me about renewing my subscription or something to the effect that they have had to cut me off because I have not shown myself at their doorstep to pay for a 30 day service that is barely available for 15 days. This time the E signal just disappeared; I guess the service provider wanted to save money on unnecessary overheads! Only after so many attempts to connect to the net did my overloaded and overworked mind remind me that the account could have been cut off. I frantically make arrangements for someone in Bulawayo to pay the account (there is no Econet shop in Plumtree) and two hour later the E appears on my mobile but efforts to dial up churn up a message to the effect that there is no network and that is 25 dollars later. I do not bother to call the help line because NO ONE WILL ANSWER!!

This absence of network occurs till 0000hrs this morning (I told you I am dependent on this service) and the service just sneaked back to my screen without notification or apology. And like a hen pecked husband I calmly embrace dearest service and I start surfing! (No pun intended).

This is a good example of a blue chip brand that glitters from millions of our hard earned dollars for which we are getting a 5th world standard service ( even 3rd world countries do not deserve this).  One wonders where the regulators are when this happens.

Or is it the regulators to blame? Why have we allowed ourselves to be henpecked into a serf mentality when we are the ones paying for the service? How many times have you walked into a hotel and you find the TV not working and the technician will arrive at your door when you checking out. How many times have you been given yesterday’s salad at premium joints and after almost even running your bowels into the sewer you calmly go back as if to say hit me again  please baas ?

What will it take for us the consumers to realize that WE HAVE THE POWER? Especially in these trying times when money is hard to come by why do we still apply a docile mind when these conglomerates take our money for a sickening service and all we do is mumble within our closed mouths while suffering abuse? What will it take for us the consumers to  know that if we respond by walking away , by demanding good service , by awakening the regulators( these people are on our payroll after all and they are accountable to us!)To the fact that we are being milked dry by gazoomba vultures that in turn throw two celery stalks of service at our feet and expect us to be still the cash cows tomorrow. Is Consumer Council of Zimbabwe still there? Is there a standards association here I Zimbabwe?

I deliberately put these questions across because I believe we need more than these bodies. We need a consumer revolution that will awaken these service providers to reality. Why should our mothers walk away from retail shops smiling happily  about their half price bargains only to discover when at home that the powdered milk expired in June , the baked beans are not even certified for consumption by human beings and that the bread is half mealie meal ?

In us is a certain docility that industry has burrowed into and continues to happily chug into. I for one have resolved that from 01 September 2010 AD, no enterprise will take me for a ride. It’s a mammoth task but if a thousand of us do so, things will change. … And ow where is that connectivity card?

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rabison Shumba
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 18:51:28

    Phindile

    When I first saw the article I thought “Yah now this is a long article”. I almost got discouraged, not until I read the first few lines. I could not stop. This make interesting reading and indeed it will take you very far. I have never seen someone who is not only hilarious but I can feel what you went through, the pain, the frustration. I can also see the places you went to etc. That is a style I admire from your writings. Wow. You have done it my man.

    Turning to the article content. I indeed think as customers we have taken in so much to the point of numbness to poor service. Indeed 5th world service is tolerated as something that is “at least occasionally available”. A day is coming very soon when customers will collectively stand and speak with one voice.

    Thank you for this.

    Like

    Reply

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