Friday 9 December 2005

Watchdog’s Christmas wish list

Dear Santa Claus

We know that only good children are visited by Santa at Christmas but we think we’ve been pretty good all year. We’ve only been threatened with legal action twice and given that we make a habit of exposing extortionate interest rates, hidden charges and the occasional supplier or store who has no idea about standards we think that’s pretty good. So surely we deserve something?

We’ve given it a lot of thought and here’s our Christmas wish list.

Service stars

Send us some more service stars. We know there’s quite a few of them in Botswana already but we can’t get enough of them. So far we’ve celebrated around 100 people for delivering customer service over and above consumer’s expectations but we’re greedy and we want more! Every store, every restaurant, every bank should have service champions who can lead teams, train newcomers and, every so often, fire those who just can’t make it in a service setting. They can take the lead in improving our whole service culture and making us a country people talk about for being welcoming, friendly and hospitable. It shouldn’t be so difficult, surely? We are welcoming, friendly and hospitable aren’t we?

Suppliers who “get it”

Just as there are individuals who deliver top of the range service there should be suppliers that realise that excellent customer service makes them competitive, makes them achieve the best and makes them lots of money. There are a few companies that do this already but a few isn’t enough. We want more of them! We want much more competition in Botswana. Real competition. Yes, there’s room for it and things can only get better when those that excel make those that don’t either shape up or ship out.

More assertive shoppers

Please Santa, send us a large dose of assertiveness that we can share amongst shoppers and consumers. We don’t mean aggression, rudeness or confrontation, just assertiveness. Just the strength to stand up for our rights, to say “No” when we’re being abused and some backbone when the supplier tries to bully us.


Please send us some reason? We urgently need to send some to those suppliers that get all defensive when we raise our perfectly justifiable complaints with them.

We also need to distribute just a little bit among consumers themselves. Very occasionally the customer is wrong. Completely or partially wrong. Sometimes even unreasonable. Every now and then we need to give a consumer a dose of reason for when they have either been driven crazy by an awkward supplier or they just happen to be unreasonable in their expectations.

Some smiles

This should be easy as smiles are cheap! Send us a huge load of smiles that we can give suppliers, and indeed customers, to use when they deal with each other. We know that a smile at the beginning or end of a transaction or a complaint makes the whole thing much easier and much more satisfactory.


Some outlets urgently need some imagination. Restaurants need new menu items occasionally. OK, keep the items you know people love but be adventurous occasionally. It may not work but at least nobody will be able to criticise you for not trying.

Oh and give us some special offers. Just make them ones that work in Botswana please? Not ones limited to South Africa. We are not a province or a colony of South Africa. We are a separate country and you know what? We rather like it that way.

A little legal protection

Send us a few laws that can help to protect us. We don’t want many, just a few that will regulate the micro-lending industry, control store credit schemes and punish those that transgress. However, if you and your little helpers don’t have many laws to go round there is one we want more than any other. We want every company, whether a bank, a micro-lender or a furniture store to be forced to tell us every time they advertise what the total cost of a lending scheme will be. Make them include every charge, make them say what the annual percentage rate is and make them give us a compulsory cooling-off period so when our husband or wife blows a fuse we can change our minds!

However, and this is a big however, please do not send us anything like the litigation culture they have in the States. We don’t want to sue a company for compensation for our emotional trauma and psychotherapy bills every time they upset us, we just want the right to get our problem fixed. We really don’t want every tiny complaint sorted out 2 years later in the High Court having incurred huge legal costs, we wanted it sorted out for free on the shop floor this afternoon.

Legal threats

Lastly, can you please send us a few more suppliers who, the moment we criticise them by pointing out their outrageous interest rates or their complete contempt for their customers, will threaten to sue us for defamation? It does make us laugh such a lot!

Lots of love

Consumer Watchdog

This week’s stars!

  • All the guys at Kudu Filling Station in the Main Mall in Gaborone for being great fun
  • Raj at Plascon for being “just great at customer service”
  • Daniel and the team at BSPCA for being so caring, friendly and great with the animals
  • Enrico and the team at Kgale Debonairs Pizza for responding SO well to an issue a customer raised (free ice cream all round!)
  • Debbie and team at Waterbabies for donating an Adult swimming course as a Christmas prize

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