Friday 2 June 2006

Some successes

Watchdog has had a busy couple of weeks recently, dealing with a wide range of problems people have raised so we thought it was time to tell you about some of them.

How not to treat the bereaved

We heard from a listener whose British business partner had very recently been killed in a car crash. Our listener had done his best to sort out his partner’s affairs but there were certain things only his family could do so the deceased man’s relatives flew from the UK to attend to them and to take his body back to his home for burial. The good news is that they were treated with enormous sympathy by the Police and the British High Commission, both of whom helped the unfortunate family through what must have been a terrible time and who went out of their way to make sure paperwork was sorted out and that the required legal steps were followed.

However things didn’t go so well with the deceased businessman’s bank. This is where the natural sympathy, respect and understanding the family had learned to expect in Botswana evaporated.

The family went to the bank to return things like credit cards and cheque books and to request that the remaining funds left in the deceased’s accounts be transferred to his son. Despite showing the father’s death certificate, the son’s passport and a whole lot of other official paperwork the bank’s Customer Service Manager’s response was a brick wall.

“Until we see paperwork from the High Court in Lobatse confirming who you are, your relationship to the deceased and your entitlement to his money there’s nothing we can do.”

Despite being told that the family were leaving Botswana the following day and requesting options and solutions numerous times they got nothing but an absolute refusal to assist.

Oh and another thing. Throughout this experience they weren’t even offered a seat, let alone any condolences and sympathy.

Luckily the deceased man’s business partner, who also banked at the same bank but at a different branch stepped in and took control. Off he took them to his branch where they met the Operations Manager who knows him. The very moment he heard the details of the story he took a look at the account and the paperwork and said “Of course I can help, don’t worry about a thing”.

Within moments things were sorted out. Since this all came to light the bank have written to the family in the UK expressing their deep regret for the way they were treated.

Where shall I begin? Perhaps with the staggering lack of sympathy shown by the first manager or is that too obvious?

Perhaps by criticising the bank for adhering to their policies TOO closely? Yes of course policies are there for a reason but there are sometimes situations where managers should use their discretion and act like a manager for a change, not just a policy-follower. What about offering alternatives, rather than just saying No? What about offering to transfer the money electronically to the son in the UK when the manager had received the necessary paperwork? That might even have been easier and more secure than what the family were asking for.

So I think our lesson for the week is flexibility in a crisis.

Broken credit agreements

Yet again we heard from a customer who thought she had one sort of credit agreement but later found out she had something very different.

The same old story. The customers went to a store and bought furniture on credit and was told it’s a 3-month interest free credit agreement. So long as she pays back everything in 3 months she won’t have to pay any interest. However they actually made her sign a 24-month top-notch interest bearing agreement. They assure her yet again that so long as she pays everything back in 3 months everything will be fine. Heard this before?

So what happens? After 2 months the furniture starts leaking dye everywhere. She then makes a mistake. She stops paying.

As I’ve mentioned countless times before this is almost always a huge mistake. In this situation the customer MUST remember that just because one party to a contract fails to live up to his obligations that doesn’t excuse the other party from hers.

Worse still is what the contract actually says. Remember that the contract she actually signed was the 24 month one, not the 3-month interest free option. This also included a huge insurance policy as well as all that awful interest so she was in a VERY awkward position.

However we’ve just heard back from our Attorneys who argue that actually it was the furniture store who breached the contract in the first place by selling her furniture that leaked dye everywhere. This clearly suggests to them that the goods had a “latent defect” so she should be within her rights to demand all of her money back.

However she’s lucky to get away with this, most people aren’t.

The lesson is very simple. Don’t sign things unless you agree to them. Remember that the good old days of a handshake and a promise are gone. It’s only what’s in writing that matters. If you sign something you’re committed. So don’t sign it!

This week’s stars!

  • Mogorosi at Standard Chartered Bank for understanding that policies and procedures are there to be followed but also that managers are there to manage and to take the right decision when necessary.
  • Joe at Delis at the CraftCentre for wonderful service and showing that he really cares about his customers.
  • Encyclo dry cleaners at Molapo Crossing for really friendly, efficient and great service. Our listener told us she wasn’t even charged for one load of washing as it wasn’t quite ready in the time they agreed.
  • Kesaobaka has worked for Evergreen Landscaping at UB for many years. Everyone thinks she is wonderful and admire her dedication.

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