Friday 9 November 2007

Do we deserve it?

There is an old saying in politics that the people get the government they deserve. Now before you think I’m going to attack our government let me stop you. That comes later. First I’m going to adjust that saying slightly.

Customers get the quality of products and services they deserve.

I’m not saying that customers deserve bad treatment. I’m not saying that we deserve to be disrespected. I’m certainly not saying we deserve to be abused. However I do think we, as consumers, have a role to play in making sure we ARE respected and not insulted. We need to start demanding respect rather than just expecting it.

One of the first things we can do is not walk headlong, with our eyes wide open, into trouble. To begin with we can stop buying what can politely be described as Completely Ridiculous Awful Products. I went with my family recently to the Fireworks night at the Gaborone Cricket Club. The evening was great fun, thousands of people having a great time seeing their friends, having a few cold ones, watching some awesome fireworks and generally enjoying a great evening.

The trouble was with some of the merchandise on offer. Kids were spending their pocket money on the cheapest, nastiest plastic toy guns from a particular stall. Based on my children’s experience that night these toy guns have an average lifespan of around 2 hours before they break. Luckily they broke while we were still there and when we got back to the stall to demand a refund there was a queue of deeply unhappy kids all demanding the same thing. The stallholders however didn’t seem to understand that they had little choice in the matter. It was only when a bunch of adults started shouting and the kids starting crying that they realised this was probably not the best form of advertising they could construct. The kids got their money back.

But we, the parents were responsible for this. We allowed our kids to buy these Completely Ridiculous Awful Products. There’s no excuse, we’ve all bought them before, we all know that they are the cheapest, nastiest, flimsiest rubbish that ever came out of a sweatshop in deepest China. We were to blame for it as much as the stallholders thinking they could make a few Pula from selling rubbish.

We allow this to happen by participating in it.

Why can’t we do better? Why can’t we fill this need ourselves? Why can’t we, as a country, produce our own toys? Everywhere I go I see people selling things they’ve made, either from wire or wood. Why can’t we make our own cheap toy guns out of a few bits of wood and a rubber band? We have the skills, we could have our own little village industry making toys that would cost the same and would last a whole lot longer that the C.R.A.P. from China.

So, back to getting the government we deserve. I am NOT making a political point. I am not talking about politicians, political parties of election winners. I mean the functions of government.

Who was the last person you know who got stopped and fined for speeding? We all know someone. Most of us ARE that person. But who was the last person you know who got stopped and charged for going through a red light. For driving through a pedestrian crossing when there were people crossing the road? For driving like a certifiable lunatic? I can’t think of anyone. Why not? Is it because the police aren’t “empowered” to do so? Is it because it isn’t illegal? No, it’s none of these reasons. It because we don’t demand it. It’s because we haven’t written to our local Station Commander or perhaps even the Commissioner of Police and demanded that they do these things.

And what about consumer issues? Why are stores allowed to get away with disrespecting us? Why are stores allowed to charge simply outrageous amounts of money so we can buy things on credit? Why are stores allowed to ignore their responsibilities under the Consumer Protection Regulations and the Marking of Goods regulations? Why? Is it because government isn’t enforcing them? Yes, but WHY aren’t they enforcing them?

Because we don’t make them enforce them.

There’s a reason why public servants are called that. They are there to Serve the Public. That’s us. They are there to serve us and whenever we are not being served they are failing us.

We really must send a message to our public servants that we know what they are there to do. We know what their job is. We are fully aware of their powers and responsibilities. We must start asking them WHY aren’t they exercising them.

Here’s a suggestion for Government. If you really think you can serve the public then give us a sign. Give us a hint that you really believe it and are prepared to do your job. The first thing you can do is place every single government job description on the internet. Then publish every department’s and every officer’s performance objectives. That way we, your masters, can see what you plan to do to serve us. We can then make sure you do.

This week’s stars!

  • Aaron at Apache Spur at Riverwalk in Gaborone. Our reader said they got “the best service experience ever! Aaron was just amazing and I'm sure that I'll be going back to Spur and I'll insist on having him serve me again!”
  • Lulu at Mmegi who according to someone from a rival newspaper is fantastic, never known to raise her voice, always calm and generally a star.
  • Unity from the front desk at The Voice who apparently is also incredibly courteous, professional and hard-working.

We still have Wimpy vouchers to give away. Our friends at Wimpy have donated lots of P50 vouchers for us to give away to our readers. All you have to do is nominate someone who you think delivers excellent service and YOU get a Wimpy voucher. They get celebrated here in Mmegi, we’ll write to their Managing Director praising them and they get to come to our next Consumer Watchdog Party to be celebrated by you-know-who.

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