Friday 14 December 2007

Feeling secure?

Are you feeling secure? When you are at home, on the roads or out shopping do you feel secure? Do you have a comfortable feeling of safety, freedom from the threat of crime and that you are able to enjoy what the US Declaration of Independence delightfully describes as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”?

In the last few weeks we’ve been contacted by a range of readers who have all raised issues that relate to security in one way or another.

The first was a reader who, with his wife, took his sister-in-law and her husband out to the Walmont Ambassador hotel (yes, I still call it the Grand Palm too) for a meal to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. A total of 17 people had a thoroughly good time with excellent food and music from a live DJ. In total they spent nearly P2,000 on the evening but everyone thought this was money very well spent.

Before going their various ways the whole group decided to have their pictures taken outside the hotel so they could remember a great evening. This is where the disappointment began.

“No sooner had we started taking pictures than the security personnel pounced on us like wild dogs. They threatened to confiscate our cameras and delete all the pictures including those which were not taken at the hotel.”

The group all ended up leaving the hotel feeling very dejected and having a very bad last memory of the evening. Very sensibly our reader complained to the hotel the following day and copied his complaint to us. The response was excellent. As soon as he heard about the issue Greg Soutter, the General Manager of the hotel got in touch.

He told us that they certainly do NOT object to customers taking photos at the hotel. On the contrary they love it. It is, after all, free advertising. What business doesn’t want people showing off evidence of what a fine company they are, spreading the word about their excellent service and recommending them, all for free? Greg went on to assure the customer that the security guards in question would be identified and “removed from the property”. He ended up offering a very sincere apology and a promise of a fuller response as soon as he has finished a formal investigation.

All in all, a very good response. A company that realises that security guards are there to make customers feel secure, not to hassle them.

However, another reader had a different experience, this time in a book store in a major shopping centre in Gaborone. Entering the store with his son and carrying his son’s rucksack over his shoulder he was accosted by a member of staff who told him he had to leave the bag at the desk. Looking around and noticing that several other people were carrying bags, that every woman in the shop was carrying a handbag and that other children also happened to be carrying rucksacks he decided to take it personally, left the store and vowed in future only to shop in their much larger branch in Sandton City where he says “I’ve never been excluded”.

There is an important issue here. We all know and understand that stores have to protect themselves against theft. It’s not the stores, after all, that end up paying the price for all the stolen goods. It’s us, their honest customers, who pay higher prices as a result. However there are alternatives. Have an open policy about such matters. Put up a huge sign saying that bags aren’t allowed and provide a secure place to keep them. Employ security guards to discreetly watch over people. Install a security camera. Encourage your staff to watch the customers, not just as a security measure but to see if they need help or advice. If you visit a decent restaurant you’ll see that the managers and waiters do this instinctively. They’re constantly scanning the restaurant for empty wine glasses, plates to clear or customers who look like they want to spend more money. Exactly the same approach should be used in all stores and here’s a secret for store owners. You’ll make more money.

In short stores CAN find ways of protecting themselves against crime without treating their honest customers like crooks.

Finally another good news security story. Another reader emailed us and said:

“I’m bringing to your attention the most unexpected good service. My partner was involved in a car accident yesterday evening, I was about 100 metres behind him. I stopped and called 999. My call was answered by Officer Seoko, who assured me that he would have the police with me as soon as possible. He called twice more, to let me know that help was on the way, and a third time to make sure they were at the scene. Needless to say, I was highly appreciative of his courtesy and professionalism.”

Now this IS good news. We are too often dismissive of the work done by the Police. We often complain that the police are never there when we need them, although we are often just as quick to complain when they ARE there when we don’t need them. Working in the Police is sometimes described as “99% boredom and 1% absolute terror” and it’s great to hear that despite the stress of the job, the appalling pay and utter boredom of most of the work there are officers out there that still care about their customers. We’ll be writing to the Commissioner of Police to pass on the celebration.

This week’s stars!

  • Of course Officer Seoko from the Botswana Police Service for outstanding service.
  • Akanyang from FNB Kgale for going out of her way to help
  • Majidu at Office Depot for being really helpful

We still have Debonairs vouchers to give away. Our friends at Debonairs 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 Debonairs 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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