Friday 28 March 2008

Thank you

This is the very last…

I know that certain organisations are getting excited already. Those that don’t like the things we say, that get upset when we expose their scandalous interest rates or contractual terms, those that threaten us when we demonstrate how they deceive and confuse their customers and those that think consumers shouldn’t know how to protect themselves.

There are stores that sell things on credit that would probably like us to go away. They would dearly like us to stop writing in Mmegi and to the various Ministers in Government regarding the illegal conduct of these stores when they fail to disclose the full credit price of the items they sell.

There are big stores that probably would like us to stop telling consumers about the ways they try and evade their legal responsibilities. Like the case we heard of from a consumer who had just bought a new “Kreepy Krauly” cleaning device for their swimming pool. On the outside of the box it said that the device had “a fantastic 5-year limited warranty”. Well, excellent you might think and yes I’d probably agree with you. However, when you opened the sealed box and found the warranty card inside things became a little different. The card outlined a few reasonable exclusions from the warranty. It’s not covered if you mistreat the device which is reasonable. The curious part was the last clause that said that the warranty “is given in place of all warranties, guaranteed, express or implied, of mechantability, fitness for particular purpose”. In other words the Consumer Protection Regulations don’t apply. In particular the sections that talk about it being “fit for the purpose”. The Regulations DO allow a supplier to waive those obligations but so long as “the waiver is clearly stated and the consumer has specifically consented to it”. Well, how can you consent to this when you have to open the sealed box to read it, something you can only do AFTER you have purchased it, have got it home and are plugging it in? Distinctly dodgy if you ask me.

So yes, there are stores that would probably we shut up and went away.

Well, tough, we’re not going anywhere.

What I was going to write is that this is the very last Consumer Watchdog column that will be published during the current presidency. Next week we’ll have a different president and I really can’t allow this occasion to go past without note.

There are various reasons why I think it’s worth recognising the change. One is that the leadership of a country is just one facet of that country. The leader might retire but the nation carries on. It’s ironic that there is more continuity in a democracy than in a dictatorship. When dictators like Tito, Amin or Castro finally go there is disruption, anarchy and distress. When a democratically elected leader moves on virtually nothing happens. The national wheels just keep turning. It’s exactly the same in business. Yes, a corporate leader can put his or her fingerprint on a company but he or she is just another employee doing their best to satisfy the customers and through them the shareholders.

However the most important point for me is a personal one. Every year we hold a Consumer Watchdog Birthday Party that has been very generously sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank. Take note – they don’t sponsor Consumer Watchdog, they just sponsor the party. We don’t take sponsorship for anything we do for consumers.

We hold the party for one reason only. To celebrate everyone that we have celebrated in this column. The people we list every week have been nominated by our readers as people who deserve public recognition for the astounding service they deliver. They aren’t celebrated by their company, by themselves or by their mum. They are celebrated by you and me, ordinary consumers.

Just so it’s perfectly clear let me stress that they get celebrated and invited entirely for free. Not one of them pays a single thebe to be there and neither do their employers. It’s a genuine celebration, not a money-raising event.

They get invited to the party along with the most senior person in their company, to be celebrated in public, in front of the press and by the nation itself.

That’s the connection with the President. He has attended both of the parties we’ve held so far. Each time he has taken time from his astonishingly busy schedule to come along and help us celebrate our service stars. He has come as our Head of State so that the State itself can recognise our customer service heroes.

We are deeply grateful for this. Hopefully being celebrated by Consumer Watchdog is a good thing. Hopefully having your name published in Mmegi is an uplifting experience. But what can be better than having your President stand in front of you and say you are a tribute to the country?

If you want to see some evidence of the occasions visit our web site. There are pictures and even a video clip of the coverage on BTV.

I hope he won’t mind us telling you about his arrival at last year’s party. He arrived as planned and was escorted to a sofa where he could relax and frankly he looked like he needed it. After a day full of visiting delegations, functions and paperwork he was obviously very tired. However as soon as he was invited to say a few words to the service stars he summoned up some energy, shot up to the stage and, without any preparation gave us all an uplifting speech.

I know politicians are masters of communication but his words really showed that as a leader and as the nation’s representative he understood how important customer service is to our country’s future. He understands that our people are far more valuable to us than diamonds.

So that’s why we are so grateful to him.

Mr President, we thank you. We thank you for your support, for your presence and for your obvious understanding of the role service plays in our future as a nation.

Enjoy your retirement, you’ve certainly deserved a break. Don’t forget that if you ever get bad service we’ll be there to help!

This week’s stars!

  • Leo Mokgware from BTC for sorting out a problem promptly.
  • Tebogo at BTC call centre for outstanding follow-up.
  • Ratsela Segwati from First National Bank for excellent recovery from a problem.

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