Friday 3 July 2009


Standards are great things to have. We all have certain “standards”. I have standards of behaviour regarding my children’s behaviour. Of course they normally pay them the same respect that you and I pay to the speed limit but occasionally I catch the monsters misbehaving and they are reintroduced to the basic standards.

Likewise, contrary to the opinion of BX drivers, combis drivers and anyone driving a flashy BMW there ARE actually standards of behaviour on the roads, they’re just not enforced. Contrary to the opinions of the owners of a small number of furniture stores there ARE standards of behaviour regarding store credit, it’s just that they have partial contempt for the law and supreme contempt for their customers.

But that’s not the sort of standard I’m interested in. Nor am I interested in the sort of standards we see from the Bureau of Standards. They are usually about things like PVC windows frames and manhole covers but occasionally they might cover something that you and I care about. However I think some people over-estimate the job of BOBS. I was in a meeting some months ago at BOBS when people started talking about setting standards for customer service. That’s when I lost the will to live. Setting mandatory standards for customer service is like advocating communism. Let’s make everyone earn the same salary, standardise prices regardless of variable production costs and while we’re at it let’s all wear the same colour clothes. Oh and we’ll have a secret police spying through our windows, we’ll outlaw literature and we’ll shoot all the capitalist farmers and happily starve to death in our new worker’s paradise.

I really don’t want standards for customer service, I don’t want an official document saying that waiters should smile at me. I want the manager and the waiters themselves to decide whether they should do that.

Back to standards. Last week we had a complaint about a new restaurant called Rodizio that had just opened at Riverwalk Shopping Centre in Gaborone. It’s something new, for which we’re all very grateful. We’ll try not to mention that it’s logo looks like a man holding a dead rat and that it occupies that spot at Riverwalk that has never held a restaurant that lasted very long. Instead we’ll just wish them luck and hope they make the best of the opportunity to satisfy us all.

Part of the complaint we received was about a “service charge” that was added to the bill a group of customers received. The customer claims not to have noticed it but on the menu it apparently says that all groups of more than 8 people will be charged a 10% service charge on top of the food and drinks. When we contacted the management at Rodizio they defended this practice saying that is was an “industry standard” and was therefore justifiable.

I disagree.

Yes, I do know restaurants that put a mandatory service charge on the menu for large parties, but just because something is commonly done it doesn’t mean it SHOULD be done. To take a ridiculous example, we all know that in some parts of the world it is “standard” to slice parts off little girl’s bodies with rusty razor blades in the name of some tortured, distorted and wicked “culture” but just because it IS done do we think it SHOULD be done? Of course not. What someone describes as a standard, customary or standard practice is not always desirable.

What’s more I think a service charge is indefensible. What’s it for? If it’s to compensate the restaurant for the extra hard work of serving a large group of customers at once then get out of the restaurant business now if you don’t like hard work.

If, on the other hand, it’s to give the waiters a tip then employ better waiters who will EARN a tip, not ones that can sit back and get one for doing nothing. What are we supposed to do when the service is terrible and then we’re presented with a compulsory tip? Are we supposed to pay it nevertheless? No, we would then be forced to argue our way OUT of paying a tip rather than choosing to reward excellent service when we encounter it. It’s plain wrong for a restaurant to force us to reward shoddy service when it happens. Restaurants should remember that they, as well as furniture stores, supermarkets and garages are covered by the Consumer Protection Regulations. Section 15 91) (a) of the Regulations says that a supplier has failed “to meet minimum standards of performance” if the service they deliver “is not rendered with reasonable care and skill”. Bringing cold food, spilling drinks and being rude all fall within that description, don’t you think?

I also question whether it IS, in fact, an industry standard. Yes, of course I know of restaurants that add the service charge for groups but I also know many that don’t. It would be interesting to see which restaurants do apply this un-asked-for, unwarranted and disrespectful charge and which instead choose to show their customer a little respect and courtesy.

I’m not going to say that you shouldn’t go to Rodizio, honest. I’ve spoken to other people who’ve been there and they say they had a great time and ad excellent service. I just think that it’s an unfortunate start for what I truly hope becomes a prosperous and popular restaurant.

This week’s stars
  • Nbangwa Tabuka at FNB in Kasane for really knowing his customers.
  • Mary also at FNB in Kasane for being what our reader said is “the best bank manager I’ve ever known!”

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