So much so that I think it might be one of our national disorders. Alongside our addiction to meetings, “stakeholder consultations” and “benchmarking”, disrespect often seems to dominate the customer service we offer.
Late last year we were ready to welcome John C Maxwell to our country. Maxwell is an acclaimed public speaker on leadership and a whole lot of other good things. Ignoring the fact that the only businesses he seems to have run have been churches and his public speaking company, he is nevertheless respected among the “Let’s talk a lot of mumbo jumbo about management and take the money” community. We’ll also overlook the fact that many of his books were actually “co-written” by his "Book Writing Partner", Charlie Wetzel.
Interestingly, he was due to speak alongside "Dr" David Molapo. Like Dr Maxwell, Molapo is qualified primarily in religion and on his web site states that he holds a “Doctorate in Religious Education from International Seminary".
I can’t help but observe that "International Seminary" is an American establishment accredited by a body that they concede “is not affiliated or recognized by the federal government”. So, not a real doctorate then.
This isn’t the important issue though. Shortly before it was due to occur the conference was postponed due to the weather and was rearranged for this month. When they postponed the conference they emailed all the potential attendees saying:
“kindly note that all delegates that have registered and paid for the subject conference will be able to participate in a half-day motivational leadership session with Dr. David Molapo on Monday 12th November 2012, still at Gaborone International Convention Centre. All teas, sandwiches, coffees and lunch will be complimentary. Although this conference is free of charge, kindly note that Dr. Molapo’s latest books, CD’s and DVD’s will be available for purchase.Note what they said: “this conference is free of charge”. Ignore the fact that they don’t know what apostrophes are for.
Additionally, the same delegates who have registered and paid will automatically qualify to participate at no additional cost in the upcoming March 2013 Leadership Conference with Drs. John C. Maxwell and David Molapo.”
We heard from one of the people who booked this conference who had a slight problem. She couldn’t attend on the new date. She contacted the organisers explaining this and theire response was simple. Because she attended the “free of charge” conference with Mr Molapo she was, in their opinion, now irreversibly committed to the re-arranged conference with Maxwell this month. No, she could NOT have a refund. Not even a little one.
This is, of course, nonsense. At no point did she accept that attending the Molapo session committed her to the Maxwell one. She didn’t sign a thing agreeing to that.
OK, so far this is only moderately disrespectful. It became more so when she asked us to get involved on her behalf. I won’t bore you with the long, drawn-out email correspondence we had, I’ll just quote one of the last emails from the organiser:
“Unfortunately there is no way [she] can get a refund until she has satisfied us on how she is going to compensate us for dishonestly and unlawfully attending an event she was not meant to attend if at all she wanted a refund.”“Dishonestly and unlawfully”? So now she’s a criminal for wanting a refund? Now THAT is disrespectful. And possibly insane.
But it’s not just conference organisers who show disrespect. Car importers do it as well.
Again it’s not necessary to bore you with the details, it’s actually very simple. A customer ordered a car to be imported from the UK and they delivered the wrong one. It’s not the first time this company has done this, it probably won’t be the last. Understandably she asked for a refund. Only when we can sell the wrong one, she was told.
No, sorry, not acceptable. She paid for car A, she doesn’t have to wait for you to sell car B before she should get her money back. Then, when you DO promise a refund, don’t lie about it? Don’t make endless promises about when the money will be with her? Why not? It’s disrespectful, that’s why.
The same goes for the guy hired to construct a reader’s swimming pool who took her 50% up-front payment, begged her for P10,000 more and then left her with nothing more than a hole in her garden full of concrete. That’s because he’s “lost” the money she gave him and now says he can’t continue unless she coughs up even more. That’s certainly disrespectful. It’s even more disrespectful when he sat with her in my office and made a promise to finish it on front of both of us.
And what about the wedding photographer who offered to photograph and video a guy’s 3-day wedding celebration and neglected to turn up for the actual wedding ceremony? And who still wanted to be paid the whole amount? As I’m writing this he hasn’t even handed over the photos and video, despite being given almost half the amount as an up-front deposit.
All of these people are completely disrespectful and if we consider ourselves to be a nation that values respect we should make it known to them that we don’t approve. The very best way to do this is to spread the word. When you’re disrespected by someone who takes your money tell everyone you know. Tell your friends, family, colleagues, neighbours and the person behind you in the queue at the bank. Spread the word that disrespect is unpatriotic and the disrespectful don’t deserve to do business.