Friday 22 February 2008

Stop whining

OK, I accept that this might not be very tolerant, very understanding and very sympathetic and it may also seem strange coming from someone who is a passionate advocate of consumer power but sometimes the constant whining we hear just gets to me and I become all grumpy and impatient.

I suppose I should start by confessing that yes I DO understand that we consumers have quite a bit to complain about. We ARE often abused, tricked, deliberately confused and generally ripped off by a range of organisations. There ARE companies out there who will sell us membership of their clubs while neglecting to tell us about the lifetime commitment we have to make. There ARE companies who sell cheap computers with pirated software on them. There ARE many stores selling pirated films that are, more often than not, of such a terrible quality that you can hardly watch them. There are garages who will take your car, do second-rate repairs, lose your mag wheels and then tell you to get lost when you complain.

Above all there are the scandalous, wicked and utterly immoral charlatans who try to sell us miracle cures for our illnesses, playing on our fears, our desperation and our need to grasp at straws.

However, and please forgive a brief diversion, some of them are just ludicrous and it always amazes me that people still fall for the nonsense they offer. In the papers last week we were offered the delights of one Dr Kapeni, a herbalist who assures us he will never “let you down” which is amusing as his skills seem to be focussed on “man wood problems”. I couldn’t quite work out what “Take out bad luck same time” meant though.

Then there were the services of Pieter Bezuidenhout, who my acute senses tell me might be South African. Apparently he’s visiting Botswana next month and is offering various consultative services as an “Accurate Capetonian Psychic”. As well as personal consultation he also offers telephonic and, get this, “postal readings”. Now of course I’m not going to tell you not to partake of Pieter’s services but if you are deranged enough to do so please make sure you remind him that telling fortunes is illegal in Botswana. You can also tell him that services as well as products are covered by our very comprehensive laws. If any of his psychic predictions turn out to be not perfectly accurate you can accuse him of not delivering services of merchantable quality and therefore failing to meet his obligations under Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations. Just make him sign something before you hand over any of your money, OK?

What can stop these people? You and I can. It’s up to you and me.

Back to the issue…

Yes, there are people trying to separate us from our hard-earned money with their slimy, scheming tricks, of course there are and we at Consumer Watchdog will always do our best to help people who have fallen victim to them. However many situations are completely within our control and frankly we should be standing up for ourselves and not complaining when we don’t get what we want. It’s really up to you and me.

I know that I’ve gone on and on about the power crisis and I KNOW that there is lots of blame that can be cast around in the direction of Eskom and the past leaders of BPC but that’s another subject. The most important issue is what we, that’s you and I, are going to do about it. What are we prepared to do to help save power? Are we prepared to make some sacrifices and do our patriotic duty? It’s really up to you and me.

Then there’s the constant moaning and whining we hear about the role of government. I’m very sorry to go on about this as well but what do we really expect from Government? I know a lot of people in government rather well and I’ve had the privilege to work with some incredibly talented government employees but I can’t help avoid making one observation. As a country we can’t see the difference between government and the Public Service. There is a huge difference between governing the people and serving them. Parliament governs us but the rest of them serve us. They are our servants, they are there to deliver services to you and me, the citizens, residents and tax-payers of Botswana. The sooner we start treating public service employees the same way that we treat the employees of a bank, a restaurant or a supermarket the better. There is good news though. Certain parts of the Public Service are repeatedly being celebrated. Staff from the Department of Road Transport & Safety are often celebrated because they really seem to have turned the corner and have focussed on customer service. It CAN be done.

Yes, I know that the Public Service has a long way to go but there is actually only one thing that will take them further. Only when you and I start demanding service from our public servants will they start delivering it. It’s up to you and me.

Yes, I know I sound intolerant and impatient but the only way we can improve the quality of service in our country is when WE make it improve.. We can’t wait for other people to do it for us. So let’s stop whining about how bad things are and DEMAND that things improve.

It’s up to you and me.

This week’s stars!

  • Oabile at the Engen One-Stop on the Western Bypass in Gaborone, the one with the Wimpy, for his friendliness.
  • Mma Makula from Barclays Bank for helping to fix a customer’s problem. Our readers says that it is “people like Mma Makula who give us hope that excellent service and botho are not entirely dead and inspire those of us in the service industry to try to excel at our jobs”.
  • Thulani at the Riverwalk Woolworths who was very willing to help resolve a customer’s problem. She says he’s “A lovely guy!”
  • Kathleen at Standard Chartered Mall Branch in Gaborone for excellent follow up on a customer query.

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