Thursday 18 March 2010

A New Era?

I could begin by wondering whether we’re entering a New Era of customer service in Botswana but I don’t think there’s much point. We’re not. But that’s just the way customer service is, things don’t change overnight. Yes, a new restaurant or supermarket might open with dramatically better service but the average quality of service takes much longer to change than that. Of course, as a passionate believer in the power of the free market I think that a new influence, such as that new restaurant, or a bank with heightened service, can exert “pressure” on the average level of service because of that almost miraculous business influence: competition.

That’s perhaps our greatest hurdle in Botswana, the lack of large-scale competition. If you’re in Jo’burg and you want to buy a new car there are dealers representing every manufacturer you can think of on every corner. In fact, when I did an on-line search for Toyota dealers in Gauteng I found 45 of them. Of course we’ll never have such choice, being such a small community. We need to resign ourselves to choice between brands, not between dealers.

Incidentally, I got that Toyota dealer figure from the Toyota web site. Isn’t it curious that Botswana doesn’t appear as a separate country on their site, even though we all know we have Toyota dealers here? No, on the Toyota web site, you can find Botswana as a “Region” on the South African page. Charming. Not.

In fact the reason I’m talking about a New Era is that I want the two words “New Era” to appear as many times in this article as possible. When it’s posted online my ambition is for this article to appear high up on the list of Google search results whenever anyone does a search for “New Era” and “Botswana”. Here’s why.

In October last year one of our readers booked a hotel stay for his wife who was going on a trip to Kenya. He did this through a company called Uniglobe New Era Travel at the Craft Workshop in Broadhurst Industrial. He paid them P7,695 and New Era confirmed everything was OK.

However when she reached Nairobi she found that no booking had been made, there was no hotel room for her, the hotel had never heard of her. Luckily she was with friends who helped out but it was nevertheless embarrassing, irritating and stressful. Back at home her husband called New Era to find out what had gone wrong only to be told that the manager had gone on holiday to South Africa, her phone didn’t roam and she couldn’t be contacted.

Once she was back from her holiday she provided an excuse. She’d been busy and had never actually made the booking. Sad, eh? Aren’t you sympathetic? No, neither am I.

Naturally you’ll be pleased to hear that the New Era manager gave the consumer a refund? Of course she did. It’s just a shame it was refused for “insufficient funds”. Then began a series of feeble excuses and promises, none of which actually delivered.

We suggested that this was no longer a time for being moderate and considerate. A crime had been committed.

Section 23 of the National Clearance and Settlement Systems Act 2003 states that:
"Any person who knowingly draws or issues a cheque… against which there are no sufficient funds in his account at a financial institution on which the cheque or other payment instrument is drawn shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding P1500 or 3 months imprisonment or to both."
That’s simple enough. Write a cheque that won’t be honoured and you really might end up in prison.

Our consumer went to the local Police station and laid a charge against her. This is our tip for the year. Help the Police do their job, make their difficult jobs a little easier. He went there with copies of everything, receipts, emails, the lot and even quoted the law to them. Then, in the company of a large cop (OK, I don’t actually know if the cop was either male or large, it just amuses me to think he was) they visited New Era Travel and explained to the manager the error of her ways. The cop made it clear that she would agree a repayment plan immediately and if she failed to abide by it she’d be in deep trouble with the law.

However, that’s when things stalled. She did, in fact pay him back a pathetic P500 but he’s still owed over P7,000. New he’s faced with the struggle of legal action to get it back.

However, there’s some good news. As soon as this began we contacted Uniglobe, the owners of franchise that New Era operate. They seemed to be as appalled as we were by New Era’s conduct. They promised to cancel her franchise if she didn’t do the right thing. This has taken a while but we heard recently that they’re certainly going to take action. We’ll keep you informed!

So here’s our simple suggestion. Don’t deal with New Era Travel. Avoid them. DO not give them any of your money. There are plenty of decent travel agents but New Era isn’t one of them. You can’t trust them.

An update

A couple of weeks ago we reported on the store that was selling fake iPhones and refused to give refunds when customers found out they were fake. We asked whether we should name the store. Many people have contacted us saying we must. Here you are: Gertmore Fashion Store at Westgate Mall.

No comments: