Friday, 6 August 2010

Never give in

During the depths of the Second World War when things looked extremely bleak, Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister went back to his former school and gave one of his legendary speeches. Remember this was when the UK was fighting entirely alone against Nazi Germany and almost everyone else in the world thought the Brits had no hope of survival. He said:
“This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
Of course I’m not going to say that all consumer problems are as serious as fighting against hordes of homicidal fascists even though there are sometimes resemblances. There is a certain store owner who I’m convinced is on the run from the International Criminal Court in The Hague but he’d probably have me killed if I said which one he was.

But Churchill’s quote is relevant. Yes, he was saying to the world and Hitler in particular that he and the Brits wouldn’t give up without a fight but I think he really did mean the small things, the petty things as well. He was right. Even in the small things principles matter.

Mmegi readers may recall the problem we reported a few weeks ago concerning the Hyundai dealership across the border in Rustenberg. Our reader’s Hyundai had broken down there last October.

Quite sensibly she had the car towed to the Rustenberg Hyundai dealership for repairs but that’s when things started to go wrong. Instead of fixing the car they proceeded to claim to repair it and allow her to drive it away on TWO separate occasions, only to have it break down both times within 10km of the dealership. They helped her run up an enormous phone bill and took a total of P20,000 from her for the repairs. When we first got involved they even claimed never to have heard of this customer and it was only when we forwarded them the 4,000 words of email correspondence between them and her that they remembered. Since then they’ve claimed to fix the car yet again but they say they will only give it back to her if she gives them another R6,500 for the latest repairs. It really does look like they are planning to repair or replace every part of the car until it works again.

We had a very frustrating time trying to get the dealership to pull their finger out of whatever orifice contained it but then something surprising happened. The message got through to the right people.

The local MD of Hyundai in Botswana got in touch asking how he could assist. The next day the National Customer Care Manager of Hyundai South Africa was in touch saying he had only just heard of the problem. He promised a detailed response within “the next hour”. In fact it only took him 38 minutes. I don’t have the space to quote his entire email but here’s a selection:
“sincere apologies for all the inconvenience you had to endure over the past 10 months”
“definitely NOT the level of service we expect from our staff and our dealers”
“necessary action will be taken against [the dealer] for not escalating this matter to myself earlier, that I promise you!”
“I will definitely revert back to you by Monday afternoon”
“We have put an investigation team together who will be at Hyundai Rustenburg on Monday, 2 August 2010, to discuss this matter with the owner of Hyundai Rustenburg and to inspect your vehicle.”
Now of course as I write this it’s not yet Monday and I don’t know if things really will happen but the consumer and I are feeling more optimistic than at any time since we got involved. We’ll keep you updated on the progress on our blog.

We also had a similar but not nearly as serious case with BTC. A customer logged a problem on our Facebook page telling about the problems they had getting their company switchboard working. The details aren’t relevant but she was passed repeatedly between BTC and the switchboard supplier, ended up paying out some money, became extremely frustrated and then got in touch with us.

We passed the complaint through to the right people at BTC and the following day the problem was fixed. Quickly, without any fuss or argument. Happy customer.

The lesson is Churchill’s. Never give in. Both of these customers started to wonder if the problem would ever be resolved and were feeling pretty despondent. But they didn’t give in, they persisted and eventually their problem was fixed. Well, almost. We’ll update you on our blog and the Facebook page what happens with Hyundai and whether the customer gets her car back.

A celebration

Last week Daphne Matlakala retired from the Attorney General’s Chambers after 33 years of service. Daphne was in charge of Legislative Drafting, the team of extremely bright people who write our laws. I believe it’s a tribute to Daphne and her team that our laws are so comprehensive, powerful and easy to understand. Her team’s hard work has given us an enormous national asset. The Consumer Watchdog team wishes her a long and happy retirement but we suspect it won’t be a retiring one. Much love from us all.

This week’s stars
  • Botho at Nandos at Game City for her amazingly friendly welcome and service.
  • Anno and her team at BTC for getting involved and fixing a problem so swiftly.
  • Daphne Matlakala, a national asset.

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