Thursday, 7 October 2010

Let's be positive

Before anyone who knows me panics and imagines I’ve abandoned skepticism and joined the ranks of the woo-woo, New Age, claptrap-peddling, positive thinking movement, let me put them straight. I’m still the grumpy old grouch I always was. Or so they think.

I actually do believe that having a positive outlook in life is the best way to operate. It’s not always easy, life throws it’s disappointments at all of us with alarming frequency and there are times when circumstances are pretty dire. However I know personally that the negative, pessimistic approach is not the best. I’m certainly don’t believe that there’s any magical effect of thinking positively, I just believe that the best way to live your life, regardless of your circumstances, is to enjoy what you can, while you can.

But it’s sometimes hard, as someone who spend perhaps too much time thinking about consumer rights, to remain positive. I spend rather too much of my time exasperated, infuriated and utterly pissed off as a result of the way some suppliers, stores and manufacturers abuse their customers.

For some strange reason the most obviously offensive abusers, the pyramid schemes, the fake investment companies, the stock market deceivers are the ones that don’t irritate me that much. Of course I want to see them all in jail but I find myself thinking of them a bit like the flu virus. It’s been around for ever and because it changes every year it will always be there, moderately spoiling most people’s lives and ruining the occasional one.

Of course it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight them and do our best to minimise the suffering but like death and taxes, scammers are certainties in life.

But let’s not forget the good things. Let’s be positive.

We heard from a reader who had one of those car repair stories that reminded me of a Greek epic that goes on and on and on. The shortened version is that she owned a Volvo. She took it to a garage in Gaborone for a service and repairs to the cigarette lighter and the boot light. They said it would cost around P1,200 but when she went to pick it up this figure had grown to nearly P2,000. This was even though there was a sign on the wall saying that:
“No additional work shall be undertaken without prior customer consent.”
When she argued their response was that as a franchise they weren’t permitted to offer discounts. Ridiculous, I know.

The next day on the way to work she had to be stopped on the Western Bypass because her car was haemorrhaging vast quantities of fuel all over the road. After being taken in by the same garage for repairs and a lot more mishaps and confusion she eventually got her car home, finally imagining that things would be OK even though her car was held together with “cable ties and a whole lot of insulation tape”.

When she got home she was horrified to discover that one of the tyres was held on by only three wheel nuts. A closer examination showed that every other one of the wheels had been similarly buggered. Quite why this silly, ridiculous excuse for a garage who were only doing a routine service and fixing a few lights thought it necessary to remove her wheels is beyond me.

So anyway, that’s when she came to us to see if we could do anything. Unfortunately, despite our many skills, our talents and our charm we can’t perform miracles. However we do have a phone and email. Recognising that this was a Volvo, and not a suspicious imported one, we called Barloworld, the official Volvo importer in Botswana. We didn’t ask them for any favours but asked if they could just give the vehicle a quick glance and tell the owner if it was safe at least.

Just a few days ago I got a very contented email from the owner of the Volvo. Barloworld had taken the car in for a few days, runs some checks, adjusted a few things, tinkered a little bit, aligned the wheels, given her some sage advice, planned a proper inspection next month, confirmed that it was safe to drive and had generally made her a happy Volvo driver again.

It’s not my job to promote Barloworld. Your buying decisions are entirely your own. However you have to ask yourself which suppliers send you away feeling homicidal and which leave you feeling positive. Which ones do you want to give your money to?

Hyundai update

Our long-running saga with Hyundai in Rustenburg is now over. Almost.

Our reader finally managed to get her car back but only after they increased the ransom they were demanding from her before she could get behind the wheel. Having picked it up twice before only to have it break down within the Rustenburg city limits each time she was understandably nervous about driving it back again. After begging the Hyundai dealership they finally allowed one of their team to drive the car with her. Good decision because, yes, you’ve guessed it, the car broke down again 15km into her journey. Luckily this time it was only a blown fuse and could be fixed quite easily.

Oh and the car was filthy, they refused to guarantee the work they had done and they still haven’t had the courtesy to give her a breakdown of the costs they claim to have incurred.

I believe that the Hyundai dealership in Rustenburg are incompetent, discourteous and have shown massive contempt to one of their customers. I don’t know why they think they can be like this but I’m sure it’s nothing to do with her being black, female and assertive. Of course not.

Avoid them.

This week’s stars

  • Well, obviously the entire team at Barloworld.
  • The team at Perfume World for being a decent store who do the right thing.

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