Saturday, 24 September 2016

Get angry

I’m a big believer in remaining calm. When you’re calm you more likely to think straight, come to rational decisions and not offend people, all good things. I’m also a believer in being compassionate, tolerant and understanding. When something goes wrong, maybe you’re let down or mistreated in a store, being calm and tolerant is by far the best way to get the matter resolved to your satisfaction. Most service providers are reasonable people who make occasional mistakes and getting angry with them is not going to help them resolve the problem. It might just make things worse. Diplomacy is better than warfare.

But there are exceptions. There are times when I think it’s reasonable to get angry.

I’m angry right now and I have been for a couple of weeks. It started with the horror of the tragic accident that occurred in Gaborone when a truck transporting sand tipped over and crushed a passing vehicle, instantly killing its occupant. If you though the situation couldn’t get worse, you’re wrong. A matter of hours later the victim’s mother and sister, having been informed of the tragic accident, were themselves killed in a separate accident. I’m not sure it’s possible to imagine the horror that family are now going through.

But I’m not just feeling compassion. I’m angry. Really, deeply, horribly angry. Apparently the accident was caused by an unknown vehicle running a red light and I think the time has come not just to be caring but to feel justifiable anger at the driver who caused the accident but also to every other person who does the same. Just three days after the accident I drove past the junction where the accident happened and incredibly, vehicles were still running those lights. In fact, during my 15-minute journey I saw three different vehicles who decided that red lights didn’t apply to them.

It’s out of control and it’s time we all got very angry about it. Our friends, family and neighbours are dying in horrible numbers largely because the rest of us either ignore the rules of the road or we tolerate others who do so. It’s time to stop being tolerant of bad drivers. It’s time for a complete change of heart.

I think it’s also acceptable to be angry about abuse. Like the company that sold a consumer two computers and a fax machine on 27th April but which haven’t yet been delivered. The customer told me “Since that time they have been telling us different stories saying that they are still waiting for delivery people to deliver our goods from South Africa” and that the manager of the company said “they cannot refund us our money as they operate as per orders, he was saying that if we cancel our order who is going to buy our order”.

Taking five months to deliver two perfectly ordinary computers and a fax machine is simply unacceptable, particularly when you’ve already got your customer’s money.

We suggested that the customer should formally cancel the order and explain to the company that Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that when a deal is cancelled the supplier must “promptly restore” any payment that has been made.

She did this but met with complete arrogance. No, they said, you can’t have your money back. They even went so far as to engage attorneys to write her a letter saying that because they’d already paid their supplier in South Africa she would either need to wait or compensate them for any losses resulting from the cancellation.

This company is arrogant and contemptuous of their customer. They’re also incompetent. They thought it would be persuasive if they showed us proof that they’d paid their South African supplier for the goods. That was a mistake because it showed that they had only done so two months after she had paid them. All their response has achieved is to make everyone angry and an angry customer is just a customer more likely to want a fight.

I suspect that the moment I name this company, which I will do next week unless they see sense and stop being so arrogant, I’ll be the one getting an attorney’s letter alleging defamation, treason and war crimes. But you know what? I don’t care. I’m angry.

I’m also angry about hire purchase but that’s been the case for a very long time. Buying things on HP is a truly awful way to buy things. Even if everything goes well you’ll typically pay double the cash price of the item you’re buying but if there’s a problem and you default on your repayments things can get truly horrible. Not only will the goods be repossessed without notice or a court order (because the agreement you sign says that can happen) but you’ll still owe the store almost all the money. After they’ve auctioned the goods for a trivial amount and deducted that from your balance they’ll add on penalties, interest, debt collection fees and anything else the agreement permits. You can end up owing several times more than the cash price. You can end up losing vast amounts of money as well as your credit rating.

I’m even angrier at the way hire purchase customers are treated when their goods aren’t up to scratch. A colleague of mine recently bought a phone on hire purchase (if she’d told me I would have lent her the money to buy it for cash) and after just a couple of months it went wrong. She returned it to the store but two months later she still hadn’t got it back.

It’s not good enough. She and the rest of us were really angry. The result? We complained and she will be getting a full refund. Meanwhile we bought her a phone for cash.

Like I said, we all have to behave reasonable, tolerantly and kindly. But anger has its place as well and sometimes it gets the job done.

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