Shoppers must vote with their feet
A COLUMNIST, known for his propensity to rub people up the wrong way, once wrote a piece complaining about customer service in supermarkets and restaurants.
He wrote about "being served by a clock-watching, sullen tribesman with his finger in the soup". I have an aversion to words like "native" and "tribesman". In my mind they conjure up those years when the majority in this country were still seen as "fickle barbarians prone to robbery and unscrupulous in shedding blood and only good as a source of labour".
But I do concur with him when it comes to the issue of bad customer service. In fact, taking it further I am one of those who believe that black patrons, especially in restaurants, get the worst service at the hands of black waiters (especially).
Some argue it is because black people are bad tippers.
Unfortunately, this becomes a vicious circle in which black patrons treat the waiters with an attitude and they , in turn, get bad service from the disgruntled lot.
I have had my fair share of bad service. In one instance a sullen shop assistant, unhappy about working on a holiday, accused me and my fellow black shoppers of "shopping on a holiday just to show that we have money because we live in the surburbs".
He did not even care whether I had heard him or not. My theory is that the further the business from the big business centres, the worse the customer service. This may not be scientific, but hey, it does help me cope with the bad service I receive whenever visiting far-flung areas like my in-laws in Hammanskraal or ancestral home in Limpopo.
Once dubbed the "Eden of Africa", this province has become the "Sodom and Gomorrah of Africa" because of incompetence and avarice.
Last week my wife phoned a retail store in Southdale, south of Johannesburg, to find out if they had several sizes of school shoes in stock. She was buying shoes for some needy pupils from Selang Primary School in Leboneng, Hammanskraal.
The woman in charge confirmed that the sizes were available. About half an hour later, when my wife went to the store, the 22 pairs were ready for collection. Unfortunately, on Friday we realised that we needed one pair more so we decided to buy the pair in Hammanskraal on Saturday, when we delivered the rest of the shoes.
Once in Hammanskraal we went to the local Jubilee Mall looking for an outlet belonging to the same company as the one in Southdale. However, they did not have the size in stock.
We asked for the contact number of a local outlet of the same company situated at another mall in the area.
My wife called the outlet to find out if they had the size we needed. The woman who answered the phone made it clear that she did not have the time to find out if the shoes were available and advised my wife to come to the store and find out herself.
The reason we made the inquiry was that we did not want to waste time driving to the outlet only to find that the shoes were not available. Given the unhelpful response, we went to a different shop at Jubilee Mall and bought the shoes - at R30 more. The service my wife got from the store at Southdale is what customers expect and are prepared to pay for. As for the unhelpful lady from Hammanskraal, she lost us as potential customers.
That is the price the store pays for employing people who do not understand the importance of service. Customers must vote with their feet.