Sunday, July 27, 2008

D'Banj,An Eatery & A Raised Voice

As some of you may know,the artiste D’Banj struck a deal with UAC to exclusively release his music some months ago. The 'Mo Hits Compilation' CD was the first album to be released under the arrangement between both parties, as the disc was solely available at Mr. Biggs outlets in a bid to curb piracy of his hard work. As a big fan of the Kokomaster’s, I was eagerly anticipating the release of his much-hyped new release, ‘The Entertainer’. Since the official 2-part launch of this effort was just held this past weekend, I felt there was the likely possibility that copies would be available to buy at various locations of the popular eatery.So,on my home, I decided to quickly check at the Mr Biggs outlet near my home. Since I wasn’t certain that the CD would be available,i decided to save my time by asking the security guard at the entrance(while still in my car) to kindly help me find out if the album was being sold in-store. The nice chap returned about 30 seconds with the ‘good’ news of the item’s availability. So, innocently trying to take advantage of his helpful demeanour,I then asked if he could quickly help me purchase a copy. When he expectedly obliged, I handed him some money. He quickly returned with a CD and my change. As I was about to thank him and tell him to keep the remaining money for his pleasant attitude, I noticed that he had bought the 6-month old Mo Hits compilation album(which i already owned instead.
Understandly,I told him that wasn’t what I wanted and that he should help return it and bring back my dough.Surprisingly, he didn’t come back as quickly as the first time. About 4 minutes had passed and I was about to exit my car to find out why, when he suddenly returned with the same CD and change. He mentioned that the staff had refused to take back the CD because it had already being registered into the machine as a sale. When he saw my instant visual expression, he suggested that I come in to see the shop supervisor myself.I entered to see a petit lady who I quickly figured was the person in charge. When I expressed my displeasure, she told me the exact thing the security guard had relayed to me. According to her,it had already been registered and therefore, was ‘impossible’ to accept it back.’ See me see trouble o’,I said to myself.
For those who know me,I didn’t disappoint. I started to rake. What did she mean?Was it my fault that their security guard gave me wrong information? It wasn't as if i returned a day later with the item or something.I told her that registering the sale didn’t stop her from adjusting/reversing the transaction.Afterall,the item would be back in their custody and would therefore not affect any accounting records. As accountants would say, it(the CD)was still ‘stock-in-hand’ at the end of the day. This ‘Madam Tiny Manager’ still wasn’t budging. Well, neither was I.I then asked her what happened in cases where a cashier mistakenly overbilled a customer at the till. Would the client be told ‘Sorry, but the items have already being registered. So it’s your loss,sir’’?It was when she subtly insinuated that it was my fault for not coming in myself to make sure it was the actual copy i was buying that I erupted. By now, most people across the floor had noticed our back-and-forth display. A shameful situation in which the ‘king of a customer’ was being treated in a typically naija way by a company’s person of assigned authority.
I guess it was when I told her that I was ready to take this matter to the highest level at UAC if necessary that this 'lady in desperate need of customer care schooling' decided to have a change of heart (it could also have been because she noticed my vocal range was reaching an Opera tenor’s level).She asked me to hand over the CD and, seconds later, sent one of the till girls to hand me back my money. I must confess I was pleased that my tough stance had yielded fruit.However,I felt disappointed in what this episode showed about our customer service culture in this country. Or rather, lake thereof. So many times I have observed customers being treated by company staff as if they (the customers) were beggars or being given the product/service free of charge. Like I tell some friends, the main reason why this sad situation continues to thrive is because many accept it.On several occasions, I’ve seen staff of supermarkets, fast food joints etc practically raise their voices at customers. Yes, the ‘victims’ may have been annoying, illiterate or slow but since when did that give anyone the right to talk down on them or treat with disrespect?They are paying for the goods/service,arent they?People fail to remember that without clients’ patronage, there would be no revenue and logically, no salary or jobs available to this rude set of employees. While the complete eradication of this ‘customer care’ problem in our homeland may be a long time coming, the short term fix lies in our hands i.e. customers. The solution: Never accept crap from any of these people especially when you know you haven’t been treated properly or courteously. And please don’t relent. NEVER.
Afterall, you all saw how it paid off in my battle with the Mr. Biggs lady.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Time To Whistleblow

Let me start by acknowledging that I, quite realistically, expect a large number of guys to be mute after reading this piece. Some may be defensive, while others could act as if they don’t fall into the category of men i’m about to comment on. Without trying to beat about the bush, I’ll jump straight to the crux of the matter. Yours truly is referring to the shockingly high volume of men (whether black, white, gay, straight etc) who, as a normal habit, fail to rinse their hands after taking a leak. While I subconsciously always knew that many dudes failed to do the needful after easing themselves, it wasn’t till a female friend of mine joked about it months ago that I took notice of the magnitude of the situation. She told me that she stopped shaking guys’ hands a long while ago (especially in bars/clubs).This friend added that she preferred to hug a guy she barely knew than shake hands with him. When I, understandly, asked her to shed more light on this, she expressed it was because of the unhygienic practices of chaps in the Gents. As such, hugging was a better option for her. Even though we both laughed about her non-handshaking policy with the opposite sex,I thought about it a bit further after she left.
So,I decided to take a detailed note myself by randomly observing the habits of my fellow gentleman from thereon. Since then, I’ve observed the ways of chaps in places as diverse as my office bathroom, bars, hotels, training venues etc.Both home and abroad. Sadly, the feedback hasn’t been good. Even in public bathrooms where expensive handwash was flowing like it was going out of fashion, dudes haven’t been tempted.Inclusive of the rich,poor,educated,illiterate and enlightened.Even in places where there has been enough tap water flowing to drown 100 Goliaths, my guys would not budge. They simple go in, unzip, do the needful,shake the stuff,re-zip and walk right out the door in a routine so orchestrated, they would be world champions if the process was an Olympic event. Even in cases where they noticed me taking time out to wash mine,many just walked right past. Like I was an efico or something that had too much time on his hands. I must admit that some guys have a rethink and are ‘inspired’ to do the hygienic thing when they see my humble self doing as is proper.
Now,I obviously don’t know what happens in the female bathrooms but I hope(no, pray) to God that it’s nowhere near what occurs in ours. What actually baffles me is that it only takes about 20 seconds to take some liquid, rub hands together and then rinse (add another 10-15 seconds in places with functional hand dryers).My fellow & dear Gentlemen, this is not a case of ratting out because as I mentioned earlier, my female friend & many other women in our midst already know the ‘koko’ of what happens in our toilets. Or rather in this context,what sadly 'doesn’t happen’.
The ways things are going, I might have to adopt a ‘hugging only’ stance as well.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The L Word

I probably hadn’t seen a black man sweat so profusely since Kunta Kinte in ‘Roots’. Although this chap wasn’t in such a dire situation as the aforementioned character, he was evidently tense. I noticed as I was driving to work along the slow-moving morning traffic on 3rd Mainland Bridge that I happened to be behind this male learner in a small Japanese car. Even though I had observed that the guy was driving a bit too indecisively for a typical lagos motorist, it wasn’t until his car’s engine went off that I decided to swerve out of this sluggish lane. As I drove past the gentleman, I noticed that he had someone with him in the front passenger seat who was voicing out instructions and encouragement in apparently equal measure.
Looking through my rearview mirror shortly after, I observed that other drivers behind this ‘troubled’ line had started changing lanes also when it became clear to them that the occupant in the Nissan was in anywhere but a hurry.
I then started to think of my own days as a learner, and putting into perspective the fact that everyone on the bridge was probably in a similar state at the start of their driving career. I recollected dreading to ever have the ‘L’ sign at the back of any vehicle I was commandeering, for nothing but male ego’s sake.
Actually, my own learning experience behind the wheels wasn’t derived through conventional means. I didn’t attend any driving school/s or take lessons from my dad’s driver, as was the case with many experts today.In my case, I practically schooled myself by the age-old method:trial and error. Yes, I had stolen a car from home before, but only to get instant payback for it by scratching the side door as I was driving of the house gate. As time went by, my driving skills expectedly got better and better(less life-threatening, rather).I know many guys/girls who started driving in their early teen years while there are those who still don’t have the ‘liver’ to dare take sole control of the ‘almighty’ automobile, especially in a crazy country for driving such as ours.(To give an example, as at a few years ago, reputable movie director Spike Lee, still couldn’t drive due to his phobia for it).
I do feel though, as many would agree,that driving in Naija (especially in our mad Eko) is far from easy and those who can do it flawlessly here can certainly handle the wheels in any other part of the globe. In fact, even in Mars.Abi there’s sand there?