Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The customer must reclaim his kingship!

A trip yesterday to the Welkom branch of an auto electric dealership renowned in South Africa for their quality work (especially in diesel vehicle electricals) proved to be an eye opener to the harsh reality that at times the customer is far from being king.

My objective was to purchase a new car battery and my first visit in the morning was to enquire about prices. A far from friendly lady stuck herself to an inaccessible corner of her counter and pretended that I did not exist. I could not get to her because a cleaner had created a large wet patch on the floor that barred me from proceeding to where she was. She however was not going to move to a more accessible part of the counter for my sake. No “Good morning,“ or anything to that effect was going to come out of her mouth. Maybe she thought that I was a newly recruited apprentice cleaner learning the trade from my master! I eventually got a quote from her after supplying the details of my car's make and engine capacity.

It turned out that other dealers did not have stock of the particular brand that I wanted so in the afternoon I made my way back to the queen of ice to make the purchase. Expecting her to thaw in response to what was set to be a definite sale; I was instead greeted by the glare of all glares! It was as if I was there to beg for a free battery or that my money was from the proceeds of a blood diamond smuggling racket!

Having explained that I was back to make the purchase, I committed the sin of not knowing the battery size that I wanted. This technical ignorance earned me a raised tone of voice and another ugly glare, especially when I pointed out the fact that she had earlier supplied a quotation based on my engine's capacity and size. The second sin was my limited understanding of Afrikaans. This was after her sudden switch from English to Afrikaans while instructing me as to where to go to pay. What a pity indeed that the friendly and polite cashier is not at the sales desk in place of her cold blooded counterpart.

I do not usually want to jump on the race band wagon because that card is at times overplayed in this part of the world. I however do not rule it out in this instance. I am not a Brad Pitt or Denzel Washington look-alike but I hardly think that my facial structure alone can evoke such hostility. Next time I have to spend six hundred rand on a battery or anything else for that matter, this particular dealership will not be on my itinerary. While that amount of money is a mere drop in the company’s ocean of profits, my voice and the voices of others like me will surely count for more when it comes to their long term reputation. If each one of us relates similar ordeals to ten people apiece, each group of ten will inform dozens more and a ripple effect will be take place. I am certain that I am not the only disgruntled customer to come out of the hands of this sales lady. To all fellow consumers I say let us not give patronage to businesses that do not value us or our money!

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